How to Save on Big City Hotel Parking

Big city hotel parking comes with a hefty price tag. In San Francisco or New York City, you can expect to pay between $55-$85 a night for popular three to five-star hotels. Street parking comes with risks of car break-ins or parking tickets. Here are some ideas to help you save money next time you drive to an urban adventure.

Find a Nearby Garage by Asking the Hotel Staff

Hotels that don’t have their own parking facilities simply take your car to a nearby garage. You are charged a combined fee of the public garage, the hotel charges, and the valet tip. Eliminate the hotel middleman and self-park at the same garage.

To find which garage the hotel uses, you can ask the hotel staff. Additionally, you can ask the concierge for help finding cheaper, secure off-site parking. Check-in and drop off your bags at the hotel lobby, then proceed to self-park at the same garage. You will save about $20 a night.

Use a Parking App

Your smartphone is the best tool for finding affordable parking while staying in the city. Parking apps let you reserve and pre-pay for spots, as well as get deep discounts and earn free parking through referrals. Some popular parking apps are:

These apps come with many features. They can show you what garages are sold out, book in advance, and alert you to in and out privileges. You can compare the rates of your hotel parking to the public garages nearby to find the best deal.

Self Park at the Hotel Rather Than Use the Valet

Some hotels allow you to self-park in their garages or lots. Other big city hotels offer only valet services. When there is an option, self-parking is always cheaper. The savings may not be huge, but you won’t need to tip the valet. Tips add up if you take your car in and out several times. Self-parking spots usually require a bit longer of a walk to your room. One convenience of self-parking is you do not have to wait for the valet to fetch your car.

Drive a Smaller Car

Hotel parking garages charge more for SUVs and oversize trucks because they don’t have many spots for them. Charges range from $10-20 more in addition for larger vehicles. If you have the option to choose what to drive from your family or friends’ vehicles, choose the smaller car. You will get better gas mileage too!

Do You Need In and Out Privileges?

City parking, whether at a public garage or hotel, will come with or without in and out privileges. If you plan to use public transporation or taxi services during your stay, you can save money by parking without in and privileges. In and out privileges mean you can use your car as much as you want and not be charged each time it leaves the garage.

Without in and out privileges, you pay every time you leave a garage. Your rate starts over when you return. For example, rates are cheaper to park for six hours than to pay for two parking periods of three hours. Short parking periods add up. Book a hotel or public garage with in and out privileges, unless you plan to leave your car the entire stay.

Choose a Distant Hotel and Use Public Transportation

Metropolitan areas have great public transportation systems. Figuring them out and riding with residents is an excellent way to experience a city. The farther you get from the heart of the city, the cheaper the hotels. Often these hotels come with free or greatly reduced parking. Not only will you save on your room and parking, you will get to experience the city first hand.

Check Trip Advisor

Trip Advisor is a great resource for travelers. The Trip Advisor Forum is full of great ideas from experienced locals and visitors.  You can search for specific parking suggestions for the city you plan to visit or the hotel you have booked. From Chicago to Los Angeles, you can search for hotels with free parking or read advice from other people.

Follow these tips on your next vacation or business trip to a city. Remember to remove your personal possessions from your no matter where you park. Keep your car safe, avoid parking violations, and make the most of your urban adventure.


knitted bears

5 Best Indie Holiday Craft Fairs

Unique gifts can be found at craft fairs. To avoid kitsch, attend an indie craft fair this holiday season. Support local artisans, feel good about giving gifts from the heart, and have fun shopping!

What is Indie Craft?

The indie craft movement began online in 2006. According to Crafty Superstar, it is “… the visual contradiction of combining granny craft techniques with punk sensibilities.” Traditional craft skills blend with modern, unconventional style and materials to blur the lines between art and craft. Indie craft holiday fairs feature items that combine contemporary art with traditional craft techniques.

San Francisco Etsy Indie Holiday Emporium 2017

November 25-26, 2017 @  Pier 35, San Francisco

Etsy is the online marketplace for handmade items and vintage goods. It can be overwhelming browsing crafters on the internet. Etsy local events allow you to “shop in your backyard” and support local indie crafters. The San Francisco Etsy Indie Holiday Emporium is held at Pier 35 in the Embarcadero. The SF Etsy team has curated over 200 local artisans for the event. There will be small batch food sellers. Admission is free. Some of the featured vendors are Birch & Brush wooden bowls, Rocky Body Leather laser cut bracelets, and POPup foldOUTs‘ intricate paper cut art. This is the fifth year of the SF Etsy Indie Holiday Emporium.

Urban Craft Uprising Winter Show

December 2-3, 2017 @ Seattle Center Exhibition Hall, Seattle

Seattle’s Urban Craft Uprising helps vendors turn their hobbies into full-time careers. The winter show features over 150 curated and juried makers. 16,000-holiday shoppers attend the event looking for “unique, high quality, hand-crafted alternative to ‘big box’ stores and mass produced goods”. It is the largest indie craft fair in the Pacific Northwest. Olander Earthworks, Kind Apparel, and Moo-Young are just a few of the extraordinary crafters exhibiting at this event. Admission is free.

Chicago Holiday Renegade Craft Fair

December 2-3, 2017 @ Bridgeport Art Center, Chicago

Over 250 indie craft makers will vend at the Chicago Holiday Renegade Craft Fair. Renegade Craft Fairs are the “world’s largest curated showcase of independent craft and design.” Chicago is the home city of the first Renegade Craft Fair. RCF has now spread to 12 different major cities including London, San Francisco, and Denver. The “vibe” of the fairs is:

Equal parts entrepreneual incubator and community gathering space, it all culminates in a lively celebration of contemporary craft and design culture. Our Fairs feature hundreds of makers, interactive elements, inspired locales, artisanal food and libations, great music, and good times.

The Chicago RCF includes DIY workshops in addition to modern indie crafts. From jewelry to apothecary, unique creativity abounds. Indie crafters such as Grayling Ceramics, Peoples Garment Company, and Ply are sure to make holiday shopping easy.

Crafty Supermarket

December 2, 2017 @ Music Hall Ballroom, Cincinnati

Featuring local Ohio makers, the Crafty Supermarket expects 6000 shoppers to attend their holiday market. Local food and demo tables are just a few highlights of this popular event. This juried show is best attended at the beginning or end of the day to avoid large crowds. The Crafty Supermarket Holiday Show is the high point of holiday shopping in the Midwest. One-of-a-kind gifts can be found from makers like Paper Acorn, VintageLiz Leather, and Circle Circle Jewelry,

Indie Craft Experience Holiday Market

December 10, 2017 @ Yaarab Temple, Atlanta

Indie Craft Experience (ICE) Holiday Market is an intimate shopping experience. More than 50 craft and vintage vendors will be on hand while DJ Zano spins the tunes. ICE thinks it’s important to support local artisans. Part of their mission is to educate consumers about how buying crafts is impactful.

Guys. To be abundantly clear: we want for you to buy handcrafted gifts this holiday season. We think it’s really important. Imagine your hard earned 💵 going directly to a super talented person who works really hard. Way better than sending it off to a chain of middle men and a big box store.

The first 100 shoppers get free swag bags. Admission is $5. Big C CopperEmNyx Metal Studio, and Hollerbach & Tompkins are amongst the exceptional makers on hand.

