MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Great fall festivals

Here are the best of the fests in 2014.

A carriage race at Villa Louis.

© Wisconsin Historical Soci

Drivers in vintage clothes race carriages during the Carriage Classic at Villa Louis.

Fall is made for festivals. It's harvest time, and the fields and orchards are overflowing. Trees turn red and gold. And it's the last time we'll enjoy warm weather until spring.

The many people who heed the urge to get out and about on crisp autumn weekends make it the busiest tourist season of the year.

Any town that can hold a fall festival does, and well-established ones, such as Bayfield's Apple Festival (see Big apples), become almost too popular.

Other festivals also attract big crowds Cranberry Fest in west-central Wisconsin, the Fall Art Tour in southwest Wisconsin and people who haven't reserved lodgings may not be able to get them.

All Oktoberfest celebrations are popular; for a list, see Toasting Oktoberfest.


But small festivals also attract a lot of people, and leaf-peepers will be out en masse in the north woods and along the St. Croix and Mississippi rivers (see Great fall drives). Many people combine scenic drives with artist tours (see Autumn in the studios). 

So if you want to travel in fall, plan ahead.

Here are some of the best festivals in 2014. Always check before you go to verify dates and to make sure you catch the best parts of a festival, especially the parades.

For small-town festivals, see Bash on a bike trail.

For art tours, see Autumn in the studios.

For events year-round, see the Events Calendar.

First weekend in September

Defeat of Jesse James Days in 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. Sept. 3–7.

Sandwich Fair in Sandwich, IL This northeast Illinois fair, held since 1888, features exhibits, entertainment and music plus harness racing, tractor pulls and demolition derbies. Sept. 3–7.

Pufferbilly Days in 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. Sept. 4–7.

Indian Summer Festival in Milwaukee, WI This lakefront festival features a powwow, canoe rides, Aztec dancers, lacrosse lessons and fireworks. Sept. 5–7.

Festival of the Vine in Geneva, IL There's an arts and crafts show, flower market, music, wine tasting and sampling of food from local restaurants. Sept. 5–7.

Paw Paw Wine & Harvest Festival in 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. Sept. 5–7.

Paramount Blues Festival in Grafton, WI This town on the Ozaukee Interurban Trail, between Cedarburg and Port Washington, holds a place on the Mississippi Blues Trail along with Chicago, Memphis and Clarksdale, Miss. From 1929 to 1932, a Paramount recording studio here produced a quarter of the nation's blues, jazz, and gospel music, or "race records.'' The festival is held in Lime Kiln Park. VIP passes are popular; buy early. Sept. 5–6.

La Crosse Storytelling Festival in La Crosse, WI Listen to local, regional and national storytellers spin tales in Myrick Park. Sept. 5–6.

James J. Hill Days in 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. Sept. 6–7.

Villa Louis Carriage Classic in 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. Sept. 6–7.

Rock Bend Folk Festival in St. Peter, MN This free, easygoing festival in this Minnesota River town's Minnesota Square Park features local favorites The Divers. Sept. 6–7.

Washington County Bluegrass Festival in Lake Elmo, MN Monroe Crossing and other bands will play at this family festival at Lake Elmo Park Reserve, free with $5 vehicle permit. There also will be camping and food vendors. Sept. 6.

Taste of the Trail in 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.   Sept. 6.

St. Paul Classic Bike Tour in 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. Sept. 7.

Scandinavian Day in South Elgin, IL This festival in Vasa Park, along the Fox River, features music, dancing, food and crafts from the Nordic countries. Sept. 7.

Dachshund races at a festival.

© Beth Gauper

Dachshund races are held at many fall festivals.

Second weekend in September

Pumpkin Festival in 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. Sept. 10–13.

Unplugged: The Northern Harvest in Grand Marais, MN The harbor-side North House Folk School celebrates with storytelling, traditional workshops, a fish boil and concerts by songwriter/musicians. Sept. 11–14.

World Music Festival in 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. Sept. 11–21.

Wo-Zha-Wa Days in Wisconsin Dells, WI There's a juried arts and crafts show, street carnival and parade Sunday. Sept. 12–14.

Michigan Irish Music Festival in Muskegon, MI There's music on three stages, plus dance and session tents, a cultural village, Celtic Kitchen and limerick contest. Sept. 12–14.

Grape Stomp in 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. Sept. 12–14.

Riot Fest in Chicago, IL The Cure, Jane's Addiction and Weezer are among the headliners in this Humboldt Park festival. Sept. 12–14.

Wauktoberfest in 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. Sept. 12–14.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Days in 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. Sept. 13–14.

Ethnic Fest in Walker, MN Such performers as alphornists, Irish dancers and Anishinaabe drum and dance corps perform in this town on the shores of Leech Lake. There's also a parade. Sept. 13.

