Harvest season yields the sweetest crops – and the best festivals. We recently told you about our favorite spots for leaf peeping and eating throughout the Northeast; now, we’re spreading the love a little wider. Fall means pumpkins, and pumpkins mean fun, so here are our top picks for festivals that pay homage to these plump, happy gourds from coast to coast. From good eats to spooky treats, there’s a little something for everyone.
Circleville, Ohio Pumpkin Show (October 18–21)
Just 25 miles south of Columbus, Circleville, Ohio hosts a stunning fall festival that draws 400,000 visitors each year. Dozens of amusement rides, arts and crafts, and amazing fair food are all part of the draw. But the seven parades – focused on babies, pets, bands, and more – are all worth watching, too. Who will be crowned Miss Pumpkin and Little Miss Pumpkin this year? And how much will th elargest pumpkin weigh? You won’t know, unless you go.
Great Pumpkin Farm, Clarence, New York (through October 31)
The Great Pumpkin Farm‘s first claim to fame came in 1996, when its inaugural World Pumpkin Weigh-off landed it in the Guinness World Book of Records for the first 1,000-pound pumpkin. Since then this festival has continued to grow with rides and events. It’s the perfect place for some wholesome fun, fresh cider, and warm donuts. If that doesn’t sound good enough, head over to Oinktoberfest, a barbecue cook off and beer garden, or enter one of the farm’s wacky contests.
Pumpkintown U.S.A., East Hampton, Connecticut (through October 31)
Pumpkintown U.S.A. is cheerful village of pumpkin people with painted faces full of personality. Open for six weeks each fall, this totally non-scary spot is fun for families or curious visitors – who now come from all over the world to visit. Stroll through this old-fashioned country village, which includes a restaurant, saloon, jail, and church, then hit the Harvest Shop for handmade butters, spreads, candles, and more. Kids will also love the games, face painting, and bounce house.
Siegel’s Cottonwood Farm Pumpkin Fest, Lockport, Illinois (through October 31)
Good old-fashion fun is what you’ll find at Cottonwood Farm’s Pumpkin Fest. This fourth-generation family farm in Lockport, Illinois offers hayride tours of the farm where you can hop off and pick your own pumpkin right off the vine. Dozens of other attractions include zombie paintball, a 15-acre corn maze, a haunted barn, a massive trampoline field, and a visit with farm animals, plus tons of seasonal food.
Craven Farm, Snohomish, Washington (through October 31)
In 1983, Craven Farm created the first pumpkin patch in their region, with a vision of helping kids and families understand the importance of farming. Since then, their fall festival has developed into an agri-entertainment business that has kept the farm economy sustainable, even in uncertain times. Today, the 20-acre pumpkin patch, multiple corn mazes, mini-golf, and loads of other fun and games have delighted locals and tourists alike.
Jack-o-lantern Spectacular, Providence, Rhode Island (through November 5)
This incredible spectacle brings 5,000 carved pumpkins to the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, Rhode Island. Artfully and intricately designed, collections of pumpkins are grouped into themes such as dinosaurs, the ice age, Egypt, Rome, and the history of technology. New this year: A soaring zip line that takes you 115 feet in the air to view the entire event.
Autumn at the Arboretum, Dallas, Texas (through Nov 22)
The Dallas Arboretum is a gardener’s dream, and this stunning fall show has become a nationally acclaimed event, with 4,500 chrysanthemums and 150,000 other fall-blooming plants. This year’s theme, “The Wonderful World of Oz” brings Dorothy and her friends to the arboretum’s Pumpkin Village, with fantastical houses and displays made from more than 90,000 pumpkins, squash, and gourds.
