Fall is in the air, and it’s finally time to decorate with pumpkins, get lost in corn mazes and attend the season’s many festivals and fairs. Stay close to home with festivals in the area, or take a short, out-of-town road trip for something new. And, if you’re looking for spooky… well, we’ve got some of that, too.
Local Fairs &Fests
These fall activities are all within an hour of Ocala, which is perfect for a day of family fun.
Dunnellon Pickin’ Patch
Fridays through Sundays until October 25
Pick the perfect pumpkin from the patch owned by Steven and Andrea Dixon and Sarah and Scott Thomas. They grow a variety of pumpkins for families to pick, and Sarah Thomas shares more about their patch and what you can look forward to.
How big is the patch?
At the Pickin’ Patch, we offer a 13-acre, u-pick-off-the-vine pumpkin patch with multiple varieties of pumpkins, including our beautiful white pumpkins, along with a variety of gourds and a sunflower patch.
How long does it take a pumpkin to grow?This depends greatly on the variety of pumpkin, the soil type and weather conditions but averages between 90 and 120 days.
What do you love most about the patch?As farmers of other commercial crops, it is a nice change to have the u-pick operation where you get to see families come and enjoy the fruits of your labor instead of packing the produce on a semi and shipping it across the country. A tremendous amount of work goes into growing this crop, and it is fun to see the kids grab their wagons with great anticipation of finding their perfect pumpkin.
Any tips or tricks to picking the perfect pumpkin?Pumpkins are like people, incredibly unique. Some like the perfectly shaped ones while others prefer those with lumps and bumps. We try to grow multiple varieties of different shapes, sizes and colors, so there is something that will appeal to everyone.
Want To Go?
Central Florida Fall Harvest & Peanut Festival
Heritage Park, Williston
Here’s a place the whole family can go nuts. Taste and buy all kinds of peanuts, including boiled, baked, roasted or fried. Meet Mr. Peanut, ride the rides, enjoy live music and browse the arts and crafts displays. willistonfl.com or (352) 528-5552.
9th Annual GM Oktoberfest
Silver Springs State Park, Ocala
All kinds of General Motors’ cars will fill the park for a day of family and automotive fun. Vote for cars by ballot, and stay for the awards ceremony.silversprings.com or (352) 261-5840.
Ocala Cultural Festival
Citizens’ Circle, Ocala
Celebrate racial harmony and cultural awareness during the annual One Ocala One America week. The week’s fun activities include a musical performance and dinner at Marion Technical Institute, a night just for kids at the Ed Croskey Recreation Center, a movie at Citizens’ Circle and the Ocala Cultural Festival. The festival begins with a ColorFoam 5K and features international foods, music and crafts. ocalafl.org or (352) 368-5517.
Druid Hills Pumpkin Patch, Ocala
Druid Hills United Methodist Church, Ocala
Pick from thousands of pumpkins this year at the Druid Hills United Methodist Church Pumpkin Patch. Admission is free, and storytelling sessions are offered for groups of preschoolers from 9:30-11:30am Monday through Friday. druidhillsocala.org or (352) 629-5688.
Market of Marion, Belleview
Bring your Jeep, whether it’s modified, stock or extreme, and take it down the off-road course. Then, join the party of bounce houses, face painting and vendors.ocalajeepclub.com.
Rides For All
Blessed Trinity Carnival
Blessed Trinity Church and School, Ocala
An estimated 40,000 people attend this carnival each year. And, with approximately 30 rides, dinners by local restaurants and delicious carnival food, it’s easy to see why. btcarnival.org or (352) 622-5808.
Groovy Good Time
Great American Cooter Festival
This weekend will be filled with food trucks, a cupcake war bake-off and ‘60s music to keep things groovin’. And, if you’re not already in a fall mood, you will be after the festival’s costume contest.cooterfestival.com or (352) 726-2611.
McIntosh 1890s Festival
Step back in time as you take in the streets of McIntosh. More than 250 artists and vendors will be featured, and the historic Old Train Depot will be open for exploring.friendsofmcintosh.org or (352) 591-4038.
Ocala Pumpkin Run
Castro Farms, Ocala
Horsepower alone will make this weekend an exciting one, with monster truck rides, a NASCAR simulator, horses from the Marion County Therapeutic Riding Association, and classic and custom car shows. But, the live music, pumpkin patch, helicopter landing, tractor hayrides, magic show, obstacle courses, bounce houses and slides make this weekend one that everyone will enjoy! ocalapumpkinrun.com or (352) 620-9998.
49th Annual Ocala Arts Festival
Stroll through Ocala’s biggest art celebration of the year. Browse collectables, gifts and exhibits, and let the kids have fun with activities just for them. Listen to music and entertainment on two downtown stages, and find food options for all types of eaters.fafo.org or (352) 867-0355.
41st Micanopy Fall Festival
October 31-November 1
Join the locals in Micanopy for a festival brimming with artists, crafters and musicians. Admire more than 200 art displays, and hang out by the main stage for good ol’ tunes and an auction. micanopyfallfestival.org or (352) 466-7026.
