Great fall festivals

Here are the best of the autumn fests in 2021.

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

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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.

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

For small-town festivals, see Bash on a bike trail.

For art tours, see Autumn in the studios.

For events year-round, see the Events Calendar.

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.

Sep 8. – Sep 12.

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.

Sep 8. – Sep 12.

Summerfest in Milwaukee, WI They call this the world's largest music festival. More than 1,000 acts perform on 12 stages along Lake Michigan. 

Sep 9. – Sep 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.

Sep 10. – Sep 12.

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.

Sep 10. – Sep 12.

Festival of the Vine in Geneva, IL There's an arts and crafts show, flower market, music, wine tasting and sampling of food from local restaurants.

Sep 10. – Sep 12.

Paw Paw Wine & Harvest Festival in Paw Paw, MI This big festival in southwest Michigan wine country features music on three stages, Friday fireworks, an art fair, motorcycle and bicycle tours, grape stomps and a Sunday parade.

Sep 10. – Sep 12.

Basilica Block Party in Minneapolis, MN Praise the Loud at this ticketed rock-music fest at the Basilica of St. Mary on the edge of downtown. 

Sep 10. – Sep 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.

Sep 10. – Sep 12.

Classic Boat & Schooner Rendezvous in Bayfield, WI Schooners and sloops will gather in this Lake Superior town. There will be activities for children, an open house at the Coast Guard station and a Saturday boat parade.

Sep 10. – Sep 12.

Grand Rapids Riverfest in Grand Rapids, MN This inaugural music festival downtown features Trampled by Turtles, Yonder Mountain String Band, The Brothers Burn Mountain and Charlie Parr.

Sep 10. – Sep 11.

Rock Bend Folk Festival in St. Peter, MN This free, easygoing festival is in this Minnesota River town's Minnesota Square Park.

Sep 11. – Sep 12.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Days in Pepin, WI The famous author's birthplace celebrates this year with a scaled-down festival this year at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum, including traditional music and crafts, pie-eating and fiddling. 

Sep 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.

Sep 11.

Washington County Bluegrass Festival in Lake Elmo, MN Bluegrass bands will play at this family festival at Lake Elmo Park Reserve at the eastern edge of the Twin Cities, free with $7 vehicle permit. There also will be camping and food vendors.

Sep 11.

Taste of the Trail in Lanesboro, MN In Lanesboro, Whalan and Peterson on the Root River State Trail, enjoy music, wagon rides and free samples from local restaurants and growers. 

Events are from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Sep 11.

Mural Fest in Ashland, WI Go on guided tours of Ashland's famous murals, meet the artists and go on a mural scavenger hunt. There's also food, music, crafts and a car show.

Sep 11.

Sputnikfest in Manitowoc, WI Help celebrate the 1962 crash landing of a 20-pound piece of Russia's Sputnik on a street in Manitowoc. There's a wacky costume contest, a Miss Space Debris pageant, a pet costume contest, a space-themed movie and music.

Sep 11.

Whooping Crane Festival in Princeton, WI Celebrate the whooping-crane migration with voyageur canoe trips, a marketplace, crane trivia, children's activities and bird walks.

Sep 11.

Radio Waves Music Festival in Grand Marais, MN WTIP, North Shore Community Radio, hosts this outdoor fest of more than 25 local and regional music acts next to the municipal campground.

Sep 11.

Monarch Festival in Minneapolis, MN This festival at Lake Nokomis celebrates the monarch migration from Minnesota to Mexico and includes a costume parade, music, dance, art activities and monarch games.

Sep 11.

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.

Sep 11. – Sep 12.

St. Paul Classic Bike Tour in St. Paul, MN Ride a 15-, 30- or 45-mile route along the Mississippi, lakes Como and Phalen and St. Paul parkways, starting and ending at the University of St. Thomas and punctuated by food and live music.

Sep 12.

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.

Sep 12.

