Spectacular leaf peeping. Bucket list scenic drives. Spooky Halloween escapes. And food festivals galore. The best places to visit in October in the USA offer an immersive experience in the very best of the season.
1. Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina
It may be somewhat subjective to suggest that the Blue Ridge Parkway is the best road trip in the United States of America.
But when you consider the fact that the parkway, which stretches 469 miles from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina, is the most popular unit of the US National Park system (15+ million visitors each year), there are stats to support the claim.
This epic scenic route was envisioned by FDR as part of his New Deal to provide jobs and improve American infrastructure.
Construction began in 1935 and was mostly done in 1966, but the incredible eight-mile stretch in North Carolina between the Linn Cove Viaduct and Grandfather Mountain wasn’t finished until 1987.
It’s the longest linear park in the US, traveling through Jefferson, George Washington, Nantahala, and Pisgah National Forests.
So naturally the area is at its most picturesque in mid to late October, when the autumn colors in the Blue Ridge region reach their most dynamic peak.
There’s also wildlife such as Black Bear, White-tailed Deer, Wild Turkeys, and countless other birds.
Driving the 45 mph speed limit without stopping, one could theoretically cover the entire route in around 15 hours.
But that would totally defeat the purpose of what is arguably America’s best scenic drive.
The stunning views from the BRP’s best overlooks include Grandfather Mountain State Park, the Linville Gorge Wilderness, and the Linn Cove Viaduct (pictured).
Then there is Looking Glass Rock, Mount Mitchell (North Carolina’s tallest), Pisgah National Forest, and Julian Price Memorial Park.
These incredible views really insist that visitors slow down and immerse themselves in the majestic beauty of one of America’s largest remaining stretches of wilderness.
And in October, these sights are nothing short of jaw-dropping.
2. Eastern Sierras, California
California’s Eastern Sierra mountain range extends from the Nevada state line in the north all the way to Lone Pine in the south and includes famous sites like Mono Lake, Mammoth Lakes, Mount Whitney and Yosemite.
The Eastern Sierras come alive with color in fall, making them one of the best places to visit in October in the USA and also to enjoy autumn in California.
Particularly beautiful are the shimmering, bright yellow Aspen forests here. While skiers love Mammoth for its winter wonderland as a California winter escape, fall is fabulous here, too.
Bathe in this magical forest beauty at Mammoth Lakes with a hike around Convict Lake or set out on one of the many dedicated bike trails here. It’s an ideal way to take in fall.
Take a scenic drive, or cycle, the June Lake loop on Highway 158. It’s 16 miles of golden fall glory! Visit Bodie Ghost Town, a historic gold mining settlement in Mono County.
Then head to Lundy Lake for stunning off-the-beaten path hike into the foothills of the Eastern Sierras.
You’ll be mesmerized by the unique sound of crackling aspens as the breeze gusts down the valley and catches their sunlit leaves as you ascend to a lookout point for a waterfall view.
The Eastern Sierra truly comes alive in fall.
3. Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
While plenty of destinations within the United States have beautiful fall foliage, certain areas of the Pacific Northwest, including Mount Rainier National Park, explode with vibrant autumnal colors.
And it’s not just the falling leaves on its towering trees, but also the shrubs, succulents, and other flora carpeting its rolling valleys.
For those looking for a low impact way to explore Rainier in October, drive the Chinook Scenic Byway, a 107 mile driving tour that bypasses Mount Rainier National Park and Mount Baker.
Snoqualmie National Forest is a fantastic way to soak in the most stunning landscapes the Cascades Mountains have to offer.
If you’re up for a hike, there’s plenty of trails that will take you up close and personal to both Rainier and its fall colors.
Consider the Skyline Trail, a 5.5 mile trail that will bring you face-to-face with the mountain and take you through the park’s colorful autumn foliage, from the vibrant red of scarlet paintbrush to the burnt orange of elderberries.
Naches Peak Loop, a 3.2 mile portion of the Pacific Crest Trail allows you to meander through gorgeous subalpine meadows aflame with fall colors, as Rainier looms above you.
4. Miami, Florida
Miami is one of the most well-known cities in the U.S and the world.
The temperatures are high all year round, and the month of October is no exception, with an average daily temperature high of 83 degrees Fahrenheit.
The best part about visiting in October is that you get to avoid all the summer tourists.
The thing with the top restaurants in Miami is that most of them require a reservation.
It’s much easier to get a reservation when you don’t have to worry about thousands of others trying to do the same. Plus, other activities like parasailing and ecotours also have more openings.
One of the most popular festivals that go on during this month, specifically the 20th to 23rd is the South Beach Seafood Festival, considered one of the best food festivals in the U.S.
You also have the Water Lantern Festival that happens right at the beginning of the month on the second. It’s perfect for families or as a romantic date.
Apart from those, you have the annual and traditional Miami Harvest Festival that’s been happening for the last 47 years.
It provides all sorts of entertainment like pony rides for kids, cute baby contests, and much more.
5. Salem, Massachusetts
Salem, Massachusetts is one of the country’s oldest towns, founded in 1626.
Best-known as the site of the harrowing Salem Witch Trials of 1692, Salem is a must-visit for autumn aficionados due to its spectacular foliage and its Haunted Happenings Festival, which takes place each October.
While witches and magic certainly capture much of any visitor’s imagination, Salem is also home to spectacular historic architecture, beautiful green spaces, and world-class museums.
Its long legacy as a maritime heavyweight is showcased in opulent seaside mansions and exhibits at the fantastic Peabody Essex Museum.
You should absolutely plan an October visit in order to take advantage of the Haunted Happenings Festival.
There is no shortage of fun for all ages, from elaborate costumes and street performers to small businesses selling witch-themed apparel, homemade soaps and candles, and beyond.
There are different activities each day and you will have a wonderful time exploring the various goings-on under a canopy of gorgeous fall leaves.
However, keep in mind that this is the most popular time of the year to visit, and it gets very crowded.
If you’re staying in Boston, consider taking the commuter rail to Salem, which only takes 40 minutes and leaves from Boston’s North Station multiple times each hour.
This way, you won’t have to find parking in Salem, which is challenging.
You should also be sure to request tickets for the must-see Salem Witch Museum when you first arrive, as you will likely get a zoned entry time for several hours later.
While the museum is certainly a bit dated, it’s the best way to learn all about the history of the Witch Trials.
Plus, you can pair it with a visit to the Witch House, the only remaining house from the Witch Trials period, and the Burying Point, where the victims of the witch trials are buried, afterwards.
Credit to Explore Now Or Never website.