If you have the chance to travel in October, you should. The crowds of summer vacationers are back at work and school, the weather in much of the world is cooler—perfect for strolling city sidewalks or mountain trails—and cultural calendars are bursting with events. Here are 10 places that make for ideal fall getaways.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albuquerque, New Mexico’s largest city, sits in the Rio Grande Valley, which sees more than 300 days of blue skies a year. And in October, those skies fill with hot air balloons.
The famed International Balloon Fiesta attracts spectators to the city’s Balloon Fiesta Park at sunrise to watch almost 600 colorful hot air balloons rise into the sky and float along the horizon. What started in 1972 as a 50th birthday party for a local radio station has now grown into the largest balloon festival in the world. The mass ascensions on Saturday and Sunday mornings are the most popular events of the weeklong celebration.
Visitors can also take advantage of the crisp fall days by heading to Petroglyph National Monument, a half-hour drive from the city. Between 400 and 700 years ago, more than 23,000 petroglyphs were carved into the park’s volcanic rock. Mellow day hikes lead through Boca Negra Canyon, the site of some 100 petroglyphs, and an easy two-mile desert stroll through Rinconada Canyon reveals up to 300 petroglyphs.
Austin is a welcoming place with a solid mix of tasty food (some of the best is served from the city’s many food trucks), abundant live music venues, and a vibrant visual arts scene, but be careful: spend too much time here, and you may never leave. This is especially true if you visit in October, when the desert weather is just right for sitting on a back patio watching musicians perform their hearts out.
Austin calls itself the Live Music Capital of the World, and who’s to argue? It has the legacy to back up the big talk—legends such as Janis Joplin, Willie Nelson, and Stevie Ray Vaughn launched their careers there, and seven nights a week, 365 days a year the city’s stages are filled with musicians trying to become the next big thing.
Name your genre. Old school punk rock? Head to Emo’s on East Riverside. Alt-rock? Check the Mohawk on Red River, the heart of a raging nightclub district. Classic South Austin blues-rock? Make your first stop the Continental Club on South Congress. Honky-tonk meets Americana? Hit the White Horse in East Austin.
Austin is also a must-stop for national touring acts, who play venues such as Stubbs BBQ, with its great outdoor space, and ACL Live Moody Theatre, where Austin City Limits, the longest-running music series on U.S. television, is recorded. For an “only in Austin” moment, head to Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon for honky-tonk music and a unique round of bingo: the winning numbers are determined by where the resident chicken, uh, relieves itself.
Cartagena’s history is captured within the walls of the 16th-century Old Town, whose fortifications, monuments, plazas, and color-splashed colonial buildings are a UNESCO World Heritage site. But the best reason to visit Cartagena in October is the beaches. Daytime temperatures rarely dip below 85 degrees Fahrenheit, and the metropolitan area has almost 12 miles of beaches that line the Caribbean.
Head to Playa Castillo Grande, where an underwater wall built more than a century ago to deter English pirates, calms the waters. With fewer crowds and a relaxed vibe, it’s one of the best places in the city to view a sunset. Or catch a boat and take the 10-minute trip to the island of Tierra Bomba, where you can relax on the white sand beaches at Punta Arena.
Twenty minutes north of the city center is Playa La Boquilla, favored by moneyed Colombians from the inland cities. It’s a popular place for weddings and other events, but there’s plenty of space to spread out in the peaceful surroundings.
You can reach Colombia’s most popular national park, the Rosario Islands, on a 45-minute boat trip. Most of the beaches on the 30 islands that make up the archipelago are private, but Playa Libre on Isla Grande Colombia is open to the public. If you decide to stay on the island, you’ll likely have the beach to yourself after everyone else heads back to the mainland in one of the afternoon boats.
In October, temperatures aren’t quite as hot as in summertime, and you might be able to catch Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights. (This year it begins in November, but start planning ahead for next year’s celebration, which begins on October 27.)
As the birthplace of Ayurveda—the 5,000-year-old “science of life”—India has long been a center for those hoping to improve their well-being. In Delhi, the world-class spas at the city’s five-star hotels draw both international visitors and the local cosmopolitan set.