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.

Sep 15. – Sep 18.

Summerfest in Milwaukee, WI They call this the world's largest music festival. More than 1,000 acts perform on 12 stages along Lake Michigan. 

Sep 16. – Sep 18.

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.

Sep 17. – Sep 19.

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

Sep 17. – Sep 18.

Unplugged music festival in Grand Marais, MN The harbor-side North House Folk School celebrates with storytelling, traditional workshops, a fish boil and concerts by songwriter/musicians.

Sep 17. – Sep 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.

This year, the festival has been altered; check for events.

Sep 17. – Sep 19.

Twin Cities Jazz Festival in St. Paul, MN Listen to jazz in Mears Park, in St. Paul's Lowertown.

Sep 17. – Sep 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.

 

Sep 17. – Sep 19.

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

Sep 17. – Sep 19.

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.

Sep 17. – Sep 19.

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.

Sep 17. – Sep 19.

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.

Sep 17. – Sep 19.

Oktoberfestival in Duluth, MN This festival on the bayfront features stein-holding, barrel-rolling and pretzel-tossing contests, a kids' zone and a dachshund derby on Sunday, plus German food and music. Admission is $20, $10 up to week of event, free for youths 15 and under.

Sep 17. – Sep 19.

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.

Sep 18. – Sep 19.

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

 

Sep 18. – Sep 19.

World War II Days in Rockford, IL Midway Village Museum hosts one of the largest World War II battle re-enactments in the nation, with more than 1,200 uniformed re-enactors and more than 60 vintage tanks and other armored vehicles.

Sep 18. – Sep 19.

Parade of Nations and Multicultural Festival in Hancock/Houghton, MI The parade begins in Hancock and ends in Houghton at Dee Stadium, where there's a festival with music, dancing and food from around the world.

Sep 18.

Taste of the Trail in Fountain/Preston/Harmony, MN On the Harmony-Preston Valley State Trail, sample local treats, listen to music, visit the National Trout Center, take wagon rides and play games.

 

Sep 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.

Sep 18.

Bacon Bash in River Falls, WI There will be pig races, a pig-calling contest, pig crafts, an amateur bacon cook-off and many bacon dishes, including ice cream.

Sep 18. – Sep 19.

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.

Sep 18.

Art and Apples on the Lake in Excelsior, MN On the shore of Lake Minnetonka, Art on the Lake combines with Apple Day, with an art fair, apple pie-eating contest, music and a street dance.

Sep 18. – Sep 19.

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.

Sep 18.

Museum Day in Every state, Smithsonian magazine and participating museums in every state offer free admission for two people. Tickets are available for download on the website.

Sep 18.

Greenway Glow in Minneapolis, MN Along the Midtown Greenway bike route in south Minneapolis, enjoy live music, art installations and theatrical performances from 4 to 10 p.m.

Sep 18.

Squidfest in Granite Falls, MN The inaugural festival in this Minnesota River Valley town features a 10:30 a.m. parade, a disc golf tournament, street performance, kids' activities, art and live music all day. There's also a Ribfest.

Sep 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.

Sep 23. – Sep 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.

Sep 23. – Sep 26.

Cornish Festival in Mineral Point, WI In the old lead-mining district in southwest Wisconsin, play shove ha'penny in the Kiddleywink Pub, eat figgyhobbin and pasties, listen to tommyknocker tales and tour Cornish miners' cottages.

Sep 24. – Sep 26.

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

Sep 24. – Sep 26.

German Fest in Guttenberg, IA There will be music, dancing, children's games and lock and dam tours in this antebellum town on the Mississippi River.

Sep 24. – Sep 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.

Sep 24. – Sep 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. The big parade is at 1 p.m. Sunday.

Sep 24. – Sep 26.

Kalona Fall Festival in Kalona, IA This Mennonite community just southwest of Iowa City, famous for its quilts, offers pony rides, a pumpkin-carving contest, demonstrations of Old World artisanry, music and homemade potato chips, apple fritters, ice cream and chicken, biscuits and gravy.

