MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Fall festivals 2018


  • (Sep. 14 – 15)Oaktoberfest

    Oak Park, IL

    In this western suburb of Chicago, famous for its Frank Lloyd Wright district, there's music, craft beer, food from local restaurants and, for kids, a root-beer garden, games and zucchini-car races.

  • (Sep. 15)Parade of Nations and Multicultural Festival

    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. 15)Younger Brothers Capture

    Madelia, MN

    This entertaining festival reenacts the bank robbery, gunflight and capture of the Younger Brothers the week after their infamous raid on Northfield. Spectators in period costume can join reenactors on Main Street.

  • (Sep. 21 – 23)Chainsaw Festival

    Hackensack, MN

    In this Brainerd-area lake town, watch 12 professional carvers turn logs into art. There will also be lumberjack/jill shows, horse racing, artisan booths and children's games.

  • (Sep. 28 – 30)Quad Cities Balloon Festival

    East Moline, IL

    This festival at the Rock Island County Fairgrounds includes balloon glows, launches, tethered rides and a play area for children.

  • (Sep. 29)International Fall Festival

    Eau Claire, WI

    See the Parade of Nations, an international bazaar and music on the World Stage.

  • (Sep. 29)Oktoberfest

    Sault Ste. Marie, MI

    Beer-barrel relay races, polka lessons, a farm  market and a tug of war are part of this downtown festival. The Sault International Marathon is held in the morning.


  • (Oct. 5 – 7)Audubon Days

    Mayville, WI

    The festival in this town next to big Horicon Marsh features bed races, a bike tour, rubber-duck races and parade Sunday.

  • (Oct. 5 – 7)Pumpkin Festival

    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. 5 – 7)Milwaukee Oktoberfest

    Milwaukee, WI

    There will be dachshund racing, stein-hoisting and brat-eating competitions as well as music and dancing in the plaza outside the Fiserv Forum arena, a new location.

  • (Oct. 6)Apple Affair

    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. 6 – 7)Giant Pumpkin Fest

    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. 6 – 7)Olde English Faire/Autumn on Parade

    Oregon, IL

    This festival at Stronghold Conference Center features swordfighters, minstrels, magicians and the Gremlin's Garden for children.

    In town, more strolling performers appear at the Autumn on Parade Festival, and the Harvest Time Parade is on Sunday.

  • (Oct. 6 – 7)Pumpkin Patch Festival

    Egg Harbor, WI

    There'll be music, children's games and arts and crafts in this Door County village.

  • (Oct. 6 – 7)Oktoberfest

    Lake Geneva, WI

    There will be wagon rides, music, magic, free pumpkins and crafts on downtown streets.

  • (Oct. 6)Harvest & Wine Festival

    New Buffalo, MI

    This Lake Michigan beach town offers wine and craft-beer tasting, hay rides, pumpkin painting, live music and fine arts.

  • (Oct. 6 – 7)Burgoo Festival

    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. 6 – 7)Fall Heritage Festival

    Mount Horeb, WI

    This town west of Madison offers fjord horses, buggy rides, a Norwegian breakfast, a mini tractor pull, rosemaling and lefse-making demonstrations and photo opps with Jorgen the Troll.

  • (Oct. 6 – 7)Rivertown Fall Art Festival

    Stillwater, MN

    This juried arts festival along the banks of the St. Croix River includes music and food vendors.

  • (Oct. 11 – 14)Wisconsin Book Festival

    Madison, WI

    This big fest features readings, lectures, book discussions, writing workshops, live interviews and children's events.

  • (Oct. 12 – 14)Scenic Drive Festival

    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. 12 – 13)Mystery at the Fur Post

    Pine City, MN

    Solve the mystery of "The Trial of Lizzie 13'' at the re-created Snake River (formerly North West Company) Fur Post, an hour north of the Twin Cities. The program is family-friendly, and reservations are recommended.

  • (Oct. 12 – 14)Apple Festival

    Charlevoix, MI

    In this Lake Michigan town, there's a pumpkin-carving contest, children's activities and an arts and crafts show.

  • (Oct. 12 – 13)Pipestone Paranormal Weekend

    Pipestone, MN

    This town in the southwest corner of Minnesota concentrates on the supernatural, with a ghost walk, ghost hunt, cemetery tour and tales from the grave.

  • (Oct. 12 – 13)Witching Hour Festival

    Iowa City, IA

    This festival features the creative processes of musicians, artists, comedians, writers, thinkers, scientists and magicians. 

  • (Oct. 13 – 14)Civil War Immersion Weekend at Norskedalen

    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. 13 – 14)Harvest Fest

    Stillwater, MN

    There will be a pumpkin pie-eating contest, a pumpkin regatta on the St. Croix River, a microbrew tasting and a pedal tractor pull.

  • (Oct. 13 – 14)Shadows of the Blue and Gray

    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. 13)Jack O' Lantern Festival

    Spooner, WI

    There's a pumpkin-carving contest, kids' inflatables, pumpkin roll and, in the evening, a zombie run in the forest, bonfires and live music.

  • (Oct. 18 – 21)Haunted Harmony

    Harmony, MN

    This bluff-country town, the southern trailhead of the Harmony-Preston Valley State Trail, celebrates Halloween with pumpkin decorating, lantern tours of nearby Niagara Cave and a costume contest.

