October can be a fun month for travel, for families who aren't tied to the school schedule. Halloween has become such a big celebration that some families plan Halloween vacations - see Ten Top Destinations for Halloween. Meanwhile fall foliage getaways are at their peak.
Washington DC is a great place to visit with kids, with its iconic sightseeing and the wonderful set of Smithsonian museums (where admission is free.) From mid-October to mid-November, families will find extra fun at one of the largest performing arts festivals in the U.S.: more than 200 free events -- with dancers, storytellers, acrobats, and more-- take place around the city, with the support of over twenty Washington-based embassies for European countries. Target ages for kids are from two to twelve. Read more above, and see also more about visiting Washington DC for family trips.
October's a great month to visit New York as typically the weather is still warm and a perfect temperature for walking around. Families can join the many New Yorkers enjoying Central Park, strolling, strollering, or canoeing on the lake. Central Park has several playgrounds, a Children's Zoo, a Carousel, and free walking tours. (See the Central Park Visitors Guide). Families can also see the Columbus Day Parade which is part of celebrations by New York's Italian-American community. And of course there are countless fun things to do with kids in The Big Apple at any time of year: see Top Things To Do in New York City with Kids.
Montreal has some great attractions to visit with kids, and a wonderful "Old Montreal" area to explore. In early October, families can bike and stroll along the river in the Old Port area. Note that Columbus Day weekend coincides with Canadian Thanksgiving, so the locals will be having a long weekend too. Families should definitely also visit the annual Magic of Lanterns at the Montreal Botanical Gardens, where life-size figures are beautifully illuminated in the Chinese Garden area. The Botanical Gardens are easily reached by subway and are located next to the popular Biodome and (coming in 2013) a new Planetarium.
October's a fine time to visit this town on Lake Otesaga in New York state: fall foliage is a beautiful setting for hikes, and families can still canoe or kayak on the lake. Cooperstown was founded in 1786 by Judge William Cooper, whose son wrote many novels set in the area. Local attractions include the National Baseball Hall of Fame Museum, a Farmer's Museum, the Fenimore Art Museum, and the world-class Glimmerglass Opera. Families might also want to try a Candlelight Ghost Tour.
Asheville, NC is another good spot for leaf-peeping. Families can visit the Biltmore estate (-click above for info), which has the castle-like 250-room Biltmore House, the Biltmore Gardens, and River Bend Farm, a highlight for younger kids who like to pet the sheep and goats. Outdoors activities include horseback riding, river floats, hiking, biking, fly-fishing and sporting clays. In October, Ashville has the Hardlox Jewish Food and Heritage Festival, with kids zone, and, nearby at Black Mountain, the family-friendly LEAF music festival with performers from around the world. Asheville offers great access to scenic hiking trails, several zip lines, and some large outdoor activity centers.
If you ever want to hear elk bugling, October's the month to head to the Rockies. Families will find special fall festival weekends at YMCA of the Rockies, a YMCA like no other, with two giant centers-- Snow Mountain Ranch and Estes Park Center-- that both offer a host of recreational activities. Affordable rates include cabin lodging, meals, and most activities.
April and October are the best months for festivals in Louisiana, and visitors also like that temperatures are warm but not too hot. The three-day family-friendly Festivals Acadiens et Creoles is the largest regional festival for Cajun and Zydeco music, and is a good chance to experience Cajun and Creole food and culture. Family visitors can also learn some history by visiting heritage villages in Acadiana, and can explore some kid-friendly attractions in New Orleans as well.
Families flock to the Anaheim area of Los Angeles for its major theme parks: Universal Studios Hollywood and the two theme parks at the Disneyland Resort. Families with kids age two to twelve may want to add a visit to LEGOLAND California, near San Diego. All these theme parks have special events throughout October for Halloween. LEGOLAND has Brick-or-Treat; Disneyland has Haunted Mansion Holiday and (separate-ticket) Mickey's Trick or Treat Party on many nights. Universal Studios Hollywood, meanwhile, has a seriously scary separate-ticket event, Halloween Horror Nights, and another theme park -- Knott's Berry Farm, known for wild roller coasters -- stages the horrific Knott's Scary Farm Halloween Haunt that's definitely not for younger kids. (The younger set can do Snoopy's Costume Party in the day-time instead.)
Meanwhile in Northern California, free family-friendly events in San Francisco in October include the Fleet Week parade of giant ships under the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco Italian Heritage Parade on Columbus Day. San Francisco has lots of fun things to do with kids, including cable car rides, Fisherman's Wharf, Pier 39, and Golden Gate Park.
Early October is a golden time for visiting Italy's picture-perfect medieval hill towns, where kids can imagine they're knights or princesses. These are the towns that time forgot for centuries, while populations grew elsewhere. No mini-malls or fast-food joints, and many lanes are pedestrian-only, which is always nice for parents with darting kids. Rome and Venice are lovely at this time of year, too.