Marion County’s 34th Annual Chili Cook-Off
Southeastern Livestock Pavilion, Ocala
Sample nearly 40 varieties of chili crafted by culinary aficionados from near and far. Enjoy live entertainment by The Band 4Play, and vote for the best looking booth and the best tasting chili. If you’re not a chili fan, come out for the wide assortment of baked goods at the concession stand and make your way to the children’s area for bounce houses and games the whole family will love. thecornerstoneschool.org.
Quaint And Cultural
19th Annual Spanish Springs Art and Craft Festival
Spanish Springs town square, The Villages
Explore Spanish Springs and the art this festival offers. Dine out at a fine restaurant, catch a movie or see the live entertainment before you head home. artfestival.com.
Music And Eats
Tuscawilla Park, Ocala
This year, the Feel Downtown LIVE HarvestFest brings together a variety of music, entertainment and food options. You’ll get to hear several genres of music from local performing artists and a final performance by national artistBlackberry Smoke. Grab a bite to eat from an assortment of food trucks, take advantage of the beer garden and explore lots of different vendors. feeldowntownlive.com or (352) 629-8220.
34th Downtown Festival And Art Show
This award-winning art festival will transform downtown Gainesville, delighting art-lovers with performances, art displays, culinary offerings and an Imagination Station for the kids. Though it began as a small arts festival, it has grown into a nationally recognized event. The festival weekend kicks off with the Downtown Blues Concert at 7pm on Friday.gvlculturalaffairs.org or (352) 393-8536.
Farm City Festival
Marion County 4-H Farm Agri-Science Center, Ocala
It’s an afternoon full of farm fun for the whole family with a kiddie corral, scavenger hunt, egg toss, live herding dog show, music, a farmers market and more. Kids get to make butter and can color a picture of a horse, too. ftboa.com.
Off To The Races
Inverness Grand Prix
A classic car cruise-in kicks off the weekend, followed by a Big Engine band concert. Wake up the next day to a car show and kart races. Then, head downtown for a meet and greet with the drivers and after parties at the local pubs and restaurants.invernessgrandprix.com.
Corn Maze Madness
Nothing says fall like picking your way through a corn maze. Check out these tricky adventures for a little family fun.
Did You Know?
Don Frantz created the first public corn maze, the Amazing Maize Maze, in the United States in 1993. Mazes and labyrinths had generally been viewed as a form of art in Europe, but Frantz’s cornfield maze at Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pennsylvania, received attention from all over the world and became a fun summer and fall activity.
Sources: cornmazesamerica.com, americanmaze.com
Scott’s Maze Adventures and Corn Maze
Long & Scott Farms, Mount Dora
Saturdays and Sundays, October 3-November 13
Long & Scott Farms was founded in 1963 and drew 5,000 people to the farm when they created their first corn maze. The daughter of one of the founders, Rebecca Ryan, jumped on board to manage the corn maze, and they now have approximately 30,000 visitors each fall. Ryan shares more about Scott’s Maze Adventures and what to expect this year.
When was the corn maze made? How big is it? We did our first corn maze in 2003, hoping to bring more people out to the farm. It is 7 acres; we divide it into 6 acres for the big maze and use one acre for the “mini maze.”
What other activities can people enjoy at Long & Scott Farms? Other activities include a 60-foot super slide, a small zip line for kids, a jumping pillow, a Labyrinth/rock maze, a rope maze, a mist maze, a playground (with a new section just for preschoolers), a huge tire sand pile and a 3-acre tree maze in the shape of an ear of corn.
What is your favorite part of the fall season at Long & Scott Farms?Working with young kids who come out wide-eyed when they see the hay wagon and the playground. They give you a hug just because they are so excited to be there.
Want To Go?
Coon Hollo Corn Maze
Weekends October 9-November 1
Feed the cows, jump over giant hay bales in the obstacle course, ride the farm train, play putt-putt in the pasture, pick sunflowers or pumpkins, slide the 50-foot burlap sack slide and get lost in the corn maze. And, if that’s not enough, visit Nana’s Country Store for homemade ice cream, jam, baked goods and concessions. Admission is $10, but kids 3 and under are free. coonhollocornmaze.com or (352) 318-9258.
Fill up the gas tank and grab the family. These fall happenings require a little drive but are big on fun.
Wine And Dine
Epcot International Food & Wine Festival
Through November 16
Taste your way through a world of food and drink offerings at the 20th Annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. Celebrate the festival’s 20th year by tasting a bottle of its very own wine and purchasing a commemorative festival cookbook. Try 20 new food and beverage items, attend the Party for the Senses each Saturday this month, dress up for the Yelloween Masquerade Party on Halloween and party at the Rockin’ Burger Block Party on October 8 and November 6. disneyworld.disney.go.com.
21st Annual Downtown Delray Beach Craft Festival
Wander through paintings, ceramics, clothing, photography, shops and cafes just minutes from the ocean in downtown Delray Beach. Let the sun go down, and enjoy cocktails and dinner beachside or streetside. artfestival.com or (561) 746-6615.
