October in the USA

The top festivals and events in October in the United States

A marching band in NYC's Columbus Day Parade
••• The annual Columbus Day Parade in NYC celebrates Italian-American heritage in the U.S. (Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images).

October is smack in the middle of the beautiful fall season, and a great month for travel. Temperatures across the country typically stay above 50 degrees, and winter's headache-inducing snowstorms are still far off. There are also a wide variety of events throughout the month, with activities and celebrations that every traveler can enjoy. To help get you started on your October travel plans, here are the festivals and events that happen each October in the USA.

For news on temporary exhibits, concerts, or other occasional events, visit the USA Travel Blog.

Through October 15 - National Hispanic Heritage Month. The time between September 15 and October 15 have been designated in the U.S. as Hispanic Heritage Month. Schools, museums, and other venues use the time to educate others on Hispanic culture in the United States and the significant contributions made by Hispanic-Americans. In the Northeast, the Smithsonian Museums in Washington DC host events like readings, special viewings of Hispanic art, and music demonstrations all month long in recognition of Hispanic history and culture. Check out their family day on October 15 for a music-filled celebration of Hispanic traditions that little and big kids can enjoy. In the West, Los Angeles goes all out for the month, with dancing demonstrations, historical reenactments, and even a chocolate tasting.

See also September in the USA.

Second Monday in October - Columbus Day. On Columbus Day, the U.S. celebrates the anniversary of the arrival of the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus to the Americas. (Traditionally, Columbus Day was celebrated on October 12.) Columbus Day is a federal holiday, meaning that government offices and financial markets are closed.

But it is not widely celebrated throughout the United States. Columbus Day celebrations are most popular in the Northeast, particularly in New York and New England. The annual Columbus Day Parade in New York City marches down Fifth Avenue and is typically a celebration of Italian-American heritage with traditional dancing and music. The parade starts at noon and runs until 3 p.m. Although it doesn't get as crowded as the Thanksgiving Parade, it's a good idea to arrive early to ensure a good view of the floats and musicians. 

For those Americans with Indigenous-American roots, celebrating Columbus Day has become somewhat controversial in recent years. Indigenous-Americans choose to skip the parade and celebrate the day with an Indigenous Peoples Day celebration on New York’s Randall’s Island. The festivities start at 7 a.m. with a sunrise ceremony and continues into a day of music, speakers, and spoken word performances. 

October 31 - Halloween. Halloween is not a federal holiday, but it is one of the most popular holidays in the nation. On this day, young and old dress up in costumes, kids go trick-or-treating, and scary stories are de rigeur. Halloween-themed parties and tours can be found all over the nation.

If you’re looking for an over-the-top way to spend your Halloween, head to New Orleans; it’s thought to be America’s most haunted city and puts on quite a show for the holiday. The annual Krewe of Boo Halloween parade takes place on the 22 and the costumes and freaky floats that make their way through the historic French Quarter of the city are a sight to see. Brave spectators can say "throw me something monster" to one of the parade participants, and receive a unique New Orleans souvenir or treat. A costume is required at the "Monster Mash" afterparty, but don’t worry if you made the trip without one, the city is filled with stocked shops shops full of every mask and getup imaginable. Check out the Halloween in the USA guide for ideas on where to go and what to do on this fun and spooky holiday.