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
- Dickens After Dark: A Halloween Special-Charles Dickens Museum; Oct. 26
- The Case of the Missing Monsters-Dorich House Museum; Oct.26-28
- Archives at Night: Cabinet of Curiosities-The National Archives; Oct. 27
- London’s Night Owls Halloween Sleepover-Museum of London; Oct. 27-28
- The Amazing Halloween Experience-London Canal Museum; Oct. 28-29
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
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)
KidSpy Overnight Operation Secret Slumber
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)
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
- Extra Innings Overnights-Cooperstown, NY; Oct. 21-22
- Night at the Museum Sleepover (Halloween)-New York, NY; Oct. 27-28
- Creepy Camp Roar & Snore Safari-Escondido, CA; Oct. 27-28
- KidSpy Overnight Operation Secret Slumber-Washington, DC; Nov. 4-5
- Penguins+Pajamas Sleepover-San Francisco, CA; Nov. 11-12
If being terrified brings you joy during the Halloween season, head to Philadelphia immediately to experience one of the scariest seasonal haunted attractions in the country. Terror Behind the Walls invites thrill seekers into the abandoned Eastern State Penitentiary, believed by some to be haunted by many of the prisoners who died there, to experience six separate scary attractions – all for one admission price.
Once inside the Fairmount neighborhood’s gothic-like prison built in 1829, brave guests will find themselves wandering through 10 acres of the old penitentiary for six different nightmare experiences.
- The Lockdown: Rioting zombie inmates have taken over the penitentiary. The zombie guards have lost control. Visitors may just become the next zombies.
- The Machine Shop: This interactive attraction takes visitors into cellblocks that the public has never been in before. Hidden deep inside the cellblocks is a long-forgotten machine shop. Evil pervades this space – an evil with one mind but with many bodies.
- The Infirmary: The Infirmary takes the fear of hospitals to a whole new level. Visitors discover the world of prison medical treatment, including shock therapy, hydrotherapy, and other torturous experiments gone wrong.
- Blood Yard: Visitors go deep within the prison to find a colony that leaves behind a trail of gnawed bones and decaying flesh. It’s hunt or be hunted. The carnage sends a clear message: you could be next.
- Quarantine 4D: This attraction takes a look into the world of prison medical treatment. Visitors experience mind altering effects and blurry vision. Flat walls appear to have depth, creatures emerge from nowhere, and fears will be faced.
- Breakout: Visitors find their own way out of Terror Behind the Walls, surrounded by inmates who may use them in any way imaginable to gain their freedom.
One of the scariest things about Terror Behind the Walls may be learning about the treatment of the former prisoners. After finding their way out, visitors have complimentary access to the no-contact visiting rooms for inmates where they can watch a video about the penitentiary’s history and also read about its past.
To Touch or Not
Everyone who enters Terror Behind the Walls gets the option to go through the attraction untouched by the actors or to get marked as someone who is willing to be fully immersed in the experience. Those who chose the mark may be grabbed, taken into cellblocks, separated from their group, and possibly become part of the show itself.
Those who want to be treated more importantly while they’re having the pants scared off of them can pay for one of these extra experiences.
- The Quick Pass: Gives guests front-of-line access at their appointed time. Without the quick pass, the wait me be half an hour to get in.
- The Hex Challenge: Before entering each of the six attractions, Hex challengers enter a secret room where they step further into the story, become part of the action and join forces with the zombies. It’s a physically challenging extra with requirements to crawl and fit into tight spaces. Those who aren’t up to the physical challenge or pregnant women are not permitted to participate.
- Fright and Bite Dinner Packages: Make a reservation at one of the participating neighborhood restaurants for a Halloween-themed meal, and the Terror Behind the Walls tickets are delivered with dessert.
- After Dark VIP Tour: Before entering the attractions at the front of the line, the tour is an hour-long, guided flashlight walk through the penitentiary that may include cellblocks, underground punishment cells and the operating room.
All proceeds from Terror Behind the Walls goes to the Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, Inc., a 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit that helps operate and preserve the penitentiary – a National Historic Landmark.
Terror Behind the Walls runs on select evenings between September 22 and November 11, 2017. Tickets vary depending on the day and time. General admission tickets range from $19-$45 online ($25-$50 at the door). Weekends are more expensive with the three weekends leading up to Halloween are the most expensive and mid-week visits the least expensive.
