I’ve always loved autumn. Summer was great as a kid because it meant no school, but autumn always had my heart. Once back to school season was out of the way came the real treats of fall: turning leaves, hayrides, Halloween, and the Fair! I grew up in York, Pennsylvania and the Great York Interstate Fair was by far the most exciting thing to happen in our rural community all year long. This year the fair celebrates its 250th year. If you didn’t grow up going to the fair every year, why not start now? Maybe rides and fried everything and record breaking pumpkins aren’t your thing – although I can’t imagine that’s the case. If fairs and carnivals aren’t for you, what about Oktoberfest, or Halloween celebrations, or just going into the mountains and watching the leaves change? In celebration of all things autumn, I’ve put together a list of some of the best Fall Festivals around the country. Did I miss your favorite? Please let me know in the comments so we can all join in the fun!
National Apple Harvest Festival in Arendtsville, Pennsylvania – October 3, 4 10, & 11 2015
The festival celebrating all things apple topped numerous lists as a “must see.” For 51 years folks have flocked to this town near Gettysburg to pick apples and partake in orchard tours, pie eating, antique cars, steam engine displays, and a tractor square dance. Kids especially will enjoy the hayrides, apple bobbing, petting zoo, and puppet shows. If apples aren’t your favorite fall food, don’t fret, there are plenty of other harvest festivals out there.
Sonoma County Harvest Fair – Sonoma, CA
Circleville Pumpkin Show – Circleville, OH
Fall Harvest Festival – James River Park, VA
Punkin’ Chunkin’ – Bridgeville, DE
The American Heritage Festival in Queen Creek, Arizona – November 19th-21st 2015 “Rain or Shine”
The American Heritage Festival in Queen Creek, Arizona may be the most ambitious celebration of American History imaginable. Most Heritage festivals focus on Colonial history and have a few local artisans that still practice the crafts of the era. This festival features dramatic reenactments, musicians, craftsmen, and soldiers from Colonial times all the way through the 20th century. Two of the three days of this festival are for schools only, but the festival is open to the public on Saturday from 10AM-4PM. Saturday festivities include: battle reenactments, music, a historic fashion show, church service, and craftsmen both making and selling their wares. A must attend for history buffs and patriots!
Even I’m not crazy enough to pick a winner here
Every state does their fair a little bit different. They all seem to have the common elements of concerts, rides, and fried food. Beyond the basics it’s all about state identity. Kentucky features incredible horse shows, Iowa has a life size butter cow, and Alaska has truly enormous vegetables. Personally I wish California and Wisconsin were a bit closer together so I could wine and cheese all day long. Many fairs are already over, but not all. September and October bring fairs for Georgia, Arizona, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Texas, and others. Pack your car and bring your appetites and tums!
Helen Oktoberfest in Helen, Georgia – September 17 – November 1st
I know I’m gonna get a bunch of flak for this one, but I live less than 2 hours from Helen, GA. There are loads of wonderful Oktoberfest celebrations all over this great country. Starting as a wedding celebration for Prince Ludwig of Bavaria in 1810, this showcase of all things German was brought to the New World and has flourished from coast to coast. Helen’s celebration isn’t the largest, or even the most popular, but it is the oldest, celebrating its 45th year. I also chose this event because Helen isn’t just in it for the beer and brats; they are a year-round Alpine village recreated in the heart of the Georgia Mountains. For them, dirndls and lederhosen are a way of life.
Fantasy Fest in Key West, Florida – October 23-November 1st 2015
Most towns have trick or treating, maybe even a Halloween Parade, but nobody celebrate Halloween like Key West. Fantasy Fest is not for the kiddies, this celebration is more sexy than spooky. The weeklong festival features body painting, burlesque shows, a costumed 5K, a parade and wall-to-wall parties. If you like to party and have a separate closet for all your costumes then this is the place for you. It’s like Mardi Gras in autumn, and ain’t nothin’ wrong with that!
The trickiest part of planning a trip leaf watching is timing. Yahoo Travel put together this wonderful map so you can plan your trip properly. While Vermont and Upstate New York get all the attention, they also get all the traffic. This map shows that most places are just a few hours’ drive or less from some beautiful foliage displays.
There are loads of other festivals, like the International Hot Air Balloon Festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico or the Day of the Dead in Mexico City, Mexico. Our gas tanks are full, our bags are packed, and we don’t plan to any yard work this fall. We’ll be busy eating candy apples and fried Oreos every weekend from now until Thanksgiving. If you go somewhere fun this fall take Jack Splat with you! Message us with your address and we’ll send you a sticker to take on your travels. Have fun!