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Fall Forward: Where To Welcome The Harvest

With autumn’s arrival, we welcome crisp air, golden foliage, corn mazes, pumpkin patches, salty oysters, warm apple pie and a bevy of wine and craft beer offerings. Why not plan a weekend around fall’s harvest? Below, a sampling of festivals to usher in the season.

Sonoma County Harvest Fair, California
In early October, drop by the Santa Rosa Fairgrounds for three days of wine tasting alongside a stellar lineup of over 150 local wineries—there’s also beer and cider. Of course, you won’t want to miss the World Championship Grape Stomp (to the beat of live music), a fun and competitive demonstration that lets you watch teams attempt to produce record numbers of juice. Want a memento? Bring home a full-bodied Director’s Cut Cabernet Sauvignon, which received a Best of Class award in the fair’s wine competition.

Bayfield Apple Festival, Wisconsin
Set on the glistening shores of Lake Superior, this festival features over 60 orchards and food booths with crunchy apple-inspired snacks, ciders and desserts like salted caramel apples, tasty tortes, sundaes and even apple bratwursts. Alternatively, outside of town, hop by 14 local orchards for handpicked bundles of apples and pumpkins. On the last day, a grand parade struts a 400-member band.

Harvest Festival, New Mexico
In Santa Fe where golden aspens spawn a kaleidoscopic show, the historic grounds of El Rancho de las Golondrinas host the Harvest Festival, a place where locals usher in the fall bounty. From grape stomping, bread baking, tortilla pressing and cider making (via traditional apple press), you can also make your own cornhusk doll or nab pumpkins from the scarecrow-guarded patch.

New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival, New Hampshire
 In the heart of New Hampshire, downtown Laconia becomes a festive fall venue for streets lined with glowing faces carved into large orange pumpkins. Fun fact; there’s also a yearly Guinness World Record event for the most lit jack-o'-lanterns held in one place. To eat, there are pumpkin pancakes for breakfast, a lunch of hearty chowders, and for dessert, it’s all about the tasty pumpkin cheesecake.

Wellfleet OysterFest,  Massachusetts
Here the motto should be, oysters for days. Find the sea at your disposal in Cape Cod, where for two days crustaceans of all varieties are available. Think briny oysters, stuffed clams and seafood chowder.  Later, a shuck-off lets you watch seasoned experts work dismantle two dozen oysters—both graded on technique, time and precision. Thirsty? Sample from the local beers and wine or visit the local artisans selling handmade jewelry and crafts.