Opened in 2011, the sleek spa at the contemporary Oberoi Gurgaon was designed with international flight schedules in mind. It offers jet lag–fighting treatments such as lime-and-ginger body scrubs and invigorating massages 24 hours a day. There’s also an Olympic-sized pool and daily yoga sessions to help get the kinks out. One of India’s most iconic hotels, The Imperial, built in 1933, features a gorgeous spa inspired by Mughal royal architecture. The staff doctor prescribes traditional Ayurvedic treatments that use house blends of botanical oils. Meanwhile, the expansive Kaya Kalp Spa at the ITC Maurya offers a wide array of rituals that incorporate ingredients such as pomegranate, Himalayan clay, and basmati rice.
For a more comprehensive wellness experience, head 18 miles out of the city to LaLiT Mangar in the Mangar Bani valley. You’ll find a serene and stylish 35-suite retreat that focuses on organic food, yoga, and other holistic practices.
History looms large in Hanoi, Vietnam’s thousand-year-old capital. Ancient temples and colonial architecture provide a rich backdrop to broad tree-lined boulevards and placid lakes. In October, you’ll escape the summer downpours and the crowds that arrive in the winter dry season, so there will be plenty of room and time to take advantage of one of Vietnam’s strengths: its food.
The city is home to one of Asia’s strongest indigenous culinary traditions, and the best way to dive in is to take it to the streets. For a start, try pho noodle soup, the country’s nominal national dish, which is available in beef and chicken varieties. Pho Gia Truyen Bat Dan (known to locals as simply Pho Bat Dan) serves a standout version with tender beef in a clear, rich broth.
Other signature dishes include bun cha (vermicelli with minced pork burgers), banh cuon (steamed rice crepes stuffed with minced pork, mushrooms, and shallots), and xoi (glutinous sticky rice). The place to try bun bo nam bo (vermicelli noodles and beef) is 67 Hang Dieu in the Old Quarter.
For a good sampler, consider a tour with Hanoi Street Food Tours. The company offers walking and scooter tours that cater to all palates, including vegetarians, seafood lovers, and culinary adventurers, who can snack on river snails and baby duck eggs.
By October, the tourist crowds thin out in Istanbul, the only city in the world spanning two continents. Travelers expecting ancient palaces and solemn mosques can also delight in the varied types of art becoming more widespread throughout this city of 15 million residents.
The Istanbul Modern is noted for its collections of modern Turkish and international art (as well as its alfresco restaurant overlooking the Bosphorus). And tucked behind busy Istiklal Caddesi, the handsomely restored Pera Museum hosts exhibitions with historical significance to Istanbul. Housed in a former 19th-century hotel, the museum focuses on paintings by European and Turkish artists.
But Istanbul’s art is not limited to museum walls. The Asian-side Kadiköy neighborhood became an open-air gallery when Turkish and international artists were invited to create murals for the Mural Festival in 2012, and it’s now an annual event. Across the city, also look for work by Gamze Yalçin, one of the few Turkish female street artists, or search for Leo Lunatic’s angry pandas and No More Lies’ animal stencils. A mobile app called Street Art Istanbul provides current location information and background about street murals and artists—a great tool to help you explore on your own.
Johannesburg, South Africa
The great outdoors is one of the main draws for visitors to South Africa, and Johannesburg—or Joburg, or Jozi, as the city is also known—is an excellent home base from which to explore some of the area’s national parks and wildlife reserves. October weather is very hot and dry, but that means the chances of animal viewing is even higher compared to other times of year, as critters make their way around to find water sources.
The good news is that you don’t have to drive five hours to Kruger National Park to see an array of wild animals. There’s a Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve in the Cradle of Humankind, about 45 minutes from Johannesburg, where you can join a guide on a game drive or take a self-drive tour to see more than 30 species.
About three hours from Johannesburg are several other options for watching wildlife. Birders will want to visit Marakele National Park, which has approximately 400 species of birds, including the endangered Cape vulture. The park is also known for its large number of black and white rhinos.
