West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta
Want an extra chilling experience? Fall in the water at a pumpkin regatta. | West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta
Want an extra chilling experience? Fall in the water at a pumpkin regatta. | West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta

Snuggle Up or Scream with These October Events

This month is a vibe. Get into it.

We’ve waited patiently, laid out our chunky sweaters, and now it’s finally here: October, that sensory explosion where temperatures are crisp, leaves flip to vibrant hues of orange and yellow, and the air is scented with—what is that? Ah, yes, the return of PSL.

Aficionados of all things eerie will rejoice—though, let’s face it, they’ve been throwing murder mystery parties since the beginning of September. This October, however, brings a veritable buffet of creepy cinema, including new installments in the Saw, Exorcist, and Pet Sematary franchises, ideal for a terrifying visit to an old-school drive-in (preferably one surrounded by shadowy forests…).

If you’re fright-averse, steel yourself: This is the season where benign dwellings get a terror-inducing makeover, pumpkins are sparked ablaze for really… no reason at all, and bloody movie sets come to life. You may even see an elusive sasquatch in California. And in New York you’ll definitely see a captivating singing Dracula who would be right at home on the runways of Fashion Week.

So dig out those beanies and get ready for leaf-peeping, new fuzzy friends, and gourds with names like Warty Goblin. And, as always—beware things that go bump in the night.

Explore witchy worlds in Cleveland

We all know Cleveland rocks, but did you know that they’re also kind of witchy? The city’s Buckland Museum of Witchcraft Magick & Occult opened in 1966 to showcase the collection of Raymond Buckland, a former British Airways employee and leading practitioner of Wicca in the US, who roamed the world collecting items imbued with folklore and magic. Their criteria is that they take an anthropological approach to artifact selection, and they must be legit, as The Metropolitan Museum of Art has featured some of their pieces.

Elsewhere in the true birthplace of Superman and the thrills of Cedar Point (with Halloweekends through October 29), collect items for personal spellbinding at Coven or check out a monthly magic and mentalism show by illusionist duo the Alans (the next one is scheduled for October 14). And at Cleveland Curiosities Antiques & Oddities, you can peruse acrylic pieces, vintage items, and artifacts like ostrich eggs, taxidermy, and human bones from owners who have also lent items to productions like My Friend Dahmer and American Horror Story. You know, for all you budding osteologists out there.

Hunt for ghosts in Wyoming

There are ghost tours, and then there ghost hunting tours. The difference? Be careful what you wish for. At Fort Caspar in Caspar, Wyoming, that could mean walking through pockets of cold air while your infrared thermometer registers off the charts… or feeling an actual otherworldly presence hovering beside you.

And it could be a number of ghosts. Through the years, the Fort’s grounds have been home to generations of Native Americans, traveling traders, land-grabbing emigrants, homesteading mountain men, and, of course, the US Army. The region was a thruway for several trails, including the Oregon, California, Mormon Pioneer, and Pony Express. The historical fort began performing this interactive paranormal investigation last year, and the campaign returns this October 20, 21, 27, and 28, with tickets on sale October 3. So far, the spirits have been friendly—but just in case, you should probably wear shoes you can run in.

Set sail for the Bermuda Triangle

Like quicksand, the Bermuda Triangle—that volatile patch of sea helmed by the axes of Miami, Bermuda, and Puerto Rico—has long enraptured us. It’s claimed dozens, possibly hundreds, of wrecked ships and downed planes—70 of which have vanished without a trace. And the fact that it still isn’t geographically recognized by neither the US Navy nor the US Board on Geographic Names? Well, that makes it even more of a mystery.

Today, you can visit its northernmost point—if you dare. Last year, Bermuda decided to lean into the legend by commemorating the “official Northern Point of this legendary mystery.” Located in Albuoy’s Point in the capital city of Hamilton, you’ll find it at the tip of a green triangular park. There, you’ll also be privy to QR code for more information. Then check out Bermuda Triangle: Unlock the Secrets at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute’s Ocean Discovery Centre, where you can get hands-on experience exploring disappearance theories, including a 3-D hurricane hologram.

Go batty in Transylvania

We’ve already alluded to a singing Dracula in New York, but how about a visit with the real deal? (With some garlic on hand, of course.) In Romania, Dracula’s castle, more formally known as Bran Castle, sits high above Transylvania Valley, teetering on a cliff with a river below. It caught the attention of Bram Stoker, who saw just a single illustration of the joint before vaulting it to fame by making it the home of his novel’s nobleman, sorcerer, and vampire.

Stoker might have never stepped foot in the place, but you can, by hopping on a tour of its winding passageways. But you’ll want to plan your trip around the end of October, when they offer their special annual ghostly Halloween tour followed by a big ol’ Monster Mash with dancing until 5 am. There’s also a costume contest, which makes us wonder how many Draculas actually show up. It’s a pretty good way to stay anonymous if you’re lurking in the shadows.

Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month

Kicking off on September 15, Hispanic Heritage Month began as the weeklong Hispanic Heritage Week before expanding to its current form in 1988. Though the mid-month start may be unusual, it’s deliberate, as it marks the anniversary of the Cry of Dolores, the event that triggered the start of the Mexican War of Independence on September 16, 1810. The nationally recognized month also pays homage to five other Central American nations that gained independence from Spain, celebrating Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Honduras, and Nicaragua.