With its pretty coastline, Galway is often thought of as a popular destination for summer. But with its Bohemian vibe, arts scene, and buzzing nightlife, this city on Ireland’s west coast is a great stop at any time of year. It’s especially tantalizing during the last weekend of September when, every year since 1954, the Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival brings foodies galore to town (This year’s event will be held September 22–24.) Oyster shucking contests, talks, and tasting events are all on the menu – as are champagne and stout beers, of course.
If you’re heading to the festivities, you’ll want to partake in the local culture, too. Which, of course, means heading to the pub for a pint (or two). Beloved by tourists and locals alike, here are five pubs worth bellying up to:
It’s all about the music at this charming spot, located in the heart of the city’s Latin Quarter. Here at Tig Coili, where many of the area’s best players are drawn, you’re likely to catch a lively session of traditional tunes. Fancy a seat outside? You’ll still be in luck; excellent regular buskers tend to play just outside the front door.
Open fireplaces, live music, and an artsy, intellectual vibe can be found between the walls at Tigh Neachtain, also located in the Galway’s Latin Quarter. If beer’s not always your thing, don’t worry – whiskey is theirs. Choose from more than 130 varieties to sip on. Since 1894, this traditional pub has been a gathering place for eclectic crowds, and to this day it attracts actors, musicians, artists, business people, and tourists alike.
Popular with a younger crowd, Bierhaus supplies an outstanding selection of regional and international craft brews that would surely get any American beer snob excited. But you don’t have to don a manicured beard to feel at home here – the diverse crowd is friendly and warm. Tucked into Galway’s West End neighborhood, Bierhaus has a fresh take on music and food – offering gourmet sandwiches like Banh Mi in place of traditional fish and chips.
Yes, it’s listed in every tourist guide, but there’s a definite reason why. For almost 400 years, The Quays has served the good people of Galway and it’s happy to serve you, too. A beautiful stage and pipe organ serve as backdrop for the lively bands that play at Galway’s most famous and historic drinking establishment.
Housed in a historic building, this three-story bar is large, but its interior spaces are inviting and cozy. On the ground floor of Monroe’s Tavern, you’ll encounter traditional Irish dancing and song, along with hearty pub fare. Head upstairs later in the evening, where the crowd favors more contemporary bands and a club-like scene seven nights a week. A Galway institution, Monroe’s has been family-owned for decades.
Summer may be behind us here in the Northern Hemisphere, but that doesn’t mean you have to leave its good vibes behind. If you’re looking for a getaway, there are still plenty of good times to be had. Whether the festival circuit is your thing, you’re overdue to connect with nature, or you just have vacation time to use up, consider one of these off-the-beaten path adventures. From a celebration of cetaceans to famous bluegrass fiddlers, there’s a lot to do at these lesser known – but highly entertaining – festivals around the globe.
MASS MoCA Fresh Grass Festival, North Adams, Massachusetts
Located on 16 acres in bucolic, western Massachusetts, MASS MoCA revitalized the desolate industrial town of North Adams when it opened in 1999. Since then, the massive museum has grown to 28 buildings encompassing 500,000 square feet (with another 200,000 left to build out). This month, it hosts the bi-annual Fresh Grass Festival (September 15–17), where every inch of the museum’s campus becomes a pickers paradise, with fiddlers, mandolinists, singers, and more performing across stages and galleries. Pop-up shows and pros jamming out with fans are par for the course – which means you could be rubbing shoulders with names like Brandi Carlisle, Shovels and Rope, Del McCoury, and Son Little, among loads of other talent.
Life Is Beautiful, Las Vegas, Nevada
The Life Is Beautiful Festival, a three-day romp (September 22–24) through downtown Vegas, may change your whole perspective on the City of Sin. Forget gambling in daylight-dismissive casinos, this celebration of music, art, food, and ideas brings together acts like Gorillaz and Chance the Rapper, with food by Vegas’s top chefs. Dozens of artists from around the country also descend on the city, transforming its walls into a mind-blowing – and massive – outdoor gallery. If dusty fields and muddy tents just aren’t your thing, this urban extravaganza might be; it brings the full festival vibe – plus trendy cocktails (hey, it is Las Vegas, after all) – without all the dirt.
