Best US Fall Festivals

Celebrate cooler weather, changing leaves and the harvest season at one of America's fall festivals. The autumn doesn't merely mean Halloween happenings; this time of year is also ripe for colorful festivals, focused on everything from apples to oysters, German traditions to New England's culinary favorite, Maine lobster. Celebrate autumn's onset with food and drink fests, brew fests and more. Here, we've selected the best US fall festivals.

1. National Apple Harvest Festival

Apple Harvest, Arendtsville, Pennsylvania
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Gather ye apples while ye may; come October it's harvest time! In a pure celebration of autumn, the tiny Pennsylvania towns of Arendtsville and Biglerville (outside of Gettysburg) come together to pay homage to that fine autumn fruit, the apple, at the annual National Apple Harvest Festival.

Held at the South Mountain Fairgrounds, the festival is a true apple-palooza; visitors can go apple-bobbing, drink fresh-pressed cider, chow down on apple dumplings and apple sauce, and, of course, get a few, fresh apples to enjoy. Held during the first 2 weekends in October, the festival also features craftspeople, square dancing, Native American dancers and live music.

2. Harvest on the Harbor

Harvest on Harbor, Portland, Maine
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Making a trip to Maine in the fall is a bit of a no-brainer; October is the peak of New England's leaf peeping season. Maine's 4-day Harvest on the Harbor Festival in mid-October lures more than 5,000 people up to Portland's craggy shores to enjoy a celebration of Maine's finest locally sourced foods, top chefs and other Maine-made products such as beers and wines.

Portland's dining scene has been gaining national and international traction, producing 4 James Beard Award-winning chefs, and more than 250 restaurants perfecting the culinary art of preparing local, safely harvested seafood. The Harvest on the Harbor brings these artisans to the forefront, with competitions that include “Best Farm-to Table Restaurant” and “Lobster Chef of the Year.” A variety of tastings are held: One features local foods from more than 160 chefs, wineries, distilleries and breweries, another showcases a barbecue extravaganza featuring grill masters, as well as local beers and live music.

3. German Village Oktoberfest

us-fall-festivals-oktoberfest
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Can't make it to Munich for the celebration of beer that is Oktoberfest? The Columbus Oktoberfest in Ohio offers its own memorable experience. The festival takes place in a 100,000-square-foot pavilion, complete with covered spaces for drinking brews, stages for live music, and dance floors for kicking up your heels and doing the polka.

While beer might be one of the festival's highlights, it certainly isn’t the only one. Oktoberfest also features dozens of craftspeople selling their wares in the Art & Craft Giant Eagle Marktplatz, as well as a parade and German food favorites like frankfurters with sauerkraut and German potato salad.

4. Wellfleet OysterFest

Wellfleet OysterFest, Massachusetts
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All hail the mollusk! The 2-day Wellfleet OysterFest celebrates the New England town's famed shellfish through shucking competitions, tastings and cooking demos. The town of Wellfleet on Cape Cod has earned international fame for its oysters. During the festival, shellfishermen proffer their wares: briny oysters and clams, delicious fresh seafood chowders and stuffed clams. Despite its name, OysterFest isn't only about slurping down the sea's bounty. The event also features artisans selling handmade jewelry and other crafts.

The highlight of the festival is undoubtedly the shuck-off. Competitors are given 24 oysters to shuck, and they are graded not just on speed but precision -- deductions are made for broken shells, blood from sliced fingers and mutilated oysters. Thinking of joining the fray? You'd best practice; the festival's top shucker was able to slice through his oysters in less than 2 minutes.

5. Wine and Chile Fiesta

Wine and Chile Fiesta, Santa Fe, New Mexico
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Fear not, sensitive palates; Santa Fe Wine and Chile Fiesta isn't as spicy as it sounds. The 5-day autumn festival is a celebration of the deep-rooted traditions of Santa Fe cuisine, which does, in fact, involve a lot of chiles. Santa Fe has been gaining attention as one of the best small-town culinary destinations in America, and the autumn festival highlights the best of the best.

The Wine and Chile Fiesta features Santa Fe's 75 best restaurants along with 90 national wineries, in a partnership that includes cooking demos, wine and food tastings, special luncheons and dinners. The Santa Fe festival culminates with the Grand Tasting: Held at the Santa Fe Opera House, the event features tastings from 75 of the finest Santa Fe restaurants and 100 national wineries.

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