October in New England: Weather, What to Pack, and What to See

Boys having fun at fall festival
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October is the best month to visit New England—by far. It's the month when trees across the region are burning with deep shades of red, amber, gold, and orange that New England is most famous for. Timing the perfect moment to see peak foliage requires some luck and planning, but you're essentially assured to see dramatic landscapes and vibrant colors regardless of where you are in October.

Fall foliage is far from the only reason to love October in New England. To accompany the seasonal transformation, the month of October is filled with events in all six states to celebrate all things autumn, from pumpkin festivals to harvest season to Halloween frights. Whether you're in a big city or small town, look for an events calendar to see what locals have planned.

Perhaps the only downside of visiting New England in October is that it's so desirable that everyone wants to be there. It's the most popular time for travel to the Northeast and you need to plan well in advance in order to reserve accommodations.

New England Weather in October

October is a transitional month nestled between the warm days of September and the blistering cold of winter. Pleasantly sunny days are common, perfect for foliage hikes and exploring without the need for heavy gear. However, even a small amount of wind can be brisk, so you'll definitely need some layers to stay warm. Nighttime can be particularly cold, even reaching freezing temperatures in some locations, especially later in the month.

  Average High Temp. Average Low Temp.
Hartford, CT 63 F (17 C) 42 F (6 C)
Providence, RI 63 F (17 C) 44 F (7 C)
Boston, MA 61 F (16 C) 47 F (8 C)
Stockbridge, MA 60 F (16 C) 37 F (3 C)
Killington, VT 55 F (13 C) 35 F (2 C)
North Conway, NH 57 F (14 C) 34 F (1 C)
Portland, ME 59 F (15 C) 39 F (4 C)

While snow isn't likely in October, it's definitely possible, especially if you're visiting higher elevations. It is even possible for a hurricane to make its way to New England in October, bringing damaging winds and rain that can be particularly problematic in coastal regions. New England is a large area and the weather varies drastically, so make sure you look at a local forecast for your destination shortly before departing to get the best idea of what to expect.

What to Pack

As the month progresses, temperatures begin to slide. A well-packed suitcase for the first week of October may be very different from a well-packed suitcase during the last week of October. Your packing list also depends a lot on what your trip entails. Are you staying in a big city? Do you plan to go hiking? Are you traveling with an organized tour? All of these factors will affect what items you need to bring along.

As a general rule of thumb, you'll want to pack layers that keep you warm, protect from the wind, are easy to carry around, and—ideally—are water-resistant. At least one heavy jacket and other cold-weather items like a beanie, scarf, and gloves will be appreciated for chilly evenings and nights. You'll likely be walking around a lot, so comfortable shoes are a must, and maybe even some boots if you plan to go hiking.

If you have a nice camera, this is the time to dig it out and pack along for taking stellar photos of the changing leaves.

October Events in New England

There's neverending fun on tap at October events in New England. Non-stop fall events, harvest festivals, Oktoberfest, and spooky Halloween nights are just a small part of what you can do around New England in October.

  • Salem Haunted Happenings: Throughout the month of October, Salem, Massachusetts, the "City of Witches," celebrates its spooky history with seances, graveyard tours, haunted attractions, special exhibitions, and more. It's perhaps the quintessential Halloween city and there's nowhere better for fans of the occult.
  • Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular: Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, Rhode Island, hosts a nightly display of more than 5,000 artistically designed and expertly carved pumpkins. The 2020 Spectacular is a drive-through event and runs every night from October 1 until November 1. Advance tickets are required to attend.
  • Harpoon Octoberfest: Celebrate fall with German food and music (and beer, of course!) at Harpoon Brewery's annual Octoberfest, with one celebration at their Boston brewery and another in Windsor, Vermont. The 2020 event has been scaled back and instead is a sit-down meal with food specials and beer pairings to match.
  • Topsfield Fair: This agricultural fair in Topsfield, Massachusetts, lasts for 11 days and visitors can ride carnival attractions, see live shows, feast on fair food, and view agricultural exhibits including New England's best display of giant pumpkins. The 2020 Topsfield Fair is canceled but returns October 1–11, 2021.
  • Connecticut Renaissance Faire: Spend a day with knights, jousting, ye olde games, and medieval costumes in Lebanon, Connecticut. In 2020, the Connecticut Renaissance Fair is canceled.
  • King Richard's Faire: The biggest Renaissance fair in New England takes place in Carver, Massachusetts, and includes enthralling entertainment, giant turkey legs to gnaw on, and more medieval merriment. The 2020 King Richard's Faire is canceled in 2020 and returns September 4 to October 24, 2021.
  • North American Wife Carrying Championship: This madcap 278-yard obstacle race is inspired by a 19th-century Finnish legend, and the championship in Newry, Maine, determines the North American winners who then are eligible to compete for the world championship title in Finland. The race takes place on October 9, 2020, at the Sunday River Ski Resort.
  • Damariscotta Pumpkinfest & Regatta: Giant pumpkins go on parade, fall from the sky, and become motor and paddle boats. And that's just the start at this one-of-a-kind, over-the-top Maine festival always held Columbus Day weekend. The 2020 Pumpkinfest and Regatta is canceled in 2020.
  • Harvest on the Harbor: Portland, Maine, is a foodie city and this multi-event harvest celebration culminates with an incomparable culinary market. Harvest on the Harbor is canceled in 2020.
  • New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival: Famous for its jack-o-lantern towers, there's so much more to this annual, pet-friendly fall festival held in Laconia, New Hampshire. The festival is canceled in 2020 but come back in 2021 to carve a pumpkin or two and get in on the fun.
  • Wellfleet OysterFest: Enjoy an abundance of oysters, plus music, crafts, and more at this annual festival in Wellfleet, Massachusetts. The 2020 festival is a virtual event where you can learn delicious oyster recipes and watch online the annual shuck-off competition.
  • The 55th Head of the Charles Regatta: New England's most famous crew meet attracts world-class rowers and thousands of spectators to the banks of the Charles River in Boston and Cambridge. In 2020, there will be a global event that participants can take part in, but the Massachusetts festivities are canceled.

October Travel Tips

  • Columbus Day weekend is usually the busiest weekend of the year in New England, so be sure to book accommodations far in advance.
  • Visit a cranberry bog during their harvest in October. There are 400 bogs in Massachusetts alone, and it's a fun autumn activity to accompany a day of leaf peeping.
  • Autumn is pumpkin season in New England. Pick your own pumpkin at one of the region's many pumpkin patches and then carve your own jack-o-lantern for this classic Halloween activity.
  • Many of the ski resorts in the area aren't open yet for winter sports, but you can ride their gondolas for a bird's eye view of the fall colors below.
  • Autumn is also apple season, so head to one of the local apple orchards where you can pick your own apples, sip on hot apple cider, or snack on freshly baked apple treats.
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