Galway International Seafood and Oyster Festival, Galway, Ireland
Oyster-loving Europeans have known about the Galway International Seafood and Oyster Festival (September 22–24) for a while, but news of its popularity is just starting to spread stateside. Shucking contests, tasting events, and celebrity chefs are all on the agenda – and we’re pretty sure people are throwing back a few pints of Guinness, too.
The Social Festival, Maidstone, England
Some of the electronic music scene’s brightest stars will show up at The Social Festival (September 29–30), which describes itself as “bringing a taste of Ibiza to the south east of England.” Celebrating its fifth anniversary this year, The Social is spread out across four giant arenas with a lineup that includes Carl Cox, Black Coffee, The Martinez Brothers, and festival founder, Nic Fanciulli. No matter the stage, electronic music fans are guaranteed a place to dance their asses off.
Hermanus Whale Festival, Hermanus, South Africa
This town on the southernmost tip of Africa leaps to life each year when it hosts the Hermanus Whale Festival (September 29–October 1) to celebrate, respect, and preserve marine wildlife. Sporting events, family activities, craft shows, an eco-village, and musical entertainment are all on the docket, but whale-watching, of course, is the main event. Ecologically-sensitive tours on land, air, and sea provide nature lovers and eco-tourists with thrilling views of majestic Southern Right whales as they return to their part-time home along the Cape Whale Coast.
As far as locations to drink beer go, Munich rates pretty high on the bucket list. After my first night there, I woke up with a large bruise between my thumb and index finger – from lifting and swilling liters of beer at the Haufbrauhaus the evening before. (How do those beer maidens do it?) I also ended up on the lap of a man in lederhosen. On stage. In an Oompah band. But that’s another story.
If you’re headed to Oktoberfest, you’ve probably already sussed out the 15-plus beer tents that are part of this massive festival. But there’s so much more to Munich than beer. If you decide to take a short break from drinking, there’s plenty else to take in.
Munich is the capital city of the German state of Bavaria, and the country’s third largest city. Home to centuries-old buildings and cutting-edge architecture, it houses a fascinating array of art and culture. In the city center lies the Marienplatz, a great place for a stroll and some fabulous people-watching at one of the many cafes. Located in the Altstadt (Old Town), this square houses landmarks including the neo-Gothic Neues Rathaus (New Town hall). The building’s famous glockenspiel, a cuckoo clock of sorts, is built of chimes and life-size figures. Twice a day – at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. – the glockenspiel reenacts fanciful stories from the 16th century.
St. Peter’s Church has been standing since the 11th century, and after many renovations and additions, it tells the story of time itself. Climbing the tower’s 299 stairs is worth it for a stunning view of the city. If the workout leaves you hungry, check out the Viktualienmarkt (Farmers’ Market) next door to find some delicious, local eats.
Considered a seminal symbol of the city, the Cathedral Church of Our Lady is also located in Munich’s Old Town. Dating back to 1468, this Gothic masterpiece was heavily damaged by air strikes during World War II, but has since been rebuilt. Climb the south tower – topped by an onion dome – for fantastic views of the city and even, on a clear day, the Alps.
Not far from the Marienplatz, the Odeonsplatz is lined with ornate 19th century buildings like the Feldherrnhalle, which was built in the 1840s in honor of the Bavarian Army. To the west, the bright yellow Theatiner Church, was built in 1662; it’s all-white interior will amaze you. The Residenz Munich is an impressive and stately palace that was built for the monarchs of Bavaria; today it’s a museum open to visitors who can peruse its lavish interiors and royal artifacts. The adjoining Hofgarten (courtyard) is a peaceful place to sit and take in the views, or relax. Beyond it lies the entrance to the Englischer Garten, a huge urban park with miles of walking trails, as well as a lakeside beer garden (just in case you start craving a brew).
West of the Englischer Garten, the Nymphemburg Palace sits on a 500-acre estate. Originally the summer residence of Bavarian monarchs, highlights include intricately painted ceiling frescoes, rococo furnishings, and expansive baroque gardens.
