MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Great fall festivals

Here are the best of the autumn fests in 2019.

A carriage race at Villa Louis.

© Wisconsin Historical Soci

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

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 some of the best festivals in 2019

Always check before you go 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.

Dachshund races at a festival.

© Beth Gauper

Dachshund races are held at many fall festivals.

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. 4–8.

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. 4–8.

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. 6–8.

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. 6–8.

Pufferbilly Days in Boone, IA This festival in central Iowa, just west of Ames, is named for a steam engine and features a spike-driving contest, mud volleyball and rides on the Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad. A parade is Saturday. Sept. 6–8.

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. Sept. 6–8.

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. Sept. 6–8.

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. 6–8.

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. Sept. 6–8.

Classic Boat & Schooner Rendezvous in Bayfield, WI Schooners and sloops will gather in this Lake Superior town for sea-shanty and voyageur performances and a boat parade with cannon salutes. Sept. 6–8.

Rock Bend Folk Festival in St. Peter, MN This free, easygoing festival is in this Minnesota River town's Minnesota Square Park. Sept. 7–8.

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 at 11 a.m. Sept. 7.

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 $5 vehicle permit. There also will be camping and food vendors. Sept. 7.

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.  Sept. 7.

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. Sept. 7.

East Troy Bluegrass Festival in East Troy, WI Listen to bluegrass bands and contests in the historic village square. There's also a food court and marketplace. Sept. 7–8.

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. Sept. 7.

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. Sept. 7.

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. Sept. 7.

Flugtag in St. Paul, MN Red Bull comes to Harriet Island Park with its goofy flying-machine competition, in which showmanship and craft creativity are at least as important as flight distance (usually the homemade craft plunge straight into the water). Sept. 7.

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. 7–8.

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. Sept. 8.

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. 8.

Cheese Days parade in Monroe.

©

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

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. 11–14.

Michigan Irish Music Festival in Muskegon, MI There's music on three stages, plus dance and session tents, a cultural village, Celtic Kitchen and limerick contest. Sept. 12–15.

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. 12–15.

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. 13–15.

Unplugged: The Northern Harvest in Grand Marais, MN The harbor-side North House Folk School celebrates with storytelling, traditional workshops, a fish boil and concerts by songwriter/musicians. Sept. 13–15.

World Music Festival in Chicago, IL There will be more than 80 artists performing at more than 30 venues across the city, including the Chicago Cultural Center. Admission is free. Sept. 13–29.

Oktoberfest in St. Paul, MN The Germanic American Institute is producing this version of St. Paul's Oktoberfest at Schmidt Brewery in the West End. There will be a beer-wagon parade, a human glockenspiel, bed racing, dachshund racing, a stein-hoisting contest and a real German wedding in addition to music and dancing. Sept. 13–14.

Grape Stomp in Alexandria, MN Carlos Creek Winery hosts this festival, which features music on three stages, crafts, a logging show, Friday fire dancing and fireworks, grape stomps, "I Love Lucy'' look-alike contests and a reenactment of the Lucy "Grapes of Laugh'' episode. Sept. 13–15.

Riot Fest in Chicago, IL This Douglas Park music festival also features a circus sideshow revue and carnival. Sept. 13–15.

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. 13–15.

World Music Festival in Madison, WI This free festival features music and dance from around the world on the Memorial Union Terrace and, on Saturday, at the Willy Street Fair. Sept. 13–14.

Oktoberfestival in Duluth, MN This new festival in Bayfront Festival Park features craft beer and Old World traditions. Sept. 13–15.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Days in Pepin, WI The famous author's birthplace  celebrates with kids' pioneer games, a spelling bee and traditional music and crafts; pie-eating, fiddle and Laura contests; and a Sunday parade. Sept. 14–15.

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.   Sept. 14.

International Fall Festival in Eau Claire, WI See the Parade of Nations, visit an international bazaar and listen to music on the World Stage. Sept. 14.

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. 14.

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. Sept. 14–15.

Minneapolis Bike Tour in Minneapolis, MN Ride 16, 25 or 32 miles on parkways along the Mississippi and the Chain of Lakes. Start and finish is Boom Island, along the river in northeast Minneapolis; there's a party afterward with food, music and beer. Sept. 15.

