MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Fall festivals 2015


  • (Sep. 9 – 13)Defeat of Jesse James Days

    Northfield, MN

    There's a riverfront fine-arts festival, rodeo and Saturday bike tour in this town, a hour south of the Twin Cities, but don't miss the re-enactments of the famous bank raid.

  • (Sep. 10 – 13)Pufferbilly Days

    Boone, IA

    This festival in central Iowa, just west of Ames is named for a steam engine and features a spike-driving contest, parachute jumps, mud volleyball and rides on the Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad. A parade is Saturday.

  • (Sep. 11 – 13)James J. Hill Days

    Wayzata, MN

    The festival in this western suburb of Minneapolis is best known for its Saturday dachshund races, in which more than 100 dogs compete in the hurdles, sprints and sofa jump, followed by a costume contest and smart pet tricks. There's also an arts and crafts fair, water-ski show, kids' carnival and parade at 1 p.m. Sunday on Lake Street.

  • (Sep. 11 – 13)Indian Summer Festival

    Milwaukee, WI

    This lakefront festival features a powwow, canoe rides, Aztec dancers, lacrosse lessons and fireworks.

  • (Sep. 11 – 13)Villa Louis Carriage Classic

    Prairie du Chien, WI

    The Victorian estate on the Mississippi River hosts horses, restored carriages and drivers in period dress for competitive arena and cross-country sport driving, a passion of the frontier aristocrats who built it.

  • (Sep. 11 – 22)World Music Festival

    Chicago, IL

    There will be more than 80 artists performing at more than 30 venues across the city, with some performances free and some ticketed.

  • (Sep. 11 – 13)Festival of the Vine

    Geneva, IL

    There's an arts and crafts show, flower market, music, wine tasting and sampling of food from local restaurants.

  • (Sep. 11 – 13)Paw Paw Wine & Harvest Festival

    Paw Paw, MI

    This big festival in southwest Michigan wine country features music on three stages, Friday fireworks, an art fair, motorcycle and bicycle tours, grape stomps and a Sunday parade.

  • (Sep. 11 – 12)La Crosse Storytelling Festival

    La Crosse, WI

    Listen to local, regional and national storytellers spin tales in Myrick Park.

  • (Sep. 12 – 13)Rock Bend Folk Festival

    St. Peter, MN

    This free, easygoing festival in this Minnesota River town's Minnesota Square Park features local favorites The Divers.

  • (Sep. 12 – 13)Laura Ingalls Wilder Days

    Pepin, WI

    The famous author was born in the bluffs above this Mississippi River town, which celebrates with guided bus tours to the birth site, kids' pioneer games, traditional music and crafts and a Pepin Laura contest that tests knowledge of the "Little House'' books.

  • (Sep. 12)Taste of the Trail

    Lanesboro, MN

    In Lanesboro, Whalan and Peterson on the Root River State Trail, enjoy music, wagon rides and free samples from local restaurants and growers.

  • (Sep. 13)St. Paul Classic Bike Tour

    St. Paul, MN

    Ride a 15-, 30- or 45-mile route along the Mississippi, lakes Como and Phalen and St. Paul parkways, starting and ending at the University of St. Thomas and punctuated by food and live music.

  • (Sep. 13)Scandinavian Day

    South Elgin, IL

    This festival in Vasa Park, along the Fox River, features music, dancing, food and crafts from the Nordic countries.

  • (Sep. 16 – 19)Pumpkin Festival

    Morton, IL

    This town near Peoria, home of the Libby's pumpkin-packing plant, calls itself the Pumpkin Capital of the World and serves pumpkin ice cream, pancakes and fudge at its festival, which features a 10:30 a.m. Saturday parade.

  • (Sep. 17 – 19)Unplugged: The Northern Harvest

    Grand Marais, MN

    The harbor-side North House Folk School celebrates with storytelling, traditional workshops, a fish boil and concerts by songwriter/musicians.

  • (Sep. 17 – 20)Michigan Irish Music Festival

    Muskegon, MI

    There's music on three stages, plus dance and session tents, a cultural village, Celtic Kitchen and limerick contest.

