Celebrate the season with the whole family by visiting a regional festivals where pumpkins abound, food is aplenty, and adventures are all but guaranteed.
Photography: Ken Stanback / Getty Images1 of 15
There's so much to do when fall finally rolls around—long walks outside in the crisp temperatures, weekend excursions to exciting destinations, and plenty of sightseeing when the foliage is at its peak. At the very top of everyone's list for late September and October, however, is finding magical pumpkins to carve with friends and family and setting up unique seasonal décor in the weeks leading up to Halloween. What better way to find a pumpkin than heading to a festival filled with food, fun, and local arts and crafts?
You'd be hard pressed to find a community that doesn't celebrate cooler temps with some sort of autumnal celebration, but many suburban towns and coastal cities go all-out hosting festivals dedicated to all things fall, complete with pumpkin patches that are ripe for the picking. Whether you have been traveling to the same pumpkin patch for decades or if you're looking to start a new tradition this year, we've rounded up the best pumpkin festivals where you can get a taste of sweet fall treats, purview local culture and arts, and purchase unique decorative pumpkins and gourds for your home.
Some of the most celebrated fall festivals are scattered throughout New England, where cascading fall leaves of all colors serve as a backdrop to festivals that span entire cities. In Maine, there are almost too many festivals to choose from—you'll find that the entire coastal city of Portland participates in Harvest on the Harbor, which lasts an entire weekend, whereas residents of sleepy Damariscotta actually bring their celebrations out onto the water with a regatta. Plus, many fall enthusiasts will agree that New Hampshire's Pumpkin Festival in Laconia, complete with its signature wall of pumpkins, is the nation's most recognizable autumnal celebration of all time. But you can find pumpkin patches alive and well even in the balmy suburbs of Miami, Florida. From sprawling farms to city streets and everything in between, these fall festivals will inspire you to get excited for Halloween and changing seasons on the way.
Photography: Photo courtesy of Brandy Lauer Photography2 of 15
Craven Farm's fall festival brings a modern touch to an otherwise honored American tradition—kids will love snacking on kettle corn while watching a 3D adventure in an open barn adjacent to a sprawling pumpkin patch. If you're feeling extra adventurous, Craven Farm is located in close proximity to hot air balloon operators, who would be all too happy to give you a lift over the beautiful fall foliage in the surrounding hills.
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Half Moon Bay, California
With a name like Half Moon Bay, could you imagine a better locale for a fall festival? This coastal community comes together when breezy temperatures drop in October to ogle over some seriously fine pumpkin specimens. The Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival, nearly 50 years old, holds a contest where contenders weight their pumpkins to see which one comes out on top—last year's winner weighed a whopping 2,300 pounds. Plus, expect live music, entertainment, family-friendly parades, and plenty of savory treats to boot.
Photography: Courtesy of the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens Blog4 of 15
Fall brings beautifully temperate temps to Dallas, when Texans are proud to put on the Autumn at the Arboretum event at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. The center's horticulturalists work tirelessly to create a "pumpkin village" in the heart of the Lone Star State, where more than 90,000 gourds and pumpkins adorn the gardens for all to see. The festival usually lasts for more than eight weeks, where visitors will be treated to themed exhibitions across the grounds and multiple events for everyone in the family, from trivia to Halloween mazes and live music.
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In the suburb of Burns, Kansas, Walters' Pumpkinfest really takes the theme to heart—visitors can sample pumpkin soup, chili, and salsas upon walking into the farm's gift shop, and there are plenty of plump specimens to pick out. But little ones may have the most fun using the "Punkin Chunkin," which is the farm's slingshot that is used to send less-than-perfect specimens flying across the sky towards a life-sized target.
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Photography: Courtesy of Siegel's Cottonwood Farm6 of 15
For those living in Chicago, celebrating fall on a sprawling pumpkin patch is as easy as heading to Siegel's Cottonwood Farm, which is located on 40 acres of land just about an hour outside of the city. During Pumpkin Fest, which runs from late September through Halloween, kids can enjoy a fun zipline over a sea of pumpkins at the farm's self-pick patch, and the whole family can get in on a hay-filled truck ride around the premises.
