REFILE-Travel Picks: Top 10 U.S. destinations in October

Fri Oct 5, 2012 12:48pm EDT

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NEW YORK, Oct 5 (Reuters) - As the calendar page flips to
October, we are fully and unquestionably into autumn. As
thoughts turn to cooler days, harvest-driven fare and Columbus
Day weekend, where are U.S. travelers heading? Online travel
consultants Cheapflights.com (www.cheapflights.com) took a look
at the destinations that spiked in October flight searches and
came up with a list of the Top 10 October destinations. Reuters
has not endorsed this list:
1.  Baton Rouge, Louisiana
    Home of Louisiana State University and Saturday night
football games at Death Valley, Baton Rouge is energized in the
fall, especially when the Bengal Tigers are in the Top 5. This
October, the SEC home opener rolls around in mid-October; surely
fans from near and far are planning their pilgrimage. However,
there is more to October than football in Baton Rouge. The city
also hosts one of the most acclaimed Halloween attractions: the
13th Gate. This haunted house, complete with a
40,000-square-foot graveyard, is where Hollywood meets horror to
give a trip into your worst dreams.
2.  Fort Myers, Florida
    While the snow birds are starting to trickle in, our guess
is it's the shoulder season appeal that's attracting other
travelers to this popular beach community. If you love warm
instead of hot, are not interested in dodging hurricanes and
want to beat the high-season costs, this is a great time to go
to the Gulf Coast. Of course, fish also react to the slightly
cooler air and water, which also makes October a prime time for
anglers to head to the Fort Myers area to chase the migrating
tarpon as well as the fall crop of red fish and mackerel.
3.  Austin, Texas
    A college town, state capital and popular year-round
destination, what could make October particularly special in
Austin? Well, how about back-to-back international festivals?
First up is Austin City Limits (Oct. 12-14), eight stages and
nine hours a day of big names, rising stars and new sounds. Then
the city turns itself over to the movie industry for eight
nights of films and parties during the Austin Film Festival and
Conference (Oct. 18-25). Throw in a couple Big 12 Conference
games for the Longhorns and great fall weather, and it's no
wonder Austin is on this list.
4.  Albuquerque, New Mexico
    Here's a town that has a different burst of color every
October. Rather than fiery leaves, Albuquerque's fall splendor
is from a sea of hot air balloons. The annual Albuquerque
International Balloon Fiesta (Oct. 6-14) is a draw for hundreds
of thousands of visitors eager to watch, ride and photograph the
mass ascension of the balloons as well as local food and
entertainment. Of course, visitors to Albuquerque can also see
Mother Nature's autumnal show, especially if they head up into
the mountains. For a bird's-eye view, many take to the Sandia
Peak Ski & Tramway, which carries you from the edge of the city
2.7 miles up to a 10,000-plus-foot summit.
5.  Knoxville, Tennessee
    Is the draw here football or fall foliage? It's hard to say,
since Knoxville has plenty of both to offer in October. A
gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Knoxville is
a great starting point for a "leaf peeping" road trip into some
of the Southeast's most colorful mountains. And the city itself
is building its own "Urban Wilderness," a series of trails
designed to connect and expand nearby parks, historic forts and
a state wildlife management area to make outdoor activities and
the area's natural beauty more accessible. The other colors
vying for attention this month, though, are the orange of the
University of Tennessee Volunteers and Alabama's Crimson Tide,
which roll into town on Oct. 20.
6.  Toledo, Ohio
    While many think of New England first when it comes to fall
foliage, Ohioans will tell you that their state puts on a pretty
spectacular show. With their lakefront locale, Toledo and nearby
Maumee Bay State Park are great options for an immersion in
autumn. With a choice of camping, cottages or lodge living, and
hundreds of acres along Lake Erie for hiking, biking, golfing
and fishing, visitors to the park find there is no shortage of
ways to entertain themselves. However, any hint of boredom can
be countered with a drive over to Cedar Point, home to some the
most intense roller coasters in the world. In October, zombies
and creepy clowns take over the park at sundown, making it an
eerie destination worth the drive.
7.  Asheville, North Carolina
    Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited
national park in the US. The 10 million annual visitors come for
the fresh air, flying fishing, horse-back riding, camping and,
of course, scenery. Asheville sits on the eastern edge of this
great park and welcomes nature seekers with a host of
restaurants, hotels, spas, shops, concerts and crafts. With fall
in full swing, it's not surprising that Asheville gets a bump in
visitors. It's even better to know there's a full line-up of
events - from Oktoberfest celebrations to Craft Week to the
Ghost Train Halloween Festival - to keep visitors coming back.
8.  Greenville, South Carolina
    The emerging foodie destination throws its biggest festival
the second weekend in October. This year marks the 31st Annual
Fall for Greenville (Oct. 12-14) and promises offerings from 40
local restaurants, as well as wine and beer tastings, cooking
demonstrations, a jalapeƱo-eating contest and live music. With
the growing acclaim for Greenville's restaurant scene and
nightlife, this festival, well timed to lure those planning a
fall mountain getaway, is becoming a highlight on the South
Carolina tourism calendar.
9.  Columbus, Ohio
    Here's another toss-up: Is it the Nebraska Cornhuskers
coming to town, the annual grape crush Via Vecchi Winery or the
fall food and foliage that's drawing the crowd? One thing is for
sure: It's events like the Circleville Pumpkin Show, the largest
and oldest festival in the state, that epitomize the best of
October in Ohio and beyond. This slice of American tradition
attracts roughly 100,000 visitors on each of its four days who
buy approximately 23,000 pumpkin pies and 100,000 pumpkin
donuts. Since we're counting, the public has also crushed as
many as 13,500 lbs. of grapes at past winery events. And the
record for attendance for Ohio Stadium stands at just over
106,000. All in all, it seems like a busy month.
10. Tampa, Florida
    This time of year, Tampa offer visitors easy access to
beaches, a still-warm ocean and major tourist attractions that
are off peak in terms of crowds, costs and high temperatures.
Those are all good reasons to put Tampa on your October getaway
must-go list. However, it's also worth noting that Tampa and its
sister city, St Petersburg, like to throw a good party,
especially if there are costumes involved. October is, of
course, prime time for that. From Thrill Day (Oct. 27), a zombie
dance party on the St Pete pier, to Necronomicon, the 31st
annual "convention of science-fiction, fantasy and horror fans,"
to Ybor City's takes on Oktoberfest and Halloween (or Guavaween,
as the adult-centric celebration is called), it seems like
Mickey Mouse isn't the only character you might see this month
in Central Florida.

 (Editing by Paul Casciato)
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