Sun Prairie Blues Fest in Sun Prairie, WI There's a whole day of blues at Angell Park in this little town just northeast of Madison. Sept. 13.

Rock the Green in Milwaukee, WI This "near-zero waste'' music festival in Veterans Park on the lakefront features six bands. Sept. 13.

Parade of Nations and Multicultural Festival in 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. Sept. 13.

Taste of the Trail in Rushford/Houston, MN On the Root River State Trail, sample local food, listen to music, tour a museum and visit with Alice the owl. Sept. 13.

Scarecrow Fest in 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. Sept. 13.

Bacon Bash in 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. Sept. 13–14.

Minneapolis Bike Tour in 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. Sept. 14.

Summit Hil House Tour in St. Paul, MN This self-guided tour of homes on one of the nation's best-preserved Victorian streets is held only once every two years. Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 on the day of the tour if available. Sept. 14.

Third weekend of September

World Music Festival in 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. Sept. 11–21.

German Fest in Guttenberg, IA There will be music, dancing, children's games and lock and dam tours in this antebellum town on the Mississippi River. Sept. 19–20.

World Food & Music Festival in 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. Sept. 19–21.

Cheese Days in Monroe, WI It's the 100th anniversary of this festival, held every other year in the capital of cheese country, the home of Swiss Colony and the last Limburger factory. There are cow-milking and cheese sandwich-making contests, yodeling, tours and a big parade at 12:30 p.m. Sunday. Sept. 19–21.

Oaktoberfest in 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. Sept. 19–20.

Michigan Schooner Festival in Traverse City, MI The schooners Madeline, Inland Seas, Manitou and Denis Sullivan will be at the Maritime Heritage Alliance's festival, which includes a Parade of Sail, tours, a pirate treasure hunt and music.   Sept. 19–21.

Oktoberfest in Chippewa Falls, WI Meet the Narren, enter a sauerkraut-eating contest, listen to polka and zydeco and watch the daily parade. Sept. 19–21.

Wine & Harvest Festival in 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. Sept. 20–21.

Fall Gathering at the North West Co. Fur Post in 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. Sept. 20–21.

Fall Festival in Hayward, WI There's an arts and crafts fair, children's games, contests and live music downtown. Sept. 20.

Vintage Illinois Wine Festival in Matthiessen State Park, IL This festival in northwest Illinois features live music and wine-tasting from 25 Illinois vineyards. Sept. 20–21.

Oktoberfest in St. Paul, MN There will be dachshund and bed races in addition to folk dancing and music on Rice Street. Sept. 20.

World War II Days in Rockford, IL Midway Village Museum hosts the largest World War II battle re-enactment in the nation, with more than 800 uniformed re-enactors and more than 70 vintage tanks and other armored vehicles. Sept. 20–21.

Taste of the Trail in 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. Sept. 20.

International Fall Festival in Eau Claire, WI See the Parade of Nations, an international bazaar and music on the World Stage. Sept. 20.

A float from the La Crosse Oktoberfest parade.

© Beth Gauper

In La Crosse, Oktoberfest stretches across nine days.

Fourth weekend in September

Grundy County Corn Festival in 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. Sept. 24–28.

Oktoberfest in La Crosse, WI The big riverfront festival is downsizing this year, with just four days of  partying. There's food, music and carnival rides, plus the opening Torchlight Parade and the Maple Leaf Parade on Saturday morning. Sept. 25–28.

Boats and Bluegrass in 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. Sept. 25–28.

Cornish Festival in Mineral Point, WI In the old lead-mining district in southwest Wisconsin, play shove ha'penny in the Kiddleywink Pub, eat figgyhobbin and pasties, listen to tommyknocker tales and tour Cornish miners' cottages. Sept. 26–27.

Apple Festival in Gays Mills, WI There'll be arts and crafts and music in this southwest Wisconsin village. The big parade is Sunday. Sept. 26–28.

Cranberry Festival in 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. Sept. 26–28.

Kalona Fall Festival in Kalona, IA This Mennonite community just southwest of Iowa City, famous for its quilts, offers pony rides, a pumpkin-carving contest, demonstrations of Old World artisanry, music and homemade potato chips, apple fritters, ice cream and chicken, biscuits and gravy. Sept. 26–27.

Beef-A-Rama in Minocqua, WI In this northern Wisconsin lake-resort town, there's a Rump Roast Run, beef-eating contest and Parade of Beef on Saturday. Sept. 26–27.

Oktoberfest in 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. Sept. 26–27.

Fall Fest in 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. Sept. 26–27.

Tour of Historic Galena Homes in Galena, IL Tour five private homes and the History Museum in this picturesque town in northwest Illinois. Sept. 27–28.