Indie Holiday Craft Fair 2017 Dates

  1. San Francisco Etsy Indie Holiday Emporium-San Francisco, CA; Nov. 25-26
  2. Urban Craft Uprising Winter Show-Seattle, WA; Dec. 2-3
  3. Chicago Holiday Renegade Craft Fair-Chicago, IL; Dec. 2-3
  4. Crafty Supermarket-Cincinnati, OH; Dec. 2
  5. Indie Craft Experience Holiday Market– Atlanta, GA, Dec. 10

10 Popular National Parks Free this Veteran’s Day Weekend

Zion, Glacier, Yellowstone, and Yosemite National Parks conjure images of majestic vistas and grandeur. In total there are 59 national parks in the United States. The National Park Service (NPS) runs 417 sites such as national monuments and battlefields, in addition to the parks. Ten days out of the year, the NPS offers free entry everywhere (full list available here). The next free entrance days are Veteran’s Day weekend November 11-12, 2017. Here are 10 popular parks you can save money, honor our veterans, and observe the changing seasons for free!

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park is located in three states:  Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana. The Old Faithful geyser attracts visitors from around the world. North America’s massive supervolcano the Yellowstone Caldera contains the largest body of water in the park Yellowstone Lake. Also in the caldera, the stunning geothermal Grand Prismatic Spring exhibits crazy, surreal colors. Other points of interest include American bison herds, mudpots, and hot springs.

Yosemite National Park

California is home to Yosemite National Park. Famous for cascading waterfalls, rainbows, and granite peaks, Yosemite will take your breath away. Rock climbing on El Capitan, sleeping in a Half Dome Village canvas tent, or ascending the Yosemite Falls Trail, the park offers countless opportunities to explore nature. It’s no wonder John Muir and Ansel Adams loved this unique place.

Grand Canyon National Park

The Grand Canyon is truly a spectacular wonder of Arizona! The South Rim Trail provides plenty of level hiking, or you can descend on several other trails toward the Colorado River. Dine in the El Tovar lodge (reservation recommended) and dream about a rim to rim adventure or mule ride to the bottom. The North Rim is open until November 30, 2017; the South Rim remains open all year.

Grand Teton National Park

Jagged peaks reflecting on alpine lakes make Grand Teton popular amongst photographers and hikers. 200 miles of trails and the beautiful Snake River make this Wyoming park a serene adventure. Only 10 miles from Yellowstone, an ambitious adventurer could take advantage of the free weekend by visiting both parks! Jenny Lake, Lake Solitude, and Jackson Lake are park highlights. Grand Teton is notorious for world-renowned trout fishing.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Located in Estes Park, Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park contains the highest elevation paved road in America and a fourteener, a peak above 14,000 feet (4267 meters) in elevation. Elk and bear abound here, as do spectacular vistas. Sledding, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing are popular winter activities. Crossing through the park, the Continental Divide marks the hydrological separation of the United States separating watersheds that flow to the Pacific or Atlantic Oceans.

Zion National Park

Narrow slot canyons and sandstone cliffs make Utah’s Zion National Park unforgettable. Billions of years ago, the Virgin River created its remarkable, distinctive geological features. Zion is a hiker’s dream best visited in the November through April to avoid crowds and hot temperatures. The name means “heavenly city” or place of sanctuary. The park is full of biblical and Mormon references.

Bryce Canyon National Park

The Queens Garden Trail in Bryce Canyon National Park is the easiest trail to enter the canyon and is an epic sunset location. Located near Zion National Park in Utah, visitors often take in both parks in one trip.  Bryce is known for its red hoodoos, thin spires formed by erosion and frost wedging. Other popular park features include the Sinking Ship, Twin Bridges, Fairyland Point, and Thor’s Hammer. In November, it’s possible to see snow dusting this one-of-a-kind landscape.

Acadia National Park

Located along the coast of Maine, Acadia National Park’s Cadillac Mountain is one of the first places to see the sunrise in America. Parking lots fill up quickly, so arrive early or plan for other transportation options. Cadillac Mountain, Ocean Drive, carriage roads, Mount Desert Island, and Jordon Pond are centerpieces of the park.  The rocky Maine coastline with its spectacular scenic views is a photography treasure.

Crater Lake National Park

7,700 years ago, a violent volcanic eruption of Mount Mazama formed Crater Lake National Park. Situated in the Cascade mountain range of Oregon, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in America (1,949 feet). It is considered one of the most pristine regions on Earth. In the middle of the lake, Wizard Island forms cinder cone accessible by boat tours. Other awesome hallmarks of the park include the Pinnacles, Rim Drive, old growth forests, and the Pacific Crest Trail. Dormant volcanoes riddle the region. The park receives heavy snowfall in the winter.

Glacier National Park

Straddling the Canadian border, Glacier National Park in Montana is notorious for grizzly bears. Deemed the “Crown of the Continent”, the park is home to the headwaters of waterways that flow to the Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and Hudson Bay. Going-to-the-Sun Road offers many vast vistas and wildlife sightings, including bighorn sheep and mountain goats. Lake McDonald is the largest of over 700 lakes in the park many of which have not been named.Infamous glaciers such as the Jackson Glacier are threatened by climate change.  The 150 glaciers that existed in 1850 in the park have been reduced to 25 in the 21st century.

The Washington Post describes national parks as “America’s Natural Heritage”.

National parks are the “spacious skies” and “mountain majesties” of elementary school choirs. They’re living postcards from adventurers who had the foresight to preserve natural wonders for those who followed.

Our National Parks compare to the cathedrals and castles of Europe. Yellowstone was the first park established by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1872. President Theodore Roosevelt established five national parks during his administration. President John F. Kennedy called our parks an “integral aspect of intelligent use of natural resources … thus ensuring that future generations may know the majesty of the earth as we know it today.”

Accessibility to national parks can be limited by income. National park entry fees range from free to $30 per car. The most popular national parks charge the highest entry fees ($15-$30). The Trump administration has proposed increasing the entrance to 17 of the most popular national parks. This new fee could be as much as $70 per vehicle during the peak season making free days all the more enticing.

Although free park days can be a little more crowded, they are well worth the savings. Plan ahead for lodging (sometimes a year in advance) and dinner reservations.  Check each parks’ cancellation policies and call for last minute bookings. Be sure to confirm road openings and weather conditions.

Seasonal changes, such as late fall colors and snow, make November the perfect time to visit our national parks.  Free entrance makes it a no-brainer.



5 Free Online Yoga Class Resources

When life doesn’t fit into studio schedules, practicing yoga at home is a convenient option. Free online videos can be found for all levels and styles of yoga. There are many paid subscription online yoga services, often with a free trial, yet there’s a plethora of quality instruction available without purchase. Furthermore, you can have access to high-quality, famous teachers without traveling or paying big bucks. Here are five free, online yoga class resources.

YouTube Online Yoga

YouTube is an incredible resource for yogis and yoginis, such as giving access to master teachers no longer with us. For example, the rich heritage of B.K.S Iyengar has thankfully been documented and shared. You can take a class he taught in London in 1985, or a master class taught by Manouso Manos with Iyengar giving correction and feedback.

Many amazing teachers, like Desiree Rumbaugh and Seane Corn, can be found on YouTube. Subscribe to channels such as Wanderlust and Gaiam to stay up-to-date and easily find classes. It can be easy to get lost in the plethora of yoga videos on YouTube. Finding a full-length class can be challenging. Try using search terms like “yoga full class” or the name of a teacher plus “full class.”