Fourth weekend of September

World Music Festival in Chicago, IL There will be more than 80 artists performing at more than 30 venues across the city, including the Chicago Cultural Center. Admission is free. Sept. 13–29.

Oktoberfest in Chippewa Falls, WI Meet the Narren, enter a sauerkraut-eating contest, listen to polka and zydeco and watch the daily parade. Sept. 20–22.

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. 20–22.

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. 20–22.

Fall Festival in Hayward, WI There's an arts and crafts fair, children's games, contests and live music downtown. Sept. 21.

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. Sept. 21.

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 with Alice the owl. Sept. 21.

Bay View Bash in Milwaukee, WI This street festival in the Bay View neighborhood includes music on four stages, a children's area, cooking demonstrations and a strong man competition. Sept. 21.

Party on the Pavement in Racine, WI Racine's biggest street festival features five stages of entertainment and a car show, art walk, carnival rides and zones for kids and sports. Sept. 21.

Apple Day in Excelsior, MN On the shore of Lake Minnetonka, there's an artisan fair, apple pie-eating contest, music and a street dance. Sept. 21.

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 at 5 p.m. with the auction of 25 artist-created benches. Sept. 21.

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. 21–22.

Festival of the Voyageur in Pine City, MN No one's more fun than a voyageur, and they'll be dancing, boasting and trying to best one another at this family-friendly event at the Snake River (formerly North West Company) Fur Post, an hour north of the Twin Cities. For the kids, there's a bead scramble, candle-dipping and a scavenger hunt. Sept. 21–22.

Vintage Illinois Wine Festival in Matthiessen State Park, IL This festival in northwest Illinois features live music and wine-tasting from 25 Illinois vineyards. Sept. 21–22.

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. Sept. 21–22.

Civil War re-enactors march at Norskedalen.

© Beth Gauper

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

Fifth weekend of September

World Music Festival in Chicago, IL There will be more than 80 artists performing at more than 30 venues across the city, including the Chicago Cultural Center. Admission is free. Sept. 13–29.

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. 25–29.

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. 26–29.

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. 26–29.

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. 26–29.

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. Sept. 27–28.

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. 27–28.

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. Sept. 27–28.

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. 27–28.

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. Sept. 27–28.

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. Sept. 27–29.

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. 27–29.

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. Sept. 27–29.

Quad Cities Balloon Festival in East Moline, IL This festival at the Rock Island County Fairgrounds includes balloon glows, launches, tethered rides and a play area for children. Sept. 27–29.

Chainsaw Festival in 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. Sept. 27–29.

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. Sept. 28.

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. 28.

Fall Festival in 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. Sept. 28.

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. Sept. 28–29.

Civil War Weekend in Greenbush, WI Battles are reenacted at this festival at the Wade House historic site near Sheboygan. There's also a traveling medicine show, court martials, a sutler's row, period concerts and appearances by Abraham Lincoln. Sept. 28–29.

Tour of Historic Galena Homes in Galena, IL Tour five private homes and the History Museum in this picturesque town in northwest Illinois. Sept. 28–29.

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. Sept. 28–29.

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. Sept. 28–29.

Arts and Artists Celebration in Taylors Falls, WI See the new art installations at Franconia Sculpture Park, just west of town, and watch art in progress. There will also be music, food and art-making for the whole family, such as spin art and face-painting. Sept. 28–29.

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. Check in July for the program. Sept. 28–29.

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. Sept. 28–29.

Millstream Arts Festival in St. Joseph, MN In addition to a juried art show, the festival in this town at the start of the Lake Wobegon Trail also features music, street performances, history tours and a vintage car and tractor show. Sept. 29.

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. 1–7.

Laura look-alikes compete in Pepin.

© Beth Gauper

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

First weekend in October

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. 1–7.

Chain O' Lakes Blues Festival in Waupaca, WI Listen to the blues at the historic Indian Crossing Casino. Oct. 4–5.

Apple Festival in Bayfield, WI It's the 58th 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. 4–6.

