National Apple Harvest Festival
Held during the first two weekends in October each year, the National Apple Harvest Festival in Arendtsville, Penn., should be on the bucket list of anyone who wants to partake in one of America’s most storied traditions: apple picking. Festival-goers can drink fresh-pressed apple cider, try their luck at square-dancing and listen to live music in this tiny town just outside of Gettysburg.
International Balloon Festival
If you like hot air balloons and you like New Mexico, then you will love the International Balloon Festival in Albuquerque. Each year in October, more than 600 hot air balloons fill the skies over a 365-acre park (that’s 54 football fields) - it’s a pretty impressive sight! Watch the mass ascensions at 7 a.m. each morning, then stick around to see the flying competitions and fireworks shows.
World Championship Punkin' Chunkin'
What do you picture when you hear the words “punkin’ chunkin’”? If you’re envisioning pumpkins being hurtled through the air thousands of feet above ground, you’re right on target. To see the best of the best, you’ll have to attend the World Championship Punkin’ Chunkin’ event in Nassau, Del., where more than 100,000 people attend the three-day festival each November. You can be a spectator or compete in the record-breaking event by assembling a punkin’ chunkin’ machine of your own.
German Village Oktoberfest
If you don’t want to make the trip to Munich for the legendary Oktoberfest, the German Village Oktoberfest in Columbus, Ohio, is the next best thing. This celebration of beer, polka, and all things Deutsch, is held each September (oddly enough) over a 100,000 square-foot pavilion. You can listen to authentic German music and learn how to pair the proper cheese with the proper beer - an important life skill.
Warrens Cranberry Festival
Every fall, tens of thousands of people descend on tiny Warrens, Wisc., (which has a population of less than 400 people), to partake in the annual cranberry celebration. Wisconsin is the leading cranberry producer in the United States, and the Warrens Cranberry Festival celebrates the annual harvest with a parade, marsh tours and the crowning of cranberry royalty.
A two-day event held in Wellfleet, Mass., Wellfleet Oysterfest pays tribute to the New England town’s famed shellfish tradition. The gathering on Cape Cod is one that the locals look forward to all year long. Feast on oysters and clams, lobster and seafood chowders, while you watch the fastest oyster-shuckers in the world compete in the famous Oyster Shuck-Off. The competition is taken very seriously - controversial rulings have been known to elicit protests from the crowd.
Harvest on the Harbor
The culinary scene in Portland, Maine, has been receiving much national attention as of late (the town has produced four James Beard Award-winning chefs), and Harvest on the Harbor celebrates all that is best about Maine’s food and wine. This epicurean celebration is held every October, and features the Maine Lobster Chef of the Year competition and Samplings at the Marketplace, which allows travelers to taste the best local food that Maine has to offer as they gaze across Casco Bay.
Killington Hay Festival
If you’re looking for a fall festival that has a bit more down-home quirk to it, head to Killington, Vt., to participate in the annual Killington Hay Festival. When you begin to see the giant hay sculptures, you’ll know you’ve arrived. Past sculptures have varied from a 20-foot-tall kangaroo to a family of penguins. Finish up your stay by sampling one of the dozens of craft brews available at the festival.
Trailing of the Sheep
A historic event, the Trailing of the Sheep is reminiscent of the Almabtrieb festivals in the Alps. The Trailing of the Sheep celebrates the cattle herds making their way back to Sun Valley in Idaho. The most memorable event of the weekend is the parade of 1,500 sheep through the streets of Ketchum as families herd the animals to their winter pastures.
Sonoma County Harvest Fair
No list of fall festivals would be complete without the famous Sonoma County Harvest Fair, where the World Championship Grape Stomp takes place each year. Sample wine from more than 150 wineries, watch fascinating chef demonstrations and bask in the glow of Santa Rosa, Calif.