The kids are back in school, the days are growing noticeably shorter and a certain crispness has invaded the air. Hang on a second while we check the calendar. Yes, autumn is right around the corner. And with the changing of the seasons comes a slew of festivals up and down the East and West Coast—and in between. There’s hundreds to pick from. We picked 5, slated for the weeks to come.

Sonoma County Harvest Fair – Santa Rosa, CA – Oct 4th and 5th

The Harvest Fair marks it’s 45th year of showcasing the county’s grand harvest which continues to result in world-class wines, award winning beer and a plethora of culinary wealth. The epicenter of the Harvest Fair is still the Tasting Pavilion, featuring innovative cuisine paired with some of the area’s best wine, beer and cider. With over 100 Sonoma County wineries participating (with over 500 wines), even the most experienced connoisseur is sure to find a new favorite.Other activities include: Harvest Obstacle Course, Pumpkin Bowling, Apple Slingshot and pumpkin carving. Buy a pumpkin at the Harvest Pumpkin Patch and take it home or carve it here – just inside the Brookwood Gate. If you didn’t have enough fun with Easy Bake Oven when you were a kid, stop by Shade Park on Friday and Saturday and bake an Easy Bake Pumpkin Pie!

Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Fest – Half Moon Bay, Calif., Oct. 19 and 20

The self-proclaimed “World Pumpkin Capital” of Half Moon Bay celebrates its 49th year with a special display of gigantically enormous/heavyweight champion pumpkins (with the Great Pumpkin Parade SF Giants fan favorite, Hunter Pence as Grand Marshal), four stages of live music , harvest-inspired crafts, homestyle foods, premium wines, seasonal craft beer, pumpkin-infused ales, and pumpkin-flavored artisanal cocktails. This is NorCal after all. The “pumpkin” theme in this festival is no small matter however with expert pumpkin carver Farmer Mike sculpting monster pumpkins into amazing one-of-a-kind masterpieces, photos with the gargantuan grand champion mega-gourd, pie-eating and costume contests,  the world’s largest mosaic pumpkin sculpture that measures 12-feet long, 11-feet high and weighs 10,000 pounds by artist Peter Hazel—and of course just some good old fashioned pumpkin carving for fun.

Of course it’s not just about pumpkins. This festival has a bit of everything. For music fans, there’s an array of California performers that play everything from the blues to pop, in addition to a “Smashing Pumpkins: Battle of the Bands” event featuring emerging acts from around the Bay Area. Connoisseurs of “adult beverages” will appreciate the fest’s aforementioned selection of local wines, spirits and an annual commemorative ale from the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company while for families, there’s a “haunted barn” and pie-eating contests. Did we leave anything out?

The National Apple Harvest Festival – Biglerville, PA – Oct 5th & 6th and 12th & 13th

Held during the first two full weekends in October, The National Apple Harvest Festival has been celebrating beautiful crafts, great music and wonderful food for over 5o years. The festival has something for everyone with hundreds of arts and crafts dealers, demonstrations, contests, food stands, and entertainment. The festival is located in the heart of Pennsylvania Apple country, near historic Gettysburg, and is within a two hour drive of Washington DC, Baltimore MD, and Harrisburg PA. Special Attractions Include: The Apple Auditorium and Antique Cars, Steam Engine Displays, Orchard Tours, Petting Zoo, Craftsman Demonstrations, and Appearances by PA Apple Queen.

Harvest on the Harbor – Portland, ME – Oct 17 – 20

Photo courtesy: Averyl Hill (Simple Living New England)

Maine’s 4-day Harvest on the Harbor Festival in mid-October lures more than 5,000 people up to Portland’s craggy shores to enjoy a celebration of Maine’s finest locally sourced foods, top chefs and other Maine-made products such as beers and wines. Portland’s dining scene has been gaining national and international traction, producing 4 James Beard Award-winning chefs, and more than 250 restaurants perfecting the culinary art of preparing local, safely harvested seafood.

HOTH 2019 kicks off the celebration with local chefs and farmers collaborating to deliver a beautiful, multi-course dinner. The evening begins with a Zardetto prosecco welcome and hors d’oeuvres, followed by a three course seated dinner with pairings of Allagash Brewing Co. beers and select wines, and a spread of decadent desserts. The evening showcases Portland’s finest: Back Bay Grill, Black Tie Company, David’s Restaurant, EVO, Five Fifty-Five, Lio, Sea Glass, Solo Italiano, Sur Lie and Union.

The Great Jack O’ Lantern Blaze – Croton-on-Hudson, NY Sept 20-22; 26-29; Oct 3-31; Nov 1-3; 8-10; 15-17; 22-23; 29-30

Photo courtesy: Fifi+Hop

Likely the most innovative Halloween event you will come across, The Great Jack O’ Lantern Blaze in Croton-on-Hudson, NY is simply awe-inspiring. With over 7,000 pumpkins hand-carved and illuminated, the sheer artistry behind this spectacular show is what always gets me. Located in Westchester County in the Hudson Valley, about an hour and ten minutes north of New York City, this elaborate maze of pumpkins is almost other-worldly, like something out of a sci-fi movie.

At the “Blaze”, as it is most commonly called, you will find circus animals such as elephants and tigers, clowns, snakes, dragons, dinosaurs, spider webs, monkeys, a giant grandfather clock, skeletons and a graveyard, and an overheard passageway, among many other things, all made out of carved pumpkins. The work is so detailed and intricate it will have your mind reeling at how these artists come to pull this off each year. And to see all the pumpkins illuminated makes it all the more magical. It’s an amazing display, and presented with additional lighting and music effects to enhance the experience. [“The Great Jack O’ Lantern Blaze” contributed by Fifi + Hop]