The kids are back in school and already longing for a break. What to do? Head to one of these golden opportunities we call fall festivals, of course!
In no particular order, here are 15 of Virginia’s best fall festivals for families. Get out your calendar and let’s go.
1. October 26-27 – Don’t miss the Fall Harvest Family Days at Mount Vernon for wagon rides, a straw bale maze, corn husk doll demonstrations, apple roasting, and plenty more 18th century shenanigans. Festival is included with Mount Vernon admission: Adults $15; children 6 to 11 $7 and children 5 and under are free. Buy Now
If you think you’d like a riverboat ride with that, the Potomac River sightseeing cruises are half price during this time, too! Purchase your tickets through the Potomac Riverboat Company and admission to Mount Vernon (and the festival) is included!
2. October 5 – The AT&T Virginia Children’s Festival is celebrating its 25th anniversary in Norfolk, and you should be part of the fun! Geared completely toward kids ages 10 and younger, this festival includes more than 100 activities, storytelling, lots of hands-on fun, costumed characters, and fun shows. Food vendors are on hand. $3 per person.
3. Sundays September 21 – November 3 – Head to Fredericksburg for the Belvedere Plantation Harvest Festival, featuring acres of pick-your-own pumpkins, hay rides, a maize maze, zip lines for little ones, a jumping pillow, pig races, barnyard animals and more. Fresh cider, pies, local honey and other wares are available, too. Children under two are free. Friday nights: $12/person. Weekends: $17/person. All-You-Can-Carry Pumpkins: $29.99 Buy Now
4. September 21 – If you love apples, you’re going to love the Apple Butter Celebration in Shenandoah National Park. From hot pots of boiling apples and apple foods to apple crafts, this is your place to be. Both you and the kids will enjoy live music, cloggers, face painting (yes, even you!), crafts and pony rides (okay, maybe not you). The event is free, but Skyline Drive access fee is $15 per vehicle.
5. September 21 – The Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville is hosting the Reptile Day Family Festival that will include more than 200 snakes and other reptiles. It’s the perfect place for kids who like to see and learn about cobras, rattlesnakes, alligators and other cool critters. $5/adult and $3/child.
6. September 28 – Have a budding artist in your midst? Head to the New Town Art Festival in Williamsburg. $10 will get you the 4×4 creative space and sidewalk chalk, too! Prizes will be awarded for the theme “Take Flight.” It’s a great place to browse accomplished artists’ creations as well as create your own as an individual or family.
7. October 10-13 – The Suffolk Peanut Festival is celebrating its 36th anniversary this year and it promises to be bigger and better than ever. Check out the demolition derby and tractor pulls in addition to the amusement rides, fireworks and, of course, peanuts. Free admission; $10 parking.
8. September 28 – Give your kids a sense of appreciation for diversity when you attend the Harrisonburg International Festival together. Harrisonburg is comprised of many ethnic groups, bringing their traditions to you through dance, culinary arts, language and hand-crafted treasures. Taste foods from Ethiopia, Mexico, India, Thailand, Europe, Puerto Rico, and Central America, while performing arts are representative of the Aztec, Filipino, Indian, Irish, Chinese, and Kurdish communities. Free admission; plenty of food and crafts available for purchase.
9. October 11-13 – The Richmond Folk Festival brings more than 30 diverse performing groups to seven stages over the course of three days. Check out the family area that boasts special characters and performers of its own, not to mention unique pirate-themed craft stations. Make-and-take an eye patch, a pirate hat, a telescope, a pirate flag, and maps. Free admission.
10. October 11-13 – Have a knight or princess in your house rather than a pirate? If so, go to Newport News for the Harvest Faire. Medieval-themed family fun awaits! Visit the 15th century encampment, witness combat between knights, watch archers master their mark, and participate in pumpkin tossing and other period games. Feel free to come in costume! $15/adult Saturday, $10/adult Sunday or $20/adult for the whole weekend. Kids 6 to 12 are $10 for the weekend or $5/day. Buy Now to save on admission. Camping available.
11. October 19 – The Harvest Festival in the Village of Aldie was Loudoun County’s Tourism Event of the Year in 2010 and it’s a great event for families. Historic Aldie Mill is the gorgeous backdrop for face painting, moon bounces, pony rides, blacksmith demonstrations, and the highly anticipated Firequacker Duck Race. Civil War reenactors from the 17th Mississippi Regiment will be on hand, and you can also look forward to grinding demonstrations inside the mill. This is a free event with an optional $5 parking donation recommended.
12. October 12-13 – The Bland County Festival of Leaves is a free event that spreads across the fairgrounds and Court House lawn in Bland. It’s everything you’d expect a fall festival to be – great food, beautiful crafts, hayrides, entertainment, and many opportunities for kids to have a great time.
13. October 12-13 – Arborfest is the annual fall festival of the State Arboretum of Virginia in Boyce. The grounds will be absolutely stunning (photo op!), but a cool draw or two for the kids? Make their own scarecrow ($5) and enjoy hay rides. For you? Nearly 40 vendors will be on hand with native plants for sale, as well as home and garden decor. Free guided tours. Admission is $10/vehicle.
14. October 19 – Head to another beautiful arboretum – the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum & Botanical Gardens at James Madison University – for the Children’s Harvest Festival in Harrisonburg. Built for kids, the entertainment includes dance exhibitions and lessons, crafts, singers, instrument performances and lessons, story time, trail tours, seed collection activities, free horse-drawn wagon rides and more!
15. November 2 – Ashland Train Day is a railroad destination event for the whole family. Expect railroad music and songs, a miniature children’s train ride, games, tons of model trails from LEGO to wooden and electric, model train racing, a moon bounce, and a whole lot more. Feel free to wear your engineer bibs and a bandana! This is a free event.
It was hard to pick just 15 festivals for this list, so I encourage you to see the full festival directory to discover more.
Here’s to a fantastic fall for your family from ours!
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