The days are getting shorter; you’re dreaming about the chilly temps of fall, and best of all, it’s nearly time to celebrate the best that autumn brings. We’ve brushed off our list of the best fall festivals in the country, and this year you’ll find everything from the Leavenworth Oktoberfest to the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival—basically, the ultimate list of festivals you should visit at least once with the kids.
**Editor’s note: COVID safety precautions vary from event to event. Please check the websites for updated information.
Balloon Fiesta – Alburquerque, NM
Balloon pilots from all over the county fly in to be a part of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. As the largest ballooning event in the world, it features over 500 hot air balloons. Adding to the fun will be special balloon glows, a special shape rodeo, laser light shows, chainsaw carvings, fireworks, a car show and plenty of musical entertainment.
Dates: October 2-10, 2021.
The Maryland Renaissance Festival - Crownsville, MD
Revel Grove is your “passport to merriment” say the folks at the Maryland Renaissance Festival. Here you’ll experience events and shows that you won’t see anywhere else: jousting competitions, jugglers, artisans performing works of Shakesphere in just 20 minutes, mimes, dancers and more. Feast on such delights as Macaroni and Cheese on a Stick, Beef Fingers with White Peppered Gravy and Steak on a Stake. If you want to get in on the act, costume rentals are available.
Dates: Aug. 28 - Oct. 24th, 2021 (weekends and Labor Day Monday)
Pumpkin Festival – Stone Mountain, GA
Come to Stone Mountain Park at night to experience special not-so-spooky glow-in-the-dark fun. “Play by Day” enjoying the regular attractions and special fall entertainment. Stick around after dark to “Glow by Night” by taking a journey through classic storybook tales that come to life in 10 themed areas featuring 40 scenes with glowing lights, massive carved pumpkins, bubbles, fog and more. New in 2021 is the party parade!
Dates: Sept. 18 – Oct. 31, 2021
Autumn at the Arboretum - Dallas, TX
The famous Pumpkin Village (featuring 90,000 pumpkins, squash and gourds) is in a new location this year, just beyond the Johnsson color garden! You'll find larger-than-life insect topiaries, bugged-out pumpkin houses and a maze that'll thrill the youngest of visitors.
Dates: Sept. 18 - Oct. 31, 2021
Linde Oktoberfest - Tulsa, OK
Willkommen! You won't want to miss one of the largest Oktoberfests in the country and this year, it celebrates 42 years of fun. Held at River West Festival Park, this event brings together international German bands, Bavarian delicacies, authentic arts and crafts as well as games and competitions for the entire family. Don't miss the Dachshund Dash and the Costume Parade!
Dates: Oct. 21-24, 2021
Salmon Days - Issaquah, WA
The Salmon Days Festival is 52 years in the making, and this year's theme is "Keep on Swimming." This annual event is a celebration of the return of salmon to their “birth-waters” as well as Issaquah’s history, culture and diversity. Each year the festival attracts over 200 artists and craftsmen, live music and entertainment, sporting events and even a section of virtual events.
Dates: Oct. 2-3, 2021
Circleville Pumpkin Show - Circleview, OH
Since 1903, the Circleville Pumpkin Show has seen people come from miles around to see the largest pumpkins on display (In 2014, a 1,964-pound pumpkin was here. It's tough to beat that one!). You'll also find the largest pumpkin pie, various parades featuring over 40 floats and over 50 bands, live entertainment, the chance to partake in the pumpkin toss and enjoy many pumpkin spice-flavored treats.
Dates: Oct. 20-23, 2021
North Carolina Pecan Harvest Festival - Whiteville, NC
The Annual North Carolina Pecan Harvest Festival features the Pecan Run, the Columbus Cooks pecan cooking competition (with a focus on young cooks), the festival parade, live entertainment, the Tri Beach Cruisers car show, a lot of craft vendors, an art show, an antique tractor show, of course, pecans galore!
