Whether you’re looking forward to all the fall festivities or the slightest thought of a chill makes you want to go into full-on hibernation mode, one thing’s for certain: October is packed with plenty to do, and that extends to travel experiences both near and far. There's the end of harvest and the start of Dia de Los Muertos, or “Day of the Dead,” celebrations that make Halloween look like child’s play in Mexico, while Oktoberfest pretty much takes over the rest of the world. This month’s best places to travel are particularly great for budget travelers looking to take advantage of low season—and the decline in airfare and lodging prices that comes with it. Here are our five faves this month.
No matter what time of year you go, seeing Napa is quite the experience, but catching it in October—at the tail end of harvest, when grapes at many of the vineyards that make your favorite wines are being picked—is truly something else. Our perfect day in Napa in this season involves spending a sunny afternoon picnicking on the lawn of Domaine Chandon, the house that produces some of Napa’s best bubbly. (If you need a recco on which California Sparkling Wines to drink while there, our money would be on the Rosé Brut, Blanc de Blancs, and Etoile offerings). Chandon offers a plethora of tastings—both solo and guided—along with mixology classes, private cabanas on the lawn, and tree-covered, al fresco dining spots to soak in the sun as you enjoy the healthy, bright California cuisine coming from the kitchen. Menu items include charcuterie, hummus and crudités, cheese plates, seasonal sandwiches, and more.
The charming town of Yountville, steps from the Chandon property, is Napa’s crown jewel, and a Disneyland of food and wine. Within walkable distance, you’ll find everything from fine restaurants and tasting rooms to a spa and salon where you can get primped with a glass of vino in hand.
Where to stay: October means pool and hot tub time in Napa is a total possibility, and at Hotel Villagio, you’ll want to carve out a little chunk of time in between wine tasting to do so in the massive, 40-foot heated outdoor pool and hot tub. The comfortable guest rooms, which feature large soaking tubs accompanied by Champagne buckets so you can soak and sip, are built in a village style among lush greenery and gardens—meaning they feel private even though they’re just steps from everything in Yountville. The hotel also offers complimentary bicycles or rides in its adorable Moke vehicle as an alternative way of getting around.
Dirt-cheap fares put the ’Cun at the top of our list this month when “rainy season” means you may see a cloud or two during the day. What that also means: Plenty of time still to enjoy the pool (and its swim-up bar), jet skiing or parasailing along the coast or spending a rather wild night out at one of Cancun’s many popular nightclubs. Whether it’s your first time or one of your favorite fly-in-for-the-weekend spots, it’s never a bad idea to organize a tour or simply hire a taxi for the day to take advantage of the region's incredible cenotes—natural sinkholes formed by a collapse of limestone that reveal gorgeous aquamarine water ripe for jumping and swimming in. During October, especially toward the end of the month, many resorts offer Day of the Dead cultural experiences. One of note and authenticity is the annual Day of the Dead festival, Festival of Life and Death, that happens in Xcaret Park, roughly a 75-minute drive from Cancun. It features concerts, ofrendas (or paper flower) making activities, and even access to Mayan healers, plus a whole lot of food.
Speaking of eats, back in Cancun, we recommend La Destileria and Tacun for authentic grub, and the immersive video dining experience—where the table you sit at is a giant video screen that is paired to take you through a multi-sensory, multi-course meal celebrating Mexican food—at La Joya. And while there are plenty of yummy Mexican bites to be had, when you’ve officially had your fill of chips and guac, consider splurging on Le Basilic or Du Mexique, two of Cancun’s most celebrated French fine dining spots.
Where to stay: The Grand at Moon Palace Cancun is a luxurious, sleek, contemporary wonder filled with actually delicious all-inclusive food options (and let’s face it, that’s not always the case at all-inclusive resorts). It’s also home to Awe Spa, which as its name suggests, will leave you in complete awe (and bliss, too). One of Cancun’s finest modern spas, it boasts a serious aqua therapy circuit, steam rooms, and our favorite—the heated stone beds—plus a robust spa menu offering pretty much any treatment you can dream of to induce peak relaxation.
MONTCLAIR, NEW JERSEY
Jersey is often the butt of a lot of jokes in the U.S., but the Garden State has some truly beautiful landscapes, seaside communities, mountainous enclaves and charming towns. One said town, Montclair is located about 45 minutes west by car from New York City and is an idyllic autumn destination if you’re looking for leaf-peeping opportunities and that small-town-meets-big-city charm. Filled with ex-Brooklynite families and lots of historical charm, this trendy community is packed with lots of artsy and cultural activities, like an afternoon at Montclair Art Museum, which houses an outstanding collection of Native American art and revolving exhibits, meaning it acts more like a museum you might expect to find in a bigger city. The nearby Van Vleck House & Gardens was built as a country estate for a prominent Brooklyn family in 1868, and seeing the Italian-style villa and its lush gardens—which feature a beehive and butterfly garden—can easily fill up an afternoon in town. The locals in Montclair are spoiled when it comes to food from distinguished chefs. It’s easily one of NJ’s biggest foodie destinations, with dining options Turtle + the Wolf, Raymond’s, Laboratorio Kitchen and Laurel & Sage of note. It’s also home to Montclair Brewing Co., where craft beers are always being changed up so you can discover something new. At night, after the brisk fall air starts to turn chilly, you’ll want to consider checking out what’s on the marquee at the Wellmont Theater, Montclair’s entertainment venue where you can catch everything from comedy acts and live music to theater and drag shows.
