Author: Family Travel Forum Staff
Tags : Baby, Fall Getaway, Kids, Maine, Multigen, Museums & Culture, North America, North Carolina, Texas, USA, Vermont, Wisconsin
If a uniquely American and slightly eccentric fall festival in North Carolina,Texas, Wisconsin, Maine or Vermont is your idea of a fun fall getaway, read on.
We believe that autumn is the time to harvest some of the many free activities and discounted hotel rooms offered by small towns across America. From the great outdoors to a festival for fire ants, these weekend events are bound to make your family welcome the change in seasons, and exfoliate that sinking back-to-school feeling .
LEAF & Woolly Worm Festivals, North Carolina
As soon as summer slips away, it's time for the apple harvest at u-pick farms, Indian Summer, fall foliage, film festivals, museum openings, and resort discounts encouraging travelers to keep on vacationing.
In the Asheville, North Carolina area at Camp Rockmont, come together to enjoy the great outdoors, plus music and art at the Lake Eden Arts Festival (LEAF). Every year in mid-October, musicians perform the gamut from bluegrass to rock, reggae to salsa, and swing to the blues. International performers bring the sounds of Ireland, Brazil, Haiti, India and more. Other acts include acrobats from Kenya, puppet shows and a youth poetry slam. Families can enjoy handcrafts, dancing and a Kid's Village.
After a busy day at the festival, you can check into the posh Old Edwards Inn and Spa (866/526-8008; 445 Main St. Highlands, NC 28741) near Highlands, North Carolina. From here, you can take leisurely walks and drives through the Appalachians on Whiteside Mountain, where forests of color and cascading waterfalls appear at every turn and hiking and biking is an option as well.
The charming town of Banner Elk, Avery County is between Sugar and Beech Mountain near the Tennessee border. Locals call it the High Country and mid-late October is the height of leaf peeking in the region. Advanced recommendations are in order for this period, and the Best Western Plus Mountain Lodge (828/898-4571; Tynecastle Hwy, Banner Elk, NC 28604) offers moderately-priced, spacious double rooms. Another inn we liked is actually a small condo with apartment like units, that serves afternoon tea, bedtime snacks and popcorn in between. It's called Little Main Street Inn (828/898-6109; 607 Main Street East, Banner Elk, NC 28604).
Each October, Banner Elk is the home of a wriggly event featuring Woolly Bear Caterpillars. The Woolly Worm Festival typically begins at the local high school, where contestants bring their pets. Then around the festival's daily opening of 9am, or as soon as the first heat, which consists of 20 worms, is registered and running, the famous woolly worm races begin. These fuzzy caterpillars race up 3-foot strings (bring your own or pick up a winning worm at the festival) and the champion worm and trainer are crowned (and paid!). The winning worm's 13 brown and black stripes are interpreted to predict the weather forecast for the coming 13 weeks of winter. Expect all manner of craft and food vendors and unusual performances by local talent.
Apple Festival, Bayfield, Wisconsin
True apple picking aficionados will recognize Wisconsin for its first-rate Gays Mills apples, honored at the 1905 New York Apple Show and highly regarded ever since. Although Gays Mills is still the most concentrated orchard region in the Midwest, we're sending you north to the scenic fishing village of Bayfield on Lake Superior, where residents have celebrated the Apple Festival for more than 45 years. For three days, orchard tours, an apple-peeling contest (can you beat the 311" peel record?) and every conceivable apple product are on show. It's listed among the Top 10 Autumn Festivals in North America by Society of American Travel Writers (SATW).
Local growers set up roadside stands each year over the first weekend in October to sell frosted apples, pies, strudels, cider, apple sundaes, apple jam, apple butter, apple bratwurst, apple chili, apple dumplings, and more; other festivities include country dancing and carnival rides in this very family-friendly affair. Kids of all ages can participate in a midway packed with games and rides, join Bayfield's Apple Dumpling Gang or take their turn at painting the "Monster Mural" wall. The whole family will enjoy the evening boat parade that sails off the town shore in Lake Superior, and the closing day's grand parade featuring a 500-piece band.
Bayfield is on the outskirts of Chequamegon National Forest; on some of the most scenic roads in America you'll watch hemlocks and maples change color before your eyes. The Hayward to Glidden route is especially spectacular. Those traveling after mid-month should concentrate on the Kenosha and Elkhorn regions near Milwaukee, where fruit and foliage ripens later.