Pilanesberg National Park is situated in a crater of an ancient volcano, and you are likely to see Africa’s famous Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and Cape buffalo) roaming the park. Photographers will love the concealed hides, where they can sneak peeks (and shots) of some of the thousands of animals that call the park home. The park offers game drives, safaris, and even hot air ballooning if you want to get a true bird’s-eye view.
Yes, Munich will be crowded in October. Embrace it—because it’s crowded for a reason. Oktoberfest (or the Wiesn, as the locals call it), is the world’s biggest beer party, where roughly 6 million visitors drink approximately 7 million liters of beer over a 17-day period. It’s massively popular with Germans and visitors alike, so if you want to stay in the city, plan well in advance for local accommodation. (If you’re in that neck of the woods this year, remember that Munich is easily accessible by train, so you can search lodging outside the city, too.)
The action happens at Theresienwiese, a large open field in the city, where breweries set up large tents and serve beer, wine, and traditional Bavarian fare to thousands of people a day. Each has its own atmosphere—upmarket, rowdy, touristy—but most of them have oompah bands, and all of them are festive. Locals and visitors often wear traditional costume to the drinking orgy. Come early on weekends—it gets packed with people by noon—and be aware that eventually someone will spill beer on you (and you’ll likely do the same). Here are more tips for experiencing Oktoberfest like a local.
San Francisco, California
San Francisco gets enough fog that the weather phenomenon has its own nickname, Karl the Fog, and Twitter account. As charming as he is, the best time to explore the city is October, when the Bay Area typically enjoys moderate temperatures and sunny skies, and Karl is out of town.
Golden Gate Park encompasses more than 1,000 acres and is the home of some of the city’s greatest attractions, including the SF Botanical Gardens, the popular (and a bit touristy) Japanese Tea Garden, the California Academy of Sciences museum, and the DeYoung art museum. Visitors can rent a paddleboat or a row boat at Stow Lake or search out the wooly-headed residents of the Bison Paddock. And every October, GGP hosts Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, a three-day free music festival where dozens of artists perform on seven stages. Past headliners have included Emmylou Harris, Nick Lowe, and Patty Griffin.
To enjoy another side of the city, head to Mission Dolores Park, which gets packed on warm days with picnickers, families hanging near the state-of-the-art Helen Diller playground, and sporty types playing tennis on new courts. By 2 p.m., the scene is in full swing, and you’ll think you’re at a party.
For city hiking, the 1,500-acre Presidio is flush with quiet trails lined with giant eucalyptus trees. The park also has a golf course that offers views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay. Nearby is iconic Land’s End, yet another park, where the Coastal Trail offers ideal sunset watching. Just remember to bring a jacket. You never know when Karl might roll in.
Avoid the crush of tourist crowds by traveling to Venice in October. With fewer people around, you can appreciate the city as a work of art in and of itself and take the time to explore its wonderful art museums and galleries.
Founded in 1750, the Gallerie dell’Accademia was once the gallery of Venice’s art school. A highlight of the collection is Leonardo da Vinci’s famous sketch “Vitruvian Man,” but you’ll also discover fantastic paintings by Bellini, Giorgione, Veronese, Titian, and many more.
Other classical museums to explore include the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, which has an exceptional collection of Tintoretto paintings. There’s also the Museo Correr, the roots for which began after Venetian aristocrat Teodoro Correr donated a building and his art collection upon his death in 1830.
But as much as the canal city is steeped in art history, Venice’s art scene also has a modern edge. Peggy Guggenheim lived in a palazzo on the Grand Canal for decades and was a great collector of modern art. At her former home, you’ll see works by Picasso, Pollock, Mondrian, Ernst, Dalí, and many others.
Art lovers who visit during odd-numbered years can experience La Biennale, a huge contemporary art show that takes place in various locations throughout the city from May through November. Founded in 1895, this “Olympics of Modern Art” showcases a global stable of artists who display thought-provoking, bold, and sometimes confusing pieces. Since 2000, the city has hosted a Biennale for architecture in even-numbered years.
>>Next: The Sweetest U.S. Small Towns to Visit This Fall
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