The Most Fun Fall Festivals in the U.S.
The festival circuit doesn't stop at the end of summer. Here are nine awesome adventure, culture, and food festivals worth traveling for.
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We get it—summer gets all the festival glory. But the celebrations don’t quit just because the temperature drops. Toss on a few extra layers, then head out to stuff your face with tacos and tequila, shred on Sedona’s famed slickrock trails, or relive the ’90s with Eddie Vedder and friends on the California coast. All that matters is that you’re having a good time.
Dana Point, California; September 27 to 29
Pack sunscreen and a towel, then head over to SoCal’s Doheny State Beach and let Eddie Vedder be your host for the Ohana Festival (from $129), three days of oceanside music curated and headlined by the Pearl Jam front man. As you might expect, his tastes run a bit guitar-heavy: other performers include the Strokes, Incubus, and Red Hot Chili Peppers. Between sets, wander over to the storytellers stage to hear inspirational talks from conservation-minded adventurers, artists, and athletes, like freediver Kimi Werner and pro surfer Greg Long. Admission is steep, but part of the proceeds benefits park-loving nonprofits Doheny State Beach Interpretive Association and the San Onofre Foundation.
Great American Beer Festival
Denver, Colorado; October 3 to 5
It’s all in the name, folks. When it launched in 1982, the Great American Beer Festival (from $85) featured two dozen breweries; last year, attendees sampled suds from about 800. The paradox of choice is a bit head-spinning (or is that the alcohol?), but beerhounds in the know venture to the Heavy Medal booth to swig the festival’s blue ribbon brews. To ensure you remember to eat a little something between sips, take cues from event veterans, who drape pretzels, beef sticks, and even hamburger buns around their necks like so many carb-laden Flavor Flavs.
Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
Albuquerque, New Mexico; October 5 to 13
Loosen up those neck and shoulder muscles, because you’re going to spend a lot of time gazing upward during the wondrous Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta (from $10). Be sure to catch Mass Ascension daily at 7 a.m., when hundreds of colorful hot air balloons fill the morning sky. It’s equally magical when they’re illuminated at dusk. If your neck needs a break, hit the street fair–style concession area in search of green chile delights like chile-topped enchiladas and cheeseburgers, or watch the sawdust fly during daytime chainsaw carving demos.
Arizona Taco Festival
Scottsdale, Arizona; October 12 to 13
Taco enthusiasts, rejoice: heaven awaits at the Arizona Taco Festival (from $10), where nearly 50 restaurateurs will vie for your affection by slinging little bundles of tortilla-swaddled joy for three bucks each. You want hot sauce with that? There are 100 varieties on hand. Same goes for tequila. Oh, and there’s a lucha libre wrestling arena, a beauty pageant for chihuahuas, and, obviously, a taco-eating contest. Feeling brave? See if you have what it takes to out-sweat fellow capsaicin lovers in a pepper-eating showdown.
Fayetteville, West Virginia; October 19
West Virginia’s New River Gorge is well regarded as one of the premier climbing areas in the country. To some, it’s an even better place to catch some air. For almost 40 years, adventurous types have flocked to its 876-foot-high namesake bridge (the longest of its kind in the Western Hemisphere) for Bridge Day, a celebration of gravity—or the defiance thereof. While the free event is best known for showcasing BASE jumpers, others take the opportunity to rappel or cruise down zip lines. For spectators, the views can’t be beat.
Color the Crag
Steele, Alabama; October 17 to 20
When Bethany Lebewitz of Brown Girls Climb and Mikhail Martin of Brothers of Climbing launched Color the Crag (from $85) three years ago, it was the first festival of its kind to include and actually prioritize participation by climbers who are people of color, from bouldering newbies to workshop leaders. That’s not to say that others aren’t invited; everyone who’s on board with their mission of more diverse representation in the climbing world is welcome to camp, party, and palm the bulbous boulders scattered around Alabama’s famed Horse Pens 40. Bonus? The fall foliage here is on point.
Voodoo Music + Arts Experience
New Orleans, Louisiana; October 25 to 27
You could spend Halloween weekend frantically searching for a last-minute costume, or you could be in New Orleans, blissed out on stellar music and out-of-this-world cuisine. The Voodoo Music + Arts Experience (from $75) has it all, from headlining sets by Guns N’ Roses, Beck, and Post Malone to a next-level food court filled with Cajun cuisine. Scare up some free time (see what we did there?) to roam the festival grounds, where you can enjoy spooky art installations and boozy retreats.
Roam Bike Fest
Sedona, Arizona; November 8-10
Ladies, this one’s for you. Bring your own wheels or demo some of the raddest mountain bikes on the market during dozens of group rides on Sedona’s iconic sandstone slickrock. When you’re done living out your singletrack dreams, head back to Roam Bike Fest’s event headquarters at the Red Agave Resort for yoga, panel discussions, tech clinics, dance parties, and a screening of the No Man’s Land Film Festival (from $89). “Beermosas” with breakfast are optional; stoke is not.