The Very Best Fall Festivals

by Sujan Patel

As fall approaches, the stream of major summertime events slows down.  Outdoor concert series, fairs, carnivals and other festivities are harder to find on the calendar in September and October.

Visitors to the Hildene Fall Arts Festival rest on benches among the craft tents.

But there is still time to enjoy some warm weather festivities before winter sets in.  In fact, a handful of the world’s most unique, exciting festivals take place during this time of year.  Major world-famous events like Oktoberfest and Halloween are on the horizon, as are a host of local and regional fetes.  Here are some of the most unique and noteworthy events taking place in the US this fall.

Autumn is a great time to visit Vermont.  Most people come to the state to view the stunning fall colors.  But there is plenty going on in addition to the bright tress.  The Hildene Arts Festival has been taking place for 18 years outside of the town of Manchester in early October.  Tents are erected and filled with the works of 200 pre-selected artists and crafts-people.  The festival has an eco-friendly vibe, with products for sale all made using sustainable, earth-friendly practices.

Performers take the stage at the Charlotte Sunset Jazz Festival.

Charlotte Sunset Jazz Festival is a two-day event featuring popular regional jazz acts.  One day of the early October concert is reserved for ticketed attendees and the second day is free for all.  The proceeds from the first day are given to local charities. Sunset is known for its accessibility.  Jazz aficionados will surely be in attendance, but so will families and people simply seeking something to do outdoors during the cool fall evening.

Evansville’s West Side Nut Club Fall Festival is held the first full week of every October on Franklin Street in Evansville, Indiana.  The festival is surprisingly large and accessible, despite its off-beat title.  A parade is the main event and food plays a central role as well. The fall festival is the largest events of the year in this mid-sized Midwest town.

Twig the Fairy travels the Renaissance Festival circuit in the United States delighting children and adults with her gifts of fairy stones and her flute music. Photo by Estreya.

There are several Renaissance Festivals held around the country during the fall.  One of the larger, most accessible ones is the Carolina Renaissance Festival.   It features a medieval amusement park, 10 stages with constant entertainment, an arts and crafts fair, a jousting tournament and a feast.  The marketplace, which features over 100 shops decorated in historic styles, is one of the highlights of the event.  Craftspeople make their wares in full view of the public and also sell their wares to attendees.

Circleville, Ohio is a rather non-descript town near the city of Columbus.  It is transformed into one of Ohio’s most desirable destination in October when the Pumpkin Show takes place.  Nearly 400,000 people head to Circleville each October for a weekend-long event featuring the circle-shaped gourds.  There are parades, carnival games and plenty of pumpkin pies for sale.   The Pumpkin Show dates back more than 100 years.

Fiesta DC is an annual celebration highlighting Latino culture with a Parade of Nations, a children’s festival, a science fair, a diplomatic pavilion for embassies and consulates, arts and craft shows and sales, and spicy Latin cuisine.  This is a large party with plenty of opportunities for everyone to experience something that interests them.

Fall for Fairfax Festival is Northern Virginia’s largest fall festival.  It includes more than 100 interactive activities and exhibits,  There is a strong focus on education with subjects like sports, eco-friendliness, security and safety, and health in the forefront.  The fest is held annually in early October and is notable for its family-friendliness and the fact that most activities are free to participate in.

Bayfield’s Apple Festival is one of the top 10 autumn festivals in the country.

Bayfield’s Apple Festival is held annually in a small Wisconsin town on the shores of Lake Superior.  It was recently recognized by the Society of American Travel Writers as one of the top ten autumn festivals in the country.  Of course, apples play a central role in the fest with orchards selling their crops and baking contests and food vendors participating. Favorites like apple pie can be found virtually everywhere.  There is also a parade and cruises to the nearby Apostle Islands.

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta features balloon pilots from around the globe.  This event includes balloon rides and other balloon related activities.  The highlight of the fiesta, held on the first weekend in October, is the mass ascension, when all balloons that attend the event take off in unison.  Visitors will have to get up early, as the choreographed take-off takes place before 7 a.m. each morning.

Sujan Patel is the managing editor for, a leading travel blog which provides air travel advice. Follow him on Twitter at air_tix

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