  • (Sep. 18 – 20)Wo-Zha-Wa Days

    Wisconsin Dells, WI

    There's a juried arts and crafts show, street carnival and parade Sunday.

  • (Sep. 18 – 20)Oktoberfest

    Chippewa Falls, WI

    Meet the Narren, enter a sauerkraut-eating contest, listen to polka and zydeco and watch the daily parade.

  • (Sep. 18 – 20)World Food & Music Festival

    Des Moines, IA

    In downtown's East Village, eat at more than 50 cultural cafes for $5 or less (or taste for $1), shop at the world marketplace or listen to musicians strolling the streets or on stage.

  • (Sep. 18 – 20)Grape Stomp

    Alexandria, MN

    Carlos Creek Winery hosts this festival, which features a Friday barn dance, "I Love Lucy'' look-alike contests, grape stomps, comedy, music and crafts vendors.

  • (Sep. 18 – 20)Taste of Traverse City

    Traverse City, MI

    There's a Grub Crawl, a Foodie Film Festival and sampling and chef demonstrations at Taste.

  • (Sep. 18 – 19)Oaktoberfest

    Oak Park, IL

    In this western suburb of Chicago, famous for its Frank Lloyd Wright district, there's music, craft beer, food from local restaurants and, for kids, a root-beer garden, games and zucchini-car races.

  • (Sep. 18 – 20)Wauktoberfest

    Waunakee, WI

    This town just north of Madison celebrates with a craft-beer tasting, bike tour, music and lots of contests: frau carrying, hammerschlagen, beer keg race, dachshund dash and Limburger cheese and sauerkraut eating.

  • (Sep. 18 – 20)Art & Big Fork Festival

    Evanston, IL

    This new downtown festival features live music and local food, beer, wine and fine art.

  • (Sep. 19 – 20)Wine & Harvest Festival

    Cedarburg, WI

    There's a pumpkin regatta — yes, people paddling hollowed-out pumpkins across Cedar Creek — at the fest in this historic mill town just north of Milwaukee. There's also a scarecrow contest, grape stomp, hay rides, juried arts fair and lots of food.

  • (Sep. 19 – 20)Fall Gathering at the North West Co. Fur Post

    Pine City, MN

    No one's more fun than a voyageur, and they'll be dancing, boasting and trying to best one another at this family-friendly event an hour north of the Twin Cities. For the kids, there's a bead scramble, candle-dipping and a scavenger hunt.

  • (Sep. 19 – 20)Vintage Illinois Wine Festival

    Matthiessen State Park, IL

    This festival in northwest Illinois features live music and wine-tasting from 25 Illinois vineyards.

  • (Sep. 19)Parade of Nations and Multicultural Festival

    Hancock/Houghton, MI

    The parade begins in Hancock and ends in Houghton at Dee Stadium, where there's a festival with music, dancing and food from around the world.

  • (Sep. 19)Taste of the Trail

    Fountain/Preston/Harmony, MN

    On the Harmony-Preston Valley State Trail, sample local treats, listen to music, visit the National Trout Center, take wagon rides and play games.


  • (Sep. 19)International Fall Festival

    Eau Claire, WI

    See the Parade of Nations, an international bazaar and music on the World Stage.

  • (Sep. 19)Scarecrow Fest

    Phelps, WI

    See early fall color around this town in Nicolet National Forest. There's pumpkin-chucking, pumpkin and scarecrow contests, a craft fair, car show, hay rides and free chili and deep-fried pickles.

  • (Sep. 19 – 20)Bacon Bash

    River Falls, WI

    There will be pig races, a pig-calling contest, pig crafts, an amateur bacon cook-off and many bacon dishes, including ice cream.

  • (Sep. 20)Minneapolis Bike Tour

    Minneapolis, MN

    Ride 16, 25 or 32 miles on parkways along the Mississippi and the Chain of Lakes. Start and finish is Boom Island, along the river in northeast Minneapolis; there's a party afterward with food, music and beer.

