Autumn seems like a forgotten season with the holiday buzz looming and the end-of-summer blues setting in, but there’s so much to love about fall! Not only is the weather cooler and more predictable, it’s shoulder season for travelers in most of the United States. Hotels, airlines and other travel-related businesses experience a lull during this season, and can offer substantial discounts. This means that you can take advantage of off-peak pricing when the industry is less busy.
If you want to get away while the timing’s right, the season’s beautiful foliage and comfortable sweater weather make for an ideal outdoor escape. Thanks to off-peak pricing, you can easily stretch your budget further when you plan ahead and travel during shoulder season. These five October events are perfect destinations for your next budget fall getaway.
Go for a Hot Air Balloon Ride at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
Out in the New Mexico Chihuahua Desert, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta lights up the sky every October with hundreds of colorful balloons. You can walk through scores of hot air balloons preparing for flight at the largest hot air balloon festival in the world, or take off on your own aerial adventure while professional pilots compete in balloon challenges. General admission tickets start at $10, though you can find more activities like camping and concerts for additional fees. October is the perfect time to take in the sunny New Mexican geography full of nearby mountains, valleys, lava cliffs and a city backdrop.
Tour Hundreds of Architectural Sites at the Open House Chicago
Once a year, the Chicago Architecture Center organizes a city-wide event that opens up hundreds of culturally rich, historic and diverse sites to the public for the Open House Chicago festival. This weekend-long event lets you explore and tour some of the city’s most interesting spots and impressive architecture from world-famous architects. Participating locations vary by year, but past festival locations have included skyscrapers, city management hubs, high-rise and luxury apartment buildings and condominiums, temples, synagogues, cathedrals, mansions, museums, distilleries, a rooftop farm and a post office. Admission is completely free, and you’ll be able to get accustomed the city’s distinct, walkable neighborhoods while you’re at it.
Go Prime-Time Leaf Peeping in Acadia National Park
Get over to Maine and explore everything that Acadia National Park has to offer in its vast 47,000 acres. The ideal time to visit for leaf peeping (and for missing the summer crowds) is around mid-October, but you can track Maine’s foliage for a more accurate timeline. While you can drive up Cadillac Mountain, you’ll need to hike, bike or walk to most of the park’s attractions like rocky beaches, ocean views, cliffs, caves and scenic trails set against the coast.
Watch Migrating Golden Eagles at the Bridger Raptor Festival
You can find a lot to do in Montana, from dinosaur fossil digging and camping to hiking, skiing and fishing, but a crisp, sunny October visit is the only time to catch this one-of-a-kind event. Each year in Bozeman, attendees meet for the Bridger Raptor Festival to watch the largest known migratory flyway for the Golden Eagle as well as nearly 20 types of birds as they make their trip for the winter. Located at the Bridger Bowl Ski Area with scenes of the Bridger Range in the background, you can witness scores of wild raptors flying across the sky. The site was discovered in 1979, but the festival has hosted bird watching, hikes, presentations and lectures since the first year in 1996. The events are completely free, and participants of all ages are welcome. However, make sure you leave your dog and other small pets at home!
Celebrate Halloween in Historic Salem
While you can check out the historic location of the Salem witch trials at any time of the year, October is when the town transforms to an all-out Halloween destination. You’ll also likely see the most vibrant fall foliage during this time. Catch a walking tour to learn about the area’s ties to the American Revolution, Native American settlements and other regional New England history, or explore the area’s dark past with the Salem Witch Museum, Howard Street Cemetery or Witch House made famous from the witch trials of 1692. Prices vary per attraction.
If you didn’t have a chance to travel during the summertime, you still have plenty of time to plan for a memorable fall getaway! With so many unique October activities across the country, it’s going to be a very busy month.