Known in the United States as the month of Halloween, October has so much more to offer than ghosts, ghouls and goblins. The only thing scarier is how cheap your flights will be to some of these locations for some of the best vacations in October.
Check out music festivals in tropical locations like Dominica, an epicenter for everything to do with Creole-inspired music and its unique genres. More interested in learning about the environment while immersing yourself in it? Join the Sea & Learn foundation on the small island of Saba for its annual, month-long visit. San Francisco also offers a completely free festival at beautiful Golden Gate Park.
If all that seems too tame for you, there’s also the thrilling Phuket Vegetarian Festival where devotees perform self-mutilating piercings (typically in the cheek or lip) during what is also known as the Nine Emperor Gods Festival.
Whatever your fancy, read on for the best places to travel in October.
Felabration — Lagos, Nigeria
Travel to Lagos, Nigeria, for a music festival dedicated to the life and work of one man: Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. Felabration hosts a variety of artists from hip-hop, R&B, jazz and the Kuti-derived Afrobeat genre. It lasts the week of his birthday and takes place at New Afrika Shrine in Ikeja, Lagos State.
In addition to celebrating his musical work, Felabration also celebrates Kuti’s work as a human-rights activist. He fought aggressively against an oppressive Nigerian government in the 1970s, and, to honor that sentiment today, Felabration hosts competitive debates around topics like poverty and corruption. The Felebration Symposium also invites professors and local politicians to speak.
Felebration ’22 runs from Sep. 28 to Oct. 4.
Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival — San Francisco
Nowadays, music festivals usually cost a pretty penny or some volunteer hours to gain entry. With the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass music festival in San Francisco, that isn’t the case; in fact, the festival is completely free.
Plan a trip to Golden Gate Park for what originated as a “Strictly Bluegrass” festival in 2001. By 2004, however, Founder Warren Hellman, co-founder of multi-billion-dollar equity firms, added “Hardly” to the name, as artists from other genres began performing at the festival, too.
Hellman’s vision was to avoid corporate sponsors, so he always funded the festival. Despite his death two months after the 2011 iteration, the festival will remain free until 2026, thanks to the endowment Hellman left.
Hardly Strictly Bluegrass attendees are encouraged to be environmentally friendly and bike or use public transportation to the festival. No hard alcohol is allowed, but you’re still allowed to bring your own beer and wine.
The festival goes from Sep. 30 to Oct. 2.
Phuket Vegetarian Festival — Thailand
If you have an appetite for southeastern-Asian, vegetarian food, you should consider heading to amazing Phuket for the vegetarian festival. Be warned, though: This isn’t a festival dedicated to meat-free eating. It is, perhaps, one of the most intense celebrations in the world and is not for the squeamish or faint of heart.
The festival’s other name is the Nine Emperor Gods Festival. Unmarried men and women known as “masong” invite the spirits of the gods to enter their bodies under trance and proceed with extreme, self-mutilating body piercings (usually around the mouth area) and burning-coal walks. The masong are not allowed to eat meat, drink alcohol or have sex to maintain pure thoughts and a clean body.
Those strict requirements, in turn, help fill the streets with food stalls selling vegan delicacies (dairy isn’t allowed either), like boiled noodles, steamed-rice dishes and fresh spring rolls. The environment is hectic, as fireworks and firecrackers are constantly firing off, especially on the last night. So, be sure to wear long sleeves, close-toed shoes and earplugs.
The Phuket Vegetarian Festival/Nine Emperor Gods Festival takes place from Sept. 25 to Oct. 4.
Suwannee Hulaween — Live Oak, Florida
Combine your love for Halloween with a variety of music, friendly vibes and the natural world, and you get Suwannee Hulaween. It’s a music festival in Live Oak, Florida, started by the band the String Cheese Incident and set in a naturally enclosed, wooded environment with a lake.
There are four stages, but, if you need a break from the music, there’s also other activities. Attendees can join yoga classes, learn to balance on a slackline, partake in music meditations or go on guided nature walks. Live Oak is also less than two hours by car from beautiful Cedar Key, so there’s always an opportunity for an extended vacation.
Some names on their lineup for 2022 include Portugal. The Man, Gorgon City, and Rainbow Kitten Surprise, among many others.
Suwannee Hulaween goes from Oct. 27 to Oct. 30.
Sea & Learn — Saba
October is a big month for the tiny Caribbean island of Saba. Just a 12-minute flight from St. Maarten, Saba is home to less than 2,000 people and a vast, mostly untouched ecosystem. It’s known as the “Unspoiled Queen,” and, each October, the Sea & Learn non-profit foundation hosts a month-long event dedicated to eco-education and enhancing “your environmental awareness.”
A host of experts are invited to Saba, and, every other night, each expert presents a topic. Those experts also visit Saba schools with the Saba Conservation and Child Focus program to teach the local youth about their home. Tourists and local adults alike are invited to join in the myriad dynamic, educational events, as all, with the exception of the school program, are free to the public.
World Creole Music Festival — Dominica
Join the local population on Dominica in build-up celebrations to their November independence day all throughout October.
Interested in a variety of Caribbean music genres? Check out the three-night World Creole Music Festival (WCMF). These genres derive from a combination of influences from Creole-speaking countries. You’ll hear sounds from the Cadence-Iypso, Kompa, Zouk, Soukous, Bouyon and Zydeco genres. Food, drink and snack vendors are within the festival grounds, too.
Dominica’s WCMF takes place Oct. 28 to Oct. 30. And don’t forget about the many other concerts and celebrations taking place throughout the month. All said, it’s certainly a great way to discover Dominica.
Diwali — Fiji
At the end of October, Hindus celebrate their festival of lights, Diwali. With much of the population having Indian heritage, Fiji celebrates this holiday, too, but with a touch of South Pacific culture. The holiday is so ingrained in Fijian culture that even non-Hindus of the 300-island nation join in the festivities.
It’s literally a blast all over the country, as fireworks are shot off and houses and businesses are festively lit. Hindu families perform “puja” ritual prayers to the Hindu goddess of wealth, fortune and prosperity, Lakshmi. To echo that sentiment, people go on mini shopping sprees.
Diwali in Fiji takes place this year on Tuesday, Oct. 25. There are plenty of amazing resorts to choose from as well.
Goblins and Giggles — Orlando, FL
Looking to stay close to home? Head to Orlando for one of the best Halloween celebrations in Central Florida at a resort that really knows how to maximize holiday experiences. Goblins and Giggles actually kicks off on September 9, so guests have plenty of time to plan ahead and squeeze in as much spooktacular fun as the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center offers.
Families can book the weekend package, which includes room and tickets to the Ghoul School show, or the premium Saturday package, which includes the same, as well as passes to the Monster Mash Bash. And every young guest will also receive the booklet for the Halloween Hide and Seek Scavenger Hunt, which promises special prizes.