  • (Oct. 19 – 21)Moose Madness Festival

    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. 19 – 21)Haven Harvest Festival

    South Haven, MI

    This downtown festival includes hayrides, a scarecrow contest, pumpkin-chucking, zombie runs, a pet-costume parade and a haunted asylum at the Maritime Museum.

  • (Oct. 20 – 27)Halloween

    Anoka, MN

    This town, just north of Minneapolis, calls itself the Halloween Capital of the World. Festivities include a Light up the Night parade Oct. 20, pumpkin-carving and house-decoration contests and a 1 p.m. Grand Day Parade Oct. 27.

  • (Oct. 20)Arts in the Dark Halloween parade

    Chicago, IL

    A parade with music, floats and puppets begins at 6 p.m. in Grant Park and follows Columbus Drive from Balbo to Monroe streets.


  • (Oct. 20)Brothers Grimm Fairytale Halloween Event

    Green Bay, WI

    At Heritage Hill Historical Park, meet Snow White, Rapunzel and Rumpelstiltskin, hear stories, make crafts and play games.

  • (Oct. 20)Oktoberfest

    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. 20 – 21)Pumpkin Chuckin Fest

    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. 20)Family Fall Fest

    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. 24 – 28)Pumpkin Festival

    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 – 27)Zombie Days

    Washburn, WI

    Zombies will take over this town on Chequamegon Bay, with zombie Zumba, a zombie show choir, a zombie walk/run and a zombie pub crawl, as well as a haunted house, pumpkin carving and a parade.

  • (Oct. 27)UFO Day

    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. 27)Freakfest

    Madison, WI

    This fest along State Street features music on three stages, outdoor horror movies, a costume contest with prizes and much sampling at bars. Headliners include George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic. Advance tickets are $10.

  • (Oct. 27 – 28)Earth Wood & Fire Artist Tour

    Lake Mills, WI

    Visit artists in their studios in and around Lake Mills, Cambridge and Fort Atkinson, between Madison and Milwaukee.

  • (Oct. 27)BatFest

    Batavia, IL

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

  • (Oct. 27)Triple Fright Night

    Mackinaw City, MI

    Visit three parks just west of town, Heritage Village, McGulpin Point Lighthouse and Headlands International Dark Sky Park, for spooky but family-friendly surprises. There's a free trolley between Heritage Village and the lighthouse, and admission is free.

  • (Oct. 27)Mount Carroll Pumpkin Fest

    Mount Carroll, IL

    In this northwest Illinois town, there will be a costume parade, pumpkin bowling, pumpkin slingshot and pumpkin street drag races.

  • (Oct. 28)Day of the Dead Xicago

    Chicago, IL

    At the National Museum of Mexican Art, there will be music, art and face-painting, and guests are invited to make their own ofrendas in Harrison Park. Free.

  • (Oct. 31)Halloween Outdoor Puppet Extravaganza

    St. Paul, MN

    This all-ages evening spectacle in Hidden Falls Regional Park features larger-than-life puppetry, fire, song, stilting and, after the performance, food and dancing to the jazz brass bands.

    Suggested donation is $10-$20.


  • (Nov. 2 – 4)Art Attack

    Minneapolis, MN

    In the northeast arts district, 250 visual artists team with musicians and writers for this free festival.

  • (Nov. 2 – 3)Gales of November

    Duluth, MN

    Listen to experts discuss Lake Superior shipwrecks and maritime history and join tours of the aquarium and Coast Guard Center.

  • (Nov. 4)Wisconsin Dog Fair

    Madison, WI

    Attend demonstrations and seminars on more than 150 breeds at Alliant Energy Center.

  • (Nov. 7 – 11)Big Water Film Festival

    Ashland, WI

    See a variety of shorts, full-length films and documentaries at the Bay Theater downtown.

  • (Nov. 9 – 11)Lake Superior Storm Festival

    Grand Marais, MN

    This festival features a wave dash, shipwreck stories, and children's activities.

  • (Nov. 10)Beacon lighting at Split Rock Lighthouse

    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 – 11)Winter Art Fair Off the Square

    Madison, WI

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

  • (Nov. 10)Veterans Day Parade

    Milwaukee, WI

    It's at 11 a.m., starting in Pere Marquette Park and following Kilbourn Avenue toward the lakefront.

  • (Nov. 10 – 11)Trainfest

    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. 10 – 11)Art on the Prairie

    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. 16 – 18)Outdoor Adventure Expo

    Minneapolis, MN

    The expo at the Midwest Mountaineering store on the West Bank includes dozens of speakers and seminars about skiing, sled-dog racing and ice-climbing as well as camping, backpacking and other year-round adventures.

  • (Nov. 16 – 18)Winterer's Gathering

    Grand Marais, MN

    There's a tent encampment, winter skills seminars, Arctic film festival and chili feed at the North House Folk School.

  • (Nov. 17 – 18)Art & Gift Fair

    Madison, WI

    This event at the Museum of Contemporary Art and Overture Center features fine art, music, treats and the Rediscovered Art & Treasures Sale.

  • (Nov. 17)Pangea

    Moorhead, MN

    Celebrate global cultures at the Hjemkomst Center, with folk dancing, storytelling, music and foods from seven countries. Children can pick up a passport to get stamped at booths.