Great fall festivals

Here are the best of the autumn fests in 2022.

Civil War re-enactors march at Norskedalen.
Re-enactors march through Norskedalen during Civil War Weekend in southwest Wisconsin.

Fall is made for festivals. It's harvest time, and the fields and orchards are overflowing. Trees turn red and gold. And it's the last time we'll enjoy warm weather until spring.

The many people who heed the urge to get out and about on crisp autumn weekends make it the busiest tourist season of the year.

Any town that can hold a fall festival does, and well-established ones, such as Bayfield's Apple Festival (see Big apples ), become almost too popular.

Other festivals also attract big crowds --- Cranberry Fest in west-central Wisconsin, the Fall Art Tour in southwest Wisconsin --- and people who haven't reserved lodgings may not be able to get them.

All Oktoberfest celebrations are popular; for a list, see Toasting Oktoberfest .

But small festivals also attract a lot of people, and leaf-peepers will be out en masse in the north woods and along the St. Croix and Mississippi rivers; see Great fall drives .

Many people combine scenic drives with artist tours; see Autumn in the studios .

So if you want to travel in fall, plan ahead.

Here are the best fall fests in 2022 .

Before you go, check to verify dates and to make sure you catch the best parts of a festival, especially the parades.

For festivals you can combine with a bike ride, see Bash on a bike trail .

For events year-round, see the Events Calendar .

A carriage race at Villa Louis.
Drivers in vintage clothes race carriages during the Carriage Classic at Villa Louis.

Second weekend in September

Defeat of Jesse James Days in Northfield, MN In this college town south of the Twin Cities, there's a fine-arts festival, tractor pulls, a bike tour, reenactments of the famous bank raid and a Sunday parade. Sept. 7--11.

Sandwich Fair in Sandwich, IL This northeast Illinois fair, held since 1888, features exhibits, entertainment and music plus harness racing, tractor pulls and demolition derbies. Sept. 7--11.

James J. Hill Days in Wayzata, MN This Minneapolis suburb features a street market and carnival, dachshund races, a craft-beer fest, logrolling and fireworks on Saturday and a parade on Sunday. Sept. 9--11.

Villa Louis Carriage Classic in Prairie du Chien, WI The Victorian estate on the Mississippi River hosts horses, restored carriages and drivers in period dress for competitive arena and cross-country sport driving, a passion of the frontier aristocrats who built it. Sept. 9--11.

Harvest Moon Festival in Ely, MN In Whiteside Park, there's an arts fair plus music, an old-time medicine show and pony rides and a petting zoo for kids. Sept. 9--11.

Ethnic Fest in Walker, MN Alphornists, Scandinavian dancers and Anishinaabe drum and dance corps perform in this town on the shores of Leech Lake. There's also a parade. Sept. 10.

Little Falls Arts & Crafts Fair in Little Falls, MN This large fair, with nearly 600 artists, includes a car show and an antiques and collectibles section as well as a Man Cave. Sept. 10--11.

St. Paul Classic Bike Tour in St. Paul, MN Ride a 1-, 29- or 32-mile route along the Mississippi, lakes Como and Phalen and St. Paul parkways, starting and ending at Como Park Pavilion and punctuated by food and live music. Sept. 11.

Scandinavian Day in South Elgin, IL This festival in Vasa Park, along the Fox River, features music, dancing, food and crafts from the Nordic countries. Sept. 11.

Dachshund races at a festival.
Dachshund races are held at many fall festivals.

Third weekend in September

Pumpkin Festival in Morton, IL This town near Peoria, home of the Libby's pumpkin-packing plant, calls itself the Pumpkin Capital of the World. The festival features pumpkin-boat races, pumpkin decorating, pie-eating contests, a craft fair, a pumpkin-pancake breakfast and a 10:30 a.m. Saturday parade. Sept. 14--17.

Oktoberfest in Chippewa Falls, WI Meet the Narren, enter a sauerkraut-eating contest, listen to polka and zydeco and watch the daily parade. Sept. 16--17.

Wo-Zha-Wa Days in Wisconsin Dells, WI There's a juried arts and crafts show, a flea maraket, a street carnival and a parade Sunday. Sept. 16--18.

World Food & Music Festival in Des Moines, IA In downtown's East Village, eat at more than 50 cultural cafes for $5 or less (or taste for $1), shop at the world marketplace or listen to musicians strolling the streets or on stage. Sept. 16--18.

Cheese Days in Monroe, WI This festival is held every other year in the capital of cheese country, the home of Swiss Colony and the last Limburger factory. There's a cow-milking contest, yodeling, dancing, tours and a big parade Sunday. Sept. 16--18.

