October Family Travel Guide

Pumpkin Festival, Keene
The town of Keene, New Hampshire, holds a record breaking pumpkin festival every Halloween. (courtesy, Keene Pumpkin Festival)

Salem, Massachusetts
No place in America conjures up the spirit of Halloween better than Salem, Massachusetts, where, in 1692, twenty innocent victims were hanged or stoned to death, accused of being witches. Every October, the town remembers its hallowed past by staging a 24-day event called Haunted Happenings. The gala features haunted houses, concerts, psychic fairs, and arts and crafts. The highlight, of course, occurs on Halloween, when two lucky kids with the best costumes get crowned king and queen and lead a parade to Salem Common for a free concert.

Keene, New Hampshire
Last October, Boston beat Keene's Guinness Book of World Record for most jack-o-lanterns created in one 24-hour period. So you better believe that the good folks of this southern New Hampshire town will be out in full force on October 20th to carve more than 30,128 pumpkins and retake the record. When your arms need a breather, wander over to Main Street for crafts and food.

Sanibel Island, Florida
Nature takes center stage at the 18th annual Ding Darling Days, October 8 to 14, in Sanibel Island, Florida. Take a nature cruise, bird walk, or bike tour through the lush paradise known as the "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge. This 5,000-acre wetland is home to alligators and numerous shorebirds including herons, storks, pelicans, ibises, and egrets. Also on hand, some of the nation's finest wildlife artists compete in the Duck Stamp contest, a chance to get their art on next year's stamp.

Lafayette, Louisiana
Cajun culture is in full swing at the annual Festivals Acadiens in downtown Lafayette, Louisiana. Held October 12 to 14, the festival includes dancing to the sounds of the fiddle and accordion, dining on crayfish and jambalaya, and lessons in traditional crafts from the hub of French Louisiana.

Vergennes, Vermont
In summer, the Basin Harbor Club in Vergennes becomes a whirlwind of activity, with families visiting from near and far to swim in Lake Champlain, jump on the waterfront trampoline, sea kayak, play a round of golf, or quietly read a book in one of those Adirondack chairs perfectly planted on the sloping lawn overlooking the harbor. The last burst of family excitement occurs on Columbus Day Weekend, when the resort celebrates Harborween. The festivities include a pumpkin carving contest, haunted hayrides, trick or treat trails, and a masked ball.

College Football Season
Like apple picking or pumpkin carving, watching college football is a fall ritual not to be missed. Head to one of the Big 10 campuses, like the University of Michigan, where over 100,000 fans pack the Big House at home games. There's nothing quite like doing the wave with this many humans.

Liberal, Kansas
Heavy metal junkies can have Ozzfest. I'll click my heels three times and head to Liberal, Kansas, for Oz-Fest. The cornerstone of this Wizard of Oz fanfest is a 100-year-old house, reconstructed to look like Dorothy's home. Some key individuals who show up for this mid-October festival include several Munchkins from the original flick, author L. Frank Baum's great-grandson, and a Judy Garland look-alike who will teach you how to skip down the Yellow Brick Road.

Madison County, Iowa
Every year since 1970, on the second weekend in October, Madison County, Iowa, pays tribute to its famous bridges with its Autumn festival. Buses take families on tours of the bridges, while artisans show folks how to carve soap, shear sheep, and whittle wood. There's also live music and lots of cider and corn dogs.

Kettle Falls, Washington
You haven't tasted apple cider until you try a glass made from the hand-crafted press at The Marcus Ciderfest in northeastern Washington. Visit the charming town of Kettle Falls, on the banks of Lake Roosevelt, the first weekend in October for a pancake breakfast followed by a parade. Also on premises are arts and crafts booths, food, live music and bingo.

San Diego, California
Open since 1888, the legendary Hotel del Coronado really doesn't need to change one iota to attract new clientele. Its spacious rooms overlook the finest stretch of beach in San Diego. But the resort that Marilyn Monroe arrived at to film Some Like it Hot refuses to rest on its lengthy history. This past May, they opened the new Beach Village, a selection of 78 two- and three-bedroom suites that are perfect for a family beach escape. Bring your cereal and milk, as an upscale kitchen is part of the design.

Boston-based writer Stephen Jermanok has authored or contributed to 11 books on the outdoors, including Outside Magazine's Adventure Guide to New England , Discovery Channel's Backcountry Treks , Discovery Channel's Paddlesports , Outside Magazine's Guide to Family Vacations and Men's Journal's The Great Life . His latest book is New England Seacoast Adventures . His many adventures appear in National Geographic Adventure , Outside , Men's Journal , Forbes FYI , Travel + Leisure , Hooked on the Outdoors , and Backpacker . He can be reached at farandaway@comcast.net.

Published: 20 Jun 2007 | Last Updated: 21 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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