5 fall festivals worth a trip

Kate Maxwell, editor-in-chief of Jettsetter.com, shares her roundup of fall festivals that offer something for everyone in the family: foliage, live music, vineyards and even one of the nation’s best Oktoberfest celebrations.

Festivals are a great way to get up close and personal with a destination, and the locals, and there’s usually plenty to occupy the whole family. Here are five picks for fall — and for where to stay, check out jetsetter.com/today.

1. Scarecrow Festival, St. Charles, Ill., Oct. 5-7
Just a 45-minute drive northwest of Chicago, this award-winning festival brings crowds (there were 150,000 visitors last year) from near and far to see and vote for the 150 incredible, hand-crafted scarecrows — and to enjoy the live entertainment, huge craft show, great food and numerous activities for both kids and adults. The best part? It’s completely free. Plus, it’s located on the beautiful tree-lined Fox River, so you get to do some leaf peeping, too. 

2. North Willamette Wine Harvest Trail of Willamette Valley, Ore., Oct. 6
This event, which takes place 30 minutes outside Portland and costs $79, allows winemaker wannabes to roll up their sleeves and participate in Oregon’s 2012 harvest. You’ll visit three different wineries and learn about the process from grapes to bottle — there are free tastings and food pairings along the route, including a wine country lunch, and a Grand Tasting event featuring all North Willamette’s vineyards ends the day.

3. Flaming Leaves Festival, Lake Placid, N.Y., Oct. 6-7
The Adirondack Park of northern New York offers the longest fall foliage season in the Northeast — the leaves peak mid-September through mid-late-October. You’ll see the best of it at the Flaming Leaves Festival, which is $15 for adults and $9 for kids and seniors — and don’t miss the Lake Placid Ski Jump, part of the Olympic legacy, plus the live bands, bbq chefs and family entertainment, including a petting zoo.

4. Oktoberfest of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Oct. 20-23
Oktoberfest in Tulsa? Ja, bitte. Eat Landjaeger (German-style beef jerky) and Kassler Rippchen (grilled, smoked pork chop) at this German food festival, one of the U.S.’s finest, and take in barrel-racing, ceremonial keg-tapping, an impressive parade and music from Bavarian bands. General admission is $6, and this year, the theme is “Poultry in Motion,” in celebration of the fact that the festival was the origin of the first Oktoberfest Chicken Dance in the United States.  

5. Voodoo Music Experience of New Orleans, La., Oct. 26-28
Every year, just in time for Halloween, the Voodoo Music Experience places New Orleans under a weekend-long spell of music, food, crafts and culture. The festival, which began in 1999, has grown tremendously ever since, and now rivals Nola’s Jazzfest for attendance and big-name entertainment. The festival takes place in City Park over three days and lasts until late at night (this is a party city) — and there are countless local food and beverage vendors, plus everything from jewelry to works of art. This year, make sure you catch Green Day, Jack White, Marcia Ball, the Avett Brothers and more. A three-day weekend pass costs $175; day passes are $90.

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