High Times at Fall Festivals | My Family Travels

Fall for a fun festival or free outdoor activity this season, when there are so many options for adult getaways, whether you’re BFFs or couples.

For example, on Sept, 14- 15, Altamont, New York celebrates the harvest season with the Capital Region Apple & Wine Festival where they make local specialty beverages. There’s plenty of family fun with lots of tippling opportunities. The changing leaves are the focus of the 90-minute Dutch Apple sightseeing river cruises, with itineraries on the Hudson or through the Erie Canal locks in Troy.

Lassoing boy.
While kids are roped, sample the variety of wines on offer. Photo c. Capital Region Apple & Wine Festival

Sky High over Fall Foliage

Gallup, New Mexico and the surrounding Native American lands seen from a hot air balloon
Enjoy the New Mexico landscape and surrounding Native American lands from a hot air balloon. Photo c. GallupNM.gov

Autumn seems to make balloons fly higher. Snowmass, Colorado will send three dozen colorful hot air balloons soaring over this ski town and down the Roaring Fork Valley from September 6-19 during the Snowmass Balloon Festival.

The Dallas suburb of Plano, which has grown fast thanks to the influx of large corporations and the many young families who follow them, is hosting the Plano Balloon Festival September 20-22. It features rides in a tethered balloon (ages 6+) that hovers for several minutes over the festival grounds. Don’t miss the popular Balloon Glow at sundown, when the rigs’ flames illuminate the sky.

The grandmother of all sky-high festivals is the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta in New Mexico, held this year from October 5-13. Mass Ascension, a launch of all the participating balloons has been a feature of Balloon Fiesta since its earliest days and is a spectacular display of sound and color. It will take place on October 5, 6, 9, 12, and 13 starting at 7:00am on each day. Be sure to check out other great fall getaways if you’re traveling with younger ones.

Celebrate So Much More than the Harvest

Ren Fair Wichita, KS
It’s the 20th annual Ren Fair in Wichita, Kansas.

The 15th annual North American Wife Carrying Championship (October 12) pits couples against each other on a 278-yard obstacle filled track at Sunday River Maine’s Fall Festival.

The Great Plains Renaissance Festival will take place in Wichita, Kansas from September 28-29, a time when knights, knaves and fairies educate the crowds about life in medieval times. In addition to enjoying the many performing artists, costumed re-enactors and tasty treats, stick around and participate in the annual Wagonmasters Chili Cookoff, which has brought 80 Midwest teams and thousands of spectators to eat, chill out and watch the crowning of Mr. Hot Stuff and Ms. Chili Pepper for more than 30 years. 

Do you prefer Salted Chocolate Fudge or Bourbon Pecan? It’s never too cold for all-natural Velvet Ice Cream in Utica, Ohio, where family owners have been celebrating its success for the past century. This fall is no different; there are 30-minute ice-cream factory tours each weekday from 11am to 3pm, and Sunday special events with music, clowns and carriage rides each weekend through October 31.

Music Takes You Higher

William Cepeda performs at the Dominican Republic Jazz Festival
William Cepeda performs at the Dominican Republic Jazz Festival; photo by Gabriel Rodes.

After 23 years, the Dominican Republic Jazz Festival, held on select nights August 30 to November 3, 2019, has become a sensation attracting guests from all over the world.

Presented by FEDUJAZZ and the Ministry of Tourism, visitors can tour the island and enjoy six nights of free concerts in different resort areas of the island: August 30 & 31 – Cap Cana, Los Establos; October 25 – Santiago, Centro Leon; October 26 – Puerto Plata, Plaza de la Independencia; November 1 – Sosúa, Playa Alicia; November 2 & 3 – Cabarete, Cabarete Beach. Cabarete, the country’s windsurfing capital is home to the FEDUJAZZ foundation.

Over the years, the festival’s acclaimed lineup has included favorites such as Esperanza Spalding, Chucho Valdés and Chuck Mangione, and this year they’re expecting Pengbian Sang and Retro Jazz, Arturo Farril Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, Berklee Global Jazz Institute and Justin Kauflin Trio among others. Shows are free, with VIP tickets sales benefitting FEDUJAZZ, which provides free music education for the youth of the Dominican Republic. Book hotels early for this one.

Drink to the Harvest

Wine and glass
Sample and sip to your heart’s content in Sonoma.

The 45th annual Sonoma County Harvest Fair on October 4 and 5 promises plenty of wine and microbrew tastings. You can even participate in the World Championship Grape Stomp. In addition, guests will be able to partake of innovative cuisine at the Grand Tasting Pavilion. Hotel prices are significantly lower during this time than in summer (and yes, children are welcome). And if you’re ready to harvest personal fitness – even if you have to borrow gear or rent it from REI – explore California’s Wine Country on foot or mountain bikes at its most beautiful time of year.

Vail Mountain celebrates its fall Oktoberfest over two weekends in September, with many family events scheduled in the base villages. The dates for the Lionshead village are Sept. 6-8 and, in Vail Village, Sept. 13-15, 2019.

If you feel like you’re missing Oktoberfest, several destinations celebrate craft brews and spirits all fall. The annual New Ulm in Minnesota, which will take place on the first two October weekends in several venues, will feature both local brews and wines.

Kids and pets are usually welcome in Breckenridge, Colorado, but you’ll want to leave them behind for the popular Craft Spirits Festival Oct. 18- 20.

A tip from locals: Relax and save big time on restaurants with early Happy Hour menus.

Yay Happy Hour! Let’s toast our favorite fall events!

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