The 10 Best Fall Festivals in Minnesota! By
Fall in Minnesota often feels energized, as people rush to enjoy as much good weather as they can until the unpredictable arrival of winter. One thing that feeds the energy in the air is the flurry of fall festivals that happen across the state every year. There’s always the Renaissance Festival in Shakopee and any number of Oktoberfests across the state. These are some of our favorite ways to spend a fall weekend day in Minnesota!
Often acknowledged as one of the best Oktoberfests in the United States, New Ulm’s Oktoberfest is certainly one of the most popular in Minnesota. New Ulm has a solid German heritage, settled by folks from the old country more than a century and a half ago. With sponsorship from hometown brewer, Schell’s—the biggest in the state—you can bet the beer flows and the accordions play much like they do in Munich (Ulm, Germany doesn’t really do Oktoberfest).
The Stillwater Harvest Fest does celebrate the bounties of autumn in many ways, with a marketplace, vendors, local beer and wine entries, and live music throughout the weekend. But it’s really about the pumpkins: Really (really!) big pumpkins. There’s a pumpkin weigh off, a giant pumpkin drop, and most spectacularly, a giant pumpkin regatta in which contestants race giant pumpkins down the St. Croix River. And yes, they do it in the middle of October.
Moose are the largest of Minnesota’s mega fauna. And every fall, they’re on the loose in the northern part of the state, looking to find a mate. The fine folks of Grand Marais love their moose so much that they celebrate the craziness of moose in rut with the annual Moose Madness Festival. Races, family activities like scavenger hunts, arts, and a medallion hunt will keep you busy all weekend—and out of the way of the moose.
The Mahkato Annual Pow Wow is not a festival per se, but it is an important, educational, and entertaining autumn tradition. The rich Native American heritage in the state we now call Minnesota—as in many other states—was marred by conflict with settlers attempting to populate the region. One instance, in 1862, resulted in the execution of 38 Dakota Sioux men in Mankato by the United States. In the spirit of education and reconciliation, as well as honoring tradition and ancestors, the Mahkato Mdewakanton Association holds an annual pow wow to commemorate the event and to educate, entertain, and bring together people from all cultures.
If the thought of going back in time and visiting the United States during the frontier era piques your interest, then head down to Albert Lea for the Big Island Rendezvous and Festival. History re-enactors take over a city park, where no vehicles or modern tents are allowed. Blacksmiths, woodworkers and weavers peddle their wares as voyageurs and frontiersmen vie against one another in black powder shooting competitions. There are plenty of activities for the entire family, like tipi tours, visiting the Voyageur Encampment, games, and parades.
SeptOberfest takes place in the beautiful Mississippi River town of Wabasha during the height of fall foliage season in the valley. Over the course of six weeks, dozens of events and activities are offered for visitors of all ages. Street performers, pumpkin contests, tractor rides, train rides, and free live music are just a few examples.
One of Minnesota’s most popular wineries also happens to sell apples. And every year, Carlos Creek Winery celebrates this favorite fall fruit with a fest. AppleFest is a day of live music, horse-drawn wagon rides, and apple everything—from hard cider to baked goods to the fruit, itself. There’s also a hay bale mountain and a craft market, as well as wine (of course), beer, and food for sale.
Anoka is the self-proclaimed “Halloween Capital of the World” and every year, they go to all lengths to prove it. Anoka Halloween spans most of the month of October, and includes events like a scarecrow contest, adult and children’s pumpkin carving contests, a giant pumpkin weigh off, an Orange Tie Ball, and dozens of other activities and events.
Just like the post office, we're out in rain or shine!! Celebrating with the @anokaambassador at the Anoka Halloween Grand Day Parade!! 🎃👻 Excited to see who'll be crowned tonight at the Coronation, 55 amazing young women to choose from! 😄💖 #AnokaHalloween #EBSP #EastBethelRoyalty #DisneyTheme #HalloweenCapitalOfTheWorld
The Boats and Bluegrass Festival is a family-friendly celebration of music and river life in Winona. The festival is held in a park on the Mississippi River and a weekend pass includes camping and canoe trips in the river’s backwaters, as well as three days of live bluegrass music. Children are welcome and expected. Kids under 16 get in free when accompanied by an adult.
Every September, the leaves in Northern Minnesota explode into bursts of yellow, orange, and red, mixed with the deep green of North Woods pine trees. Ely celebrates the coming of fall with a Farm Market, arts and crafts, and live entertainment. Family activities like magic shows, a petting zoo, and craft demonstrations from local artisans and the Ely Folk School make the Harvest Moon Festival something the whole family can enjoy.