Temperatures are beginning to drop, leaves are beginning to turn and the aroma of pumpkin spice permeates the air. Autumn is approaching, and there’s no better way to celebrate the season than by attending a fall festival. Whether celebrating the harvest, Halloween or cooler temperatures, these are 10 totally travel-worthy fall festivals in the U.S.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
For nine days each October, hundreds of hot air balloons take to the skies above the Rio Grande Valley during the annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Walk amid a forest of inflating balloons during a weekend early morning mass ascension event. Or come in the evening during a twilight balloon glow. Hot air balloons are the star of the show, but the festival also features live music and fireworks. Be sure to catch the chainsaw carving competition and interactive exhibits at the Balloon Discovery Center.
Croton-on-Hudson, New York
Some 7,000 hand-carved pumpkins illuminate the grounds of the 18th-century Van Cortlandt Manor in New York’s Hudson Valley during the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze. Admire some classic paintings with an autumn twist in the Museum of Pumpkin Art. Or watch a seasonal show inside the Pumpkin Planetarium and keep an eye out for a visit from Sleepy Hollow’s own Headless Horseman. Proceeds from the event support the Historic Hudson Valley, a local educational non-profit.
The National Apple Harvest Festival comes to the Gettysburg area during the first two full weekends in October. This outdoor event brings together more than 300 arts and crafts vendors (many specialize in apple and apple-themed products). The festival also features a host of family-friendly entertainment, including puppet shows, a petting zoo and hayrides through the apple orchards.
The world’s largest cranberry festival comes to Warrens each September in celebration of Wisconsin’s state fruit. Take a tour of the local cranberry marshes to see how the berries are grown and harvested. Or, do some early holiday shopping at the 1,300 booths. Be sure to snag a front-row seat for the Sunday parade and see who gets crowned Cranberry Queen. Come hungry for fair food with a cranberry twist. You’ll find cranberry pancakes, cranberry cream puffs and deep-fried cranberries on a stick.
More than half a million people turn up to celebrate Oktoberfest in Cincinnati each year, making it the largest Oktoberfest celebration in the United States (and typically the second largest in the world after the original in Munich). Expect plenty of German heritage over the course of the three-day event. The festival includes polka music, stein-hoisting competitions, Bavarian food and, of course, the chicken dance. Brush off your lederhosen!
Sun Valley, Idaho
Idaho’s Trailing of the Sheep honors the sheepherding culture of the Sun Valley region. The five-day festival culminates in the Big Sheep Parade, when some 1,500 sheep march through downtown Ketchum toward their winter grazing grounds. The rest of the schedule is filled with wool-craft workshops, farm-to-table dinners, sheepdog competitions and the For the Love of Lamb food festival.
Each October, the West Side Nut Club of Evansville, Indiana, hosts its annual Fall Festival. The weeklong event takes over Franklin Street and includes live music, a parade and well over a hundred food vendors. The town of 117,000 nearly triples its population during the event, making this one of the largest street festivals in the nation.
Santa Rosa, California
The Sonoma County Harvest Fair celebrates the California grape harvest in early October with a series of wine-centric events. Sample wines from some of the 100 Sonoma County wineries in the Tasting Pavilion. Or, fight for bragging rights in the World Championship Grape Stomp. If you get hungry, treat your tastebuds to the Grand Harvest Tasting featuring wine paired with small food bites.
For two weekends in October, Zilker Park in Austin hosts one of the nation’s most popular fall music festivals. Inspired by the long-running public television series, the Austin City Limits Music Festival brings together more than 140 bands on eight stages. Genres run the gamut, from rock and indie to electronic and hip hop. And you can expect to see some of the biggest names in music perform.
Harvest on the Harbor in Portland, Maine, features three days of culinary events highlighting the city’s gastronomic prowess. Maine’s favorite crustacean takes the spotlight during the Maine Lobster Chef of the Year competition. Meanwhile Maine Oysterfest embraces all things bivalve. Other events include chef dinners, brunches and a culinary market with products from Maine food producers.
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