Yoga International

Yoga International is an amazing, online yoga resource. In addition to free online yoga classes, there is a wealth of information on yoga philosophy. From restorative to vinyasa, you can search for classes based on different styles and techniques. High-quality teachers like Shiva Rea, Diane Bondy, and Siana Sherman, give clear instructions. The Yoga International app provides mobile access to the wealth of content. Although there is plenty available for free, you can also become a paying member of Yoga International. The first 30-days is free.

Do Yoga With Me

There are hundreds of free, streaming online yoga classes available at Do Yoga With Me. Sorted by beginning, intermediate, or advanced levels,  you can find any class to fit your skill level. In addition, you can browse the most popular classes or yoga style such as Yin or Ashtanga. Classes are available to purchase for download, but they are free to stream. Started by Vancouver yoga teacher, David Procyshyn, and based on the Freemium model, the mission of Do Yoga With Me is “to provide the world with high quality, free yoga online.” There is a subscription service available to access premium content.

Yoga Journal

The magazine, Yoga Journal (YJ), is a reliable source of all things yoga: information, practice, recipes, etc. that support a yogic life. Short clips break down poses, as well as teach pranayama techniques. Longer videos (not full-length classes) instruct on sequences of asanas. You are sure to find a class to meet your time availability. In addition, there are courses and master classes available for purchase. The free online yoga content includes topics such as Jason Crandell’s PM Practice and Open-Your-Hips Flow VideoYoga Journal provides excellent breakdowns of poses, including their benefits. Clear instructions, simple photographs, modifications, corrections, and suggested asana sequences make YJ an amazing resource for home practice.

Sign Up for a Free Trial with a Yoga Subscription Service

Almost all yoga subscription services offer free trials. From 7 to 30 days, you can gain unlimited access to content and decide if you would like to pay for continued access. Some of the top online yoga sites offering free trials are:

Many of these services have mobile apps with offline download options so you can take your yoga anywhere. Some apps even offer live classes.

A home yoga practice is a sweet time to delve into your postures, connecting mind and body in the sanctity of your own space. It’s a place where introspection comes naturally, and the ego can relax. There’s no looking around the room comparing oneself to others. Convenience and cost make online yoga classes perfect for all levels of practice.


10 Cities with Creepiest Catacombs

What is a catacomb? The simple definition is an underground cemetery connected by tunnels. The term is derived from “ad catacumbas,” meaning “near the hollows.” From the Holy Grail to a gilded Titanic, catacombs around the world hold an aura of mystery and legend. Here are some of the cities with the creepiest catacombs.

Rome, Italy

There are more than 40 catacombs beneath the city of Rome. In addition to the early Christian catacombs, the city contains Jewish and pagan ones as well. Originally thought to be the burial sites of martyrs, historians now agree the more than 6.5 million burials must have been for laypeople too. Roman law required cemeteries to be outside city limits. As space ran out, corpses were moved underneath the city. Many of the catacombs contain rooms with benches where families would have meals with the dead. Here are some of the most famous ones in the Eternal City:

  • Catacombs of St.Callixtus: 16 popes were buried in St. Callixtus. It was the official cemetery of the Church of Rome. These catacombs take up an area of 90 acres, with 12 miles of tunnels on four levels that are more than 20 meters deep.
  • Catacombs of Priscilla: Called the “Queen of Catacombs,” a great number of martyrs were buried here. It is the oldest catacomb mentioned in ancient Roman and Christian print.
  • Catacombs of St. Domitilla: Rediscovered in 1593, the Catacombs of Domitilla extend about 17 kilometers on four levels.
  • Catacombs of St. Sebastian: The burial of the martyr, San Sebastian, gives these catacombs their name. Both Christians and pagans were buried in the loculi wall tombs. The basilica above the burial site houses marble footsteps attributed to Jesus. In addition, the arrow that killed San Sebastian can be seen.

Paris, France

The Catacombs of Paris are famous for walls lined with skulls and bones. Similar to the Roman catacombs, these underground burials solved the problem of overflowing graveyards. Built much later, the Parisian catacombs burials began in the 18th-century. The tunnels were already in place below the city from 13th-century mining.

Prior to the catacombs, Parisian cemeteries stunk of rotting corpses. During a heavy spring rain in 1780, the walls of the Les Innocents cemetery broke flooding the streets with dead body parts. Thus, the city began moving the deceased to already existing mining tunnels. It took 12 years to move the six million bodies. Throughout the Parisian catacombs, the bones are arranged in macabre displays. Here you’ll find the largest population of skeletons on display.

Sousse, Tunisia

Romans occupied Tunisia from 146 BC to 439 AD. Christianity was considered a threat to the empire. Early persecuted Christians used Tunisian catacombs to bury their dead and for hidden worship. The Sousse Catacombs contain approximately 15,000 bodies and extend five kilometers. They were discovered in 1888 on the site of the ancient, coastal city of Hadrumetum.

The Catacombs of Sousse are located west of the Medina. They are better preserved than the Catacombs of Rome. Also known as the Catacombs of the Good Shepherd, the walls of the tunnels and galleries include niches for oil lamps. Some of the graves are bricked over; others have been excavated where you can view human remains.

Odessa, Ukraine

With a total length of approximately 2,500 kilometers, the Catacombs of Odessa are the longest in the world. The oldest tunnels date from the 17th-century. Like other catacombs, the tunnels were originally constructed beneath the city for mining. Later, they were used by smugglers. During WWII, the Ukrainians used the catacombs to launch surprise attacks on Nazi invaders.

Unlike other catacombs, the Odessa tunnels were not used for massive burial, although corpses of smugglers can be found. The tunnels are rumored to contain murdered Jews, a solid gold replica of the Titanic, and executed Nazis. In 2005, a teenage girl got lost in the tunnels during a New Year’s Eve Party. While her body was allegedly found two years later, there is some doubt of the veracity of this story.

Rabat, Malta

Roman laws prohibited burial within the ancient city of Melite, as was common throughout the empire, so burials went underground. The St. Paul Catacombs offer the earliest evidence of Christianity on the island. They were actively used into the 4th-century and consist of more 30 hypogea, or underground chambers. The catacombs of St. Paul are the largest catacombs on Malta with an area of 2000 square meters. They offer a wider variety of tomb architecture. For example, unique baldacchino, or canopied tombs, are prevalent in the main chamber. Pagans, Christians, and Jews were buried side by side here.

Brno, Czech Republic

The Brno Ossuary is the most recent underground burial discovery. In 2001, 50,000 skeletons were discovered beneath the Church of St. James. Piled in neat rows, the bones were thought to have been moved from above ground cemeteries to make room for new burials in the 1600-1700s. The deaths were caused by the medieval plague, cholera epidemics, and the Swedish Siege of Brno during the Thirty Years’ War. The Brno Ossuary has the second largest quantity of skeletal remains in Europe behind the Parisian catacombs. Lacking tunnels, this burial site is considered an ossuary, a room that houses the dead. The Brno Ossuary consists of three rooms completely filled to the ceiling with skeletons. For preservation purposes, the bones were removed, cleaned and rearranged before opening to the public in 2012.

Lima, Peru

An estimated 25,000 to 70,000 skeletal remains line the walls of the catacombs below the San Francisco Monastery in Lima, Peru. These catacombs were in use until 1808 when a cemetery for commoners was built outside city limits. Famous for the intricate layout of bones in circular patterns, the San Francisco Catacombs were rediscovered in 1943. They connect to Lima’s cathedral and other churches via tunnels under the city. The placement of the bones in mandalas and geometric designs are evidence of a mysterious, metaphysical ritual unknown to modern scholars.