But Munich’s alluring – and enduring – design isn’t limited to ancient history. Marvels of modern architecture abound. The Allianz Arena – the 75,000-seat home to the Bayern Munich soccer team – was built by renowned architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron, with an inflatable plastic exterior that changes color. Other sporty design includes Olympiapark, site of the 1972 Olympic Games, which was remade into a beautifully landscaped sports facility with bicycle paths, concert venues, and restaurants.
With a such a broad and rich history, it’s no surprise Munich has its share of world-class museums featuring everything from medieval to modern art.
The futuristic BMW Museum, with its gleaming silver exterior, will delight car lovers with vintage and cutting-edge cars, as well as history of design. The Deutsches (German) Museum, is a 540,000 square foot homage to humankind’s technological achievements and understanding of science. At the Judisches (Jewish) Museum, visitors can engage in a rich and vast display of Jewish history, art, and culture that goes well beyond Germany’s borders. The Pinakothek der Moderne, meanwhile, is one of the world’s largest spaces dedicated to art, architecture, and design of the 20th and 21st centuries.
From September 7-24, Philadelphia hosts the 2017 Philly Fringe Festival, a 17-day, genre-bending arts extravaganza. This hotly-anticipated annual event features 130+ performances like adult-only puppetry, fetishy dances, and poetry married with 80s-era answering machines, but there’s stuff for the kids, too.
Highlights of Philly Fringe
Since 130+ performances divided by 17 days equals you can’t get to them all, you’ll have to pick and choose from all the worthy acts. Decision-making can get dizzying, so here’s a smattering of highlights from various genres – even though it’s tough to pick highlights from Philly Fringe’s embarrassment-of-riches schedule of events.
Labor of Love: Waitstaff Sketch Comedy, Philadelphia’s premier sketch comedy troupe, returns for its 16th Fringe Fest performing original sketches that run from “silly to sophisticated” and “rude to ridiculous.” It’s a safe bet the popular Real Housewives of South Philly will show up at some of the performances. (L’Etage Cabaret; 13 performances from Sept. 8-23)
Puppet-delphia Fringe Slam: An adults-only, late-night variety puppet show where both the puppets and their humans get “risky and frisky.” Musical acts and special guest stars join puppeteers from Philly, NYC, and beyond to share the stage with puppets for a wide-range of acts. (The Drake-Proscenium Theater; Sept. 23)
KINK HAÜS: Philadelphia-based choreographer and performance artist, Gunnar Montana, transports the audience to a brutal underground nightclub where “no f*cks are given, and fierceness is always welcome.” Anything goes at this performance of fantasy, fetish, and carnal desire. (The Latvian Society; 19 performances from Sept. 5-24)
Way of Words: Interactive poetry and visual arts collide with the muse of memory and the “urban wilderness” of Germantown where everyone is invited to write and read poetry, paint, collage, or just watch others experimenting with their creativity. A musical performance shows up somewhere in there, too. This is one of the many free events during Philly Fringe Fest. (Herman St. Studios; September 22-23)
Camper Fringe: Inside the Haas Biergarten at FringeArts is a 1962 Nomad camper where some definitely fringe-y action happens before and after various performances. On any given night there are tarot card readings, an interactive experience called Voicemail Poems that travels way, way back to the days of analog voice mail machines, or an oh-so-secret black market operation that sells small, intimate performances. (FringeArts; various days during Fringe Fest)
Sure, there’s a lot at Fringe that goes above the heads of tots, but they don’t have to be left completely out of the fun. Get the younguns excited about the arts with several Fringe performances like the Liberty City Radio Theatre recreating the “golden era of the theater of the mind.” Actors will play multiple roles and create an old-time radio show written for modern audiences. The two performances during Fringe will vary but will include a “dash of superheroes, a pinch of noir and an ample serving of humor.” (Headhouse Cafe; Sept. 8 and 22 at 8pm)
If you’re going
- With so many performances, the Festival Guide is your best friend. It’s online, but guide books are also distributed throughout the city.
- Students, and those 25 and under, can get $15 Presented Fringe Festival tickets and $5 off Neighborhood Fringe Festival tickets, if the original price is $15 or more.
- Get tickets early. About 40,000 fringe-y arts lovers attend the festival, and some events sell out quickly.