Hyde Park Jazz Festival in Chicago, IL Listen to non-stop music during this free festival at Midway Plaisance, near the Museum of Science and Industry and Lake Michigan. Sept. 27–28.

Johnny Appleseed Festival in 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. Sept. 27.

Oktoberfest in 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. Sept. 27.

All-State Barn Tour in Iowa in Across the state, IA It's the Iowa Barn Foundation's annual free, self-guided tour of restored historic barns. Sept. 27–28.

Civil War Weekend in 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. Sept. 27–28.

Spirit of the St. Croix Art Festival in Hudson, WI Music, food and a juried art show along the St. Croix River, in Lakefront Park. Sept. 27–28.

Cheese Days parade in Monroe.

©

Bernese mountain dogs pull a flower cart during the Cheese Days parade in Monroe.

First weekend in October

Oktoberfest in 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. 3–5.

Audubon Days in 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. 3–5.

Northeast Iowa Artists' Studio Tour in 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. 3–5.

Apple Festival in Bayfield, WI It's the 53rd 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. 3–5.

Chain O' Lakes Blues Festival in Waupaca, WI Listen to the blues at the historic Indian Crossing Casino. Oct. 3–4.

Big Island Rendezvous and Festival in 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. 4–5.

Apple Affair in 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. 4.

Giant Pumpkin Fest in Nekoosa, WI This town near Wisconsin Rapids calls itself the Giant Pumpkin Capital of Wisconsin and features a pumpkin-pie eating contest, pumpkin rolling for kids, a carnival and craft show. Oct. 4–5.

Oktoberfest in Galena, IL The Lions Club puts on this riverfront festival, which includes wiener-dog races, polka lessons, hammerschlagen, pumpkin-decorating and a beanbag tournament. Oct. 4.

Olde English Faire/Autumn on Parade in 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. 4–5. Autumn on Parade website

Fermentation Fest in 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. 4–13.

Great Chicago Fire Festival in Chicago, IL Redmoon Theater celebrates the city's resurgence after the Fire of 1871 with a bazaar along the Riverwalk from 3 to 8 p.m., a cauldron drop from bridges at 8 p.m. and a grand spectacle from 8-9:30 p.m., with three floating sculptures that will be set ablaze and a fireworks show set to music. Oct. 4.

Oktoberfest in Oshkosh, WI This fest features dancing, dachshund races and lots of contests: frankfurter eating, stein holding and barrel rolling. Oct. 4.

Second weekend of October

Fermentation Fest in 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. 4–13.

Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival in Alpena, MI Five Lake Huron lighthouses, at Tawas Point, Sturgeon Point, Forty Mile Point and Presque Isle, will be open for tours, and visitors can take boats or helicopters to see the lights on Middle Island and Thunder Bay Island. Oct. 9–12.

Scarecrow Festival in 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. 10–12.

Harbor Country Harvest Days in Harbor Country, MI The Lake Michigan towns just north of the Indiana border, including New Buffalo, Union Pier, Three Oaks and Sawyer, celebrate Columbus Day weekend with wine tasting, hay rides, pumpkin-carving contests, live music and fine arts. Oct. 10–13.

Apple Festival in Charlevoix, MI In this Lake Michigan town, there's a pumpkin-carving contest, children's activities and an arts and crafts show. Oct. 10–12.

Turkey Testicle Festival in Byron, IL Come have a ball at this longtime festival on the Rock River near Rockford. There's live music in addition to the featured food, which comes from turkeys that are castrated in early fall so they'll be big and juicy for Thanksgiving. These early leftovers are deep-fried, and proceeds go to charity. Oct. 10–11.

Madison County Covered Bridge Festival in 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. 11–12.

Galena Country Fair in 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. 11–12.

Scenic Drive Festival in 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. 11–12.

Oktoberfest in 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. 11–12.

Pumpkin Patch Festival in Egg Harbor, WI There'll be music, children's games and arts and crafts in this Door County village. Oct. 11–12.

Oktoberfest in Lake Geneva, WI There will be wagon rides, music, magic, free pumpkins and crafts on downtown streets. Oct. 11–12.

Fall Festival of the Arts in Red Wing, MN There's a juried show of more than 90 artists downtown, plus music and food. Oct. 11–12.

Civil War Heritage Weekend at Norskedalen in 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. 11–12.

Harvest Fest in Stillwater, MN There will be a pumpkin pie-eating contest, a pumpkin regatta on the St. Croix River, a microbrew tasting, a pedal tractor pull and a street dance. Oct. 11–12.

Harvest Fest in New Glarus, WI See old-time artisanry at the Swiss Historical Village, including sausage-stuffing and cheese-making in the 1890s cheese factory. Oct. 12.