  • (Sep. 23 – 27)Grundy County Corn Festival

    Morris, IL

    The festival in this town on the Illinois River between Ottawa and Joliet offers stagecoach and train rides, a crackerbox derby, a pie-eating contest, music, a carnival, Saturday fireworks and a parade at 2 p.m. Sunday.

  • (Sep. 24 – 27)Boats and Bluegrass

    Winona, MN

    This family-oriented festival in Prairie Island Park, on the Mississippi River, features disc golf, paddling and airplane rides as well as music. A weekend pass includes camping and canoeing, and kids under 16 are free with an adult ticket.

  • (Sep. 25 – 27)Apple Festival

    Gays Mills, WI

    There'll be arts and crafts and music in this southwest Wisconsin village. The big parade is Sunday.

  • (Sep. 25 – 26)Fall Fest

    Cable, WI

    In the colorful northwest woods, there'll be hay rides, corn maze, a chili cook-off, fish boil, arts and crafts and fireworks.

  • (Sep. 25 – 27)Cranberry Festival

    Warrens, WI

    At this huge festival in west-central Wisconsin, there'll be marsh tours, contests and more than 1,300 booths selling antiques, produce and arts and crafts. The big parade is at noon Sunday.

  • (Sep. 25 – 26)Oktoberfest

    Des Moines, IA

    Take polka-dancing lessons, enter the Bier Maiden or stein-holding contests and win costume prizes at this outdoor fest under tents downtown.

  • (Sep. 26 – 27)Civil War Weekend

    Greenbush, WI

    Battles are reenacted at this festival at the Wade House historic site near Sheboygan. There's also a traveling medicine show, court martials, a sutler's row, period concerts and appearances by Abraham Lincoln.

  • (Sep. 26 – 27)Tour of Historic Galena Homes

    Galena, IL

    Tour five private homes and the History Museum in this picturesque town in northwest Illinois.

  • (Sep. 26 – 27)Spirit of the St. Croix Art Festival

    Hudson, WI

    Music, food and a juried art show along the St. Croix River, in Lakefront Park.

  • (Sep. 26)Fall Festival

    Hayward, WI

    There's an arts and crafts fair, children's games, contests and live music downtown.

  • (Sep. 26)Taste of the Trail

    Rushford/Houston, MN

    On the Root River State Trail, sample local food, listen to music, tour a museum and visit with Alice the owl.

  • (Sep. 26)Johnny Appleseed Festival

    Crystal Lake, IL

    In this northwest suburb of Chicago, there's pumpkin bowling, a pumpkin train and petting zoo, apple contests, music and a craft fair.

  • (Sep. 26)Oktoberfest

    Sault Ste. Marie, MI

     Beer-barrel relay races, polka lessons, a farm  market and a tug of war are part of this downtown festival. The Sault International Marathon is held in the morning.


  • (Oct. 1 – 4)Oktoberfest

    La Crosse, WI

    At this big riverfront festival, there's food, music and carnival rides, plus the opening Torchlight Parade and the Maple Leaf Parade on Saturday morning.

  • (Oct. 2 – 4)Apple Festival

    Bayfield, WI

    It's the 54th year of this big festival on Lake Superior. Highlights include Big Top Chautauqua concerts, Pipes & Drums from Thunder Bay, the lighted Venetian boat parade and the grand parade at 2 p.m. Sunday.

  • (Oct. 2 – 4)Oktoberfest

    Amana, IA

    There's German music and food at this Amana Colonies village, plus contests that include the Eisenmann, or Iron Man, competition: Teams roll kegs, walk a balance beam with full steins of beer and saw logs. The parade is at 10 a.m. Saturday

  • (Oct. 2 – 4)Audubon Days

    Mayville, WI

    The festival in this town next to big Horicon Marsh features bed races, a bike tour, rubber-duck race and parade Sunday.

  • (Oct. 2 – 4)Northeast Iowa Artists' Studio Tour

    Decorah area, IA

    Drive through bluff country to see 56 artists at 43 sites around Decorah, Burr Oak, St. Lucas, Waukon, West Union, Cresco, New Albin, Lansing, Elgin and Clermont.