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. 4–6.

Fermentation Fest in Reedsburg, 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 are classes, tasting and programs. Oct. 4–6.

Milwaukee Oktoberfest in 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. Oct. 4–6.

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. 5.

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. 5.

Northside Oktoberfest in Iowa City, IA The Iowa City Brewfest is part of this festival, which includes keg bowling, beer sliding and nail-striking as well as a SodaFest with pop and stage entertainment for kids. Oct. 5.

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. 5–6.

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. 5–6.

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. 5–6.

Olde English Faire/Autumn on Parade in 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. 5–6.

Fall Heritage Festival in 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. 5–6.

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. 5–6.

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. 5–6.

Second weekend of October

Audubon Days in Mayville, WI The festival in this town next to big Horicon Marsh features bed races, a car show, craft fair, bag tournament and music. Oct. 11–12.

Mystery at the Fur Post in Pine City, MN Solve the mystery of "The Snake River Soap Opera'' 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. 11–12.

Pipestone Paranormal Weekend in Pipestone, MN This town in the southwest corner of Minnesota concentrates on the supernatural, with a ghost walk, ghost hunt, cemetery tour, psychic gallery readings and tales from the grave. Oct. 11–12.

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. 11–13.

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. 11–13.

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. Oct. 11–13.

Fermentation Fest in Reedsburg, 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 are classes, tasting and programs. Oct. 11–13.

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. 11–13.

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. 11–13.

St. Paul Art Crawl in St. Paul, MN Stop by the studios of more than 400 artists in Lowertown and the Raymond-University area.  Oct. 11–13.

Harvest & Wine Festival in New Buffalo, MI This Lake Michigan beach town offers wine and craft-beer tasting, hay rides, pumpkin painting, live music and fine arts. Oct. 12.

Jack O' Lantern Festival in 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. 12.

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. 12–13.

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. 12–13.

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. 12–13.

Pumpkin Patch Festival in Egg Harbor, WI There'll be music, children's games and arts and crafts in this Door County village. Oct. 12–13.

Oktoberfest in Lake Geneva, WI There will be pony rides, music, magic, free pumpkins and crafts on downtown streets. Oct. 12–13.

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. 12–13.

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. 12–13.

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. 12–13.

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. 13.

A float from the La Crosse Oktoberfest parade.

© Beth Gauper

In La Crosse, Oktoberfest stretches across nine days.

Third weekend of October

Wisconsin Book Festival in Madison, WI This big fest features readings, lectures, book discussions, writing workshops, live interviews and children's events. Oct. 17–20.

Haven Harvest Festival in 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. 18–19.

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. 18–20.

Fall Festival in Sister Bay, WI This Door County festival features pumpkin bowling, chainsaw carving, a pingpong-ball drop and a parade at 11 a.m. Saturday. Oct. 18–20.

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. 18–20.

Arts in the Dark Halloween parade in Chicago, IL A parade with music, floats and puppets begins at 6 p.m. on State Street at Lake. There's a party afterward in Millennium Park, with stilt walkers and performance artists.   Oct. 19.

Oktoberfest in Alexandria, MN Carlos Creek Winery's former Applefest will include nail-driving and stein-holding contests, craft beer, pumpkin tic-tac-toe, horse-drawn wagon rides and live bands.     Oct. 19.

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. 19.

Haunted Harmony in 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.

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. 19.

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. 19–20.

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. 19–20.

Halloween in 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. 19, pumpkin-carving and house-decoration contests and a 1 p.m. Grand Day Parade Oct. 26. Oct. 19–26.

A wall of jack-o-lanterns in Highwood.

© Highwood Chamber

Every October, the town of Highwood, Ill., tries to best its own world record for the most carved and lighted pumpkins.

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 Light up the Night parade Oct. 19, pumpkin-carving and house-decoration contests and a 1 p.m. Grand Day Parade Oct. 26. Oct. 19–26.

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. 23–27.

Halloween Outdoor Puppet Extravaganza in 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. Oct. 25–26.

Zombie Days in Washburn, WI Zombies will take over this town on Chequamegon Bay, and there's also a haunted hallway, carved-pumpkin contest and 2 p.m. Saturday parade. Oct. 25–26.

