October is a great time to travel with kids in tow. Fall-themed happenings, thinned out crowds, and a chill in the air make this season magical. Autumn is considered the shoulder season in most locations around the U.S., or the time between peak and off-peak season. That means lower prices in many destinations and fewer crowds. There are exceptions, of course, such as foliage tours around New England or holiday weekends like Columbus Day. But overall, October is a great time for family travel.
If you're looking for an October escape with your offspring check out the fall foliage, stay at a spooky hotel, or plan a last-minute getaway to cities that cater to the kiddies.
For families that love Halloween and things that go bump in the night, consider spicing up the spooky season with a sleepover at a haunted hotel, inn, or vacation rental. There are plenty of eerie options across the U.S., but perhaps none as infamous as the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. The hotel is most known as being Stephen King's inspiration for his novel, "The Shining," and guests can take part in organized paranormal investigations or ghost tours to get the full effect. Diehard fans of the book or movie can even visit Room 217, which is the actual room Stephen King stayed in and features prominently in the story (it's the most requested room for guests to stay in at the hotel).
Apart from the haunted sleepover, there's plenty of other non-ghostly fall activities around Estes Park for all to enjoy. The city is called the Gateway to the Rockies, and October is one of the last months to enjoy hiking trails before they're covered in snow for the winter.
Feel Alive in Whistler, Canada
British Columbia's most famous ski resort has plenty to offer outside of the winter months for a fantastic family vacation. Located about 90 minutes outside of Vancouver, Whistler still experiences comfortable temperatures in October and is a picture-perfect location for an autumn hike. For a one-of-a-kind night hike, walk around Vallea Lumina, a multi-media forest adventure. There are also a number of adrenaline-surging, heart-pumping adventures that your family can enjoy. Go mountain biking, ziplining, or take a flight with Blackcomb Helicopters for a bird's eye view of the fall foliage below.
Add in a cultural experience with to your outdoor activities at the Audain Art Museum, which features local art and First Nations works. The nearby Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre usually hosts workshops and exhibitions, but it's closed in 2020.
Not far from Whistler in the town of Pemberton is North Arm Farms, which is fully in pumpkin season in October and makes a perfect excursion to pick up your seasonal gourd. And it's almost impossible to get to Whistler without passing through Vancouver, so don't miss out on visiting one of the hippest cities of the Pacific Northwest.
You'd be hard-pressed to beat San Diego in October, a month when crowds have thinned following the back-to-school period. On top of that, October is "Kids Free San Diego Month" with a fabulous city-wide promo known as "The Kid Kingdom" where kids eat, stay and play for free. There's an entire list of participating businesses that offer free admission to kids, such as various museums, whale watching tours, the San Diego Zoo, and even Legoland. On top of that, several restaurants and hotels offer deals for kids as well.
While many parts of the U.S. begin to get chilly in October, San Diego is one of the few places where you can still feel end-of-summer weather well into fall. Throughout October the average temperature is a balmy 73 degrees Fahrenheit, warm enough to even sit out on of the city's scenic beaches.
Cooling temperatures mean it's time to pack the car and grab the kids for a weekend road trip to view fall foliage, and the best part is that you can do so from almost anywhere in the U.S. The most iconic routes are around New England, but there are worthwhile drives scattered across the country from coast to coast. Drive along Scenic Highway 395 in California to see the golden beech trees of Inyo National Forest or the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia and North Carolina for 500 miles of autumn colors. If you're further north, try the Gold Coast of Michigan. Even in the arid Southwest, you can see fall foliage driving through Oak Creek Canyon near Sedona, Arizona.
The exact timing of when to see the peak foliage varies based on where you go, the elevation you're at, local weather conditions, and more. Some places may start as early as mid-September while others don't reach peak until almost Thanksgiving. Look for local foliage reports in the state that you're visiting in order to find the most up-to-date information.
While rumors persist year-round of real ghosts and goblins inhabiting some of Philadelphia’s most historic sites, Halloween definitely dials up the spooky factor in the City of Brotherly Love. If you're traveling with older kids, the abandoned Eastern State Penitentiary is open for daytime tours or—for the real thrill-seekers—for night tours. The seasonal haunted house that is built inside the prison, "Terror Behind the Walls," is canceled in 2020, but the day and night tours are available as self-guided tours.