Palermo, Italy

Catacombs can be found throughout Italy. Besides Rome, some of the most spectacular examples of these underground burials are found in Sicily. The Capuchin Monastery in Palermo houses the corpses of dead monks that underwent natural mummification. In 1597, new catacombs were built in ancient caves. Upon moving bodies to this new location, the monks discovered the natural mummies. The mummified friars’ faces were still recognizable. Their natural preservation was considered an act of God, and they were honored as relics. Wealthy Sicilians paid for mummification by the friars until 1783. It was considered a status symbol sought by the privileged class.

Dublin, Ireland

Beneath the Church Christ Cathedral in Dublin lies the largest crypt in Ireland. Famous for a mummified cat and rat playfully named “Tom and Jerry,” this medieval catacomb is the earliest surviving structure in Dublin. It houses Ireland’s first copy of the Magna Carta. You can rent the crypt for your own private event or take a ghost tour at night.

Another infamous catacomb of Dublin is found at St. Michan’s Church. Mummies of famous and historic figures, such as a 400-year-old nun, fill the chambers. Other mummified inhabitants include an 800-year-0ld, six and a half foot tall crusader who had to have his feet cut off to fit in a coffin, as well as a thief whose hands were chopped off. Limestone walls and methane gas from rotting vegetation maintain the perfect climate for mummy preservation. Dracula author, Bram Stoker, visited these catacombs potentially inspiring his thrilling book.

Alexandria, Egypt

In 1900, a donkey fell down a hole and discovered the Catacombs of Kom Ash Shuqqafa. This is the largest Roman burial site in Egypt. Started in the 2nd-century and considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages, the name of these catacombs translates to “Mounds of Shards.” There are piles of broken pottery in the area left behind by tomb visitors. It was bad luck to bring home a clay vessel that had been used while visiting the tombs, so family members would break them upon leaving. Art found in the burial site blends ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman styles. This is the only catacomb in the world where a mix of these three cultures’ art can be found.

london architecture

5 Spooky, Must See London Museums at Night Events

From Jack the Ripper to the Tower of London, the city along the Thames has a long, sordid, haunted past. In October, museums in London, England celebrate their ghostly heritage by opening after hours. The 2017 Museums at Night events are filled with spooky activities like mummy unwrappings and canal rides by torchlight.

Twice a year the United Kingdom’s museums, historical sites, and galleries participate in after-hours events for the “culturally curious.” The 2017 fall Museums at Night takes place October 26-29. There are 33 events in London. Here are five spine-tingling activities, workshops, sleepovers, and mysteries not to be missed.

The Amazing Halloween Experience-London Canal Museum

Located near King’s Cross, the London Canal Museum hosts a frightening trip in a narrowboat. During the Amazing Halloween Experience, a witch tells spine-chilling tales on the 50-minute ride through the Islington Tunnel. In the museum, explore the Corridor of Fear, listen to ghost stories, and enjoy special kids’ activities. This family-friendly event costs £11 for an adult and £8 for a child, including the boat trip and the museum. Advanced booking for the boat trip is recommended.

Dickens After Dark: A Halloween Special-Charles Dickens Museum

For one night only, on October 26, you can visit the townhouse of renowned storyteller, Charles Dickens, for Dicken’s After Dark:  A Halloween Special. To celebrate All Hallow’s Eve, a night dedicated to telling stories of the dearly departed, explore where Oliver Twist, Pickwick Papers, and Nicholas Nickleby were written. In this classic Victorian home, a housemaid will read your fortune, a magician will entertain you in the parlor, and adults can “ward off the chills of this dark and mysterious night” at a candlelit bar. This all-ages event costs £16.

London’s Night Owls Halloween Sleepover-Museum of London

Spend the night in one of London’s most popular museums featuring the city’s history from Roman to modern times. On October 27, the Museum of London asks, “Are you brave enough?” to join in London’s Night Owls Sleepover? This family-friendly, costume-wearing sleepover includes trick-or-treating. Children answer historical questions as they wander by candlelight through the galleries. Infamous, frightful London tales, like “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” and “The Barber of Fleet Street,” are told. Gothic masks are made before bedtime. After breakfast, enjoy a screening of Hocus Pocus. Advanced booking is required. The fee is £60 for children and adults.

The Case of the Missing Monsters-Dorich House Museum 

What happens when monsters jump out of their stories? Running all three nights of London’s Museums at Night Festival, the Dorich House Museum hosts The Case of the Missing Monsters, a combined theater and monster hunt. The museum was the home of Russian sculptor, Dora Gordine. It currently promotes and supports women’s creativity, including spooky stories. This Halloween family adventure begins with the telling of haunted tales, but there is a hitch. The monsters escape from the books! Search all over this unique museum to recapture them. Children are encouraged to come in costume. Advanced booking is required. Discounts are given for families.

Archives at Night: Cabinet of Curiosities-The National Archives

On October 27, the National Archives will open their Edwardian Cabinet of Curiosities as part of Archives at Night. Inside the cabinet, you will find Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s letters on mediums, as well as learn about witch trials and sorcery history. The Cemetary Club will provide talks on the Three Curses of Tutankhamun, Witchcraft and the King in Medieval England, and the Second Pendle Witch Scare. Perhaps the most exciting event at the Archives at Night is the unwrapping of a mummy! During this re-enactment of a mummy unwrapping party (no mummies will be harmed), Egyptologist John J. Johnston will perform the operation and instruct viewers on how mummies were procured for such events in the 19th century. Additionally, you will learn about which guests would attend the unwrapping, what they saw, and what happened to the remains afterward. This event costs between £17.60 to £22, advanced booking is required, and is for adults only (18+).

5 Must See London Museums at Night Dates

  1. Dickens After Dark: A Halloween Special-Charles Dickens Museum; Oct. 26
  2. The Case of the Missing Monsters-Dorich House Museum; Oct.26-28
  3.  Archives at Night:  Cabinet of Curiosities-The National Archives; Oct. 27
  4. London’s Night Owls Halloween Sleepover-Museum of London; Oct. 27-28
  5. The Amazing Halloween Experience-London Canal Museum; Oct. 28-29


sleeping child
Photo by Dwayne and Creative Commons.

5 Museum Sleepovers for Kids This Fall

Picture waking up next to an albino alligator or beneath a blue whale… no, it’s not a dream! Inspired by the hit movie Night at the Museum, sleepovers are popular events for families. In the fall, many museums feature Halloween themes. From solving spy mysteries to sleeping in safari tents, these unique, overnight museum experiences are sure to be memorable.

Extra Innings Overnights

Extra Innings Overnights are the ultimate museum sleepover experience for baseball fans and players. This affordable evening begins with a showing of The Baseball Experience in the Grandstand Theater. Then children have free time to explore the museum and participate in activities. Sleep in the Hall of Fame Plaque Gallery honoring baseball legends like Jackie Robinson and Babe Ruth. Lights out at 11:00 pm. Snacks and breakfast are provided, as well as a Hall of Fame knapsack. The required child to chaperone ratio is six to one.

Location:  National Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown, NY
Dates:  October 21-22, 2017
Tickets:  $49.95
Ages: 7-12 (adult chaperone required)

A Night at the Museum Sleepover (Halloween)

The American Museum of Natural History’s sleepovers are very popular and sell out quickly. The Halloween Night at the Museum Sleepover begins in the Hall of Human Origins. Here children learn about their evolutionary past. Next, enter the Age of Dinosaurs and cower in the shadows of the 65-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil. In the 3D theater, the nature documentary Earthflight ends the evening. Children tuck into sleeping bags beside African Elephants, under the 94-foot-long blue whale model, or at the base of a volcano. An evening snack and light breakfast are served. One adult chaperone is required per three children. General admission to the museum for the following day is included.