- Philadelphia’s St. Benjamin’s Brewing produced a special beer in honor of the fest, Fringe Benefits – a hoppy American ale brewed with heather. It’s available at Le Peg, at FringeArts, and St. Benjamin’s Tap Room, both excellent choices to grab a bite during Fringe Fest.
Sure, summer along the northeast Atlantic coast is gorgeous, but fall is really the region’s time to shine. Come September and October, leaves turn to breathtaking shades of apricot, gold, and fiery red. The days are still warm and sunny, but with just the right touch of coolness in the air. And – oh! – the food. Harvest season yields the crispest apples, pumpkins aplenty, and loads of other delicious produce, and cooler seas mean shellfish is at its best. Your generic pumpkin spice latte might hint at the flavors of the season, but for an authentic experience, here are 9 fall festivals and country fairs in New England and Canada that deliver the best autumn has to offer.
Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom Annual Fall Foliage Festival, Various Towns, Vermont
Not only is Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom one of the most beautiful spots in New England, it’s one of the prettiest places in the world. Located on the border of Canada, this region is prime leaf-peeping territory, and the Northeast Kingdom Annual Fall Foliage Festival (October 2–8) couldn’t be more quaint. This week-long event http://www.nekchamber.com/media/2017%20NEK%20FFF.pdf travels through seven towns, with driving tours that take you off the beaten path through hillside country roads to meet artisans at their homes, where they’ll feed you soup and sandwiches. Musical acts, family-style barbecues, historic mill visits, pancake breakfasts, and maple syrup sugar houses are all on the agenda. Sign up for as many – or as few – activities as you wish.
New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival, Laconia, New Hampshire
With more than 20,000 jack-o-lanterns, the New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival is a sight to behold. This two-day event (October 13th–14th) brings more than 40,000 people, 50 food and crafts vendors, live bands, carnival rides, and kids’ games together to celebrate all things fall in the town of Laconia. Last year’s event brought glory to the state’s Lakes Region when the festival regained its Guinness Book of World Records title for “Most Lit Jack-o-Lanterns Displayed”; efforts are in place to keep that title for 2017.
Freeport Fall Festival, Freeport, Maine
Best known as the home of L.L. Bean, Freeport, Maine is a bustling town on the southern coast. Its annual Freeport Fall Festival (October 6–8), brings together more than 125 New England artists and makers, live music, and fantastic local food, including a “Chowdah Challenge,” where visitors sample and vote for Freeport’s best chowder. Hosted on the L.L.Bean campus and the Freeport Village Station Plaza, the event is free and includes activities for the whole family. While you’re there, take a stroll through the hundreds of great stores, outlets, and boutiques located within walking distance of the festival, then hit up Maine Beer Company, one of the best local breweries around.
Fall Foliage Festival, Boothbay, Maine
Take a ride through history, while enjoying peak foliage season in Boothbay, Maine, when you visit the 50th Annual Fall Foliage Festival over Columbus Day weekend (October 7–9) at the Boothbay Railway Village. Beautiful crafts are front and center on the quaint Village Green, but a ride on the narrow gauge steam train is the real highlight, as you pass by gorgeous surroundings. Artisan demonstrations, live music, and a pumpkin carving contest add to the fun for all ages.
The Big E, West Springfield, Massachusetts
Officially called The Eastern States Exposition, but known to all as simply “The Big E,” this massive multi-state fair held in West Springfield, Massachusetts is the largest agricultural event on the eastern seaboard. Cooking expos, circus spectaculars, parades, country music, antique tractor shows, and an incredible butter sculpture are all part of the fun. But the fair is a functional expo, too, with farmers and ranchers participating in daily livestock shows and agricultural demonstrations. When you’ve had your fill of fair food, craft vendors, and carnival rides, move along to the competitions, where young steer workers, 4-H clubs, alpaca farmers, sheep dog handlers, cider millers, wreath makers, and far more come together to be judged on their crafts. From September 15 to October 1, nothing says fall in New England like The Big E.