Apart from the penitentiary, several historical Philadelphia locations are purportedly haunted, including the house of Betsy Ross and the City Tavern restaurant.
If you're looking for an affordable fall getaway in the Midwest, you cannot beat Traverse City, Michigan, one of America’s top fall foliage destinations. Families have an extra reason to visit from September through mid-December thanks to a city-wide money-saving promotion known as the Fab Fall Packages. The deals include discounts at hotels, restaurants, wineries, and local shops, so there's sure to be something for everyone.
October is no longer cherry season, but the city is famous for this stone fruit and you can find cherry products all over town. Grabbing a slice of cobbler at the Grand Traverse Pie Company is an obligatory stop for all visitors to Traverse City.
Catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights is on the bucket list of many people, but you don't have to go all the way to Alaska, northern Sweden, or Siberia to see them. You can stay put in the lower 48 states and head to the Great Lakes region, such as the northern parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin or Michigan's Upper Penninsula. All are color-soaked dark sky destinations where you can spot the aurora borealis and are actually some of the most popular destinations because of the way the lights reflect on the water of the lakes.
The lights can technically be seen at any time of year, but the season where you have the greatest probability of seeing them outside the Arctic Circle begins in mid-October and runs until March. If you're visiting at the end of October, it's a great time to try and spot them before the frigid cold of winter arrives.
Time Travel at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire
In Pennsylvania's Lancaster County, the historic 35-acre Mount Hope Estate and Winery makes you feel like you have been transported back to the 16th century at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire. It's open every weekend from September 5 until November 1, 2020. Restaurants serve typical fare such as giant turkey legs along with more contemporary meals to appeal to all tastes, which can all be washed down with an ale from one of the pour houses. Venues across the fairgrounds host all types of events, from concerts to games and archery contests to cooking demonstrations.
Special precautions are put into place for the 2020 fair, including advanced tickets for a specific day and mandatory use of face masks. Tickets will not be sold at the gate.
Enjoy Nature at Ohio State Park Lodges
If you are within reasonable driving distance to Ohio, you can find an affordable Midwestern fall weekend getaway with Ohio State Park campsites and lodges. Ohio has 75 state parks scattered about from the shores of Lake Erie all the way to the southern border with Kentucky. Hocking Hills State Park is one of the most popular for its fall foliage, scenic waterfalls, and for being just a short drive away from Columbus. For a waterfront excursion before the weather gets too cold, try Maumee Bay State Park at the northern end of the state. If you're based around Cleveland, there are several nearby and each one offers something uniquely special, but Geneva State Park and Mohican State Park are two of the most visited.
Campsites and lodges are open in 2020, but advanced registration is necessary at all state parks to spend the night. In addition, day-use facilities at all sites are closed through 2020.
Live Like a Cowboy at Rocking Horse Ranch
Located within two hours of New York City, the Rocking Horse Ranch is one of the most popular all-inclusive family resorts in the U.S., and for good reason. Not only do you not have to worry about going out to eat or preparing meals, but the ranch has non-stop activities happening every day to keep everyone in the family entertained. Trails around the property are open all year that you can hike or explore on horseback. Nightly entertainment ranges from bonfires to Wild West shows to firework displays. October is also in the middle of apple season, and kids love heading out to the orchards to pick bags of their very own fruit.
Special fall deals help to keep prices affordable for families, including a special deal of $100 for stays of at least three nights from September 15 to November 20, 2020. And since it's all all-inclusive, everything from food to activities is already paid for.
Go to the Tybee Island Pirate Fest
The Tybee Island Pirate Fest is canceled in 2020 and returns October 7–10, 2021.
Just 20 minutes east of historic Savannah, Georgia, the annual Tybee Island Pirate Fest is set to deliver plenty of swashbuckling family-friendly fun. Every Columbus Day weekend, the island transforms into a lively pirate village, celebrating the colorful seafaring history of the Georgia coast.
All Disney Cruises are suspended until at least December 6, 2020.
Halloween on the high seas is taking place on most voyages aboard all four Disney Cruise Line ships from late September through October. Disney cruise ships offer up some spooktacular fun this fall on their line of ships for families.