Grape Stomp in Alexandria, MN Carlos Creek Winery hosts this festival, which features music on two stages, an art fair, grape stomps and "I Love Lucy" look-alike contests.   Sept. 16--18.

Riot Fest in Chicago, IL This Douglas Park music festival also features a circus sideshow revue and carnival. Sept. 16--18.

Wauktoberfest in Waunakee, WI This town just north of Madison celebrates with a craft-beer tasting, bike tour, music and lots of contests: frau carrying, yodeling, beer keg race, dachshund dash and Limburger cheese and sauerkraut eating. Sept. 16--18.

Mahkato Wacipi in Mankato, MN This traditional powwow in Land of Memories Park commemorates the 38 Dakota who were hanged after the 1862 U.S.-Dakota war. Sept. 16--18.

Gemuetlichkeit Days in Jefferson, WI This festival between Madison and Milwaukee is named for the German word for a cozy and congenial atmosphere. It includes sauerkraut-eating, nail-driving, facial hair and costume contests, a vintage car show, music and a parade at noon Sunday. Sept. 16--18.

Hot Air Balloon Days in Creston, IA In this town southwest of Des Moines, there are balloon races and night glows, a parade with marching-band contest, an arts and crafts fair and a flea market. Sept. 16--18.

Scarecrow Fest in Phelps, WI See early fall color around this town in Nicolet National Forest. There's pumpkin-chucking, pumpkin and scarecrow contests, a craft fair, car show, hay rides and free chili and deep-fried pickles. Sept. 17.

Party on the Pavement in Racine, WI Racine's biggest street festival features stages of entertainment and a car show, art walk, carnival rides and zones for kids and sports. Sept. 17.

Harvest Fest & Street Art Auction in Sturgeon Bay, WI This street party includes a car show, cornhole and chalk-art contests, music and artisans and winds up with the auction of 25 artist-created cherries. Sept. 17.

Wine & Harvest Festival in Cedarburg, WI There's a pumpkin regatta --- yes, people paddling hollowed-out pumpkins across Cedar Creek --- at the fest in this historic mill town just north of Milwaukee. There's also a scarecrow contest, grape stomp, hay rides, juried arts fair and lots of food. Sept. 17--18.

Vintage Illinois Wine Festival in Utica, IL This festival in northwest Illinois features live music and wine-tasting from 25 Illinois vineyards. Sept. 17--18.

Apple Days in Excelsior, MN On the shore of Lake Minnetonka, there's a history tour, apple pie-eating contest, music and a street dance. Sept. 17--18.

Fourth weekend of September

Boats and Bluegrass in Winona, MN This family-oriented festival in Prairie Island Park, on the Mississippi River, features disc golf and paddling as well as music. A weekend pass includes camping and canoeing, and kids under 16 are free with an adult ticket. Buy tickets early to save money. Sept. 22--25.

Oktoberfest in New Glarus, WI There will be music, wagon rides, chainsaw carving, children's activities and, of course, beer from New Glarus Brewing. Sept. 22--25.

Fall Fest in Cable, WI In the colorful northwest Wisconsin woods, there'll be hay rides, corn maze, a chili cook-off, fish boil, arts and crafts and fireworks. Sept. 23--24.

Oktoberfest in Des Moines, IA Take polka-dancing lessons, enter the Bier Maiden or stein-holding contests and win costume prizes at this outdoor fest under tents downtown. Sept. 23--24.

Apple Festival in Gays Mills, WI There'll be arts and crafts and music in this southwest Wisconsin village. The big parade is Sunday. Sept. 23--25.

Cranberry Festival in Warrens, WI At this huge festival in west-central Wisconsin, there'll be marsh tours, pie-eating contests and more than 1,000 booths selling antiques, produce and arts and crafts.  Sept. 23--25.

Harvest Fair in West Allis, WI This free festival at the Wisconsin State Fairgrounds features lumberjack shows, pumpkin bowling, scarecrow-making, kids' rides and entertainment on three stages. Sept. 23--25.

Fall Festival in Hayward, WI There's an arts and crafts fair, children's games, contests and live music downtown. Sept. 24.

Johnny Appleseed Festival in Crystal Lake, IL In this northwest suburb of Chicago, there's pumpkin bowling, a pumpkin train and petting zoo, apple contests, music and a craft fair. Sept. 24.