Which means in the great United States, where Latinx and Hispanic people make up 19%of the population, we party. In Washington, DC, the Smithsonian and other government institutions pay tribute with screenings, lectures, and art exhibits, while in New York, Ballet Hispanico has a roster of events spanning cultural touch points from LGBTQIA+ issues to Indigenous heritage. In Denver, the Museo de las Americas will offer free admission and throw a celebratory bash with artists and food trucks on October 6. And even Disney is getting in on the action: This month, you can meet Mirabel from Encanto, enjoy live concerts from Hispanic artists, and buy special themed merchandise. Disney fans, you know what to do.

Take your leaf-peeping game to new heights

We love the color of changing leaves so much we’ve invented a term for it: leaf-peeping. But rather than crawling through traffic taking in foliage, this year we're recommending alternative methods. From dropping in from the sky in Connecticut to absorbing their beauty from the rapids below in Washington to incredible, colorful hikes, we’ve rounded up the best ways to leaf-peep for the viewer who wants something beyond ordinary. There’s also the ultimate immersion: spending a night in this gorgeous single-tree forest in Utah.

You can also bike along unused railroad tracks on a railbike. The company Rail Explorers has five locations: Las Vegas, the Catskills, Cooperstown, Rhode Island, and their latest, Boone, Iowa. And that one’s a doozy, taking riders over the Bass Point Creek High Bridge suspended 156 feet above the ground. Just make sure you take everything out of your pockets before strapping in.

Swaddle yourself in Bhutan

Forget Scandinavia: For the ultimate in cozy, head to the mountains. Specifically, the Himalayan country of Bhutan. For those who enjoy exploring on foot, start with the recently reopened Trans Bhutan Trail, a renewed historic trail system used for everything from a Buddhist pilgrimage route to a meeting space for monarchs of Himalayan kingdoms. Now you can trek some or all of its 250 miles connecting nine dzongkhags, or districts, each with their own Dzong (a.k.a. fortified monastery).

And if you’re hiking outdoors during the day, at night you’re going to want to warm up. Luckily, Bhutan excels in this area year-round, thanks to the ever-pressing need to fend off its ubiquitous cool mountain air. Take a hot stone and herb bath—a staple in a majority of Bhutanese homes—sip some steamy and creamy butter tea, or wrap yourself in yak fur. It almost makes us pine for winter. Almost.

Cuddle up with wool

As long as we’re getting cozy… You’ll find 1,500 snuggly buddies tromping through Sun Valley, Idaho in the Trailing of the Sheep Festival this month (Oct 4–8). There will be sheep tales, sheepdog trials, folk performances, historic wagons, and other wooly stuff. But mainly, a whole lot of sheep. If you plan on going, the website asks that you leave your own pups at home, for obvious reasons.

Later in the month, the New York Sheep and Wool Festival (Oct 21–22) returns to Rhinebeck, New York, where you can meet similarly furry new pals who hopefully won’t spit on you. There’s a Sunday morning llama parade and something called a Leaping Llama Contest—which you can bet we’ll be front and center to witness.

Visit a former prison championing reform by day and throwing ragers by night

Even if you’ve never been inside the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, if you’ve been anywhere in the area, you’ve definitely seen the massive Gothic Revival fortress’ hulking 30-foot walls. Opened in 1829, it served as an active prison until 1971, pioneering many of the incarceration policies still in place today (for better or for worse). Today, you can tour the space, listening to firsthand accounts from former residents and perusing exhibits like Prisons Today, which dives into the current state of mass incarceration. Plus, hear an audio tour narrated by none other than Steve Buscemi.

To raise funds for its nonprofit work, ESP also throws what is probably one of the coolest Halloween events this side of the Atlantic: a multi-night festival where visitors can wander the grounds popping into five haunted houses while being entertained by skeleton bands. Vendors include Triple Bottom Brewing, which employs people who have experienced homelessness or incarceration, and Down North Pizza, which also hires the formerly incarcerated and has topped best restaurant lists. So go ahead—stuff your face.

Gourds, gourds, gourds

This month, our favorite orange gourd comes to us in all forms—even competitive. Take the Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off in Half Moon Bay, California (Oct 9), where massive pumpkins go head-to-head for a chance at a $9-per-pound prize, plus an extra $30,000 mega-purse. (For reference, the current heavyweight champion pumpkin clocks in at 2,703 pounds.)

See giant gourds fashioned into boats at Tualatin, Oregon’s West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta (Oct 22), watch them fly through the air at Punkin Chunkin in Clayton, New York (October 22) and Indiana’s Bloomington Pumpkin Launch (Oct 21), or catch them sporting elaborate paint jobs in Damariscotta, Maine, complete with their own regatta (Sept 30–Oct 9). And then, of course, spot them lit from within as professionally carved Jack-o-Lanterns everywhere from Rhode Island to Illinois to Upstate New York. Pumpkins! They’re not just for pie.

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Vanita Salisbury is Thrillist's Senior Travel Writer. Please direct her to your favorite haunted house.