October is smack in the middle of the beautiful fall season, and a great month for traveling in the United States. Temperatures across the country typically stay above 50 degrees Fahrenheit, leaves begin to change color, and winter's headache-inducing snowstorms are still far off. There are also many holidays throughout the month, with activities and celebrations that every traveler can enjoy, from cultural festivals and parades to Halloween traditions.
National Hispanic Heritage Month
The time between September 15 and October 15 has been designated in the U.S. as Hispanic Heritage Month. Schools, museums, and other venues use the month to educate others on Hispanic culture and the significant contributions made by Hispanic-Americans with ancestry in Spain and the Americas.
In the Northeast, the Smithsonian Museums in Washington, D.C., will host events like readings, special art viewings, and music demonstrations all month in recognition of Hispanic history and culture. Check out their ¡Muévete! Hispanic Heritage Month Community Day for a bilingual dance and music celebration of Hispanic traditions that little and big kids can enjoy. As for the west coast, Los Angeles goes all out, with dancing demonstrations, historical reenactments, art, and food trucks during Latino Heritage Month.
Columbus Day and Indigenous People Day Celebration
On the second Monday in October, the U.S. celebrates the anniversary of the arrival of the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus to the Americas. Since Columbus Day is a federal holiday, government offices and financial markets are closed, but it is not widely celebrated throughout the U.S.
Festivities 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—as a celebration of Italian-American heritage with traditional dancing and music. Arrive early to ensure a good view of the floats and musicians.
For those with indigenous roots in the U.S, celebrating Columbus Day is somewhat controversial. Indigenous-Americans choose to skip the parade and have instead a two-day Indigenous People Day Celebration on New York’s Randall’s Island. The activities include a sunrise ceremony, dance, music, educational programs, prayers, and spoken word performances.
Halloween is not a federal holiday, but it is one of the most popular holidays in the nation, celebrated every year on October 31. On this day, people of all ages dress up in costumes, kids go trick-or-treating, scary stories are told, and Halloween 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. Thought to be America’s most haunted city, it puts on quite a show for the holiday. The annual Krewe of Boo! Halloween parade takes place on October 19 and the costumes and freaky floats that make their way through the historic French Quarter of the city are a lovely sight. Brave spectators can say "throw me something monster" to one of the parade participants and receive a unique New Orleans souvenir or treat—throws are collectible and consumable items.
A costume is required at the "Monster Mash" afterparty, but don’t worry if you made the trip without one, as the city is filled with stocked shops selling every mask and getup imaginable.