Location:  American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY
Dates:  October 27-28, 2017
Tickets:  $145, members $135, groups $125
Ages: 6-13 (adult chaperone required)

Roar & Snore Safari Creepy Camp

Imagine sleeping in a tent or glamping beside giraffe enclosures. At the San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park, families can experience a special, Creepy Camp Roar & Snore Safari on October 27, 2017. From a classic tent ($140 per person) to a premium tent ($220 per person), you can choose the luxury of your experience. During the “Creepy Camp for Halloween” don your costume and explore haunted trails, give the animals special treats, and tell spooky stories around the campfire. Ride on the Africa Tram to view animals up close. Dinner, snacks, and breakfast are provided.

Location:  San Diego Zoo, Escondido, CA
Dates:  October 27-28, 2017
Tickets:  $140 and up, $30 children under two-years-old
Ages: All ages (adult chaperone required)

Break secret codes, undergo spy training, and take on a secret identity during the KidSpy Overnight Operation Secret Slumber at the International Spy Museum. On November 4, children ages 9 through 13 begin their top-secret training. Kids create aliases and cover stories, as well as dress in disguises to complete their mission. Watch out for the mole on your team! A real spy will be on hand for interrogation. In the morning, a dramatic ending completes the clandestine operation. This overnight museum event requires one adult per two children. Snacks and a continental breakfast are provided.

Location:  International Spy Museum, Washington, DC
Dates:  November 4-5, 2017
Tickets: $115, members $105
Ages: 9-13 (adult chaperone required)

Penguins+Pajamas Sleepovers

The California Academy of Sciences is the coolest museum in the Bay Area. Located in Golden Gate Park, it is the only facility in the world with a planetarium, aquarium, and natural history museum. The Penguins+Pajamas Sleepover occurs regularly throughout the year for children ages 5-17.

Explore the exhibits after-hours and discover the deepest depths of the oceans, travel to the tops of rainforests, blast off into outer space at your own private planetarium show, and then settle in for story time after snacking on milk and cookies.

Live animal demonstrations, planetarium showings, and Osher Rainforest explorations fill the evening. Families can sleep next to the California Coast Tank or beside the Swamp Tank featuring an albino alligator. Breakfast is served in the Academy Cafe. Parking and all-day Sunday admission to the Academy are included. One adult per five children is required for chaperoning.

Location:  California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, CA
Dates:  November 11-12, 2017
Tickets: $109, members $89
Ages: 5-17 (adult chaperone required)

Fall Museum Sleepover Dates

  1. Extra Innings Overnights-Cooperstown, NY; Oct. 21-22
  2. Night at the Museum Sleepover (Halloween)-New York, NY; Oct. 27-28
  3. Creepy Camp Roar & Snore Safari-Escondido, CA; Oct. 27-28
  4. KidSpy Overnight Operation Secret Slumber-Washington, DC; Nov. 4-5
  5. Penguins+Pajamas Sleepover-San Francisco, CA; Nov. 11-12
carnival exploratorium SF
Photo by Studios and Creative Commons.

5 October Museum Events for Adults Only, After Dark

Imagine spending the night in a museum without your kids or sipping cocktails while you explore exhibitions. Adult-only night at the museum evenings are popping up all over the United States. In October, these 21 and over events focus on haunted and magical themes.

A Night at the Museum Sleepover for Grown-Ups

A Night at the Museum Sleepover for Grown-Ups begins with champagne and jazz in the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall. Guests are allowed to roam the museum halls by flashlight, wander through museum halls viewing the 65-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil in the dark, then sleep beneath the looming 94 feet long, 21,000-pound blue whale model in Milstein Hall of Ocean Life. Advanced reservations are required. Cots are provided. Meals include a buffet dinner with wine and beer, evening snack, and a light breakfast.

Location: American Museum of Natural History, New York, New York
When: October 13-14, 2017
Tickets: $350, members: $300

After Dark:  Agave, Perception, and Collisions 

Every Thursday night, the San Francisco Exploratorium features “After Dark” programs for adults 18 years and older. On October 12, the agave plant will be the focus of the evening. Agave, Perception, and Collisions will immerse participants “in mind-bending experiences and unique, thought-provoking programs.” In the Fisher Bay Observatory Gallery, you can learn about agave’s unique relationships with bats in the desert ecosystem. Of course, tequila-sage smash cocktails and tequila-plum trifles will be served. In the Perception exhibit, adults will learn about emerging technologies, like the Glass Brain. The Glass Brain allows you to see real-time, 3D brain activity utilizing high-density EEG. If you would like to see a screening of Collisions, an advanced, separate reservation is necessary. This film is a “poetic virtual reality (VR) journey” to the remote Western Australian Pilbara desert with indigenous elder Nyarri Morgan of the Martu tribe. Prior to Western Culture contact, the tribe witnessed an atomic bomb test in the 1950s. Traditional ideas of caring for the planet coupled with modern issues of climate change are explored.

Location: Exploratorium, San Francisco, California
When: October 12, 2017; 6:00-10:00pm
Tickets: $17.95 in advance, $19.95 at the door

Haunted Museum: Year of the Monster

Live music, cocktails, and curated programs are highlights of the popular “After Dark” at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

The lights are low, the bar is open, and the music is playing. Armed with a cocktail and your closest friend, you venture into a prehistoric world where giant sauropods tower over the bustling crowd and two T-Rexes cast in multi-colored lights are frozen in battle.

This isn’t the museum of your childhood. This is After Dark.

Two October evenings of Haunted Museum:  Year of the Monster are planned for guests 21 and over. Adult trick-or-treating, spooky cocktail drinking, and dancing will entertain costumed adults. This event focuses on “brutes and beasts in legend and in nature.” Past “Haunted Museum” events at Carnegie have included live animal encounters, presentations by paranormal hunters, and ghostly storytelling. Face masks and costume weapons are not allowed.

Location: Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
When: October 21 & 27, 2017; 6:00-10:00pm
Tickets: $15 in advance, $20 at the door, members: $13.50

Alder Afraid of the Dark?

The Adler Planetarium hosts an after dark event every third Thursday of the month. In October, the Alder Afraid of the Dark? is based on the 90s TV series Are You Afraid of the Dark?. Fernilab scientists will present on dark matter and particle physics. The dance floor will be pumping with Halloween classics like “Thriller.” There will be hands-on science experiments and spooky brews from partner breweries. In the full dome theater,  The Man from the 9 Dimensions, a Japanese film exploring “The Theory of Everything” will be shown. This popular event sells out quickly and promises to be fun and fearful!  Creative costumes are encouraged.

Location: Adler Planetarium, Chicago, Illinois
When: October 19, 2017; 6:00-10:00pm
Tickets: $20 in advance, $25 at the door, members: $15 in advance

Adult Nights: Halloween at Hogwarts

Ever wanted to play Quidditch or drink real butterbeer? The North Carolina Museum of Natural History throws the ultimate adult-only museum party for fans of Harry Potter. Adult Nights:  Halloween at Hogwarts will begin by crossing Platform 9¾. During the evening, attendees can perfect their Defense of the Dark Arts and take a potions class. Don’t get lost wandering through the Forbidden Forest! Costumes are allowed, but no masks or weapons are permitted. The first drink is included with admission for Catalyst members. This evening sells out quickly.