If you're going to make a real vacation of this visit, Bodin's Bayfield Resort (715/209-7821; 78800 Bodin Rd Washburn, WI 54891) is one of the area's fancier places to stay, and it's quiet. The resort, founded in 1938, has modern one and two-bedroom cottages overlooking Lake Superior and five of the Apostle Islands. Families will enjoy the large lawn area for playing and the surprisingly nice sandy beach. By the way, your four-legged relatives are welcome here, too.
For a more sublime and eco-friendly stay, try the historic eight-room farmhouse called the Pinehurst Inn (715/779-3676; 83645 State Hwy 13, Bayfield, WI 54814). This place has been recognized for its sustainable and energy-efficient practices and gives some of that energy back to guests with its fine spa, locally grown cuisine and attentive service -- and it's a bargain in the fall. For more accommodations information and a 24-hour foliage report, contact the Wisconsin Board of Tourism (800/432-8747).
The FireAnt Festival, Marshall, Texas
You have to give the 25,000 residents of Marshall in east central Texas some credit for their sense of humor. Anyone who's sat on one of those springy verdant lawns carpeting Austin, Dallas, or Houston has probably known (in the Biblical sense) a Texas fireant. These incredibly ferocious pests are feted annually the second Saturday in October at Marshall's FireAnt Festival.
Fabulous costumes, theater, a parade, karaoke, the Tour de FireAnt (a variety of bicycle races ranging from 100K to 10, 30 or 45 miles), and a FireAnt Calling Contest (always won by locals) will engross your family. Save room for the town's Annual Chili Cook Off and after dining on the winner, work it off with the slow and silly Six Feet on the Street 5K run for all ages.
Marshall itself has a long history as the "Pottery Capital of America." Your family can tour workshops and enjoy long walks through the city's large historic core of 19th- and early 20th-century Western houses. Call the Chamber of Commerce (903/935-7868) for other activity and events occurring during your stay.
For a modern stay, there's a La Quinta Inn (903/934-3080; 6015 E. End Boulevard S., Marshall, TX 75672) with a pool, laundry facilities (in case anyone gets ants in their pants), computer room and complimentary breakfast included in budget rates. The contemporary Comfort Suites (903/927-1139; 5204 South East End Boulevard Marshall, TX 75672) is another choice in South Marshall with similar facilities, plus the added perks of a microwave, fridge and Internet access in each room.
Harvestfest, York, Maine
It may be known as the Pine Tree State, but Maine still has plenty of fall color to go around the 17.7 million acres of woodland. Plan to visit historic York, Maine where the annual Harvestfest takes place in mid-October, and celebrates its 30th Anniversary in 2014. Live bands and performers, local food vendors and juried craftors and vendors come from all over New England. The annual Kidfest attracts young visitors for pony rides, games, face painting and horse-drawn wagon rides.
At night, check into the Breakwater Inn and Spa (207/967-5333; 127 Ocean Avenue, Kennebunkport, ME 04046). This classy retreat is set on the coast where the Kennebunk River meets the Atlantic and you might even meet a former President and his family. There are regular Inn rooms and, adjacent to the spa, the Breakwater Apartments are perfect for families.
If you arrive in Maine earlier in October and head a bit farther north to the Boothbay Region, your family can check out the annual Maine Fall Foliage Festival for arts, crafts, great food, local entertainment, children's activities and steam train rides sponsored by the Boothbay Harbor Region Chamber (207/633-2353) and the Boothbay Railway Village (207/633-4727). This coastal village reflects Maine's long sea-faring history and is very picturesque.
Leaf-Peeking & AutumnFest with Preschoolers in Vermont
Every autumn during September and October, the super-family-friendly condo complex at Smuggler's Notch (800/419-4615; 4323 Vermont Route 108, Smugglers’ Notch, VT 05464) celebrates AutumnFest. If getting away means hermitting yourselves in an organized resort on 3,000 forested acres, Smuggler's Notch may be perfect.
You'll get 50% off supervised activities for children 6-weeks to 7-years-old in KidsConnection, plus free guided hikes, volleyball, Disc golf and mini-golf, scavenger hunts, shuffleboard, and use of the skate park, indoor tennis, water slides and swimming pool (pool activities move indoors in late-September, when that crisp, clear New England air becomes a bit chillier.) All vacations with a minimum three-night stay earn a 4th night free, too.
Comfortable, modern lodging ranges from furnished studios to five-bedroom condos, all with kitchen facilities (including cookware and utensils). This award-winning mountain resort, surrounded by state forest lands, is located about 45 minutes' drive from the Burlington Airport or two hours south of Montreal. Late-September/early October should present peak foliage according to the (Vermont Tourism Offices 800/VERMONT) in the scenic Green Mountains.
Take a sneak peak at the foliage seen from Smuggs here: