Editor’s Note: Travel might be complicated right now, but use our inspirational trip ideas to plan ahead for your next bucket list adventure.
October is a fitting time for a road trip, the type of vacation currently on the agenda for many of us. Temperatures are becoming more comfortable as we’re fully into autumn, but you can still find warm weather if you’re not ready to bid summer goodbye just yet. In other destinations, a welcome chill in the air reminds us that winter is on its way. For our list of the best places to travel in October, we’re presenting a few less-traveled spots to help avoid crowds, as well as to remind us of the many wonderful places not far from home.
Greensboro, Georgia offers lakes, outdoor activities, and perhaps an early sighting of fall foliage. If you want cooler weather and more assurance of leaf-peeping opportunities, you might consider Kennebunkport, Maine. Near-summer temperatures continue in Amelia Island, Florida for those who want to extend the season. For a European atmosphere, wine tastings, and small-town surroundings, Solvang, California will satisfy travelers, while West Virginia also offers lush scenery, history, and much to see.
Planning a road trip or short vacation might be the perfect antidote for the malaise of quarantine months, Zoom meetings, home schooling, or just missing travel. Perhaps one of these destinations will have you thinking of a getaway or even a long weekend staycation.
Amelia Island, Florida
October brings comfortable temperatures in the high 70s to Amelia Island, located off the coast of northeast Florida, about 30 minutes from Jacksonville International Airport. The barrier island is home to pristine beaches, palm-lined bike paths, historical sites, and 13 miles of coastline with 40 public beach access points. Explore the surrounding sea by snorkeling, kayaking, fishing, and boating, or just visit a different beach every day. The Fernandina Beach Historic District boasts Florida’s oldest existing lighthouse and the state’s earliest hotel, the Florida House Inn, dating to 1857. Maps for self-guided walking tours of the District’s Victorian-era architecture, historic homes, and churches are available from the Tourist Council in the Old Train Depot, or choose a guided tour with Amelia Island Trolleys. The American Beach Museum pays tribute to African-American history on Amelia Island. Created by entrepreneur and philanthropist A. L. Lewis, Florida’s first Black millionaire, American Beach is the first site on the Florida Black Heritage Trail. At Fort Clinch State Park, a well-preserved Civil War-era fort is the centerpiece of the 1,400 acre park featuring beaches, campgrounds, biking and hiking trails, and abundant wildlife. Stay in luxury at the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island with its world-class spa, 18-hole golf course, pools, and beach access.
Charleston, West Virginia
The capital of West Virginia, Charleston is an ideal starting point for exploring the state, but you’ll want to spend several days in this vibrant, historical city. Don’t miss the year-round Capital Market, an indoor-outdoor farmers market, retail, dining, and social venue set in a hundred-year-old railroad depot, where you’ll find seasonal goods, seafood, meats, cheeses, gifts, and take-out and sit-down restaurants. The Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences combines an art museum, planetarium, 3-D theater, and hands-on discovery exhibits. Take advantage of autumn to be outdoors for a hike or leisurely stroll along one of Charleston’s many trails. Kanawha State Forest offers hiking, mountain biking, camping, and picnic areas. History fans will want to tour the Craik-Patton House, built in 1834, and visit the J. Q. Dickinson Salt Works, dating to the early 19th century, when the Kanawha Valley was the largest salt-producing region in the United States. Today, the seventh-generation salt makers harvest pure salt from an ancient ocean trapped beneath the mountains of Appalachia. Charleston offers a range of hotels, motels, and bed-and-breakfasts, including the Brass Pineapple, a charming inn listed on the National Historical Register. When it’s time to leave Charleston, head out in any direction, and you’ll see why they call it “almost heaven, West Virginia.”
Cooperstown, New York
Autumn’s colorful foliage is just one of October’s attractions in Cooperstown, about 200 miles north of New York City. Baseball fans who didn’t get their fill of America’s pastime with this year’s shortened season will be happy to immerse themselves in the Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum, the Heroes of Baseball Wax Museum, the Cooperstown Bat Company, and Main Street’s memorabilia shops. The Farmers’ Museum, an 1840’s country village and farm, is offering a reduced admission rate, and programs have been adapted for outdoor viewing of the historic structures, cooking demonstrations, farming, and mid-19th century home life. Farm animals, an exhibition highlighting New York State’s craft beer revival, and October’s special “Things That Go Bump in the Night” tours make a visit fun and educational. Listen to ghost stories and Edgar Allan Poe’s classic “The Tell-tale Heart” as you walk through the darkened village by lantern. Cooperstown is known for apple orchards, and the Fly Creek Cider Mill & Orchard shows visitors how their cider and apple wines are made. Taste craft beers and ciders at Belgian-style farmstead Brewery Ommegang. Stay at the elegant and historic Otesaga Resort Hotel on the shores of Otsego Lake where you can play golf at the Leatherstocking Golf Course or enjoy views of the lake over a cocktail at The Fire Bar or from the resort’s expansive veranda; while you’re there, be sure to taste their granola-topped apple crisp.
