October in the United States: Weather, What to Pack, and What to See

An outdoor pumpkin patch.

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

October is an exceptional month to travel in the United States. The hot and sometimes downright miserable summer temperatures felt in many parts of the country have cooled come fall, and the leaves begin to put on their iconic displays of color in certain parts of the country, drawing leaf peepers from all over. Quieter tourist attractions and cheaper hotel prices are among the top perks of visiting in the shoulder season, but cold fronts in the north and hurricanes along the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf coasts do occasionally pose threats to travel plans.

Urgent Seasonal Information: Hurricanes

The end of spring marks the beginning of a six-month hurricane season in the Eastern Pacific and Atlantic. In general, there is more potential for hurricanes that form in the Atlantic Ocean to make landfall in the coastal states, from Florida to Maine, as well as along Gulf Coast states such as Texas and Louisiana. Thus, if you're planning a beach vacation between May 15 to November 30, be aware of the potential for storms and pay close attention to local weather warnings before and during your trip. If you do choose to travel to a hurricane-prone region during October, look for flexible airfares and hotels or purchase travel insurance to avoid getting stuck in your destination during a storm.

U.S. Weather in October

There's significant variation in temperatures and weather across the U.S. in October, but the sun still shines daily across most of the country with the exception of during coastal storms.

  • Northeast: Average high temperatures range from 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 16 degrees Celsius), falling as the month progresses. October is generally sunny, though places like Upstate New York and Maine could see the first snowflakes of the season.
  • Southeast: October in the Southeast is warm and pleasant, with daily highs mostly above 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius), except in Florida, where temperatures regularly reach 80 F (27 C). The days are mostly sunny when a tropical storm or hurricane isn't brewing.
  • Midwest: October is one of the finest months—weather-wise—to visit the Midwest. Daily highs are generally above 60 F (16 C) and the region receives an abundance of sunshine.
  • West: There's a wide range of daily high temperatures across the West in October, from around 65 F (18 C) in Denver to the occasional 80-degree F (27 C) day in Las Vegas. But sunshine is plentiful just about everywhere.
  • Southwest: It's still hot in Phoenix in October, with average highs well above 80 F (27 C). In Albuquerque, however, you'll find highs around 75 F (24 C), but dropping significantly by the end of the month. Texas experiences highs above 70 F (24 C) and even topping 80 F (27 C) with bright sunny days. Hurricanes and tropical storms are a possibility along the Texas Gulf Coast this time of year.
Destination Average High Average Low
New York City 64 F (18 C) 50 F (10 C)
Los Angeles 79 F (26 C) 60 F (16 C)
Chicago 62 F (17 C) 50 F (10 C)
Washington, D.C. 69 F (21 C) 46 F (8 C)
Las Vegas 83 F (28 C) 46 F (8 C)
San Francisco 70 F (21 C) 55 F (13 C)
Honolulu 87 F (31 C) 72 F (22 C)
Grand Canyon 65 F (18 C) 33 F (1 C)
Orlando 85 F (29 C) 68 F (20 C)
New Orleans 81 F (27 C) 62 F (17 C)

What to Pack

It's relatively easy to pack for a vacation anywhere in the U.S. in October as the weather is mild-to-warm across the country. No need for heavy coats, hats, gloves, or bulky boots.

  • Northeast: Daily highs in the 60s across this region call for long pants or jeans, lightweight jackets, and sweaters to layer over long-sleeved tees. Ankle boots or sneakers make for comfortable, warm walking shoes.
  • Southeast: Warm October days in the Southeast leave little need for layering except when the sun goes down. Bring a light sweater or denim jacket for the evening chill. If you're heading to South Florida, pack summer clothes: Short sleeves, shorts, and sandals are the norm.
  • Midwest: Long pants, long-sleeved tops, sweaters, and jackets are great for layering throughout the day and evening.
  • West: The West is varied, so make packing decisions based on your specific destination. Those headed to Las Vegas should bring summer clothes; Denver visitors will want to dress for the cold.
  • Southwest: Like the rest of the West, daily highs vary quite a bit across the Southwest. Phoenix warrants summer attire whereas Albuquerque and Santa Fe call for light pants and jackets.

October Events in the United States

Each region has its own flavor, represented by its unique October calendar. The season brings fall festivals and Halloween events throughout the U.S. In 2020, many events have been altered or canceled. Check the websites of organizers for updated information.

  • Northeast: Though canceled in 2020, Harvest on the Harbor in Portland, Maine, celebrates Maine's connection to the sea and its culinary creativity. Oysters, lobster, and craft cocktails are on the menu. New York City is, of course, a year-round mega event and October is no exception, with the annual Village Halloween Parade and street pageant (which will be a telecast in 2020) taking over Greenwich Village.
  • Southeast: New Orleans is a festival in itself, but in October, it plays host to the Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival (taking place virtually in 2020). You just can't beat New Orleans-style blues and barbecue, and they are both in abundance at this three-day fest. Further south, Walt Disney World in Orlando puts on its annual Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party (canceled in 2020) for kids.
  • Midwest: The Madison County Covered Bridge Festival in Winterset, Iowa—canceled in 2020—features the iconic bridges of this county, plus arts and crafts booths, quilts, food stalls, wineries, and a farmers market.
  • West: If you're going to San Francisco in October, check out Litquake, a 10-day festival for book lovers that features free author readings, panel discussions, and a Lit Crawl with like-minded literary lights. 2020's Liquake will take place virtually.
  • Southwest: The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is world-renowned and on many a bucket list. The sight of hundreds of balloons filling the deep blue skies of New Mexico is unforgettable; however, 2020's event has been canceled.

October Travel Tips

  • Northeast: If you're going to New York City in October and want to catch a Broadway show, you need to plan ahead; tickets often sell out six months in advance. If you're taking a trip to see the spectacular leaves turn in New England, check out when the peak time is expected before you go. If you're a week off, you could miss most of the show.
  • Southeast: October is a great time to visit Charleston, South Carolina. It's especially known for its houses and architecture, and if you're going in October, get tickets well ahead of time for the Fall Tour of Homes, History, and Architecture.
  • Midwest: Book your hotel way ahead of time for Open House Chicago. It's free and lasts just 48 hours, so hotels fill up for the architectural event. Michigan boasts some of the most scenic views in the fall, with turning leaves against lake backdrops. Check the timing and the weather before you nail down the time of your trip.
  • West: Las Vegas is show central. Check the schedule well ahead of your trip and make reservations. As in New York City, the arts season is in full swing in Los Angeles in October. If your trip includes catching one of the many performances, make reservations early.
  • Southwest: Those planning to attend the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta should book hotel stays as early as possible as it draws thousands to the city in October. If you have a trip planned to Phoenix, be aware that even though the average afternoon high is in the upper 80s, it sometimes reaches 100 degrees Fahrenheit in October. It's a dry heat—no humidity—but if that's not your cup of tea, you may want to reschedule.