Photography: Courtesy of Damariscotta Pumpkinfest & Regatta7 of 15
Further north than Portland, the Damariscotta Pumpkinfest and Regatta is more focused on pumpkins than anything else. In fact, local residents are handed free pumpkin seedlings early in the summer, and by the first week of October, you can't seem to walk a few steps in any direction without bumping into some seriously large gourds. There's a weigh-off competition with a cash reward at Pumpkinfest, but all of the second-class pumpkins are hollowed out and used in a hilarious "Pumpkinboat Regatta" that coincides with the end of the festival; racers paddle along the coast of Maine to much applause.
Photography: Rob Clifford Photography via Lakes Region Chamber8 of 15
Laconia, New Hampshire
Considered by many to be one of the most successful pumpkin festivals, the New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival has broken the world record almost ten times since 1992 for having the most (lit) jack-o'-lanterns in one place at one time—upwards of 30,000, to be exact. There's plenty of crafts and food to be sampled, but many families sign up for the festival's 5K and 10K races, which takes place throughout October.
Photography: Jeffrey Phelps9 of 15
Nestled in the heart of Vermont, where fall foliage is all but guaranteed, the Vermont Pumpkin Chuckin Festival is exactly what it sounds like—a one-day extravaganza where everyone is invited to launch pumpkins clear across the sky. Held on a Sunday in late September or early October, there's three rounds of competition where visitors can win prizes, plus live music, plenty of eats, and plenty of other activities held at the Stoweflake Mountain Resort and Spa.
Photography: Missy Wade for Roger Williams Park Zoo10 of 15
Providence, Rhode Island
For more than 30 years, the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence plays host to the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular, which is a hybrid art show and festival peppered with more than 5,000 carved pumpkins. These lanterns are exquisitely crafted, and each year presents a different theme, which is why more than 115,000 visitors flock to the Zoo every year, according to its website. This year, each of the four season will be represented in trails of pumpkins that will be on display from early October through the first weekend of November.
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Photography: Courtesy of The Great Pumpkin Farm11 of 15
Clarence, New York
An annual celebration that began more than 20 years ago, the Great Pumpkin Farm Fall Festival is one of New York's largest fall celebrations. There's plenty of rides, entertainment, and food to sample, with local artisans selling their wares across the fairgrounds. Visitors often come for the sprawling pumpkin patch and five-acre corn maze, which opens in early September and closes just after Halloween.
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Croton on Hudson, New York
The Hudson Valley is already considered a spooky location around Halloween—think of Sleepy Hollow—which is why the grounds of the Van Cortlandt Manor is perfect for a major jack-o'-lantern display. Known as the Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze, volunteers carve more than 7,000 pumpkins to place on the grounds of the 18th-century manor, which hosts visitors nights only on weekends in September, October, and November.
Photography: Photography courtesy of Coconut Grove Pumpkin Patch Festival13 of 15
Maybe because it's situated in one of the most tropical urban areas in the United States, the Coconut Grove Pumpkin Patch Festival offers more than just thousands of pumpkins. There's a carnival-like atmosphere here, where you can hop on bumper cars and a pirate's ship before heading to a corn maze and finishing the night with Oktoberfest beers on tap. Floridians flock to this small taste of fall in the heart of the tropics over the course of a weekend in late October.
Photography: Spirit of Halloweentown via Instagram14 of 15
St. Helens, Oregon
If you're a Disney fan, you'll be thrilled to hear that the residents of St. Helens actually recreated scenes straight out of Halloweentown in their Spirit of Halloweentown festival. The movie was mostly filmed in this location in 1998, and you can relive its best moments by attending masquerade balls, haunted tractor rides, and the giant pumpkin lighting in the town's square every October; the festival lasts all month long.
Photography: Courtesy of Old Baker Farm15 of 15
A largely intact homestead farm in the heart of Alabama that survived the Civil War, the Old Baker Farm opens its gates to the public in September and October to showcase its massive pumpkin patch. Pumpkin lovers are shepherd into a hayride over to pumpkin fields where they can pick their own specimen—but they're also treated to farm animals and cotton fields, Civil War reenactments, and family games as well as a corn maze.
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