Fairgrounds Fast Food
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The Best Fall Festivals Across America

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Fairgrounds Fast Food
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Autumn’s Agenda

There’s nothing like a fall festival as a way to savor the season. Spend a few hours, make a full day trip, or even plan an entire weekend around the event. Read on for our sampling of unique fall festivals scheduled from coast to coast, ideal for those who want to embrace autumn once again after so many 2020 events were canceled. 


Note: All events are scheduled as of press time; check with each to confirm — and get details on any pandemic protocols — before any travel.


Related: 32 Charming Small Towns With Stunning Fall Colors

The Annual Norwalk Oyster Festival in Veteran`s Park
miromiro/istockphoto

Norwalk Oyster Festival

Norwalk, Connecticut


The Norwalk Seaport Association, “Keepers of the Sheffield Island Lighthouse,” have announced the 43rd annual Norwalk Oyster Festival will be held Sept. 10-12 in Veteran’s Memorial Park. Expect “seaside rides and good time vibes,” as this regional stalwart that offers seafood classics and live entertainment on multiple stages.

 

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Family time pumpkin picking
Kirkikis/istockphoto

HMB Pumpkin Minifest 49.5

Half Moon Bay, California


Fans of the popular Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival can “Celebrate the Gourd Times Again” with this one-day, scaled-down version of the popular autumn event, set for Oct. 16 along historic Main Street in the “World Pumpkin Capital of Half Moon Bay.” A pancake breakfast, live entertainment, pumpkin-carving demonstrations, fine arts and crafts and more will signal a triumphant return after the 2020 event was canceled.

 

Related: Iconic Activities Canceled by COVID-19 in Every State

Apple Festival Georgia
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Georgia Apple Festival

Ellijay, Georgia


Having skipped 2020, “North Georgia’s biggest celebration” is back for its 50th year with a two-weekend event set for Oct. 9-10 and Oct. 16-17 at the Ellijay Lions Club Fairgrounds. Attractions here in “the heart of Georgia’s apple country” are set to include some 300 vendors showcasing handmade and handcrafted goods, craft demonstrations, a parade and antique car show.

Fairgrounds Fast Food
KenWiedemann/istockphoto

Louisiana Pecan Festival

Colfax, Louisiana


Pull out your favorite pecan recipe and enter the contest at the 53rd annual Louisiana Pecan Festival, set for Nov. 5-7 on Eighth Street. The local nut is the focus of the festivities, which traditionally kick off with a Children’s Day and also features crafts, carnival rides, a parade, street dance and fireworks. Want to keep the fun going after you leave? Stock up on pecans — along with homemade pecan pies, pralines, jams, jellies and other treats — in The Country Store.     


Related: 24 Food Festivals That Should Be On Your Bucket List

Kittitas Valley Event Center
Kittitas Valley Event Center/Yelp

Keen’s WindFall Cider Fest & Roots Music

Ellensburg, Washington


Get your taste buds ready! Central Washington’s biggest celebration of the region’s cider — we’re talking adult beverages here — will be held Oct. 2 at the Kittitas Valley Event Center, showcasing a dozen cider houses each pouring several varieties. Local restaurants and concessions will round out the day that also is set to include live music, from bluegrass to folk to Americana.

Classic Cars in a Row
tomeng/istockphoto

Fairmount Museum Days: Remembering James Dean Festival

Fairmount, Indiana


Mix old-fashioned fun with a touch of Hollywood in this annual festival this year set for Sept. 23-26 in the park and throughout downtown. Sponsored by the Fairmount Historical Museum, the event held in tribute to the Silver Screen legend who died at age 24 features the annual James Dean Run, a classic car show, a parade, 1950s-style entertainment, a James Dean lookalike contest, a dance contest and screenings of the movies in which area’s native son starred.

Santa Fe Harvest Festival
Mellow C./Yelp

Santa Fe Harvest Festival

Santa Fe, New Mexico


The “living history museum” known as El Rancho de Los Golondrinas is set to host its 48th annual fall fest Oct. 2-3, an event that once garnered it a No. 2 ranking as the Best Fall Harvest Festival in the nation by readers of USA Today. Visitors can taste syrup created from the burro-driven sorghum mill, crank a traditional apple press to make cider and pick a pumpkin from a patch. Kids activities are also plentiful, from stomping grapes by foot to rolling a tortilla by hand.

Cape May, NJ, Wildlife Tour Boat
AwakenedEye/istockphoto

New Jersey Audubon’s Cape May Fall Festival

Cape May, New Jersey


Get those binoculars ready, as the 75th anniversary edition of this noted festival is set for Oct. 14-17 in this seaside community on the tip of the Jersey Shore that’s known worldwide as a fall destination for bird migration. Ideal for the serious birder or the newbie alike, the festival will include field trips, trolley and boat tours as well as indoor programs with featured speakers such as artist and author David Sibley. In addition, a show in the Cape May Convention Center will feature nature-related vendors.   


