DC in October: How to Plan for Your Visit

If you’re planning a trip to the U.S. capital and your schedule is flexible, it’s hard to beat DC in October. The summer weather and crowds have cooled down, the leaves are changing colors—it’s an all-around pleasant time of year. Here’s everything you need to know about visiting DC in October.

Tips for Visiting Washington DC in October

Who Else Comes to DC in October?

DC in October is reliably less busy than the summertime. However, there is an uptick in traffic the first couple of weeks when kids are on fall break. Fall break is not as common as spring break, and not all school districts take fall break, but a lot of families do take advantage of the time off to make a trip. 

October is also when DC’s secondary 8th grade field trip season begins. We have an entire article about field trip season, but the gist of it is: the primary field trip season is March through June. But the secondary one is October through Thanksgiving. It shouldn’t scare you from visiting DC in October, but it is something good to keep in mind as you plan.

Another thing to note: October tends to have higher hotel rates than other months of the year because there is increased business and conference travel. So make sure to check out our video series about getting a great deal on a DC hotel.

DC Weather in October

October weather is the most reliably fall-like. Average daily highs in September are 68 degrees Fahrenheit and average daily lows are 50 degrees Fahrenheit. But our favorite part about DC in October? There’s almost no humidity.

Do be aware that October is during the tail end of Atlantic hurricane season and DC does occasionally get affected by storms off the coast. If you want to know more about that and lots of other weather phenomenon, check out the Trip Hacks DC podcast episode about weather. It will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about weather here in DC.

October is also when the leaves start to change color. Since DC is farther south, the leaves do change several weeks later than they do up in New England. We typically find the second half of October (or even the first half of November) to be the best time for fall colors. If you really want to check out the colors, consider doing a hike in Rock Creek Park, the huge park in the middle of the city. 

What to Pack for DC in October

They key to packing for October is layers. On a typical October day, you could start with jeans and a shirt. Having a sweater or sweatshirt on hand during the day is helpful. And if you’re going out early in the morning or later at night, you might even add a light jacket on top of that. It should go without saying that, like every month, comfortable walking shoes are a must. 

Holidays in October

There is one federal government holiday in October­: Columbus Day. This is not a holiday where you will find much happening in terms of special events. But one very special thing you can do is tour the Library of Congress’ main reading room. This is typically only accessible to official researchers, but on Columbus Day they hold an open house and anyone can go. 

The other noteworthy holiday in October is Halloween. This is not a government holiday and nobody gets off of work or school, but it’s a popular and fun holiday in DC. Depending on which day of the week it falls, you’ll find lots of Halloween nightlife the weekend before and possibly even the weekend after October 31st. You’ll see lots of houses decorated for the holiday, as well as public buildings. 

Trick or treating in DC is always on Halloween day itself. If you have kids and want to trick or treat, Capitol Hill is a popular area, with lots of houses close together and people handing out candy. East Capitol Street, in particular, is famous for being an excellent place for candy. 

On the other side of town, some embassies welcome trick or treaters (with either candies from their native countries or just your standard Kit Kats). And for really small kids there is trick or treating at the National Zoo

What to Do in DC in October

October is also when the Marine Corps Marathon takes place. This is one of the biggest marathons on the circuit and people travel in from all over the world to run it.

Even if you’re like me and you only run after ice cream trucks, the Marine Corps Marathon may affect your trip because it shuts down many big streets throughout the city, including on the National Mall. So make sure to check their official website for this year’s date so you can plan around it. 

October is also when the theater scene starts to kick into high gear. So check out the Kennedy Center, National Theater, Lincoln Theater and others, to see what’s playing this season. 

If you’re a sports fan, DC in October means the start of the NHL and NBA seasons. So if you’re interested in attending a game of one of DC’s many sports teams, you can check out our video and blog post about it here.

About Trip Hacks DC

Trip Hacks DC was founded by Rob, a veteran tour guide in the Nation's Capital.

Everyone wants to get the most out of travel experience; we know that planning a trip can be fun but sometimes stressful. The tips and travel hacks offered here will help you make the most of your trip and avoid missing out on the best things the city has to offer. Our trip planning e-book is the perfect resource for every first-time Washington, DC visitor.

If you're looking for a guided experience once you arrive, Trip Hacks DC specializes in private tours; but has public tours options as well. Visit the Guided Tours section to learn about some of the suggested tours and the trip planning resources section for help preparing for your trip. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions!

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