Throughout the country, as leaves change colors and the temperatures drop, farmers prepare for fall harvest and its bounty of apples, pumpkins, grapes corn, pecans, and cranberries. Meanwhile, day-trippers pack up their cars make their way to celebratory harvest festivals where the attractions include wandering through corn mazes, participating in baking competitions, and picking pumpkins. Some of the best festivals even feature live music, wine and beer tastings, and their very own parades. These are our top picks for the harvest festivals to attend this fall.
By Emily Wasserman
Sun Valley Harvest Festival
WHERE: Sun Valley, ID
Otherwise known as “Foodie Heaven,” the Sun Valley Harvest Festival offers the best of Sun Valley food and wine. The festival features demonstrations from celebrated chefs, a marketplace with products from regional farmers, tasting sessions with seasonal, local food. Visitors can also participate in the festival’s “Restaurant Walk,” which showcases local restaurants, wines and regional fare.
Nebraska City AppleJack Festival
WHERE: Nebraska City, NE
The Nebraska City AppleJack Festival celebrates the city’s apple harvest. Visitors can pick their own apples at local orchards, sample apple treats, or stop by the AppleJam Carnival for rides, games, face painting and food. The festival also features a parade with over 30 marching bands, arts and crafts exhibits and a pie-baking contest.
Sonoma Harvest Fair
WHERE: Santa Rosa, CA
Visitors flock to the heart of California wine country to visit the Sonoma Harvest Fair. The festival features three days of wine tasting from more than 150 local wineries, artisanal products and delicious food pairings. Don’t miss the World Championship Grape Stomp, where teams go head-to-head to produce record numbers of juice.
Bayfield Apple Festival
WHERE: Bayfield, WI
For small town atmosphere with a spirited presence, visit the Bayfield Apple Festival in Bayfield, Wisconsin. The festival features over 60 orchard and food booths offering Bayfield apples and apple-inspired delicacies, and also showcases some of the area’s finest art. Visitors can drive five minutes outside of town to tour 14 local orchards and pick their own apples and pumpkins.
Stone Barns Harvest Fest
WHERE: Pocantico Hills, NY
Less than an hour away from New York City is Stone Barns Harvest Fest. The festival, held on Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, features a farmer’s market with local, seasonal fare, hayrides, live music and a square dance. The festival is also a fundraiser for Stone Barns Center, and all proceeds support the Center’s mission of improving American agriculture and nutrition.
WHERE: Santa Fe, NM
Help local villagers bring in the fall harvest at Santa Fe’s annual Harvest Festival. Visitors can participate in every aspect of the harvest, from grape stomping and tortilla making, to bread baking and stringing chile ristras. By the end of the festival, you’ll feel like you’re living on the early New Mexican frontier.
National Apple Harvest Festival
WHERE: Arendtsville, PA
History buffs will enjoy the National Apple Harvest Festival, held the first two weekends of October. The festival, which is located in the heart of Pennsylvania Apple country, features more than 300 arts and crafts vendors, live entertainment, hayrides and apple bobbing contests. Visitors can also enjoy live demonstrations, including Native American dancing, tractor square dancing and chainsaw carvings.
Cranberry Harvest Celebration
WHERE: Wareham, MA
Cranberry growers from throughout Cape Cod and southeastern Massachusetts gather each year for the Cranberry Harvest Celebration in Wareham. Growers share their crop with the public, and the festival offers everything from juried crafters and cooking demonstrations to musical performances and children’s rides. The best part? Visitors can buy fresh cranberries and freeze them to use while making their Thanksgiving feast.
Reading Terminal Market Harvest Festival
WHERE: Philadelphia, PA
Celebrate the fall harvest in the middle of the city at the Reading Terminal Market Harvest Festival. Streets close down and the market becomes an urban farm, complete with authentic hayrides, hot apple cider and a sidewalk barbeque. Visitors can browse locally grown harvest fruits and vegetables, and enjoy live bluegrass music. End the day with handmade chocolate, caramel or candy-dipped apples.
Hood River County Harvest Fest
WHERE: Hood River, OR
Overlooking the Columbia River, the Hood River County Harvest Fest provides visitors with a taste of Hood River Valley bounty. The festival features a wide variety of fresh, local produce, and also includes arts and crafts, wine and beer tastings, and locally prepared food products. Visitors can find everything from Anjou pears and heirloom apples to homemade jams and chocolate covered cherries. All-day music, evening entertainment and a kids’ zone make the festival fun for the whole family.
New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival
WHERE: Laconia, NH
Walk through towers of pumpkins and streets lined with jack-o’-lanterns at the Keene Pumpkin Festival. Held two weekends before Halloweeen, the festival features pumpkin-themed events including a pumpkin mile run race, jack-o’-lantern carvings and pumpkin bowling. Visit the Food & Craft Court to try pumpkin-inspired foods, and browse over three-dozen artisans’ crafts and paintings.
North Carolina Pecan Harvest Festival
WHERE: Whiteville, NC
For a unique taste of the fall harvest, visit the North Carolina Pecan Harvest Festival in Whiteville. The county is one of the top pecan producers in North Carolina, and celebrates the nut harvest at its annual fall festival. The festival features a pecan parade, 5k run, pecan cooking contest and pecan queen coronation. Visitors can also browse arts and crafts displays, and listen to music from rhythm and blues bands.
Maine Harvest Festival
WHERE: Bangor, ME
Sample the best of Maine’s food and produce at the Maine Harvest Festival in Bangor. The festival includes live cooking demonstrations, wine and beer tastings, and a variety of local vendors. Visitors can purchase holiday gifts and sample local specialties like whoopie pies and smoked Atlantic salmon. Guests can also participate in the Maine Alpaca Association’s “Alpaca 101” seminar, and learn more about the state’s growing alpaca fiber industry.