Related: Bird Watchers Flock to These 15 Prime Spots Across America

Fairgrounds Fast Food
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The Big E

West Springfield, Massachusetts


The “E” might stand for Eastern States Exposition, but those who have attended this massive event, this year set for Sept. 17-Oct. 3, might be forgiven for saying it refers to “eating.” Food is a focus, from looking at butter sculptures to scarfing down options from the countless vendors. That’s not to mention concerts, the circus, parades, crafts and exhibitions that comprise what’s known as “New England’s Great State fair” and a mega-agricultural event. One Tripadvisor reviewer called it “huge and sensory overload"… "a marvelous way to get to know New England culture." Come and stuff yourself with fried dough and corndogs, wander through each state’s pavilion to experience that state’s cuisine and culture.

Chalktoberfest
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Chalktoberfest

Marietta, Georgia


Marietta/Cobb Museum of Art presents the 2021 modified edition Oct. 9 and 10 on Historic Marietta Square, an event that combines its annual Chalk Art Festival with its Craft Beer Festival. Expect a showcase of more than 80 professional artists who will transform the local streets — their canvases — along with live music and offerings from 40 breweries (120+ beers), as well as some 20 wines.


Related: Top 25 U.S. Cities for Craft Beer

Applefest is a popular Event in Bayfield, Wisconsin and includes a Parade
Jacob Boomsma/istockphoto

Bayfield Apple Festival

Bayfield, Wisconsin


Oh, to be there for the crowning of the Apple Queen. This Oct. 1-3 harvest festival now nearing its 60th anniversary celebrates the agricultural heritage of this community on the shores of Lake Superior. The festival invites participants to visit orchards and wineries and offers fine arts and crafts, local foods served up at some 60 booths, live music and a carnival. A fish fry and apple-peeling contest (we kid you not) lead up to the culmination, the Grand Parade.


Related: Facts About Apples That Will Take You by Surprise

2017 Alaska Day Festival
2017 Alaska Day Festival by (CC BY)

Alaska Day Festival

Sitka, Alaska


It’s good to celebrate one’s history, and America’s 49th state does it in style. The actual “transfer ceremony” marking the United States’ purchase of Alaska from Russia was held Oct. 18, 1867 on Castle Hill in Sitka. Every year, this Oct. 18 festival traditionally includes a re-enactment of the ceremony, a period costume ball and various dances, dinners, contests and even a parade.

Elk Wandering Estes
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Elk Fest

Estes Park, Colorado


Mark the calendars for Oct. 2-3, as that’s when the family festival that honors Estes Park’s resident elk is held. Vendors gather in Bond Park with festivities also including live music, food, live raptors and demonstrations, showings of the film “Elk of Estes Park” — and even a bugling contest.

National Shrimp Festival
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National Shrimp Festival

Gulf Shores, Alabama


Imagine this, shrimp lovers: Some 10,000 pounds of shrimp will be prepared by the area’s best chefs each day during the 2021 annual National Shrimp Festival, set for Oct. 7-10 on the Gulf Shores Main Public Beach. This 49th edition will feature some 50 local and regional vendors lining the boardwalk and serving up all kinds of seafood — and other fare. And if that weren’t enough, festival-goers can expect live music, 200 arts and craft vendors, a Children’s Activity Village and a sand sculpture contest. (And if you plan to overeat, offset the indulging by participating in one of the races also being held).

Trailing of the Sheep Festival
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Trailing of the Sheep Festival

Sun Valley, Idaho


You haven’t lived until you’ve seen the Sheep Parade. That’s an annual highlight of this event, its 25th anniversary edition set for Oct. 6-10. Cultural events, a special Oct. 5 farm-to-table dinner, a Folklife Fair, sheepdog trials and a WoolFest complete with classes and workshops are just a few of the massive lineup of offerings at the Trailing of the Sheep Festival. So what is trailing? Glad you asked — as the festival materials share, “The Festival honors the 150+ year annual tradition of moving sheep (‘trailing’) from high mountain summer pastures down through the Valley to traditional winter grazing and lambing areas in the south. This annual migration is living history and the focus of a unique and authentic Festival that celebrates the people, arts, cultures, and traditions of sheep ranching in Idaho and the West.”

Chippy's at Point Pleasant Beach
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Festival of the Sea

Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey


Shrimp cocktail? Yes, please. A crab cake sandwich… why not? And add seafood paella, lobster rolls, chowders, bisques and so much more (including options for landlubbers), and you have an idea of the depth of the “menu” of this festival. The 43rd annual street fair-style event will once again fill the main streets (Arnold and Bay avenues) of this shore town Sept. 18. The food’s the focus, but live music, vendors, exhibitors, a beer garden, and more are also on offer.

Taste of Charlotte 2009
Taste of Charlotte 2009 by (CC BY-SA)

Taste of Charlotte

Charlotte, North Carolina


This year’s three-day food festival, to be held Oct. 1-3, will feature dozens and dozens of samples from area restaurants along with performances, demonstrations, a marketplace, a fun run/walk and related activities at Truist Field. Representing the diversity of the city, the featured foods will include Thai, Indian, Italian, Mediterranean, barbecue, tavern fare, seafood, health food — and cupcakes, ice cream and more. As the event tagline says, “This city’s got taste.”