About an hour east of Atlanta, Greensboro was founded in 1786, and many vintage buildings are still standing. The Old Gaol dates to 1807, and its granite walls and gallows remain. Greensboro Cemetery is the resting place for both Revolutionary War and Civil War soldiers. A walking tour takes visitors through the downtown where shopping for antiques is a favorite activity. Billed as “Lake Oconee’s Hometown,” Greensboro is just minutes from the shores of the lake and water sports of all varieties. October’s weather, with daytime temperatures in the mid-70s, is prime time for enjoying the outdoors. Boating, jet skiing, paddling, and swimming around Jumping Rock are popular well into autumn, and on land, there’s fishing, hunting, and a sporting clays course at Sandy Creek Sporting Grounds, where guests can also hike, kayak, canoe, or fish. Oconee Brewing Company, housed in a renovated cotton mill warehouse, offers craft beer tastings on its spacious outdoor patio. The area attracts golfers to its Reynolds Lake Oconee championship courses and “The Kingdom,” for instruction, club fitting, and practice. Campsites, hotels, and motels are available in the area, and the Ritz-Carlton Reynolds Lake Oconee offers guestrooms, cottages, and the renovated Lake House with a private pool, dock, and porches overlooking the lake for a luxurious, socially-distant stay.
Set in California’s Santa Ynez Valley, Solvang is a historic Danish village that bills itself as “a little slice of Denmark in Southern California.” It’s a great getaway just two hours from Los Angeles, and with a little imagination, you can feel as if you’re thousands of miles away from home rather than just a few hundred. Santa Barbara wine country’s tasting rooms are conveniently nearby, serving Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Viognier, and Pinot Noir from the famed Santa Rita Hills. Mild October weather and scenic vineyards make outdoor, socially-distant wine tasting a pleasure. In Solvang, stroll through town and stop at a bakery for authentic Danish pastries or browse the boutiques for art, European imports, and unique gifts. Picnic in Hans Christian Andersen Park, where there’s a skate park and children’s playground. Visit Ostrichland USA for a unique opportunity to feed one of the huge birds or take home an ostrich egg, equivalent in size to nearly two dozen chicken eggs. Take a leisurely bike ride along winding roads among wineries and farms. Just 15 minutes from Solvang, Cachuma Lake Recreation Area offers year-round camping, RV hookups, private cabins, lake cruises, boating, fishing, hiking, and nature walks. In Solvang, stay at one of several hotels or motels, including the newly-opened upscale boutique The Winston set in the historic Old Mill Clock Tower or the modern Vinland Hotel & Lounge with a heated pool, hot tub, and cold brew coffee bar.
For lovely early autumn weather in the 60s and colorful fall foliage, head to Maine, where you’ll also find delicious seafood, quaint villages, cozy lodging, and lots to do. Less than a hundred scenic miles from Boston, Kennebunkport is home to the compound of President George H. W. Bush and his family. Visitors stop along Ocean Drive for a glimpse of Walker Point and stately homes along the rugged shoreline. Explore the area on foot or bicycle, following some of the routes suggested by Go Kennebunks. Drive down the National Register Historic District on Summer Street to see more than 17 historic sea captains’ homes that span more than two hundred years of history. Dock Square, also in downtown Kennebunkport, features a trolley ride, scenic cruise, shopping, and dining. Take a self-guided tour starting at Kennebunk Town Hall or pick up a map at the Chamber of Commerce office and learn about the area’s history through panels set up along the way. Browse art galleries and boutiques for handmade items and souvenirs of your visit. Lodging ranges from campgrounds to bed-and-breakfasts, luxurious resorts, and quaint inns. There’s both camping and glamping at the Sandy Pines Campground and a special offer at the waterfront Yachtsman Hotel and Marina Club through October 31 that includes two pairs of Sperry boat shoes along with other perks. The newly-redesigned White Barn Inn & Spa, Auberge Resorts Collection features cozy touches, two restaurants, and guest experiences that include local excursions and a traditional lobster bake.
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