6 fab fall weekend festivals for families

With Labor Day signaling the unofficial end of summer, some of us are already planning weekend getaways that celebrate the joys of autumn. Happily, fall is chockablock with fun events around the country that combine crisp air, a big dose of classic Americana, and kid-friendly fun. Here are six weekend getaways worth marking your calendar for:

1. Oktoberfest Zinzinnati: Sept 20-22, 2013


(Oktoberfest Zinzinnati)

The largest Oktoberfest in the United States takes place over six blocks of downtown Cincinnati, where more than half a million folks come every year to celebrate Ohio’s German heritage. There are lederhosen-wearing oompah bands, naturally, as well as pretzels, schnitzel, strudel, sauerkraut, and steins of beer. Events include a bratwurst-eating contest, a beer-stein race, and the wildly popular “Running of the Wieners,” a 25-yard dash for dachshunds donning hot-dog-bun costumes.

2. Warrens Cranberry Festival: Sept 27-29, 2013


(Warrens Cranberry Festival)

It’s only fitting that America’s largest cranberry celebration happens in Wisconsin, the nation’s top producer of the antioxidant-rich superberry. Two hours northwest of Madison, the wee town of Warren sees its population of 366 swell to welcome over 110,000 festival-goers, who come to enjoy cranberries prepared every which way, marsh tours, a parade, and three miles of arts-and-crafts browsing.

3. Elk Fest: Sept. 28-29, 2013


(Visit Estes Park)

Each year come late September, herds of elk descend from the high country into the mountain town of Estes Park, Colorado, where they gather on local golf courses and parade down streets, bugling and showing off their antlers. The festival is a great way for families to learn about wild elk with bugling contests, Native American dance and storytelling, lots of elk-inspired food and drink, and afternoon elk-viewing bus tours. Can’t make it there for the festival weekend? The following month is known as “Elktober” ‘round these parts.

4. National Apple Harvest Festival: Oct 5-6 and 12-13, 2013


(National Apple Harvest Festival)

Over two consecutive weekends in October, more than 100,000 people will flock to Pennsylvania’s top apple-growing region for the 49th annual celebration of the all-American fruit. Apple HQ is eight miles north of Gettysburg, in Arendstsville, where the line-up of kid-friendly activities will include hayrides, apple-bobbing, applesauce-making, a petting zoo, live music, and even a tractor square dance, where a caller commands drivers and their rigs to promenade and do-si-do. Bring your appetite; rumor has it there will be pie.

5. Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta: Oct. 5-13, 2013


(Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta)

Two crisp October weekends form the bookends of Albuquerque’s world-renowned balloon fest, where over 600 hot-air balloons create a colorful and dreamy display against a clear fall New Mexico sky. Highlights include balloon glows, mass ascensions, the “special shape rodeo” for uniquely-shaped balloons, after-glow fireworks, and the ubiquitous aroma of roasting chiles.

6. Wellfleet OysterFest: Oct. 19-20, 2013


(Wellfleet OysterFest)

It’s hard to think of a nicer way to spend a brisk October weekend than enjoying oysters in one of Cape Cod’s loveliest harbor towns. Beyond the cooking demos, raw bars, and shucking contests, there will be plenty to please the kids: oyster reef tours, nature walks, live music, skateboard competitions, face-painting, and a bounce house.

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