Chadron, NE
jmoor17/istockphoto

Harvest Moon Fall Festival

Chadron, Nebraska


You gotta love a festival that uses gnomes in its promotional material, right? The ninth annual fest might go a bit too far with the “Hangin’ with my Gnomies” tagline but this Dawes County Fairgrounds event, set for Oct. 2, is unapologetic about putting the spotlight on all things local, from the vendors to the contests and events — and, as expected, the “great food.”

Whoopie Pie Festival
Whoopie Pie Festival by (CC BY-NC-ND)

Maine Whoopie Pie Festival

Dover-Foxcroft, Maine


A festival in honor of a delectable confection? Yes, please. The official State Treat of Maine (!) will once again be celebrated during the Oct. 2 festival that has a new home this year. Moving to the Piscataquis Valley Fairgrounds allows for social distancing, improved parking, and more activities. Expect arts, crafts, music — and plenty of whoopie pies on offer (including a whoopie-pie eating contest).     

 

Related: Bucket-List Food Experiences in Every State

Adults celebrating German Culture at Oktoberfest and drinking alcohol
sboice/istockphoto

Powder Keg Beer & Chili Festival

Exeter, New Hampshire


You have to give this ninth annual festival credit for persevering, with this year’s Oct. 2 event at Swasey Parkway billed as the Powder Keg Beer & Chili Festival (Minus the Chili). As its site explains, “Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and to keep people as safe as possible, chili will not be served at this year’s festival. However, the festival will welcome food trucks offering different varieties of food for all to enjoy, and attendees are encouraged to visit local restaurants before or after the event.” Fans can still raise a glass, to be sure, at “the largest beer festival in New England” — which will feature some 200 beers, ciders and hard seltzers — after a year away.


Related: 13 Regional Chili Recipes to Try This Fall

Bentonsport
Bentonsport by Michael Leland (CC BY-NC)

Scenic Drive Festival

Van Buren County, Iowa


You can already start daydreaming of the changing colors of the autumn leaves and the seasonal scents that fill the crisp air. That’s the backdrop of this annual festival offered by the Villages of Van Buren County, a multi-site event set for Oct. 8-10. Participants tailor their own itinerary, with “mini-road trip” options ranging from Riverfest, an antiques, flea market and craft show in Bentonsport; the Special Open House at the Pioneer Historical Museum in Farmington; or the Amish Dinner Buffet in Bonaparte.

Mission San Jose Olive Festival
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Mission San Jose Olive Festival

Fremont, California


The 18th annual event, to be held Oct. 2 and 3, will once again put the spotlight on olive products, from olive oils to tapenades to olive-wood carvings. As with any festival, expect food, beer and wine, music and other entertainment, arts and crafts, activities for children. This event shines, though, thanks to its evocative setting, on the grounds of the Historic Old Mission San Jose in the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose olive grove. (Of note: The sisters cultivate the largest remaining grove of mission-era olive trees in California).

Virginia Wine Festival
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Virginia Wine Festival

Ashburn, Virginia


Raise a glass — a tasting glass — to the 45th annual Virginia Wine Festival, scheduled for Oct. 2-3 when the state’s top wineries will gather once again to showcase more than 200 local wines. Your event ticket includes unlimited wine tastings, so pace yourself (and bring a designated driver). And if you need a bite, admission includes entry to the “VA Oyster Pavilion,” which will feature freshly shucked oysters from Virginia’s Chesapeake regions.


Related: Not Just Napa: 30 American Wineries With Good, Cheap Wine

The Peanut marker in Floresville, TX
The Peanut marker in Floresville, TX by Billy Hathorn (CC BY-SA)

Floresville Peanut Festival

Floresville, Texas


The 77th annual Floresville Peanut Festival — launched in 1938 to celebrate the farming and harvesting of the local peanut crops — is today considered “a grand celebration to recognize the importance of the peanut to the Southwest Texas agriculture.” That translates to this year’s Oct. 7-9 event, which is set to feature a parade, vendors and arts and crafts booths, “goober games” such as sack races and the peanut toss — and, drum roll please, the “Coronation of Queen Tunaep LXXVII” (Strange name? Think a moment … Tunaep is simply "peanut" spelled backwards).

1962 Mercury Comet Custom 2-Door Sedan
1962 Mercury Comet Custom 2-Door Sedan by Randy von Liski (CC BY-NC-ND)

International Route 66 Mother Road Festival

Springfield, Illinois


Those nostalgic for the days of old will delight in this car-filled festival, which pulls into Springfield Sept. 24-26 for its 20th year. It gets underway with a Friday night Route 66 City Nights Cruise with up to 2,000 classic cars expected to cruise into the city’s downtown — with celebrity guest Butch Patrick (Eddie from “The Munsters”) making an appearance. Live entertainment, a “burnout” competition and other themed events are planned throughout the weekend.


Related: Route 66: Then and Now