Location: North Carolina Museum of Natural History, Raleigh, North Carolina
When: October 26, 2017; 7:00-10:00pm
Tickets: $15 in advance, $20 at the door, members: $10

Adult Only Museum After Dark Dates

  1. Agave, Perception, and CollisionsSan Francisco, CA; Oct. 12
  2. Night at the Museum Sleepover for Grown-Ups-New York, NY; Oct. 13-14
  3. Alder Afraid of the Dark?-Chicago, Illinois; Oct. 19
  4. Haunted Museum:  Year of the Monster-Pittsburgh, PA; Oct. 21 & 27
  5. Adult Nights:  Halloween at Hogwarts-Raleigh, North Carolina; Oct. 26


Northern California Hiking

5 Best Northern California Day Hikes for Fall

Fall rains bring an end to California’s Mediterranean summer. As a result, many of NorCal’s popular trails become less-crowded. Deciduous trees begin to change colors. Cool, crisp mornings and warm afternoons make for ideal hiking weather. Autumn is the perfect time to explore the amazing landscapes of the region before winter snows and heavy rain inundate trails. Here are 5 Norcal day hikes you can safely enjoy after the rains commence.

The Miners’ Ridge and James Irvine Loop

Walk among towering, ancient, old-growth redwoods are that between 500 and 2000-years-old.

Length: 7.5 miles round trip
Elevation gain:  1000 feet
Trailhead:  Prairie Creek State Park Visitor Center,  Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway, Humboldt County

Redwood National Park and California State Parks co-manage Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. This is the only park in the United States where such a relationship exists. Located in far northern Humboldt County, Prairie Creek is home to the world’s tallest tree, Hyperion, measuring 379.1 feet (its location is undisclosed for protection). It is also home to the Murrelet State Wilderness area.

The James Irvine-Clintonia-Miner’s Ridge loop will take you through a remarkable old growth forest. The trail begins at the Prairie Creek Visitor Center on Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway. There are two exits off the 101 for the parkway. In the meadow in front of the visitor center, Roosevelt elk are often grazing.

Start on the James Irvine Trail. Approximately 3.5 miles down the trail, turn south on the Clintonia trail. The Clintonia trail meets Miner’s Ridge after 1.5 miles. Follow Miner’s Ridge back to the James Irvine trail to return to the visitor’s center.

Miner’s Ridge is home to many burly, gnarly, old redwoods. You will also see Douglas fir, grand fir, huckleberry, sorrel, and a variety of ferns. Parts of the trail can get muddy, but the forest duff keeps it in good shape throughout the fall. The trail should be avoided in high wind, as flying branches called “widow makers” can cause serious injury. Wooden bridges cover all creek crossings. The towering redwoods offer some protection during light rain. There are no fees for day use, and all trails are clearly signed. Here is a map of Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park to get you started.

Dipsea, Steep Ravine to Matt Davis Loop

Start at the beach, hike along coastal bluffs to redwood forests, stroll past two waterfalls, and climb a ladder along this lush trail.

Length: 6.8 miles round trip
Elevation gain:  1600 feet
Trailhead: Stinson Beach, Marin County

Mt. Tamalpais State Park offers a plethora of hikes in the Bay Area. It is less touristy than neighboring Muir Woods. From epic views of the San Francisco Bay to lush waterfalls, this gem of Marin County is not to be missed. Fall rains add to the beauty of this loop. The Dipsea-Steep Ravine-Matt Davis route is quite popular in the summer. Fall is the perfect time to avoid the crowds. Be prepared for changing weather conditions, like fog.

The Dipsea trail begins at Stinson Beach near the junction of Highway 1 and the Panoramic Highway. (Please check current road conditions for Highway 1. At the time of publication, the 1 is closed between Muir Beach and Stinson Beach. The trail must be accessed from the north.) Follow the Dipsea Trail about one mile along coastal bluffs enjoying epic views of Stinson Beach, the Pacific Ocean, and Point Reyes. When the Dipsea Trail intersects with the Steep Ravine Trail, turn left.  Head into to the redwood forest and lush canyon of Web Creek. The trail steadily climbs past two waterfalls. At the second waterfall, climb a 10-foot ladder with 14 rungs to continue on the trail.  Use caution as the ladder can be slippery when damp. After another 1.5 miles, you will reach the Pantoll Ranger Station. Cross the Panoramic Highway to the Matt Davis Trail and begin your descent of approximately four miles back to the beach. There is an option to make this hike shorter by taking the Old Mine Trail for a three-mile loop (Dipsea-Old Mine-Steep Ravine-Dipsea).

The Dipsea-Steep Ravine-Matt Davis loop will take you through a mixed-species forest, a narrow canyon of Redwoods, and along coastal bluffs with amazing views. You can even catch a glimpse of San Francisco’s Sunset District to the south. Like any loop, it can be done in reverse; however, the Matt Davis trail is a more challenging, longer ascent than Dispea to Steep Ravine. This map for Mt. Tamalpais State Park can help you plan your route.

Horsetail Falls

Climb over granite slabs along the cataracts of Pyramid Creek to view the impressive Horsetail Falls.

Length: 3-5.6 miles round trip
Elevation gain:  1200 feet
Trailhead:  Twin Bridges, El Dorado County

The Desolation Wilderness near Lake Tahoe consists of 63,960 acres. This sub-alpine and alpine forest were formed by glaciers during the last ice age. Granite peaks, cascading waterfalls, and easy access makes this wilderness area one of the most popular ones in the United States. A free permit is required for day use and is available at most trailheads.

The trail to Horsetail Falls is not well established, but Caltopo can help you map your route. A large parking lot along Highway 50 near the town of Twin Bridges serves as a trailhead (fee required). Arrive early for parking if you plan to hike on the weekend. Beginning in the Eldorado National Forest, follow various cairns and signs posted on trees along the banks of Pyramid Creek for about .08 mile until you reach the Desolation Wilderness. Fill out a day-use permit before continuing on. Trust your intuition as you ascend, choosing routes along the granite slabs. At approximately 1.5 miles, you will reach the base of Horsetail Falls. If you wish to reach the top, continue bouldering up for another mile.

Horsetail Falls is spectacular! Following cairns on granite slabs and climbing over boulders gives one a sense of freedom. This short, steep hike offers amazing views and wilderness experience typically only available on longer, overnight backpacking trips. The US Forest Service ranks this hike as moderate. Before you go, check the weather forecast for any low elevation snow. The trailhead is at 6,000 feet.

Lassen Peak

Ascend to the top of California’s only volcano to erupt in the 20th century, offering breathtaking views of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Ranges.

Length: 5 miles round trip
Elevation gain:  2000 feet
Trailhead:  Lassen Peak Trailhead, Lassen County

Lassen Volcanic National Park contains over 150 miles of trails. The epitome of these trails is the peak itself with its classic volcanic crater. Technically a lava pinnacle plug dome, Mt. Lassen is the southernmost volcano in the Cascade Range. It last erupted in 1921. This national park is one of the few areas in the world featuring all four types of volcano: plug dome, shield, cinder cone, and strato.

The north entrance to the park is accessible off Highway 44 out of Redding, and the south entrance is accessible from Highway 36 out of Red Bluff (park entrance fees required). Both highways intersect with Interstate 5. The Lassen Peak trailhead is closer to the southern entrance; however, a fall drive along Lassen Volcanic National Parkway is breathtaking. Yellow aspen leaves, lush meadows, alpine lakes, and lava beds are a feast for the eyes of any nature lover.

