Combine festival going with a hike or bike ride to enjoy the changing foliage

By Eileen Ogintz
Tribune Content Agency

Let’s celebrate!

Fall is festival season and promises good times, good music, and good eats, whether you want to celebrate apples or pumpkins; cranberries, chiles or wine, chicken or hot-air balloons.

Don’t forget Oktoberfest. Besides beer, there’s polka music, games, fall foliage and many are kid friendly. If you can’t make it to Munich, Fredericksburg, Texas, considers itself the polka capital of the Lone Star State and celebrates Oktoberfest Oct. 6 to 8. The longest-running Oktoberfest in the U.S., Helen Oktoberfest in Northeast Georgia, hosts more than a month of festivities until Oct. 29.

Combine festival going with a hike or bike ride to enjoy the changing foliage. Stop to pick your own pumpkins or apples. Check out Family Travel Forum’s directory of U-Pick Apple and Pumpkin Farms near major cities and for other regions. Allow plenty of time to conquer a corn maze while you’re there.

Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in San Francisco
Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in San Francisco

Check out a local farmers’ market where you can teach the kids why it’s a good idea to buy local food. They have become top attractions in local cities where you can grab a snack, a meal or a local souvenir. Watch the fishmongers toss the fish at Pike Place Market in Seattle: Des Moines Downtown Farmers’ Market has become a place where urban and rural Iowans connect and locals can support the farmers, bakers and artists from across the state. The Crescent City Farmers Market in New Orleans takes place year-round, hosting 70 vendors. San Francisco’s Ferry Plaza Farmers Market is one of the largest in the country with thousands of locals and visitors visiting every week. (The biggest is on Saturdays in front of the historic Ferry Building). In Philadelphia, the Reading Terminal (indoor) Market is one of the oldest U.S. farmers markets, dating back to 1893 and with a wide variety of restaurants. (Gotta try a big soft pretzel!)

You will find farmers markets in small towns too, and they’re a great addition to festival-going this fall. (For a list of fabulous fall getaways, compiled in partnership with Family Travel Forum, check out Taking the Kids’ 23 Fabulous Fall Getaways for 2023.)

Sever’s Fall Festival in Shakopee, Minnesota, (Sept. 16 to Oct. 29 ) is just 35 miles south of Minneapolis and boasts one of the country’s original corn mazes, along with a corn pit playground, straw sculptures, music and treats like funnel cakes, bratwurst and apples from the farm stand.

For those traveling without kids, the Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta (Sept. 27 to Oct. 1) celebrates the New Mexico green chili with cooking demonstrations, wine tastings, and the Grand Tasting, where attendees can sip from a selection of 100 wines and sample offerings from more than 60 restaurants.

Sonoma County CA
Sonoma County CA

Sonoma County, California’s Harvest Fair (Oct. 14) has everything from winery competitions to cow-milking contests and the World Championship Grape Stomp where everyone can join.

Less than 15 miles south of Portland, Oregon, the small community of Tualatin draws crowds October 21 to 22 for a free festival featuring pumpkin bowling and golf, a costume contest and even a Giant Pumpkin Regatta where participants (chosen by lottery) steer giant pumpkins through a water course with a single kayak paddle.

You can also celebrate all things pumpkin at the 51st Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival (Oct 14 to 15) in California, complete with a giant pumpkin weigh-off, professional carving of giant pumpkins, pumpkin carving for all, a costume contest; harvest inspired arts and crafts and more.

In Dallas, the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens hosts Autumn at the Arboretum from Sept. 15 to Nov. 5 with a Pumpkin Village, displays of some 100,000 pumpkins, gourds and squash of every size and 150,000 fall-blooming plants. This year’s theme is “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” There’s also a corn maze for kids. Learn how to make squash art!

Hot air balloon festival.
Hot air balloon festival.

The largest hot air balloon festival in the world draws thousands of people to Albuquerque, New Mexico, Oct. 7 to 15 for activities from a glow launch at dawn to themed balloon rodeos, music, fireworks and more. Meanwhile, the town of Natchez, Mississippi, hosts the Natchez Balloon Festival Oct. 20 to 21, one of the state’s biggest events.

It’s all things cranberry in Warrens, Wisconsin, about 110 miles northwest of Madison, with what’s billed as the world’s largest cranberry festival (Sept. 22 to 24). Try cranberry funnel cakes, tour a local cranberry marsh, buy local crafts (there are some 1,300 booths) and watch the parade.

Can you impersonate a chicken? London, Kentucky, is the birthplace of Colonel Harland Sanders and celebrates all things chicken at the World Chicken Festival (Sept 21 to 24). See chicken fried up in the world’s largest stainless-steel skillet or watch a hot wings eating contest.

The Oldest food festival in Hawaii is the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival on the Big Island of Hawaii (Nov. 3 to 12) celebrating the state’s coffee farmers and artists with farm tours, art shows and even a coffee cupping competition.

Fall decor at Fairmont Mission Inn and Spa
Fall decor at Fairmont Mission Inn and Spa in Sonoma County

Celebrate all things apples at the National Apple Harvest Festival in Biglerville, Pennsylvania, (Oct 7 to 8 and 14 to 15) in Amish country where you can taste all varieties of apple treats, browse over 300 arts and crafts vendors, watch chainsaw carving and peruse collections of classic cars. In the Midwest, Bayfield Apple Festival in Wisconsin (Oct. 6 to 8), now in its 61st year, draws people from all over the Midwest to watch apple peeling and pie contests, among the activities.

Another piece of apple pie?

(For more Taking the Kids, visit and also follow TakingTheKids on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram where Eileen Ogintz welcomes your questions and comments. The fourth edition of The Kid’s Guide to New York City and the third edition of The Kid’s Guide to Washington D.C. are the latest in a series of 14 books for kid travelers published by Eileen.)