Sep 24. – Sep 25.

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.

Sep 24. – Sep 25.

Milwaukee Oktoberfest in Milwaukee, WI There will be dachshund racing, stein-hoisting and brat-eating competitions as well as music and dancing at the War Memorial on the lakefront.

Sep 24. – Sep 26.

Octoberfest in Appleton, WI This large downtown festival is more general civic celebration than German festival, with an arts and crafts show, car show and music on five stages.

Sep 24. – Sep 25.

Red Cliff Cultural Days in Bayfield, WI At this Ojibwe community just north of Bayfield, there will be a mini-powwow, sailboat rides, canoe races, traditional games, music, fireworks and sky lanterns.

Sep 24. – Sep 26.

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.

Sep 24. – Sep 26.

All-State Barn Tour in Iowa in Across the state, IA It's the Iowa Barn Foundation's annual free, self-guided tour of restored historic barns.

Sep 25. – Sep 26.

Spirit of the St. Croix Art Festival in Hudson, WI Music, food and a juried art show along the St. Croix River, in Lakefront Park.

Sep 25. – Sep 26.

Hyde Park Jazz Festival in Chicago, IL Listen to non-stop music during this free festival at venues in and around Midway Plaisance, near the Museum of Science and Industry and Lake Michigan.

This year, the festival is virtual on Saturday, but on Sunday there will be live music on mobile stages in Hyde Park.

Sep 25. – Sep 26.

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

Sep 25.

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.

It's at Witwen Park & Campground, between Plain and Prairie du Sac.

Sep 25. – Sep 26.

Taste of the Trail in Rushford/Houston, MN On the Root River State Trail, sample local food, listen to music, tour a museum and visit the International Owl Center.

Sep 25.

Beef-A-Rama in Minocqua, WI In this northern Wisconsin lake-resort town, there's a Rump Roast Run, beef-eating contest and Parade of Beef.

Sep 25.

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.

Sep 25.

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.

 

Sep 25. – Sep 26.

Latino Heritage Festival in Des Moines, IA This festival at Western Gateway Park features Latino music, dancing, arts, cultural booths, children's activities and a corn-eating contest.

Sep 25. – Sep 26.

First weekend in October

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.

Sep 30. – Oct 3.

Apple Festival in Bayfield, WI It's the 60th 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 1. – Oct 3.

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.

Oct 1. – Oct 3.

Chain O' Lakes Blues Festival in Waupaca, WI Listen to the blues at the historic Indian Crossing Casino.

Oct 1. – Oct 2.

CelebrAsian Asian Heritage Festival in Des Moines, IA This festival at Western Gateway Park features such activities as martial arts, lion dancers, chopstick races, a fashion show and, of course, food.

Oct 1. – Oct 2.

Door County Lighthouse Festival in Sturgeon Bay, WI The Door County Maritime Museum sponsors tours by air, land and water to lighthouses on the peninsula, some of which can be visited only during festival weekends. Reserve as early as possible.

Oct 1. – Oct 3.

Big Island Rendezvous and Festival in Albert Lea, MN This southern Minnesota festival is great for families, with a voyageur encampment of more than 1,000 reenactors dancing, demonstrating, competing and pulling visitors back into the fur-trade era.

Oct 2. – Oct 3.

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 2.

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 2. – Oct 3.

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 2. – Oct 3.

Oktoberfest in Galena, IL The Lions Club puts on this riverfront festival, which includes wiener-dog races, polka lessons, nail-driving, pumpkin-decorating and a beanbag tournament.

Oct 2.

Autumn on Parade in Oregon, IL Strolling performers appear at the Autumn on Parade Festival, and the Harvest Time Parade is on Sunday.

