10 American Fall Festivals Every Traveler Should Experience

Sleepy Hollow Jack O'Lantern BlazeSleepy Hollow Jack O'Lantern Blaze
Courtesy Historic Hudson Valley

The Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze at Van Cortlandt Manor is a hot ticket in the NYC area this time of year.

Apples! Pumpkins! Corn mazes! It’s time for autumn fun in every corner of the U.S.

Sweater weather is finally here, time for apple picking, pumpkin carving and wandering through corn mazes — welcome to fall festival season. Here are our 10 picks for the best ones around the U.S.

1. THE GREAT JACK O’LANTERN BLAZE

Croton-on-Hudson, NY

September 28-November 24, 2018; $27 adults, $20 children; hudsonvalley.org

More than 7,000 wickedly designed, hand-carved pumpkins light up the grounds of Van Cortlandt Manor, a historic estate just outside New York City. Stroll through a stunning maze of Insta-worthy pumpkin art: intricate spider webs, flying ghosts and creepy skeletons, and of course the Headless Horseman. This year’s festival pays tribute to Ichabod Crane’s Sleepy Hollow and features a Medieval Castle, the Pumpkin Zee Bridge and a pumpkin carousel. Make sure to grab a fall treat: Apple cider donuts, fresh popcorn and pumpkin beer are for sale.

2. FALL FEST AT LINCOLN PARK ZOO

Chicago

Weekends, September 28-October 28 and October 8; free admission; lpzoo.org

Get wild with the animals as the Lincoln Park Zoo gets the fall treatment with activities throughout the park including a pumpkin patch, corn maze, and pumpkin carving. Kids can tackle the bouncy houses, ride the Ferris wheel and the tractor-themed carousel, or take on the giant burlap slide. Join the Halloween festivities at the Annual Spooky Zoo Spectacular on October 28  with trick or treating, a haunted house, and arts-and-crafts.

3. DIA DE LOS MUERTOS (DAY OF THE DEAD)

Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Los Angeles

October 26-27, $25; ladayofthedead.com

This fall holiday, with its traditional colorful skulls and white faces, is often confused for Mexican Halloween. Instead, it’s a celebration of friends and family who have died, with festivities held in a cemetery. This year’s gathering honors Coatlicue, the Aztec mother of the gods, with traditional Aztec blessings, ritual dancers in full costume, music, and theatrical performances. Check out more than 100 altars created by the local community on display, the art exhibition, and the arts and crafts for sale.

4. OKTOBERFEST

New Orleans

October 5-6, 12-13, 19-20; $8; deutscheshaus.org

NOLA is a city that likes to party, so it’s no surprise that their Oktoberfest is wunderbar. Feast on traditional German food including brats, schnitzel, Bavarian pretzels, or try one of 20 German beers and schnapps. Then get your groove on with traditional Oompa music and some good old-fashioned chicken dancing. Dachshund races and a schnauzer parade and costume contest are adorable must-sees.

5. HARVEST FESTIVAL AT EL RANCHO DE LAS GOLONDRINAS

334 Los Pinos Road, Santa Fe, NM

October 6-7; $8; golondrinas.org

Called the “Williamsburg of the South,” this 200-acre living history museum dedicated to the history of 18th- and 19th-century New Mexico offers a hands-on fall fiesta, Southwest-style. Join villagers dressed in period clothing as you stomp grapes for wine or press apples for cider, string chile ristras and roll handmade tortillas. There’s also pumpkin picking, mule-drawn wagon rides, traditional music and dance, and a market offering New Mexican crafts.

6. SCARECROW HARVEST

Milton Ave, Alpharetta, GA

September 29; free admission; alpharetta.ga.us

The scarecrow gets major props in this Atlanta suburb when more than 120 of the colorful, life-size strawmen line the downtown streets. Pose with your favorite bird scarer, created by local students, businesses, and families, then boogie to live country music, chow down on barbecue, and let the kids enjoy the hayrides, bouncy houses, face painting, and storytelling.

7. AUTUMN AT THE ARBORETUM

Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, Dallas

September 22-October 21, 2018; $15; dallasarboretum.org

Pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere — an astounding 90,000 of them — make up the amazing Peter Pan-themed village at the Arboretum. Pumpkin-created scenes include Tinker Bell’s home, the house of the Darlings, the Lost Boys’ hideout, and Captain Hook’s pirate ship. Don’t miss the Halloween bash on October 27-28 with trick-or-treating, face painting, a petting zoo, and appearances by the Neverland characters.

8. NATIONAL APPLE HARVEST FESTIVAL

Arendtsville, PA

October 6-7, 13-14, 2018, $10; appleharvest.com

Just outside Gettysburg is Pennsylvania apple country, where more than 35 varieties of the fruit are grown. Sample as many as you can at this sweet festival, plus cider, apple sauces, jellies, pies, pancakes, sweets, and more. Tour the orchards, then check out more than 300 crafts vendors and the antique car and steam engine collection. There’s also live music and dancing, hay rides, a petting zoo, and pony rides.

9. SNALLYGASTER BEASTLY BEER JAMBOREE

Washington, D.C.

October 13, 2018; $40; snallygasterdc.com

Cheers to beers! Lift up your glass as 120 of the world’s best breweries serve up more than 350 small-batch craft beers and ciders, including American and international brews, cask ales and Franconian lager, locally brewed beers, and more. Bring the kids: This is a family event with live music and food trucks plus face painting, temporary tattoos, and games. Proceeds from the event help support Arcadia, a nonprofit dedicated to creating a local food system in the D.C. area.

10. THE GREAT MISSISSIPPI RIVER BALLOON RACE

Natchez, MS

October 19-21, 2018, $35 for the full event; natchezballoonrace.com

From the grounds of a historic Antebellum home, more than 60 colorful hot air balloons take to the skies over a beautiful backdrop of the Mississippi River. Brave souls can go for a short ride, the rest of us can watch one of the daily races from the ground. Enjoy live music, Southern craft brews, carnival rides and games, arts and crafts, and German-style food.

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