Autumn is here, and with it comes much more than beautiful foliage -- it also brings a bounty of festivals that will engage all ages. Catch your breath at the sight of hundreds of hot air balloons filling the New Mexico sky, savor the taste of the best apples in the nation, or witness thousands of jack-o-lanterns lit at the same time. Sound appealing? These are just a few of the opportunities that await autumn travelers. Read on to learn more about family-friendly North American festivals that are worth the trip this fall.

1. Atlanta: Yellow Daisy Festival

One of the largest fall festivals in the Southeast, the annual Yellow Daisy Festival is a four-day event taking place at Stone Mountain Park just outside of Atlanta. Running September 4 to 7, the show features more than 400 artisans, live entertainment, children's activities, craft demonstrations and more.

2. Hudson Valley, N.Y.: Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze

While not a festival but an annual attraction, this is a must-see for any family within driving distance of the Hudson River Valley. Every fall families can get into the spirit of the season at the Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze, where more than 5,000 hand-carved, illuminated jack o'lanterns are on display in an evening walk-through experience at Van Cortlandt Manor. The special event takes place October 4 to 5, 10 to 13, 16 to 19, 23 to 31, and November 1 to 2 and 6 to 9, 2014.

3. Keene, N.H.: Keene Pumpkin Festival

Nothing says fall like a pumpkin -- or even better, nearly 29,000 pumpkins! That's what you'll see at the annual Keene Pumpkin Festival on Oct. 18, when the quintessential New England town of Keene, New Hampshire will be overflowing with jack-o'-lanterns, lining the streets and stacked on huge towers. Keene reclaimed its ninth Guinness World Record last year for the most jack-o'-lanterns lit at one time. Live music, crafts, hayrides, fireworks, a kids' costume parade and a pumpkin pie eating contest keep visitors entertained. Teens enjoy events specifically geared towards them, including wall climbing and seed spitting contests.

4. Albuquerque, N.M.: Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

For mesmerizing beauty and sheer grace, there's nothing like the sight of hundreds of vibrantly colored hot air balloons drifting through the desert sky of New Mexico. It's all part of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, which will take place the second week of October. Events kick off as early as 5:45 a.m. each day with a "dawn patrol," in which balloons are inflated and launched in a choreographed musical performance. Mass balloon ascensions follow at 7 a.m. many mornings, while evening offerings include fireworks shows that everyone in the family can enjoy. Kids of all ages will become awestruck over the Balloon Glow -- a magical event in which the balloons are lit from within like colorful paper lanterns.

5. Rochester, Mich.: Arts & Apples Festival

An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but apples also bring visitors to Eastern Michigan annually for this event that combines the fall harvest of apples and artwork. For nearly 50 years, Rochester Park has welcomed festival-goers and this year opens its doors again to nearly 300 artisans displaying their wares for purchase. The festival features also features (of course!) apple treats, live entertainment and a Kids Art Zone. The 49th annual event will take place September 5 to 7.

6. Arendtsville, Pa.: National Apple Harvest Festival

You don't need art to enjoy the spoils of fall at this apple event in Southern Pennsylvania, where some of the best apples in the country are grown. Arendtsville hosts the National Apple Harvest Festival. This event takes place on the first two weekend of October: this year Oct. 4 and 5 and 11 to 12. More than 300 vendors come out for the festival, which features pie-eating contests, bobbing for apples, a tractor square dance -- literally, tractors "dancing" -- hay rides, puppet shows and a petting zoo. Dance cloggers, child ballerinas and honored Native American groups all put on entertaining live shows that span the entire event. Besides the to-die-for apple pie, parents can check out the antique cars.

7. West Springfield, Mass.: The Big E

This annual fall event is one of the largest fairs in the country, serving all of New England in one place for two straight weeks. This September 12 to 28, the Big E, or Eastern States Exposition, will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1964 New York World's Fair with a special exhibit. The Big E is filled fun exhibits such as Avenue of States, Storrowton Village Museum and Farm-A-Rama. Exhibits, crafters, live entertainment and kids activities are included in the event.

8. Sonoma, Calif.: Sonoma County Harvest Fair

The Sonoma County Harvest Fair is often regarded as one of the best fall festivals in the country. It's a celebration of the grape harvest of Californian wine country. Yes, families can participate in the World Championship Grape Stomp, but the festival isn't all about wine. There are plenty of family-friendly activities, including pumpkin tosses, sheepdog trials and cow-milking contests. The giant pumpkin weigh-in takes place here every year. Animals are a key theme for children. There are miniature donkeys, pet pigs and pygmy goat shows. Water fowls and poultry even get recognition. Kids might enjoy riding carnival rides or participating in the Easy Bake Oven Bake-Off contest. Parents will appreciate live jazz music and art shows. This year the festival takes place during October 4 to 5.


For more family vacation ideas, check out:
10 Best Fall Beach Festivals for Families
10 Best Haunted Houses for Families Who Love a Good Fright!

Written by Lissa Poirot


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