Where to Stay: If you can snag a room at The George, the hotel project makeup mogul Bobbi Brown recently opened alongside her husband, you should. The design-focused hotel is housed in a totally transformed, stately early 1900s home and is as chic as it is comfortable for guests. Featured products at The George are all curated from Bobbi’s favorite brands, including EO Products for the spa-like bathrooms, and other little luxuries like Theramu CDB oils, Harney & Sons teas, and even Casper beds for each of the guest rooms and suites.
Another great option in town can be found at the new MC Hotel, where they take art seriously, featuring local artists on the walls of its guest rooms and common spaces, all crafted together to make you feel as though you’re staying in an art gallery for the night. Clean lines and a neutral palette paired with textured carpets and natural wood details make for contemporary guest rooms, many with views of the surrounding hills, mountains and parks.
There’s so much to love about Vancouver that you’ll likely need to plan a return trip as soon as you board the plane home. A healthy mix of cosmopolitan life surrounded by lots of British Columbia’s natural splendors, it may sound a bit cliché, but this place truly has something for everyone. Start your day downtown, cruising through the historic streets of the Gastown, now one of the city’s trendiest neighborhoods. Meanwhile, the lively Robson St. corridor is also packed with restaurants and shops worthy of exploring—and doubles as the home of “Terminal City” gay nightlife. Take a walk around Stanley Park and Jericho Beach to enjoy the incredible mountains that seem to surround the city at every angle, or get a little adventurous by walking across the Capilano, a 400-plus-foot suspension bridge among the trees that you have to see to believe. Vancouver also boasts lots of great clothing shops and one of the country’s finest is Holt Renfrew. Think of it like the Saks of Canada. Whether you’re there to blow the down payment you’ve been saving for a house or are just window-shopping in awe, it’s a beautiful department store that’s worthy of your time.
Where to stay: You can go totally glam at the chic Rosewood Hotel Georgia, built in a restored 1920s building—where the Deluxe Rooms feature sexy soaking tubs that will be hard to leave. Or stay on the cheap at The Burrard, where the updated mid-century-modern decor of this former motor inn is just as cute as the price. When we looked, rates were hovering around $160 a night for midweek.
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM
Are those The Crown season 3 promos beckoning you to Jolly Old London Town? In this cosmopolitan city, even if you went and never saw the Tate Modern, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, London Bridge, or bothered to take a ride on The London Eye, you’d still feel overwhelmed with things to do. We’d recommend doing all of the mentioned, then taking a stroll through the fashionable Covent Garden and Soho neighborhoods, mingling among some of the best hipster culture Europe has in Shoreditch, and going on an Ab Fab-esque shopping spree in Knightsbridge.
And we haven’t even mentioned the premiere part of traveling here in October, besides the light leather jacket-appropriate weather: London Cocktail Week. Celebrating its tenth year October 4 to 13, a pass here—just roughly $14—gets you access to the U.K.’s biggest cocktail festival. We’re talking pop-up bars, immersive cocktail-making experiences, street food and more—basically, lots of vehicles to get a cocktail or good grub in your hands. If you’d prefer a more sophisticated nightcap, splurge on a night at Scarfes Bar at the Rosewood; the sophisticated, art-filled ambiance complete with live singers and piano players and cocktails inspired by some of your favorite musical acts will not disappoint.
And if you needed one more reason to consider London this month, besides cozy fall walks, you can consider attending one of the many London Film Festival events happening October 2 to 13. Screenings are of course on the agenda, as are talkbacks, DJ parties and even a few crash-worthy red carpet galas.
Where to stay: Great value can be found at The Montcalm at The Brewery London City, with weekend rates well under $200 a night at press time. This former working brewery turned handsome-hotel is located within walking or tube distance to everything London offers, and features a mix of traditional and contemporary decor in its well-sized guest rooms. Those with disposable income will want to look into Bankside this month, a posh, modern hotel that opened on the River Thames last year and doubles as an incubator for up-and-coming artists. Resting your head at this design-focused property means being surrounded by works from Laura Carlin, Malgorzata Bany, Timorous Beasties, the Galvin Bros. and more.