Date: Nov. 5-6, 2021
West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta - Tualatin, OR
If you’ve never seen anyone sit inside a giant pumpkin and then race it across a lake dressed in costume, then you obviously haven’t been to the West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta. This free, one-day festival is jam-packed with fun, including the weigh-off of the giant pumpkins and other monster-sized vegetables; performances by magicians, clowns and musical acts; a costume contest; a pumpkin pie eating contest; pumpkin bowling and pumpkin golf; food trucks and the giant pumpkin race.
Date: Oct. 16, 2021
Tecumseh Appleupmpkin Festival - Tecumseh, MI
The 27th annual Appleupmpkin Festival is held in conjunction with Kapnick Orchards Apple Festival, so you get two festivals in one! Not only will you find midway rides, carnival games, bounce houses and craft stations, you’ll also be treated to a tractor show, a straw maze, helicopter and monster truck rides, an entire scarecrow-making tent and more. There’s also an antique street fair and flea market, and an arts and crafts show if you want to get a little shopping in.
Dates: Oct. 9-10, 2021
Dios de los Muertos on Olvera Street - Los Angeles, CA
Olvera Street is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Los Angeles and for good reason. From the legendary Mexican marketplace to the historic buildings, it's a wonderful place to immerse yourself in another culture. Every year they have a Dios de los Muertos celebration that starts with a traditional procession that includes Aztec dancers and a parade of "Living Muertos," where people dress up like skeletons and don colorful costumes. There's also a chance to have your face painted up to look like a Calavera!
Dates: Oct. 25-Nov. 2, 2021
Oktoberfest Markt– Leavenworth, WA
The festivities at this famous fall event will look a little different in 2021, but there is still fun to be had. The traditional Oktoberfest celebration won't happen, but there will be a huge focus on local businesses and artisans, creating more of a Harvest Fest vibe. There will be over 100 vendors over the three weekends, you'll still be able to eat all your favorite Oktoberfest foods and of course, the Kinderplatz kiddie area will still be open!
Dates: Oct. 1-3, 8-10 and 15-17, 2021
Trailing of the Sheep - Ketchum, ID
Following a flock of sheep may sound like something out of a nursery rhyme, but did you know it’s also one of the most beloved fall festivals in the United States? Celebrate the history of sheep ranchers in Idaho at this five-day event filled with non-stop fun: multicultural performers, storytelling, cooking classes, sheepdog trials, folklife fair, weaving demos and over 50 local artisans selling crafts and art. The spotlight event (of course) is the Big Sheep Parade, where you and your family will view the spectacle of over 1,500 sheep wandering down Main Street in Ketchum.
Good to know: The Parade Picnic at Irving’s Hill is a great spot to enjoy local fare and watch the sheep make their annual trek.
Dates: Oct. 6-10, 2021
Stillwater Harvest Festival and Pumpkin Weigh-Off - Stillwater, MN
This bucolic little town on the shore of the St. Croix River not only gets a ton of gorgeous fall color this time of year, but it also hosts one of the best fall festivals around. Kids can come in costume and join in the Costume Parade which takes the children trick-or-treating to all the local downtown businesses. There's a chili cook-off and microbrew tasting, craft and food vendors and a ton of pumpkin-themed activities. Cheer on local businesses as they compete in the Pumpkin Pull (imagine being hooked up like an ox to haul giant pumpkins) and the Pumpkin Regatta—a race up the St. Croix in giant hollowed-out pumpkins for boats.
Good to know: Locals know to stick around 'til the end of the fest for the giant pumpkin drop: prize-winning pumpkins are hoisted on a crane and dropped to the sidewalk below. You can scramble in and get your share of giant pumpkin seeds for your own garden!
Dates: Oct. 9-10, 2021
Glastonbury Applefest - Glastonbury, CT
It's one of the state’s most popular festivals for a good reason: the Angry Orchard 5K, tons of amusement rides, a pie bake-off and pie-eating contest, a petting zoo, road races, a beer garden and pony rides. Literally, something for everyone.
