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 down by October. The leaves are turning in many parts of the country, and there are also some holidays and traditional autumn events occurring in October that are worth traveling for.
The only downsides are the possibility of cold snaps in the northern part of the country toward the end of the month and hurricanes along the Pacific, Atlantic and Gulf coasts (hurricane season lasts until Nov. 30.)
Urgent Seasonal Information: Hurricanes
When May 15 and June 1 arrive, they signal the beginning of hurricane season in the Eastern Pacific and Atlantic, respectively. 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 the Gulf Coast states such as Texas and Louisiana. Bottom line: If you're planning a beach vacation, be aware of the potential for hurricanes from May 15 to Nov. 30 (when the season ends) and make sure to pay close attention to local weather warnings before and during your trip. If you do choose to travel to a hurricane-prone region during this season, look for flexible airfares and hotels to avoid getting stuck traveling during a storm or buy travel insurance.
U.S. Weather in October
When packing for your trip, make note of the average temperatures in these top tourist destinations in the United States (High/Low):
- New York City: 65 F/50 F (18 C/10 C)
- Los Angeles: 79 F/59 F (26 C/15 C)
- Chicago: 62 F/43 F (17 C/6 C)
- Washington: 68 F/51 F (20 C/10 C)
- Las Vegas: 81 F/59 F (27 C/15 C)
- San Francisco: 69 F/54 F (21 C/12 C)
- Honolulu: 87 F/73 F (31 C/22 C)
- Grand Canyon, Arizona: 65 F/36 F (18 C/1 C)
- Orlando, Florida: 85 F/66 F (29 C/18 C)*
- New Orleans: 80 F/63 F (27 C/17 C)
Weather by Region
There's significant variation across the United States in October when it comes to afternoon high temperatures, but the sun is dependable daily across most of the country. The exception is along the coasts if a tropical storm or hurricane is in the forecast.
- Northeast: Average high temperatures range from the 50s to the 60s F throughout the Northeast in October, 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 high temperatures mostly in the 70s F except in Florida, where it is quite a bit warmer, with temperatures reaching into the 80s F regularly. The days are mostly sunny unless a tropical storm or hurricane is threatening.
- Midwest: October is one of the finest weather months in the Midwest, with daily highs generally in the 60s F across the region and an abundance of sunshine.
- West: There's a wide range of daily high temperatures across the West in October, from the mid-60s F in Denver to 80 F in Las Vegas and the upper-70s F in Los Angeles. But the sun will be with you just about anywhere you are.
- Southwest: It's still hot in Phoenix in October, with the average high a very warm 87 F. In Albuquerque, however, you'll find highs in the mid-70s F that fall about 10 degrees by the end of the month. Texas is mostly in the 70s F on October afternoons, but the thermometer could rise into the 80s F in Houston. This region is known for its bright sunny days, and October won't disappoint in that department. Hurricanes and tropical storms are a possibility along the Texas Gulf Coast at this time of year.
What to Pack
It's pretty easy to pack for a vacation anywhere in the United States anywhere in October since the weather is mild to warm across the country. No need for heavy coats, hats, gloves, or warm boots.
- Northeast: Daily highs in the 60s F across this region call for long pants or jeans, lightweight jackets, and sweaters to layer over long-sleeved shirts, tees, or cotton sweaters. Ankle boots for women make for comfortable walking shoes and are just perfect for this weather.
- Southeast: The warm days in the Southeast in October mean you have little need for a wrap except as something lightweight to throw on after the sun goes down, when a cotton sweater, denim jacket, or poncho keeps any passing chill away. If you're heading to South Florida, you should pack summer clothes: short sleeves, lightweight pants, shorts, and capris, and sandals. You won't need anything more.
- Midwest: If you're packing for a trip to the Midwest, you'll need the same kind of clothing that you would in the Northeast: long pants, long-sleeved tops, sweaters, and jackets that you can layer depending on the weather and the time of day,
- West: The West is so varied that you should make packing decisions based on your specific destination. If you're headed to Las Vegas, pack summer clothes. If you're going to Denver, follow the plan for the Northeast and Midwest. If California is your destination, you'll need long pants but might like short-sleeved tops with a sweater or jacket to wear in the evening.
- Southwest: Like the rest of the West, the daily highs vary quite a bit across the Southwest. Phoenix means summer clothes, as cool as possible, while Albuquerque and Santa Fe call for clothes for the milder weather; use the California model.
October Events in the United States
Each region has its own flavor, and there's no better way to experience that than at events of the season.
- Northeast: 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.
- Southeast: New Orleans is a festival in itself, but if you're there in October you can catch the Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival. You just can't beat blues and barbecue New Orleans style, and they are in abundance at this three-day fest
- Midwest: The Madison County Covered Bridge Festival in Winterset, Iowa, features the iconic bridges of this county, along with arts and crafts booths, quilts, food stalls, wineries, and a farmers market.
- West: If you're going to sophisticated and chic San Francisco in October, check out Litquake. This 10-day festival for people who love to read features free author readings, panel discussions, and a Lit Crawl through San Francisco bars with other like-minded literary lights.
- Southwest: The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is world-renowned and should be on your bucket list. The sight of hundreds of balloons filling the deep blue skies of New Mexico is unforgettable.
October Travel Tips
Knowing inside information often makes your trip more successful. Here's the lowdown for various regions of the country in October.
- 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. If you're traveling with little kids, get your tickets early for Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party at Walt Disney World in Orlando.
- Midwest: Book your hotel way ahead of time in the Windy City for Open House Chicago. It's free and lasts just 48 hours, so you can bet hotels will be full for this architectural event in a city known for that. 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, but you want to be there when your favorite performers are on stage. Check the schedule well ahead of your trip and make reservations. As in New York City, the arts season is on a roll in Los Angeles in October. If your trip includes catching one of the many fine shows on stage, make your reservations early.
- Southwest: If you are planning on going to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, book your hotel as early as possible since it draws thousands to the city in October. If you have a trip planned to Phoenix in October, be aware that even though the average afternoon high is in the upper 80s F, it can be much hotter; it can touch 100 F on any given day. It's a dry heat, as they say, but if that's not your cup of tea, reschedule your trip.