Jack O'Lantern Days in Fish Creek, WI There will be mask making, pumpkin carving, trick or treating and haunted trolley tours. Oct. 25–27.

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. 26.

Halloween Parade in Galena, IL The town's annual parade is along Main Street at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 26.

Freakfest in 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 the Gin Blossoms and Lil Yachty.  Oct. 26.

Brothers Grimm Fairytale Halloween in Green Bay, WI At Heritage Hill Historical Park, meet Snow White, Rapunzel and Rumpelstiltskin, hear stories, make crafts and play games. Oct. 26.

BatFest in Batavia, IL This Fox River town hosts a pumpkin roll, pumpkin-carving battles, "Thriller'' dances, marshmallow shooting and a parade. Oct. 26.

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. 26–27.

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. 27.

Day of the Dead Xicago in Chicago, IL In the National Museum of Mexican Art and Harrison Park, families can create ofrendas (altars), eat pan de muerto, listen to musical performances and get faces painted. It's 3-8 p.m. and admission is free. Oct. 27.

Driftless Film Festival in Mineral Point, See independent films and meet filmmakers in the 1916 opera house of this artistic town west of Madison. Oct. 31–Nov. 3.

First weekend in November

Driftless Film Festival in Mineral Point, See independent films and meet filmmakers in the 1916 opera house of this artistic town west of Madison. Oct. 31–Nov. 3.

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. 1–2.

Witching Hour Festival in Iowa City, IA This festival focuses on the creative processes of musicians, artists, comedians, writers, thinkers, scientists and magicians.  Nov. 1–2.

Art Attack in Minneapolis, MN In the northeast arts district, 250 visual artists team with musicians and writers for this free festival. Nov. 1–3.

Halloween Outdoor Puppet Extravaganza in 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.

Bayfield Apple Fest royalty wave from a giant float.

© Beth Gauper

The local homecoming king and queen ride a giant apple in Bayfield's big Apple Fest parade.

Second 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. 6–9.

Lake Superior Storm Festival in Grand Marais, MN This festival features a wave dash, shipwreck stories, and children's activities. Nov. 8–10.

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. 9–10.

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. 9–10.

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. 9–10.

Holiday Fantasy in Lights in Madison, WI The free display in Olin Park is open from dusk to dawn. Nov. 9–Jan. 1.

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.

Wisconsin Dog Fair in Madison, WI Attend demonstrations and seminars on more than 150 breeds at Alliant Energy Center. Nov. 10.

Children's Halloween parade.

© Beth Gauper

Children march in a Halloween parade.

Third weekend in November

Holiday Fantasy in Lights in Madison, WI The free display in Olin Park is open from dusk to dawn. Nov. 9–Jan. 1.

Festive Friday Eves in Cedarburg, WI Five Christmas celebrations, each with a different theme, at Cedar Creek Settlement, a restored 1864 woolen mill in this historic village just north of Milwaukee. Each features live holiday music, crafts, luminaries, wine-tasting and cookies and cider. Nov. 15.

Holiday Folk Fair International in West Allis, WI More than 50 ethnic groups are represented with music, dance, food and crafts. At the Wisconsin State Fair Exposition Center. Nov. 15–17.

Christkindlmarket in Chicago, IL This is the most authentic Old World Christmas market, with many German vendors who bring over toys, ornaments and sweets. There's a Children's Lantern Parade, appearances by the Christkind and entertainment most days. In Daley Plaza in the Loop. Nov. 15–Dec. 24.

Christkindlmarket Milwaukee in Milwaukee, WI The Chicago Christkindlmarket expands with this open-air, German-style market in the plaza outside Fiserv Forum arena. Nov. 15–Dec. 24.

Veterans Day Parade in Milwaukee, WI It's at 11 a.m., starting in Pere Marquette Park and following Kilbourn Avenue toward the lakefront. This year, it marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Nov. 16.

Pangea in 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. Nov. 16.

Art & Gift Fair in 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. 16–17.

For more, see Great holiday festivals.


Last updated on October 13, 2019