  • (Oct. 2 – 3)Chain O' Lakes Blues Festival

    Waupaca, WI

    Listen to the blues at the historic Indian Crossing Casino.

  • (Oct. 2 – 11)Fermentation Fest

    Reedsburg, WI

    This fest in the scenic hills of southwest Wisconsin is not only about pickles and sourdough bread but also cheese, chocolate, beer and wine. There are classes, tastings, performances, the 50-mile Farm/Art DTour, with Roadside Culture Stands, and Bike the DTour.

  • (Oct. 3 – 4)Big Island Rendezvous and Festival

    Albert Lea, MN

    This southern Minnesota festival is great for families, with more than 1,000 reenactors dancing, demonstrating, competing and pulling visitors back into the fur-trade era.

  • (Oct. 3)Apple Affair

    Galesville, WI

    In the bluffs above Trempealeau, this festival features a 10-foot apple pie, a hunt for a Silver Apple, a race of floating wooden apples and a bicycle tour with a 20-mile route through apple orchards and hillier 35- and 60-mile routes.

  • (Oct. 3 – 4)Olde English Faire/Autumn on Parade

    Oregon, IL

    This festival at Stronghold Conference Center features swordfighters, minstrels, magicians and the Gremlin's Garden for children.

    In town, more strolling performers appear at the Autumn on Parade Festival, and the Harvest Time Parade is at 1 p.m. Sunday.

  • (Oct. 9 – 11)Scarecrow Festival

    St. Charles, IL

    There's a big scarecrow contest plus a carnival and the Autumn on the Fox arts show in this town west of Chicago.

  • (Oct. 9 – 11)Apple Festival

    Charlevoix, MI

    In this Lake Michigan town, there's a pumpkin-carving contest, children's activities and an arts and crafts show.

  • (Oct. 10 – 11)Madison County Covered Bridge Festival

    Winterset, IA

    John Wayne was born there, George Washington Carver lived there and the famous covered bridges still are there. The festival in this town southwest of Des Moines features guided bus tours to the bridges, free horse-drawn wagon rides to Wayne's house, appearances by Carver and other historical figures, spelling bees, live music and an antique vehicles parade at 2 p.m. Sunday.

  • (Oct. 10 – 11)Civil War Heritage Weekend at Norskedalen

    Coon Valley, WI

    This pioneer farmstead in the coulees southeast of La Crosse is wonderfully atmospheric, and the crackerjack re-enactors of the Second Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry's Company B give the region's most affecting portrayal of war.

  • (Oct. 10 – 11)Galena Country Fair

    Galena, IL

    There's a juried fine arts/arts and crafts fair, farmers market, wine garden, bake shop, music and children's games in Grant Park.

  • (Oct. 10 – 11)Scenic Drive Festival

    Van Buren County, IA

    In the southeast corner of Iowa, 11 villages feature quilt shows, scarecrow contests, bake sales, tours of historic sites, wine tasting and street fairs.

  • (Oct. 10 – 11)Oktoberfest

    Cedarburg, WI

    This festival just north of Milwaukee features music and food plus goofy contests: wife-carrying, sauerkraut-eating, a German spelling bee and a live Glockenspiel show.

  • (Oct. 10 – 11)Pumpkin Patch Festival

    Egg Harbor, WI

    There'll be music, children's games and arts and crafts in this Door County village.

  • (Oct. 10 – 11)Oktoberfest

    Lake Geneva, WI

    There will be wagon rides, music, magic, free pumpkins and crafts on downtown streets.

  • (Oct. 10 – 11)Fall Festival of the Arts

    Red Wing, MN

    There's a juried show of more than 90 artists downtown, plus music and food.

  • (Oct. 11)Harvest Fest

    New Glarus, WI

    See old-time artisanry at the Swiss Historical Village, including sausage-stuffing and cheese-making in the 1890s cheese factory.

  • (Oct. 16 – 18)Autumn Harvest Fest

    Wisconsin Dells, WI

    On Saturday, there are hayrides, pony rides, music and arts and crafts, pumpkin decorating, a straw dig and a scarecrow-stuffing contest.