Dates: Oct. 15-17, 2021
Fall for Greenville – Greenville, SC
This three-day smorgasbord of food and entertainment will feature over 50 local restaurants and musical acts performing on six stages. It’s kind of a big deal. Here you can sample wines, learn about local beers and watch some great chefs showing off their skills. Admission is free, and you can get a sheet of 10 “taste tickets” for just $5. Be sure to take the kids to the T-Mobile Kids’ Area too to try out the Wacky Slide, swings and to visit Toddler Town.
Dates: Oct. 8-10, 2021
Scarecrow Festival - St. Charles, IL
Over 100 hand-crafted scarecrows show up at the Scarecrow Festival in downtown St. Charles every year, and while some are designed to spook, most are charming for all ages. Visitors have a hand in the awards (vote-as-you-view in five categories), and after voting, there's enough family-friendly entertainment to last an entire weekend. Now in its 36th year, there's more than just scarecrows to admire. There's a family zone, the scarecrow stroll, live music, a professional pumpkin carver and of course, the popular scarecrow in a box.
Dates: Oct. 8-10, 2021
Pumpkin Nights - Austin, TX
Pioneer Farms will glow with Jack-o’-lantern grins for a whole month! At Pumpkin Nights, you will venture along a half-mile walking path, where you’ll discover the Forbidden Pumpkin City, a pirate’s cove, and more fantastical lands built using over 3,000 hand-carved real and artificial pumpkins. The celebration continues with entertainment and games in Pumpkin Central, the festival area. There’s also food, beverages, screenings of A Nightmare Before Christmas and other activities for the whole family.
Dates: Sept. 30 - Oct. 31, 2021
The National Apple Harvest Festival - Adams County, PA
Apples are a fave fall, and southern Pennsylvania has been celebrating since 1962. At this two-weekend event, you’ll find apples cooked up in more ways than you’ll have thought possible: apple cider, applesauce, pies, jellies, pancakes, syrup, candied apples and much more. Work up an appetite at the Kid Country Barn where your tiniest festival fans will enjoy face painting, harvest magic shows, and apple pie-eating contests. There are hayrides, pony rides, Native American dance expos, puppet shows, an antique auto show, over 300 arts and crafts vendors and a ton of family-friendly live music performances.
Good to know: Your money goes to a good cause. All proceeds (after expenses) go back into the community and to other local, state and national charitable organizations.
Dates: Oct. 2-3 and 9-10, 2021
Hood River Harvest Fest - Hood River, OR
There are 14,000 acres of commercial pear, apple, cherry and peach orchards in Hood River County, so it’s no surprise the biggest fall festival in the Columbia River Gorge happens here. For three days in October, attendees enjoy a giant pumpkin carving contest, live music, a fruit pie-eating contest, family activities, seasonal produce, food, wine, cider, beer and local arts & crafts from nearly 120 vendors on the scenic Hood River waterfront. Kids will love the activity area, complete with bouncy houses, face painting and other activities.
Dates: Oct. 15-17, 2021
Warrens Cranberry Festival - Warrens, WI
Looking for the world’s largest cranberry festival? You’ll find it in Warrens, WI—over 120,000 people show up each year. Wander through 850 arts & craft booths and enjoy contests like Guess the Weight of the Largest Pumpkin, Best Scarecrow, Biggest Berry, Marsh Medallion Hunt and more. Tasty eats are everywhere and include unusual offerings like cranberry cream puffs and deep-fried cranberries on a stick. One of the coolest things to do at the festival is to take a tour of the cranberry marshes. You’ll visit two local marshes, walk into a cranberry bed, and learn all about the growing process. Local eats including fresh cranberries, wine and other products can be bought at the end of the tour!