The trail begins at an elevation of 8,500 feet. This hike is best done in early fall, as the park sees an average of three inches of snow in October. It’s possible to hike in light snow with sturdy boots and trekking poles. The trail bed consists of porous volcanic rock that handles precipitation well.

The Peak Trail is a short, two-and-half mile climb to the caldera which offers breathtaking vistas of lakes and distant mountain ranges. Along the switchbacks, you can smell sulfur reminding one of the volcano’s history. Once on the rim, glacier-covered Mt. Shasta, a plug dome that still has its peak, looms off to the north. This trail can cause mild altitude sickness. It’s important to drink twice as much water as you think you need, and rest along the way if you have any symptoms. Always be aware of changing weather conditions. It can be quite windy on top.

The Lassen Peak Trail is a relatively easy first mountain to climb, even for children. The park offers many less challenging trails to explore with geothermal features, like Bumpass Hell, and epic waterfalls, like Kings Creek Falls. Unlike other national parks in California, Lassen Volcanic is not crowded, there’s plenty of parking, and never a traffic jam. You can use this map of Lassen Volcanic National Park to help plan your day.

McCloud Falls

This short, easy trail through woodland and canyon takes you on a tour of three waterfalls.

Length: 4.2 miles round trip
Elevation gain:  95 feet
Trailhead:  McCloud River Loop Rd., Shasta County

Located in Shasta-Trinity National Forest, the McCloud River is world-renowned amongst fisherman for its wild trout. The three waterfalls along the river are considered amongst the best in Northern California. They have been delighting tourists since the 1800s. Fed by the subterranean waters of Mt. Shasta, these large waterfalls are stunning. The native Winnemem Wintu tribe called this area, “The falls where the salmon turn back.” The trail is easy with little vertical climb. It is partially paved and partially ADA-accessible. There are several picnic areas.

To reach the trailhead, take the 89 east from Interstate 5 near Mt. Shasta City. Travel 14.7 miles past the town of McCloud. Turn onto the McCloud River Loop Road (40N44) towards Fowlers Camp and Lower Falls. Turn right after 0.6 of a mile, following the signs to the Lower Falls. The parking lot is another half mile.

The hike begins at the Lower Falls. Follow the staircase down from the picnic area to view the Lower Falls. To continue, take the paved trail to reach Fowlers Campground. Follow the signs to the impressive Middle Falls. At 100 feet wide, this feathery waterfall is the most spectacular of the three. Continue past the Middle Falls to the canyon rim, then ascend to the Upper Falls. This tiered waterfall also features huecos, or hollow holes, in the bedrock. The trail is not a loop. Once you reach the overlook of the Upper Falls, retrace your steps back to the trailhead.

Each waterfall on the McCloud River has its own unique characteristics. These impressive falls gain volume with seasonal rains. The easy trail is accessible for all levels of fitness and age. This map of Mt. Shasta can be used to help you get around.

Remember to always check the weather before heading out, use sun protection, and wear layers as conditions in the mountains can change rapidly. Cooler temperatures, autumnal leaf colors, and diminishing tourists provide optimal conditions for exploring NorCal’s regional beauty in the fall.

Best NorCal Day Hikes for Fall

  1. James Irvine-Clintonia-Miner’s Ridge Loop: Humboldt County
  2. Dipsea-Steep Ravine-Matt Davis Loop: Marin County
  3. Horsetail Falls: El Dorado County
  4. Lassen Peak Trail: Lassen County
  5. McCloud Falls Trail: Shasta County



Kid with Pumpkin

10 Best Harvest Festivals for Fall

Native to North America, the pumpkin is one of the most celebrated harvests in American small towns. This ubiquitous, orange squash may be the focus of many festivals, yet each region of the United States has unique celebrations based on their own food heritage. From cranberries to rice, small towns, villages, and cities celebrate their regional bounty while raise money for local community projects. Here are 10 of the best small town harvest festivals.

Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival

Started in 1971 as part of a beautification project, the Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival is not to be missed! This fall harvest festival is known for incredible pumpkin carvings and the World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off contest. Pumpkins can weigh over a ton! Last year’s winner weighed 1,910-pounds! The 2017 prize for the heaviest pumpkin is $30,000.

The Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival is one of California’s oldest and largest festivals bringing in millions of dollars for civic projects and non-profits. Over 60,000 people pack this small town to celebrate the orange squash. Festival food vendors feature local and organic items.

Festival highlights include heavyweight champion pumpkins, a pumpkin parade, Smashing Pumpkins: Battle of the Bands, and the world’s biggest pumpkin sculpture.

Location: Half Moon Bay, California
When: October 14-15, 2017
Admission: Free

Cranberry Festival

Truly a small village, Warrens is the “Cranberry Capital of Wisconsin.” Warren’s Cranberry Festival draws over 120,000 people making it the largest cranberry event in the world. Like many small town fall harvest festivals, this non-profit organization raises millions to support local schools, the fire department, youth, scholarships, etc. Although admission is free, cranberry marsh tours are $6.00.

Past festival events have included the world’s largest cranberry whoopie pie, as well as many other cranberry treats. This tart fruit is not just for Thanksgiving meals. Deep fried cranberries, chocolate covered cranberry cheesecake, and cranberry cream puffs are just a few of the delicacies you can try at the festival.

Cranberry fest highlights include a pie eating contest, marsh tours, and meeting the Cranberry queen.

Location:  Warrens, Wisconsin
Dates & Time:  September 22-24, 2017, 7:00am-6:00pm
Admission: Free

National Apple Harvest Festival

For over 50 years, apple lovers have been gathering in the heart of Pennsylvania’s apple country near Gettysburg for the National Apple Harvest Festival. Drawing in crowds from nearby cities of Washington D.C., Baltimore, and Harrisburg, about 25,000 people attend each day. It is good to arrive early for parking and avoid crowds. Like most small town harvest festivals, the proceeds go to support community groups and parks.

There’s nothing more American than apple pie, and of course this festival includes three pie eating contests a day! In addition to the pie there are many other apple delicacies and libations to try like apple butter, apple cookies, apple bread, apple cotton candy, apple fritters, apple dumplings, apple turnovers, apple cakes, apple guacamole, apple pie moonshine, apple pizza, apple sausage sandwiches, and apple wood smoked turkey legs.  You can also learn how to make scrapple, a mid-Atlantic tradition of combining apples, pork scraps, and cornmeal. (There’s a scrapple festival in Delaware)

Highlights include over 300 arts & crafts vendors, classic cars, a petting zoo, and orchard tours.

Location:  Biglerville, Pennsylvania
Dates & Time:  October 7-8 & 14-15, 2017
Admission: General – $10, kids under 12 – free.

International Rice Festival

The 81st annual International Rice Festival is not to be missed. The four-day festival features two parades, a rice cooking contest, and a queen’s ball. Other traditions include a fiddle contest and frog derby. Given that it takes place in Louisiana, there is plenty of Cajun and Cajun food and music. The purpose of the festival is to bring “attention to the importance of rice as food and also emphasizes it’s [sic] place in the world’s economic picture.”

The International Rice Festival is Louisiana’s oldest and largest agricultural celebration. After a hiatus during World War II, the festival added “international’ to its name. About 300,000 people attend the festival each year. Organizers boast over 7 million people have visited during the festival’s long history.

Don’t miss the carnival rides, rice “poker” run, or the rice grading contest.