The Stronghold Conference Center outside town offers Olde English Faire on the same weekend, featuring swordfighters, minstrels, magicians and the Gremlin's Garden for children. However, it may not be held in 2021.

Oct 2. – Oct 3.

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

 

Oct 2. – Oct 3.

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 2. – Oct 3.

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 2. – Oct 3.

Second weekend of October

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. – Oct 10.

Northeast Iowa Artists' Studio Tour in Decorah area, IA Drive through bluff country to see 56 artists at 43 sites around Decorah, Burr Oak, St. Lucas, Waukon, West Union, Cresco, New Albin, Lansing, Elgin and Clermont.

Oct 8. – Oct 10.

Scarecrow Festival in St. Charles, IL There's a big scarecrow contest plus a carnival, music, dance and the Autumn on the Fox arts show in this town west of Chicago. New this year is the Family Zone.

Oct 8. – Oct 10.

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 8. – Oct 10.

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 8. – Oct 10.

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 8. – Oct 10.

Madison County Covered Bridge Festival in Winterset, IA John Wayne was born there, George Washington Carver lived there and the famous covered bridges still are there. The festival in this town southwest of Des Moines features guided bus tours to the bridges, free horse-drawn wagon rides to Wayne's house, Old West shootouts, live music and a parade at 2 p.m. Sunday.

Oct 9. – Oct 10.

Civil War Immersion Weekend at Norskedalen in Coon Valley, WI This pioneer farmstead in the coulees southeast of La Crosse is wonderfully atmospheric, and the crackerjack re-enactors of the Second Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry's Company B give the region's most affecting portrayal of war.

Oct 9.

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 9. – Oct 10.

Pumpkin Patch Festival in Egg Harbor, WI There'll be music, children's games and arts and crafts in this Door County village.

Oct 9. – Oct 10.

Oktoberfest in Lake Geneva, WI There will be music, food and free pumpkins on downtown streets.

Oct 9. – Oct 10.

Burgoo Festival in Utica, IL The street party in this northern Illinois town, gateway to Starved Rock State Park, features vats of "pioneer'' stew, a crafts fair and music.

Oct 9. – Oct 10.

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 9. – Oct 10.

Shadows of the Blue and Gray in Princeton, IL This Civil War festival off I-80, half an hour west of Starved Rock State Park, includes battle re-enactments both days.

There will also be a Grand Entrance parade with the Lincolns, a Lincoln look-alike contest, medical scenarios and period music and dance.

Oct 9. – Oct 10.

Harvest Fest in New Glarus, WI See old-time artisanry at the Swiss Historical Village, including sausage-stuffing and cheese-making in the 1890s cheese factory.

Oct 10.

Third weekend of October

Chicago International Film Festival in Chicago, IL This year's program includes 65 films and nine programs of shorts that are screening at the ChiTown Movies Drive-In in Pilsen.

Oct 13. – Oct 24.

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 15. – Oct 17.

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 15. – Oct 17.

Open House Chicago in Chicago, IL The Chicago Architecture Foundation sponsors this free, behind-the-scenes peek at more than 200 mansions, clubs, churches, hotels and theaters.

Oct 16. – Oct 17.

Oktoberfest in Elkhorn, WI This downtown festival near Lake Geneva features wine and beer tasting, music, a car show, arts and crafts and a chili cookoff.

Oct 16.

Pumpkin Chuckin Fest in Union Grove, WI The festival in this town, just west of Racine, features a pumpkin catapult contest, barbecue cook-off, pie auction, pumpkin-baking contest, children's games and music.

Oct 16.

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 16.

Iowa City Book Festival in Iowa City, IA The first North American town to be named a UNESCO City of Literature offers talks, readings, panels, exhibits and a walking tour of literary Iowa City.

Oct 18. – Oct 24.

Fourth weekend of October

Chicago International Film Festival in Chicago, IL This year's program includes 65 films and nine programs of shorts that are screening at the ChiTown Movies Drive-In in Pilsen.