Doors Open Milwaukee in Milwaukee, WI More than 150 historic buildings --- theaters, breweries, mansions, cathedrals, hotels, museums --- are open to the public, and many offer free guided tours. More than three dozen in-depth walking tours also are offered but sell out quickly. Sept. 24--25.

Cheese Days parade in Monroe.
Bernese mountain dogs pull a flower cart during the Cheese Days parade in Monroe.

First weekend in October

Grundy County Corn Festival in Morris, IL The festival in this town on the Illinois River between Ottawa and Joliet offers stagecoach and train rides, a crackerbox derby, a pie-eating contest, music, a carnival, Saturday fireworks and a parade at 2 p.m. Sunday. Sept. 28--Oct. 2.

Oktoberfest in La Crosse, WI At this big riverfront festival, there's food, music and carnival rides, plus the opening Torchlight Parade and the Maple Leaf Parade on Saturday morning. Sept. 29--Oct. 1.

Oktoberfest in Amana, IA There's German music and food at this Amana Colonies village, plus contests that include the Eisenmann, or Iron Man, competition: Teams roll kegs, walk a balance beam with full steins of beer and saw logs. The parade is at 10 a.m. Saturday. Sept. 30--Oct. 2.

Northeast Iowa Artists' Studio Tour in Decorah area, IA Drive through scenic bluff country to see 42 artists at 31 sites around Decorah, Burr Oak, St. Lucas, Waukon, West Union, Cresco, New Albin, Lansing, Elgin and Clermont. Sept. 30--Oct. 2.

Apple Affair in Galesville, WI In the bluffs above Trempealeau, this festival features a 10-foot apple pie, a hunt for a Silver Apple, a race of floating wooden apples and a bicycle tour with a 20-mile route through apple orchards and hillier 35- and 60-mile routes. Oct. 1.

Oktoberfest in Cedarburg, WI This festival just north of Milwaukee features music and food plus goofy contests: best lederhosen/dirndl, sauerkraut-eating, a German spelling bee and a live Glockenspiel show. Oct. 1--2.

Giant Pumpkin Fest in Nekoosa, WI This town near Wisconsin Rapids calls itself the Giant Pumpkin Capital of Wisconsin and features a pumpkin-pie eating contest, pumpkin rolling and carving, a carnival and craft show. Oct. 1--2.

Fall Village Market in Mount Horeb, WI This town west of Madison offers vintage and handmade goods, live music and food trucks.   Oct. 1--2.

Rivertown Fall Art Festival in Stillwater, MN This juried arts festival along the banks of the St. Croix River includes music and food vendors. Oct. 1--2.

Cranberry Fest in Eagle River, WI In this northeast Wisconsin lakes town, there will be marsh tours, music, a cranberry beer and wine garden, an antiques market, fiber-art show and crafts fair. Oct. 1--2.

Fermentation Fest in Sauk City, WI This fest in the scenic hills of southwest Wisconsin is not only about pickles and sourdough bread but also cheese, chocolate, beer and wine. There will be demos, tastings, music, art, dance and Scandinavian cow calling. One of the most popular features is the 50-mile Farm/Art DTour driving (or bicycling) loop, lined with art installations. Oct. 1--10.

Second weekend of October

Fermentation Fest in Sauk City, WI This fest in the scenic hills of southwest Wisconsin is not only about pickles and sourdough bread but also cheese, chocolate, beer and wine. There will be demos, tastings, music, art, dance and Scandinavian cow calling. One of the most popular features is the 50-mile Farm/Art DTour driving (or bicycling) loop, lined with art installations. Oct. 1--10.

Twin Cities Oktoberfest in St. Paul, MN This festival at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds features craft beer, music, dancing and such competitions as stein-holding and nail-striking. Oct. 7--8.

Apple Festival in Bayfield, WI It's the 61st year of this big festival on Lake Superior, which features  orchard tours, history walks, an apple-peeling contest, live music and a big parade at 2 p.m. Sunday. Oct. 7--9.

Pumpkin Festival in Highwood, IL Every year, this northern suburb of Chicago tries to break the record for most lighted jack-o-lanterns. In addition to all-you-can-carve stations, there will be costume, pie-eating and carving contests. Oct. 7--9.

Covered Bridge Studio Tour in Cedarburg, WI This studio tour in eastern Wisconsin includes more than 60 artists in Cedarburg, Grafton, Port Washington, Mequon, Thiensville and Newburg.   Oct. 7--9.

Jack O' Lantern Festival in Spooner, WI There's a pumpkin-carving and scarecrow-making contests, kids' inflatables, pumpkin roll and, in the evening, a zombie run in the forest, bonfires and live music. Oct. 8.

