The Best Things to Do in October Across the U.S.

These 10 events will keep you stuffed, spooked, and entertained all month long.

Dozens of hot air balloons ascending simultaneously
Photo: Getty Images

From bountiful harvests to haunted happenings, the crisp days of October are when fall is in full swing. Whether you'll be spending autumn closer to Salem, Massachusetts — home of the witch trials, of course — or Kailua, Hawaii, where autumn looks more like tropical rain than colorful trees, you should have no problem finding ways to celebrate the season of change.

So, channel Oktoberfest by partaking in a Denver beer festival or admire the autumnal scenery of Albuquerque as hundreds of hot air balloons take to the sky. Here are some of the best festivals, events, and things to do in October, wherever your travels may take you.

Unwind on the Water in Portland, Maine

Experience Portland, Maine's exceptional waterfront during Harvest on the Harbor, an annual three-day food and wine festival where award-winning chefs showcase their talents with the freshest of ingredients from local farms and waters. The small town's culinary scene has earned it the nickname "Oyster Town," and what you'll find at the harvest festival is a smorgasbord of lobster, oysters, beer, wine, and spirits to sample while enjoying live musical performances. Don't miss out on trying some of the tastiest lobster ever, cooked by local chefs vying for Maine Lobster Chef of the Year.

Have a ‘Beery’ Good Time in Denver

The Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado, is the king of U.S. beer festivals, presenting the largest collection of American-brewed beer with more than 2,000 beers from 500 breweries. While perhaps not as popular or iconic as Munich's Oktoberfest, beer aficionados from around the world flock to Denver to sample the more than 100 beer styles available in single-ounce portions. The event conveniently coincides with Denver Beer Week, where local restaurants host numerous beer-themed events.

Witch cutout and pedestrians on the streets of Salem
Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Get Spooked in Salem, Massachusetts

With stunning New England fall foliage, haunted houses, psychic fairs, festive children's events, and Halloween balls, Salem comes to life in October. The city’s annual Haunted Happenings event (40 years and counting) is a month-long celebration of Halloween and autumn in a particularly picturesque part of Massachusetts. Explore the Witch Museum, the House of Seven Gables, or choose between a scenic foliage cruise or a frightful Haunted Happenings harbor cruise. Only the bravest will take the narrated nighttime stroll through the haunted streets of the city.

Test Your Limits in Kailua, Hawaii

Held annually in Kailua, Kona, the Hawaii Ironman World Championship is one of the most difficult sporting events in the world thanks to a taxing combination of fierce crosswinds and scorching heat. Participants swim 2.4 miles in the warm turquoise waters of Kailua Bay, frequented by spinner dolphins and sea turtles (symbols of good luck, according to Hawaiian lore). Then, they cycle 112 miles through black lava fields, green pastures, an ancient Hawaiian temple, and modern wind farms. Finally, a full marathon ensues through residential areas, golf courses, and spectator-filled roads.

The event is thrilling even for those not participating. Not only is it fun to cheer the triathletes on, it's also a great excuse to indulge in the Polynesian culture and dazzling beauty and charm of our 50th state during its shoulder season.

Feast on Seafood in Miami

At the South Beach Seafood Festival, guests sample specialties from the premier Miami restaurants (think Joe's Stone Crab, Uchi, and more) while walking along South Beach’s always-buzzing Ocean Drive. Cooking demonstrations, chef competitions, and live music will captivate for four blocks along the spectacular oceanfront. You won't want to leave without trying the fish tacos, lobster waffle cones, and seafood ceviche. Oh, and did we mention the complimentary all-day open bar?

Andrew Zimmern holding up a plate of food to the camera
Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for NYCWFF

Wine and Dine for a Cause in New York City

The New York City Wine and Food Festival is a celebration of fine food, exceptional wine, and accomplished chefs and vintners. Spend four scrumptious days mingling with your favorite celebrity chefs or enjoying culinary demos, rooftop parties, walk-around tastings, and intimate dinners. With package deals ranging from affordable to extravagant, there's something for foodies on all budgets. Some of the proceeds from the festival go towards God’s Love We Deliver, an organization that provides fresh and medically tailored meals to New Yorkers impacted by severe illness.

Watch Hundreds of Hot Air Balloons Take Flight in Albuquerque

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is the largest hot air balloon event in the world – and it claims to be the most photographed — for good reason. Watching about 600 balloons paint the sky above the Sandia Mountains is a truly unforgettable sight. When you’re done sky gazing, delight in hot air and gas ballooning events and competitions. Day and evening exhibits include unusually shaped balloons (see if you can find a dinosaur, a flower, or penguin donning sunglasses) in addition to an elaborate kaleidoscope variety.

Although most balloons you see airborne at the fiesta contain crew only, it is possible to hitch a ride on one through Rainbow Ryders, Inc., the festival's official balloon ride concession.

Jam Out in Austin

With rock, pop, jazz, and other musical genres radiating from multiple stages, Austin City Limits combines great music with southern hospitality and a family-friendly good time. Held on the grounds of 351-acre Zilker Park, the festival features not just live shows but also an art market hosted by local artisans and Kiddie Limits, which has kid-friendly bands and art classes. An on-site brewery spotlights Texas beers, and food vendors feature local flavors.

Try Apple Everything in Bayfield, Wisconsin

A charming small Wisconsin town on the scenic shores of Lake Superior does it grand at the Bayfield Apple Festival, a celebration of the autumn harvest and all things apple. Seemingly endless booths offer fresh apples, apple pies and tarts, apple dumplings, caramel apples, apple cider, and apple sundaes. Apple bratwurst, apple mustard, apple butter, and even apple wines are also plentiful for more adventurous palates. More than 100 arts and craft booths featuring fine arts, pottery, woodworks, and other wares are on display for browsing and purchasing, and a parade add to the fun.

Drummers dressed in Day of the Dead costumes leading parade
Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Show Off Your Halloween Best in New York City

Prepare to be frightened, impressed, and shocked, but always entertained as New York City's annual Village Halloween Parade, a tradition for half a century. The procession marches up Sixth Avenue, and all costumed marchers — including you — are welcome to join. Beginning between Canal and Spring Streets at 7 p.m. on Halloween, the parade kicks off a long night of revelry. Outlandish, scary, risqué, political, funny, and downright strange costumes captivate the crowds, and live bands line the streets to add to the wild atmosphere.

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