Burgoo Festival in Utica, IL The street party in this northern Illinois town, gateway to Starved Rock State Park, features vats of "pioneer'' stew, a crafts fair and music. Oct. 12.

Civil War re-enactors march at Norskedalen.

© Beth Gauper

Re-enactors march through Norskedalen during Civil War Weekend in southwest Wisconsin.

Third weekend of October

Wisconsin Book Festival in Madison, WI This big fest features readings, lectures, book discussions, writing workshops, live interviews and children's events. Oct. 16–19.

Autumn Harvest Fest in Wisconsin Dells, WI This year, there's a Craft Beer Walk Friday evening. 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. 17–19.

Fall Festival in 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. 17–19.

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. 17–19.

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. 18 and medallion hunts Oct. 19, pumpkin-carving and house-decoration contests and a 1 p.m. Grand Day Parade Oct. 25. Oct. 17–25.

Pumpkin Festival in Highwood, IL This northern suburb of Chicago carves and lights thousands of pumpkins, trying to surpass the 28,036 lit in 2013. There will also be hay rides, a pumpkin maze, music, a petting zoo and a parade at 8 p.m. Saturday. Oct. 17–19.

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. 17–19.

Halloween at Heritage Hill in Green Bay, WI Ride the haunted tram, have your fortune told, walk a graveyard maze or visit the Ghost Town in 13 historic buildings. Oct. 18.

Applefest in 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. 18.

Open House Chicago in 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. 18–19.

Bayfield Apple Fest royalty wave from a giant float.

© Beth Gauper

The local homecoming king and queen ride a giant apple in Bayfield's big Apple Fest parade.

Fourth weekend of October

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. 18 and medallion hunts Oct. 19, pumpkin-carving and house-decoration contests and a 1 p.m. Grand Day Parade Oct. 25. Oct. 17–25.

Pumpkin Festival in Sycamore, IL In this town between Rockford and DeKalb, there will be a pie-eating contest, carnival, decorated pumpkins and a parade Sunday. Oct. 22–26.

Chicagoween in Chicago, IL This free Halloween festival moves to the Chicago Cultural Center, with daily ghost tours and performances of the Midnight Circus, plus movies, magic shows, crafts and dance performances of "Thriller.'' The Monster Bash is Saturday, with the costume contest at 11:15 a.m. and a children's dance party with trick-or-treating at 1:30 p.m. Oct. 23–26.

Mystery at the Fur Post in Pine City, MN Solve a mystery by lantern light at the re-created North West Company Fur Post, an hour north of the Twin Cities. Reservations are recommended. Oct. 24–25.

Jack O'Lantern Days in Fish Creek, WI There will be mask making, pumpkin carving, trick or treating and a Halloween parade at 1 p.m. Saturday Oct. 24–26.

Howl-O-Ween in 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. 25.

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. 25.

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. 25–26.

Halloween at Heritage Hill in Green Bay, WI Ride the haunted tram, have your fortune told, walk a graveyard maze or visit the Ghost Town in 13 historic buildings. Oct. 25.

BatFest in Batavia, IL This Fox River town hosts a pumpkin roll, Halloween parade, hay rides, costume contest, "Thriller' dances and a haunted quarry. Oct. 25.

Pumpkin Festival in 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. 25.

Halloween Parade in Galena, IL The town's annual parade is along Main Street at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 25.

First weekend in November

Freakfest in 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.

Madison Bacon Festival in Madison, WI The people who brought the wildly popular Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival to Des Moines are bringing their bacon blowout to Alliant Energy Center, with unlimited sampling, bacon education lectures and music. Nov. 1.

Wisconsin Dog Fair in Madison, WI Demonstrations and seminars on more than 150 breeds at Alliant Energy Center. Nov. 2.

Second weekend in November

Art Attack in Minneapolis, MN In the northeast arts district, 250 visual artists team with musicians and writers for this free festival. Nov. 7–9.

Lake Superior Storm Festival in Grand Marais, MN The second edition of this festival features a wave dash, shipwreck stories, North Shore tales from photographer Paul Sundberg, children's activities and, on Monday, the beacon lighting at Split Rock. Nov. 7–9.

Veterans Day Parade in Milwaukee, WI It's at 11 a.m. downtown. Nov. 8.

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. 8–9.

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.

Third weekend in November

Holiday Parade in Oshkosh, WI Look for floats, marching bands and, of course, Santa Claus. 6:30 p.m. Nov. 13.

Autumn Festival: An Arts & Crafts Affair in Shakopee, MN This festival in a Minneapolis suburb features 500 artisans from 30 states. Nov. 13–16.

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. 15–16.

For more, see Great holiday festivals.


Last updated on November 5, 2014

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