6 Fall Festivals Worth a Trip, From Pumpkin Spice to Halloween FrightsBy Jay Gentile
Fall doesn’t just mean pumpkins, football and the sound of crushed leaves beneath your feet. It also means festivals.
From beer, music and harvest fests to festivals dedicated to seasonal highlights, including Halloween and Oktoberfest, it’s time to carve out some more room in your autumn travel schedule and make your way over to these six fun fall festivals taking place around North America.
Dia de los Muertos: Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
One of the largest holidays in Mexico is no small deal in Puerto Vallarta, where the coastal city goes all out for a weeks-long celebration (mid-October to early November) that has been increasing in popularity in recent years as interest in Dia de los Muertos — Day of the Dead — has spiked.
With a variety of vibrant costume contests, literary workshops, artistic presentations, live concerts, a parade and, of course, tons of parties (this is Puerto Vallarta, after all), visitors are in for an all-sensory experience.
You’ll find plenty of sugar skull makeup and colorful Catrinas (the unofficial holiday mascot) that give off a festive vibe that is less in-your-face than Vallarta’s notoriously obnoxious spring break but still packs plenty of fun.
Columbus Day Harvest Fest and Brewfest: Stratton Mountain, Vermont
Everyone knows that Vermont is one of the best places on the planet for fall foliage, and the Green Mountain State becomes even more irresistible in the fall once its events are thrown into the mix.
Experience a crisp slice of the state’s famous small-town life at the ski resort of Stratton Mountain, whose Harvest Fest is the stuff of local legend. With events including a brew fest, chili cook-off, hayrides, live bands and scenic lift rides to the top of the mountain, the only thing that would be more fall than this would be diving into a pile of leaves. Which, of course, you are welcome to do.
Shrimp & Grits Festival: Jekyll Island, Georgia
For a true taste of the Southeast, you can’t beat this food-focused festival setting up shop in the affable coastal resort community of Jekyll Island.
Tucked away in the southeast corner of Georgia and boasting beautiful beaches and a charming historic district, the late-September Shrimp & Grits Festival takes place in various locations across the island’s National Historic Landmark District.
With a shrimp and grits cooking competition, craft beer fest, live music, local art and vendors, and … an escape room designed by the U.S. National Guard (!), there’s plenty of fun for everyone. The best part? You can access the party (and the island) by boat.
Halloween Spooktacular: Naples, Florida
For those unfamiliar with the upscale resort community of Naples, perched in prime sunset positioning along Florida’s scenic southwest coast, 5th Avenue South is where the action is. Which is a good thing, since the city’s annual Halloween Spooktacular takes place right along the most famous stretch of real estate in Naples.
Here you will find a family-friendly celebration that packs the streets with tens of thousands of revelers who come for the costume contests (human and pet), live music, games, street dancing, spooky movies, and trick or treating. And with the long hot Florida summer finally in the rearview, the weather is about as perfect as it gets.
Fall Joshua Tree Music Festival: Joshua Tree, California
Breathe in, breathe out. You’re in a safe place. And that place is Fall Joshua Tree Music Festival, a hippie-friendly gathering of all things “om.”
Find your Zen as you experience yoga on the beach, Burning Man–styled desert art, sound healing, a “positive vibration station” and some of best jam-worthy bands of our modern era, including the high-energy blues rockers North Mississippi All Stars and The California Honeydrops.
If that’s somehow not enough, the festival also includes “herbal elixir happy hours,” aerial fitness and a light-box photo booth. The event takes place at the Joshua Tree Lake Campground at the southern edge of the Mojave Desert, offering views of Joshua Tree National Park and some stunning starry skies.
Snowbird Oktoberfest: Snowbird, Utah
Utah isn’t exactly known for beer. Unless you’re talking Snowbird Oktoberfest in Utah’s beautiful ski resort of Snowbird, located just outside of the surprisingly hip Salt Lake City.
And Snowbird is quite serious about its Oktoberfest, which takes place every Saturday and Sunday from mid-August to mid-October with more than 50 varieties of beer on hand (German and local) alongside classic Oktoberfest cuisine (bratwurst, pretzels, etc.) at one of Utah’s largest festivals.
But, unlike most Oktoberfests, this one also includes an aerial tram and a bungee trampoline — offering the perfect opportunity to test out the durability of your new lederhosen.