Dates: Sept. 24-26, 2021
Santa Fe Harvest Festival - Santa Fe, NM
The 48th Annual Harvest Festival in Santa Fe is held at El Rancho de las Golondrinas—a living museum similar to Williamsburg, VA—and there are 200 acres to explore. Wander through over 30 buildings, see ponds and waterways, spot animals, and check out agricultural fields that produce traditional crops like corn, squash and peppers. During the Harvest Festival, visitors encounter “villagers” going about their daily routine: crushing grapes, stringing chilies, making tortillas, weaving cloth. Traditional Southwestern music and dance is also a festival highlight, as well as an artist market with New Mexican crafts, mule-drawn wagon rides, and more. Rated one of the best harvest festivals in the country, families will learn about the rich culture of the Southwest.
Dates: Oct. 2-3, 2021
The Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival - Half Moon Bay, CA
The self-proclaimed World Pumpkin Capital gives other harvest festivals a run for their money with the combination of a small seaside community and pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere! This year it's going to be a mini-fest, on one day and scaled-down festivities. You'll still find top crafters and artists from around the country, the 43rd Annual Pumpkin Run, the famous pumpkin weigh-off, a costume contest, a pumpkin carving, a pie-eating contest, and plenty of good food. Be sure to bring cash so you can get a picture with the winning pumpkin!
Dates: Oct. 16, 2021
Floresville Peanut Festival - Floresville, TX
Everything’s bigger in Texas, and when it comes to festival royalty, Queen Tunaep and King Reboog (yup, peanut and goober spelled backward) are no exception—since the late '30s the festival court has donned be-jeweled and be-ribboned gowns and capes that make Queen Elizabeth look like an amateur. But the glamorous get-up of the Bohemian Blooms Court is not the only fun for families in Floresville during the festival. There’s the Goober Games, which is filled with kid faves like sack races, peanut toss, and musical peanut; the parades are worth a watch too.
Dates: Oct. 7-9, 2021
Fall Festival of Leaves - Bainbridge, OH
Fall wouldn’t be the same without the changing of the leaves. The tree-covered hills in southern Ohio are the perfect spot to capture the view, and since 1968, thousands of folks have gathered for three days of fun. There are four skyline drives to take in the beauty of the leaves: Buckskin Loop, Paint Vista Loop, Pike Lake Loop and Redbush Loop. Kids will love both the live pet show and the stuffed animal pet show (with categories such as largest, smallest, most unusual, most lovable), and the kiddy tractor pull. Adults will love the flea market, tribute bands, 5K run and more.
Dates: Oct. 15-17, 2021
The Great Northwest Oktoberfest – Whitefish, MT
This year marks the 11th annual event taking place under the Oktoberfest Bigtop at Smith Fields. If you’re a kid age 12 and under you get in for free; anyone over the age of 12 needs to chip in $7. You’ll be entertained with great German music and a few crazy contests including log sawing, keg throwing, stein holding, and for the kids, a chicken dance-off. Lots of beer, bratwurst, sandwiches and soups too. The kids will especially enjoy the hot dog with mac & cheese plate.
Dates: Sept. 23-25 and Sept. 30, Oct. 1-2, 2021
Louisiana Pecan Festival - Colfax, LA
Celebrating the rich agricultural history of pecans (the harvest goes all the way back to pre-colonial times) the Louisiana Pecan Festival has grown from a Frontier Days theme in the early ‘70s to a three-day festival filled with fun for the whole family. The weekend kicks off with Children's Day. There are arts and crafts booths, a cooking contest, carnival rides, great food, musical entertainment, the Grand Parade and a fireworks show on Saturday night is followed by the Street Dance. Be sure to hit up The Country Store, where you can pick up homemade pecan pies, pralines, jams, jellies, local honey and of course, pecans.
Dates: Nov. 5-7, 2021
—Gabby Cullen with Jefferey Totey & Amber Guetebier
Featured image: Gerda via Unsplash