Fall is a special time of year. So special, in fact, that there are festivities all around the country celebrating its start. With changing leaves, Halloween, apple harvests, Día de los Muertos, and Thanksgiving drawing near, the season is full of things to honor and appreciate. And no matter which part of the US you live in, there are fun events, meaningful traditions, and autumnal sights to take in. We’ve collected some of the best fall festivals in different regions of the United States — you might not even have to travel very far.
* We’ve divided the festivals by region: The Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, Southwest, and West (shown below).
Harvest on the Harbor in Portland, ME, Oct. 27-30
If you’re a foodie, this is the fall festival for you. According to its website, Portland, Maine is one of the best small towns for food and restaurants. Bon Appétit crowned it “America’s Foodiest Small Town” in 2009, and Forbes called Portland “One of the Country’s Best Food Cities” in 2021. At this event, you’ll enjoy local food and drinks, and be a taster for the annual Maine Lobster Chef of the Year Competition (and you know what they say about Maine lobster — it’s the best). Buy tickets online.
The Great Jack ‘O Lantern Blaze in Long Island, NY, through Nov. 6 / Hudson Valley, NY, through Nov. 20
This one-of-a-kind event, which was named best in state by Travel + Leisure, has attracted more than 2 million visitors since its debut in 2005. The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze is a family-friendly walk-through that boasts “thousands of hand-carved pumpkins in elaborate displays [that] light up the night,” according to its website. Ticket purchases benefit the preservation of Old Bethpage Village Restoration and Historic Hudson Valley.
Oktoberfest in Helen, GA, through Oct. 30
Helen is a quirky little town in northern Georgia in which almost every building — including its fast food restaurants — is architecturally Bavarian-themed. This makes it the perfect setting for Oktoberfest: an event featuring German food, dancing, and music. According to ExploreGeorgia.org, this event “is the longest-running of its kind in the United States.” Admission is free for active and retired military service members.
Dollywood’s Harvest Festival in Pigeon Forge, TN, through Oct. 29
If you love Dolly Parton but have never visited her Americana-themed amusement park, you’re missing out. The park — named the number one theme park in the United States by TripAdvisor this year — is full of some of Dolly’s favorite things: live entertainment, top-tier southern-style food, and a warm, friendly atmosphere. Drink in the autumnal beauty of the Smoky Mountains while savoring seasonal food and thrill rides at Dollywood’s annual Harvest Festival. Buy tickets online.
Mountain State Apple Harvest Festival in Martinsburg, WV, Oct. 13-16
If a classic small-town fall festival is what you’re after, look no further. This event celebrates “250 years of agricultural history” in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. Enjoy activities like an apple pie auction, a car show, and the coronation of the Mountain State Apple Harvest Festival Queen, Queen Pomona. The website notes that their festival’s ruler is named after the “uniquely Roman goddess of fruit trees and orchards … [she] watches over and protects fruit trees.” Hopefully she’ll ensure that the apples are ripe and crisp this year. Buy tickets online.
Anoka Halloween in Anoka, MN, through Nov. 5
Anoka, MN is dubbed “The Halloween Capital of the World,” due to its history as “the first city in the United States to put on a Halloween celebration to divert its youngsters from Halloween pranks,” says its website. Attendees keep the tradition alive with movie nights, vintage flea markets, costume contests, and parades. Some events are free to attend, but you’ll need to purchase tickets for others online.
Maple Leaf Festival in Baldwin City, KS, Oct. 15-16
The small town of Baldwin City, KS, has celebrated the peak season of maple trees changing colors since 1958. Its website notes that it “is the biggest fall family event in the area” and hosts “over 300 craft exhibits, quilt shows … music, unique food items, and activities.” You can also take in the Maple Leaf Parade or compete in the Maple Leaf 5k Run. Purchase tickets for specific events online.
Autumn at the Arboretum in Dallas, TX, through Oct. 31
It’s a good thing this fall festival runs the entirety of October, because you may need all that time to see its 100,000 pumpkins arranged into elaborate displays — including depictions of The Three Little Pigs, Jack & The Beanstalk, and more. Impressively, Fodor’s named this event “one of America’s best pumpkin festivals.” Buy tickets online.
Día De Muertos in Santa Fe, NM, Oct. 28-29
The Mexican holiday of Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a more solemn tradition: it’s a time for families to celebrate and honor the lives of their loved ones who have passed away. To do this, family members create ofrendas, which are altars adorned with marigolds, food, photos, personal items, and other favorite things of the deceased. History.com states that “according to tradition, the gates of heaven are opened at midnight on October 31 and the spirits of children can rejoin their families for 24 hours. The spirits of adults can do the same on November 2.” Santa Fe’s inaugural Día de los Muertos celebration will feature Mexican music, food, and ofrendas, plus the event ends with a Glow-in-the Dark Candlelight Parade that you won’t want to miss. Donations are encouraged for certain events.
Cambria Scarecrow Festival in Cambria, CA, through Oct. 31
If you’re looking for an unconventional fall trip, the Cambria Scarecrow Festival might just be the perfect find for you. This event features “hundreds of scarecrows golfing, singing, swashbuckling, pedaling, dancing, and flying,” created and posed by local businesses, students, and residents. Toward the end of the festival, attendees can participate in a “Salute to Scarecrows,” during which they enjoy wine, local food, and a costume contest. Viewing the scarecrows is free, but you can buy tickets to the Salute to Scarecrows online.
Snowbird Oktoberfest in Snowbird, UT, through Oct. 16
Utah’s beautiful Snowbird Ski Resort is home to a family-friendly Oktoberfest celebration — one of the largest festivals in the state — and this year marks its 50th anniversary. Enjoy live music, locally-brewed beers, German food, and activities in the scenic Rocky Mountains. Admission is free, but you may have to pay for parking.
Are any of these fall festivals near you? This is just a smattering of the nation’s autumn offerings, so fill your travel mug with apple cider and get exploring. Happy fall to all!