    Also on Saturday, chat with brewmasters and sample beer from Wisconsin breweries at Wisconsin Dells on Tap.

  • (Oct. 16 – 18)Fall Festival

    Sister Bay, WI

    This Door County festival features camel rides, a sloppy joe-eating contest, pumpkin bowling, a pingpong-ball drop and a Saturday parade.

  • (Oct. 16 – 18)Southwest Wisconsin Fall Art Tour

    Southwest, WI

    This popular studio tour includes artists at studios between Mineral Point, Spring Green, Dodgeville and Baraboo.

  • (Oct. 17)Applefest

    Alexandria, MN

    Enter a pie-eating contest, play garden chess, go on a horse-drawn wagon ride and watch a pumpkin-catapult contest at Carlos Creek Winery.

  • (Oct. 17 – 18)Open House Chicago

    Chicago, IL

    The Chicago Architecture Foundation sponsors this free, behind-the-scenes peek at 150 mansions, clubs, churches, hotels and theaters, including the Lyric Opera, where you can watch a set change and listen to the singers.

    In Hyde Park, visit Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House and save the usual $17 cost.

  • (Oct. 22 – 25)Wisconsin Book Festival

    Madison, WI

    This big fest features readings, lectures, book discussions, writing workshops, live interviews and children's events.

  • (Oct. 23 – 31)Halloween

    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. 24, pumpkin-carving and house-decoration contests and a 1 p.m. Grand Day Parade Oct. 31.

  • (Oct. 24)Howl-O-Ween

    Forest Lake, MN

    In this town just north of the Twin Cities, trick-or-treat among owls and wolves and bears at the Wildlife Science Center. There's also a haunted barn.

  • (Oct. 24)A Brothers Grimm Halloween

    Green Bay, WI

    At Heritage Hill Historical Park, meet some of the characters from the Brothers Grimm fairy tales, play Snow White's snap apple and trick or treat.

  • (Oct. 24 – 25)Earth Wood & Fire Artist Tour

    Lake Mills, WI

    Visit artists in their studios in and around Lake Mills, Cambridge and Fort Atkinson, between Madison and Milwaukee.

  • (Oct. 24)BatFest

    Batavia, IL

    This Fox River town hosts a pumpkin roll, Halloween parade, hay rides, costume contest, "Thriller' dances and a haunted quarry.

  • (Oct. 24)Pumpkin Festival

    Edina, MN

    In this south Minneapolis suburb, the popular 50th & France area hosts a costume contest, trick-or-treating, cake walk, horse-drawn trolley rides and face painting from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

  • (Oct. 30 – 31)Jack O'Lantern Days

    Fish Creek, WI

    There will be mask making, pumpkin carving, trick or treating and a Halloween parade at 1 p.m. Saturday

  • (Oct. 31)UFO Day

    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. 31)Halloween Parade

    Galena, IL

    The town's annual parade is along Main Street at 6:30 p.m.

  • (Oct. 31)Freakfest

    Madison, WI

    This fest along State Street features music on two stages, outdoor horror movies, a costume contest with prizes and much sampling at bars.


  • (Nov. 1)Wisconsin Dog Fair

    Madison, WI

    Demonstrations and seminars on more than 150 breeds at Alliant Energy Center.

  • (Nov. 7)Veterans Day Parade

    Milwaukee, WI

    It's at 11 a.m. downtown.

  • (Nov. 10)Beacon lighting at Split Rock Lighthouse

    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. 13 – 22)Holiday Art Fair

    Madison, WI

    This event at the Museum of Contemporary Art and Overture Center features fine art, music, treats and the Rediscovered Art & Treasures Sale.

  • (Nov. 14 – 15)Trainfest

    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. 20 – 22)Outdoor Adventure Expo

    Minneapolis, MN

    The expo at the Midwest Mountaineering store on the West Bank includes dozens of speakers and seminars about skiing, sled-dog racing and ice-climbing as well as camping, backpacking and other year-round adventures.

  • (Nov. 20 – 22)Winterer's Gathering

    Grand Marais, MN

    There's a tent encampment, winter skills seminars, Arctic film festival and chili feed at the North House Folk School.