Norman Bird Sanctuary’s 43rd Annual Harvest Fair, Middletown, Rhode Island
Newport, Rhode Island has become a year-round destination for tourists, and autumn is one of the best times to visit. Just four miles from the touristy city center, the Norman Bird Sanctuary in Middletown offers country charm and respite. Warm and sunny days make the end of September the perfect time for this nature preserve’s old-fashioned Harvest Fair (September 30–October 1), with it’s pony rides, mud pit tug-of-war, and greased-pole climbing contest. Food trucks and vendors bring farm-fresh local treats to the scene, alongside a beer garden and craft tents. Potato sack races, kids’ crafts, and Native American song and dance make this a beautiful way to spend a fall day with your family.
Fall Flavours Festival, Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island offers all the beauty and coastal charm that any traveler could want along the Atlantic Ocean. From the beginning of September through October 1, the Fall Flavours Festival attracts visitors and locals alike with the culinary delights of the island. Events include mussels and lobster boils, grilled cheese challenges, beachside feasts, and brewmasters dinners. Want to get more hands-on? You can head to Culinary Boot Camp or pick potatoes, catch lobsters, and harvest oysters with the pros. Celebrity chefs, including Lynn Crawford and Corbin Tomaszeski of the Food Network, among many others, head up several events. While there, don’t miss out on the island’s gorgeous fall foliage. Stroll the red clay roads, which are lined with brightly colored leaves, or rent a bike and hit the 270-mile Confederation Trail; built on old railroad tracks, it passes through the woods and along the coastline.
Pumpkin Festival and Regatta, Windsor, Nova Scotia
In western Nova Scotia, size matters – especially when it comes to pumpkins. The town of Windsor describes itself as Big Pumpkin Country, and that’s no joke. At its annual Pumpkin Festival and Regatta (October 9), the pumpkin weigh-in contest frequently yields entrants at over 1,000 pounds, and it’s not unheard of for blue ribbons (well, orange, actually) to go to gourds weighing more than a ton. Brave souls also race across Lake Pezaquid in massive, hollowed-out pumpkins, paddling for prizes in their painted makeshift vessels. Pretty autumn leaves serve as the perfect backdrop for spectators of all ages to cheer them on.
Celtic Colours International Festival, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Northeast of Windsor, Cape Breton Island comes alive for leaf peepers and music lovers alike when the Celtic Colours International Festival conjures the spirit of the Emerald Isle for nine days. Musicians from around the world share stages with Cape Breton’s best singers, dancers, and storytellers during concerts, activities, and events held in celebration of the community’s rich Irish heritage. The festival will be held October 6–14, when the leaves of Cape Breton have fully blossomed into vibrant in red, yellow, and orange splendor.
Northeastern Fall Festivals by date:
September 1–October 1
Fall Flavours Festival, Prince Edward Island
September 15–October 1
The Big E, West Springfield, Massachusetts
September 30–October 1
Norman Bird Sanctuary’s 43rd Annual Harvest Fair, Middletown, Rhode Island
Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom Annual Fall Foliage Festival, Various Towns, Vermont
Freeport Fall Festival, Freeport, Maine
Celtic Colours International Festival, Cape Breton, Novia Scotia
Fall Foliage Festival, Boothbay, Maine
Pumpkin Festival and Regatta, Windsor, Nova Scotia
New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival, Laconia, New Hampshire
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
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
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
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
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
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
- Frankenmuth Oktoberfest-Frankenmuth, MI; Sept. 14-17
- Cranberry Festival-Warrens, WI; Sept. 22-24
- Kona Coffee Cultural Festival-Kailua-Kona, HI; Oct. 3-12
- Trailing of the Sheep Festival-Ketchum, ID; Oct. 4-8
- Fall Wine Festival and Sunset Tour-Mount Vernon, VA; Oct. 6-8
- The National Apple Harvest Festival-Biglerville, PA; Oct. 7-8 & 14-15
- Hood River Valley Harvest Fest-Hood River, OR; Oct. 13-15
- Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival-Half Moon Bay, CA; Oct. 14-15
- The Circleville Pumpkin Show-Circleville, OH; Oct. 18-22
- International Rice Festival-Crowley, LA; Oct. 19-22