Most Exciting Fall Festivals You Won’t Want to Miss
Fall is in the air, and that means pumpkin patches, apple picking, corn mazes and Halloween — all set in a world turned red and orange. The season is simply irresistible.
In much of the U.S., autumn also coincides with the harvest, a time when hard work finally turns to abundance and lots of delicious food. But the absolute best part about fall is its collection of fun festivals that let you appreciate this unique time of the year.
From regattas on pumpkins to the largest Halloween celebration on the planet, these are the 10 best fall festivals you should attend at least once.
10. Sever's Fall Festival
Location: Shakopee, Minnesota
Dates: Weekends from mid-September to the end of October
Celebrated since 1997, Sever's Fall Festival isn't the most well-known in the country, but it combines everything that makes fall amazing. The main draw is its corn maze, which was one of the first in the U.S.! Try to complete the Corn Maze Challenge — and yes, it is quite challenging — or walk around enjoying other attractions like a petting zoo, a zipline and hay rides.
Of course, you'll find all the food you want from this type of event: apple fritters, cider, cheese curds, funnel cakes and more.
9. Sea Witch Festival
Location: Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
Dates: Last weekend in October
Contrary to popular belief, Rehoboth Beach is a great fall destination, particularly if you can visit during the last weekend of October to attend the Sea Witch Festival.
The town is all about witches, ghouls and other spooky stuff — with a seaside spin. Expect a beach bonfire party, a costumed parade with pirate ships and a fishing trail adventure for kids. There are also more customary events like hay rides and trick-or-treating.
Join the citywide Sea Witch Hunt, in which you have to decipher clues to find the character that gives the festival its name.
8. National Apple Harvest Festival
Location: Arendtsville, Pennsylvania
Dates: First and second weekends in October
If apple picking is your favorite fall activity then you need to head to Pennsylvania's Amish country for the National Apple Harvest Festival. The juicy fruit doesn't just make an appearance here, it dominates the scene. You'll find that apples can be used to make so much more than you ever thought — apple pizza, anyone? Gorge on creative snacks as well as more typical ones like candied apples and apple cider.
But that's not where things end. You'll also find apple art and themed products that you can take home as souvenirs. Entertainment is appropriate for fall and harvest, with hayrides, collections of vintage farm equipment and the crowning of the Pennsylvania Apple Queen. Tours of the orchard are a must-do, as is watching the fascinating chainsaw carving shows.
7. Sonoma County Harvest Fair
Location: Sonoma, California
Dates: First or second weekend of October
Sonoma may not offer your typical wine festival, but it does have one of the best harvest fairs in the country. The star is, of course, wine. Try different varietals, buy from local wineries and sip enough to forget that winter is approaching.
And if you only get to do one event at the Sonoma Harvest Fair, let it be the World Championship Grape Stomp. Participants get into pairs and stomp out grapes to produce wine. The team with the highest quantity of wine wins.
6. The Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze
Location: Croton-on-Hudson, New York
Dates: Weekends from mid-September to mid-November
Some towns go all out with their Christmas lights. In Croton-on-Huson, they're more attached to their Jack O'Lanterns. Held in the historic Van Cortlandt Manor, the Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze sees more than 7,000 pumpkins carved to create intricate forms.
Sure, there are some typical smiley pumpkins, but what draws over 2 million visitors each year are the more elaborate carvings, which often require several pumpkins arranged in specific ways. Once lit, they form anything from witches over a cauldron to dinosaurs to the headless horseman of Sleepy Hollow. Anything is game here as long as it's interesting.
Displays at the blaze change every year, but the path takes about 90 minutes to complete if you're stopping to get good pics and appreciate the pumpkin art.
5. West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta
Location: Tualatin, Oregon
Dates: Second or third weekend of October
The one bad thing about the West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta is that it only lasts a weekend. But it makes up for it by being one of the most fun festivals in the country — in any season.
Participants doe costumes and get into giant hollowed-out pumpkins for a race on the lake. Only 15 people get to try the whimsical activity, but it's almost as fun for the crowd who can watch them try to paddle their way to victory like watery Cinderellas riding a pumpkin carriage.
There are plenty of other activities leading up to the regatta, all following the theme of fall and pumpkins. You can do a 5k run, face painting, pumpkin golf and more. We also definitely recommend trying some of the seasonal beers from local producers.
4. Frankenmuth Oktoberfest
Location: Frankenmuth, Michigan
Dates: Mid to late September
Want to go to Germany but can't afford to? Head to Frankenmuth, Michigan. This American town feels just like Europe because the Germans who settled here in 1845 built it as a replica of home. And while the culture is celebrated year-round, the best festival in town is without a doubt the Frankenmuth Oktoberfest.
Wondering how authentic this celebration is? For one, it's held in September rather than October, which is how it also is in Germany. In fact, this festival has gotten the symbolic OK from the original Munich one — something not many copycat Oktoberfests can say.
Sip pints of Hofbrau beer and eat bratwurst until you feel like you'll burst while enjoying live traditional Bavarian music.
RELATED: 35 U.S. Destinations That Feel Like Europe
3. San Antonio Día de los Muertos
Location: San Antonio, Texas
Dates: Last weekend in October
San Antonio is one of the American cities where Mexican and Chicano cultures thrive the most. So, it's fitting that it would host the largest Day of the Dead celebration in the country. This Mexican holiday is usually held on All Saints Day, with festivities happening on Nov. 1 and 2.
In this Texan city, Dia de los Muertos coincides with the last weekend of October so that everyone can participate in them. You'll see Catrinas, an elaborately painted skull character that people dress up as but that also serves as the inspiration for decorations. Beautiful altars for loved ones who have departed are also on full display. Enjoy some great Mexican food, numerous vendors and live music.
2. Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Dates: First week of October
One of the most unique fall festivals you can attend in the U.S. is the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. It's the largest hot-air balloon festival in the entire world, and it truly is a sight to behold. Hundreds of balloons — many of unique shapes and designs — are released into the sky throughout the event.
Competitions, rodeos and food also make up a big part of the festival. The most impressive event, however, is probably the initial launch at dawn, where the balloons glow against the dark sky.
1. Salem Haunted Happenings
Location: Salem, Massachusetts
Dates: Oct. 1-31
If you want to celebrate the spooky season, there's no better place to do it than in the most haunted city in America: Salem. During the entire month of October, the city hosts the Salem Haunted Happenings, which is said to be the largest Halloween festival on the planet.
Ghost tours, parades, a costumed Halloween ball, special menus at restaurants and unique events are offered throughout the month. Head to the Salem Witch Museum to learn about the trials that put the town on the map for all things ghoulish, do a walk by candlelight through the cemetery, and go into haunted houses.
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