Oct 13. – Oct 24.

Iowa City Book Festival in Iowa City, IA The first North American town to be named a UNESCO City of Literature offers talks, readings, panels, exhibits and a walking tour of literary Iowa City.

Oct 18. – Oct 24.

Moose Madness Festival in Grand Marais, MN This Lake Superior town offers  a medallion hunt, family geocaching contest, fun run, appearances by Murray the Moose and family courses at the North House Folk School.

Oct 22. – Oct 23.

Autumnfest in St. Croix Falls, WI This town on the St. Croix River offers live music, a car show, food trucks and an arts and crafts fair in Overlook Park.

Oct 22. – Oct 24.

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 23. – Oct 30.

Earth Wood & Fire Artist Tour in Lake Mills, WI Visit artists in their studios in and around Lake Mills, Cambridge and Fort Atkinson, between Madison and Milwaukee.

Oct 23. – Oct 24.

Oktoberfest in Alexandria, MN Carlos Creek Winery's brewing partner, 22 Northmen, hosts this festival, which includes a stein-holding contest, pumpkin throwing, horse-drawn wagon rides and live bands.

 

 

Oct 23.

Witches & Wizards of Woodstock in Woodstock, IL This all-ages fantasy festival in Woodstock Square features a magical talking hat, Quidditch training, an owlery, a wandering magician, a cosplay scavenger hunt and a costume parade and contest.

Oct 24.

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 23. – Oct 30.

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 27. – Oct 31.

Jack O'Lantern Days in Fish Creek, WI There will be mask making, pumpkin carving, trick or treating and haunted trolley tours.

Oct 29. – Oct 31.

UFO Day in Belleville, WI There's a craft fair, kids' games and a Forbidden Forest, but the 1 p.m. parade is the main event in this riverside village just south of Madison, where residents reported more than a dozen UFO sightings in the winter of 1987.

Oct 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 30.

Halloween Parade & Festival in Galena, IL There will be hot-air balloons in the morning, kids' activities and a food festival in the afternoon, and the town's annual parade along Main Street at 6:30 p.m.

Oct 30.

BatFest in Batavia, IL This Fox River town hosts a pumpkin roll, pumpkin-carving battles, "Thriller'' dances, marshmallow shooting and a parade.

Oct 30.

Mount Carroll Pumpkin Fest in Mount Carroll, IL In this northwest Illinois town, there will be a costume parade, pumpkin bowling, pumpkin slingshot and pumpkin street drag races.

Oct 30.

First weekend in November

Big Water Film Festival in Ashland, WI See a variety of shorts, full-length films and documentaries at the Bay Theater downtown.

Nov 3. – Nov 6.

Driftless Film Festival in Mineral Point, See independent films and meet filmmakers in the 1916 opera house of this artistic town west of Madison.

Nov 4. – Nov 7.

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

Nov 5. – Nov 7.

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 and join tours of the aquarium and Coast Guard Center.

Nov 12. – Nov 13.

Winter Art Fair Off the Square in Madison, WI Art Fair Off the Square presents its winter edition in Monona Terrace, with 140 fine artists from around Wisconsin.

Nov 13. – Nov 14.

Art on the Prairie in Perry, IA This free festival northwest of Des Moines showcases more than 100 Iowa artists, poets and musicians in seven venues, including the Hotel Pattee, in the downtown historic and cultural district. There will also be children's activities.

 

Nov 13. – Nov 14.

Holiday Fantasy in Lights in Madison, WI The free display in Olin Park is open from dusk to dawn.

Nov 13. – Jan 2.

For more, see Great holiday festivals.


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    Looking for a hot-air balloon festival? Keep your eyes on the skies.
  6. The silly season
    Smoosh racing? Human foosball? Winter is the time to come out and get crazy.
  7. 15 great late-fall getaways
    It's the mellowest time of the year, when hotel rates drop with the leaves.