Midwest Fall Festivals and Road Trip Destinations

Your Guide to Midwest Fall Festivals

I love fall, and I love Midwest fall festivals.  There is something comforting about spending time in a great town celebrating the changing season.  The Midwest hosts a large number of them, from small towns to big cities, and I know one reason must be that fall really is beautiful in this region.  The extraordinary range of colors in the trees and the cooler temperatures make the Midwest an excellent place to take a weekend road trip and spend a few days enjoying the local flavor.  I have a pretty big list of places to go, maybe you can find one to check out on your next weekend vacation.  

October

 Witching Hour Festival in Iowa City, IA This festival features the creative processes of musicians, artists, comedians, writers, thinkers, scientists and magicians.  Oct. 20–21.
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. 20–22.

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. 20–22.

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. 20–22.

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. 20–22.
Harry Potter Festival in Jefferson, WI This festival celebrates the famous boy wizard with a lighted parade at 6:30 p.m. Friday, a Magical Night Out, Quidditch games, a Sorting Hat Experience, Dragons Alley, a corn maze and many other events. Oct. 20–22.
Halloween Parade of Artists in 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. 21.
Halloween at Heritage Hill in Green Bay, WI At Heritage Hill Historical Park, meet wizards and witches, test your magic skills and fill your cauldron with candy. Oct. 21.
Applefest in Alexandria, MN Enter a pie-eating contest, listen to bands, go on a horse-drawn wagon ride and watch a pumpkin-catapult contest and quilt auction at Carlos Creek Winery. Oct. 21.
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. 21.
Triple Fright Night in 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. 21.
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. 21–22.
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. 21–22.
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. 21, pumpkin-carving and house-decoration contests and a 1 p.m. Grand Day Parade Oct. 28. Oct. 21–28.
 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. 21, pumpkin-carving and house-decoration contests and a 1 p.m. Grand Day Parade Oct. 28. Oct. 21–28.
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. 25–29.
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. 27–28.
Zombie Days in 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. 27–28.
Jack O’Lantern Days in Fish Creek, WI There will be mask making, pumpkin carving, trick or treating and a Halloween parade at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. Oct. 27–29.
Your Guide to Midwest Fall festivals












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. 28.
Halloween Parade in Galena, IL The town’s annual parade is along Main Street at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 28.
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 George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic. Advance tickets are $10. Oct. 28.
Halloween at Heritage Hill in Green Bay, WI At Heritage Hill Historical Park, meet wizards and witches, test your magic skills and fill your cauldron with candy. Oct. 28.
BatFest in Batavia, IL This Fox River town hosts a pumpkin roll, hay rides, pumpkin-seed spitting contest, “Thriller” dances, marshmallow shooting and a parade. Oct. 28.
Dia de los Muertos in Milwaukee, WI In Walker Square Park, there will be an art market, ofrenda-making, Aztec dancers and parade. Oct. 28.
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. 28–29.

First weekend in November-Midwest Fall Festivals

Wisconsin Book Festival in Madison, WI This big fest features readings, lectures, book discussions, writing workshops, live interviews and children’s events. Nov. 2–5.
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. 3–4.
Veterans Day Parade in Milwaukee, WI It’s at 11 a.m., starting in Pere Marquette Park and following East Wells Street to Veterans Park on the lakefront. Nov. 4.

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. 8–12.

Your Guide to Midwest Fall Festivals

 

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.
Lake Superior Storm Festival in Grand Marais, MN The fifth edition of this festival features a wave dash, shipwreck stories, and children’s activities. Nov. 10–12.
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. 11–12.
Trainfest in West Allis, WI The nation’s largest operating model railroad show includes more than 60 scenic railroads, clinics for hobbyists and a Kids’ Activity Zone with racing trains, face painting and a Circus Train. Nov. 11–12.
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. 11–12.