Location: Crowley, Louisiana
Dates & Time:  October 19-22, 2017
Admission: Free

Circleville Pumpkin Show

Dubbed the “Greatest Free Show on Earth”, the Centerville Pumpkin Show is the oldest small town harvest festival on our list. It is Ohio’s oldest and largest festival. You can taste just about anything made from pumpkin at the show including pumpkin ice cream. pumpkin donuts, pumpkin fudge, pumpkin burgers, pumpkin pie, pumpkin cream puffs, pumpkin blossoms, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin bread, pumpkin pizza, pumpkin chili, and pumpkin butter.

The big attraction at the Centerville Pumpkin show is the world’s largest pumpkin pie, although it is still probably not enough to feed the 400,000 visitors to the festival. This year’s enormous pie will be over six feet in diameter and weigh over 400 pounds! According to the festival fact sheet, the pie takes “100 lbs. of cooked pumpkin, 40 lbs. of sugar, 26 gallons of milk, 15 doz. eggs, 4 lbs. of cornstarch, 1 1/4 lb. pumpkin spice, 1 1/4 lb. of salt, 42 lbs. of pie dough. Bake 6 hours. Cool 6 hours. At the end of the four day event, the giant pie is donated to area hogs that look forward to a real treat!”

This pumpkin show is filled with concerts, pumpkin pie eating contests, a big wheel race, and the world’s largest pumpkin pie.

Location:  Circleville, Ohio
Dates & Time:  October 18-22, 2017
Admission: Free

Kona Coffee Cultural Festival

The Kona Coffee Cultural Festival began in 1970 to celebrate the Big Island’s coffee history. It is the oldest festival on the islands. In 1828, a missionary named Samual Ruggles planted Kona’s first coffee plant. By 1841, coffee plantations existed in Kona. Today, there are 650 small coffee farms in the region producing 3.8 million pounds!

This 10-day festival features coffee farm tours, cultural art exhibits, a lantern parade, and a Makahiki blessing concert. There is a Miss Kona Coffee Scholarship Pageant and Kona coffee cupping (tasting).

You won’t need much of a coffee buzz to check out the living history farm tour, learn how to cup coffee, and take in the lantern parade.

Location:  Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
Dates & Time:  October 3-12, 2017
Admission: $3 festival button

Hood River Valley Harvest Fest

For 35 years, the Hood River Valley Harvest Festival has been celebrating the harvests of the region. This “old-fashioned” fall festival includes local produce and food products, as well as beer and wine. It is held along the riverfront and is the Columbia Gorge’s largest regional autumnal celebration. Boxes of fresh pears, apples, pumpkins, berries and flowers, as well as a diversity of arts and crafts are for sale. Smoked salmon and chocolate covered cherries are just a few of the local delicacies provided by food vendors.

Musical acts range from bluegrass to classic rock. New this year to the festival is an expanded beer, hard cider, and wine selection on tap featuring Gorge Cider Society, Columbia Gorge Winegrowers Association and Full Sail Brewery. Sales of libations go to support the Arc of the Mid-Columbia, a group serving those with developmental disabilities.

From truck rides to bouncy houses, this harvest fest has a lot to offer. There is also lots of local beer, cider, and wine. Don’t miss world record pumpkin carver Scott Cully.

Location:  Hood River, Oregon
Dates & Time:  October 13-15, 2017
Admission: Adults $6, Kids under 12 Free

Frankenmuth Oktoberfest

Break out your lederhosen and celebrate this German fall tradition!  Frankenmuth, Michigan’s Oktoberfest is the only Oktoberfest outside of Munich to be officially sanctioned by the German parliament. The festival began to celebrate the reunification of Germany. It is located in Michigan’s “Little Bavaria”. The event is sponsored by Munich-based brewer Hofbräuhaus.

This authentic Oktoberfest is filled with German beer, music, and food. It even features a weiner dog race based on the original Munich Oktoberfest horse races. 100 dachshunds compete for the title of “Michigan’s fastest wiener” while their fans drink and cheer them on.

In between the weiner dog races, there is plenty of beer drinking to be had. There’s also great German food and dancing, plus more beer drinking. Oh, and bouncy houses, plus more beer.

Location:  Frankenmuth, Michigan
Dates & Time:  September 14-17, 2017
Admission: $10 (Sunday free)

Trailing of the Sheep Festival

While technically not an agricultural harvest festival, the Trailing of the Sheep Festival celebrates local fall traditions that are important to the region. This unique celebration is  “preserving the stories and history of sheep ranchers and herders, celebrating the rich cultures of the past and present, and entertaining and educating children and adults about the production of local food and fiber that have sustained local economies for generations”. This small town festival is very unique!

In its 21st year, the Trailing of the Sheep Festival honors the tradition of trailing (moving) sheep from high summer mountain pastures to winter grazing areas. The festivities are filled with history, storytelling, dancing, music, a wool festival, and champion sheep dog trials. It’s been recognized repeatedly as one of the United States’ best fall festivals. Culinary lamb classes, specials from local restaurants, and a Love of Lamb Foodie Fest will fill your appetite.

Some of the highlights include farm-to-table lamb dinners, sheep shearing, and champion sheep dog trials.

Location:  Ketchum,bHailey, and Sun Valley , Idaho
Dates & Time:  October 4-8, 2017
Admission: Free (Activities range from $3-$100)

Fall Wine Festival and Sunset Tour

Located at President George Washington’s home, this festival celebrates local Virginia wineries. A more upscale festival experience, the Fall Wine Festival and Sunset Tour features live blues music, wine tasting, and a tour of Mount Vernon. 20 different Virginia wineries are featured. Visitors enjoy sitting on the East Lawn sipping local wine.

Our first president said, “I have long been of opinion from the spontaneous growth of the vine, that the climate and soil in many parts of Virginia were well fitted for Vineyards and that Wine, sooner or later would become a valuable article of produce.” Washington himself tried to make wine beginning in 1760. Slaves worked in his vineyard where he continued to experiment with varieties. Upon his wife’s death, Washington’s will instructed the slaves to be freed. This historical festival includes a visit to the basement where Washington stored his wines and information on his successes and failures in viticulture.

The wine-based tour of Mount Vernon is not to be missed, along with some great information on our first president.

Location:  Mount Vernon, Virginia
Dates & Time:  October 6-8, 2017
Admission: Friday $40, Saturday $48, Sunday $36

Fall officially begins with the autumnal equinox on Friday, September 22, 2017, though many small towns begin celebrations earlier. This season of harvest is honored in small towns across America. Each region has unique culinary flavors and traditions based on the harvest. Festivals are the perfect way to learn about history and enjoy local culture.

Harvest Festival 2017 Dates

  1. Frankenmuth Oktoberfest-Frankenmuth, MI; Sept. 14-17
  2. Cranberry Festival-Warrens, WI; Sept. 22-24
  3. Kona Coffee Cultural Festival-Kailua-Kona, HI; Oct. 3-12
  4. Trailing of the Sheep Festival-Ketchum, ID; Oct. 4-8
  5. Fall Wine Festival and Sunset Tour-Mount Vernon, VA; Oct. 6-8
  6. The National Apple Harvest Festival-Biglerville, PA; Oct. 7-8 & 14-15
  7. Hood River Valley Harvest Fest-Hood River, OR; Oct. 13-15
  8. Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival-Half Moon Bay, CA; Oct. 14-15
  9. The Circleville Pumpkin Show-Circleville, OH; Oct. 18-22
  10. International Rice Festival-Crowley, LA; Oct. 19-22