Harvest Fest in Wausau, WI On the 400 Block downtown, there will be free pumpkins, kids' tractor pulls, a petting zoo and other children's activities. Oct. 8.

Galena Country Fair in Galena, IL There's a juried fine arts/arts and crafts fair, farmers market, wine garden, bake shop, music and children's games in Grant Park. Oct. 8--9.

Scenic Drive Festival in Van Buren County, IA In the southeast corner of Iowa, 11 villages feature quilt shows, scarecrow contests, bake sales, tours of historic sites, wine tasting and street fairs. Oct. 8--9.

Harvest Fest in Stillwater, MN In this river town, there will be a pumpkin pie-eating contest, a pumpkin regatta on the St. Croix, a microbrew tasting and a pedal tractor pull. Oct. 8--9.

Laura look-alikes compete in Pepin.
Laura look-alikes compete during Laura Ingalls Wilder Days in Pepin, Wis.

Third weekend of October

Chicago International Film Festival in Chicago, IL Watch more than 80 films and 60 programs of shorts from around the world. Oct. 12--23.

Fall Festival in Sister Bay, WI This Door County festival features pumpkin bowling, a derby race, chainsaw carving, a pingpong-ball drop and a parade at 11 a.m. Saturday. Oct. 14--16.

Southwest Wisconsin Fall Art Tour in Southwest, WI This popular studio tour includes artists at studios between Mineral Point, Spring Green, Dodgeville and Baraboo. Oct. 14--16.

Apple Festival in Charlevoix, MI In this Lake Michigan town, there's a pumpkin-carving contest, children's activities and an arts and crafts show. Oct. 14--16.

A float from the La Crosse Oktoberfest parade.
In La Crosse, Oktoberfest stretches across nine days.

Fourth weekend of October

Chicago International Film Festival in Chicago, IL Watch more than 80 films and 60 programs of shorts from around the world. Oct. 12--23.

Moose Madness Festival in Grand Marais, MN This Lake Superior town offers a medallion hunt, scavenger hunt, sled-dog open house, games led by Murray the Moose and activities at North House Folk School. Oct. 21--22.

Family Fall Fest in Madeline Island, WI On the largest of the Apostle Islands, there will be a vintage-car show, cider- and soap-making, pumpkin decorating, a pie-eating contest, street vendors and a kids' costume parade. Oct. 22.

Halloween in Anoka, MN This town, just north of Minneapolis, calls itself the Halloween Capital of the World. Festivities include a house-decorating contest and a Grande Day Parade. Oct. 22--29.

Apple Festival in Bayfield.
In Bayfield, Apple Festival draws crowds.

Halloween weekend

Over Halloween, anything that can be haunted --- zoos, airplane hangars, corn mazes, nature centers, historic houses, cemeteries, trolleys and trains --- will be haunted. For more, see Horror around the corner .

And tours make the rounds of ghost haunts in Chicago, Galena, St. Paul, Wausau and other towns. For more, see Ghosts on the prowl .

Halloween in Anoka, MN This town, just north of Minneapolis, calls itself the Halloween Capital of the World. Festivities include a house-decorating contest and a Grande Day Parade. Oct. 22--29.

Pumpkin Festival in Sycamore, IL In this town between Rockford and DeKalb, there will be a pie-eating contest, carnival, craft shows, decorated pumpkins and a parade Sunday. Oct. 26--30.

Arts in the Dark Halloween parade in Chicago, IL Floats, giant puppets and performances are part of the 6-8 p.m. parade along State Street. Oct. 29.

First weekend in November

Art Attack in Minneapolis, MN In the northeast arts district, 350 artists open their studios and offer demonstrations and workshops. Nov. 4--6.

A wall of jack-o-lanterns in Highwood.
Every October, the town of Highwood, Ill., tries to best its own world record for the most carved and lighted pumpkins.

Second weekend in November

Beacon lighting at Split Rock Lighthouse in Beaver Bay, MN This event, which commemorates the 1975 sinking of the ore freighter with 29 men, is the only time the public can see the interior of the light tower when the beacon is lighted. Nov. 10.

Gales of November in Duluth, MN Listen to experts discuss Lake Superior shipwrecks and maritime history. There are social events, too, open to the public. Nov. 11--12.

Trainfest in West Allis, WI The nation's largest operating model railroad show includes more than 60 scenic railroads, clinics for hobbyists and many children's activities. Nov. 12--13.

For more, see Great holiday festivals .

Last updated on January 12, 2022

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