St. Augustine Greek Festival
Francis Field, St. Augustine
Known for its authentic food and live entertainment, the St. Augustine Greek Festival also hosts a large arts and crafts fair. The kids’ area features a rock-climbing wall, games, rides, face-painting and more. So, pack up the car and bring the whole family for a fun, Greek experience. Susan Stone of the St. Augustine Greek Festival Publicity Committee shares more about this year’s festival.
When and how did the festival begin?
We began holding our first St. Augustine Greek Festival 18 years ago. Our festival provides an opportunity to celebrate St. Augustine’s Greek Heritage and is still our major yearly fundraiser for Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church.
What kind of Greek entertainment and food are featured there?
We have a live band, The Hellenic Band, which plays all three days of the festival, as well as regularly scheduled performances from traditionally dressed Greek folk dancers. We also offer free Greek dance lessons! We offer a large variety of food and kid-friendly fare.
What type of vendors participate?
We have a large number of vendors that participate that offer a variety of items, including Greek items, jewelry, pottery, photography, visual art, clothing and accessories, crafts, gifts and more.
Want To Go?
Art In ThePark
42nd Annual Winter Park Autumn Art Festival
Visual art exclusively by Florida artists will be displayed along the sidewalk in Central Park of downtown Winter Park. Take a stroll through the art and catch the live entertainment, children’s activities and more. facebook.com/autumnartfestival or (407) 644-8281.
A Biker’s Beach
Join the Bike Week tradition and cruise along the coast, making stops on the beach along the way. Choose one of four main rides, and end the day at any of several restaurants and bars. Don’t have a bike? Head to Daytona for the sand and surf, and join the crowds for a fun week.daytonabeach.com.
Located just outside of Tampa, San Antonio’s famed Rattlesnake Festival draws big crowds each year for the gopher tortoise races and reptile shows. Pick a pumpkin from the pumpkin patch, browse unique antiques, admire classic cars, grab a bite to eat at the local pizza place and explore the farmers market before you leave.rattlesnakefestival.com or (352) 588-4444.
On Seahorse Key
46th Annual Cedar Key Seafood Festival
The historical little town of Cedar Key is the second oldest in Florida. Explore Seahorse Key, a little island three miles off the coast of Cedar Key, and try a few farm-raised clams along with other local seafood. This festival hosts skilled artists and their impressive works, as well as live bluegrass and banjo entertainment. cedarkey.org or (352) 543-5600.
Sarasota Pumpkin Festival
Pick a pumpkin from the patch, wind your way through the maze, win the pie-eating contest and go on a hayride. From street performers to carnival rides, this weekend will be full of fall fun. sarasotapumpkinfestival.com.
Mount Dora Craft Fair
Downtown Mount Dora
One of the largest arts and crafts fairs in the area, the Mount Dora Craft Fair hosts artists and vendors from all over the country. Step off the streets into the side shops and cafes for dinner and other quaint finds. mountdoracraftfair.com or (352) 217-8390.
Country Blues Fest
Riverhawk Music Festival
Sertoma Youth Ranch, Brooksville
Camp out and roast marshmallows to the sound of 20 national and local bands, including The Chris Knight Band, The Brothers Comatose and Bill Blue Revue. With roots rock, zydeco, blues and newgrass music, you’ll be kicking your boots and singing along in no time. Want to get in on the action? Volunteer and get day passes for free!lindentertainment.com or (863) 984-8445.
Florida Seafood Festival
The Florida Seafood Festival is full of carnival rides, music, blue crab races and oyster contests. Run the Redfish Run, and eat locally caught seafood. There are also more than 90 arts and crafts booths and a parade your kids won’t want to miss.floridaseafoodfestival.com or (850) 653-4720.
Not Your Ordinary Film Fest
Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival
Various locations in Fort Lauderdale
Guests can choose from 200 films from 35 countries. But, that’s not all. This film festival is full of parties and themed evenings. Regular screenings are $10, special screenings are $15 and evening events and parties range from $45 to $200. fliff.com or (954) 760-9898.
Art In 3D
Homosassa Arts, Crafts and Seafood Festival
Homosassa Historic District
Browse two-dimensional and three-dimensional art competing for the Best In Show award. Then, head over to the food court full of seafood. Explore the historic district, buy souvenirs and enter a variety of fun raffles. homosassaseafoodfestival.org or (352) 628-9333.
Need a few tricks with your fall treats? Then these events are calling your name.
Weekends, October 3-25
An underwater party of bubbles, pumpkin fish and sea fairies give children a Halloween party they won’t forget. Kids can create sea-themed arts and crafts, dance with the sea fairies and go trick or treating in the underwater “fantasea.” This family-friendly event is included with park admission. seaworldparks.com.
Saturdays and Sundays in October
Walk on down the Brick-Or-Treat Trail, build Lego creations and witness the largest Jack ‘O Lantern in the world. Come dressed for the costume contest, but don’t let the haunted scavenger hunt scare you! florida.legoland.com.
Busch Gardens, Tampa
Select nights through October 31
Haunted houses and lurking creatures are waiting for you at Busch Gardens. Walk the streets at your own risk, ride rollercoasters in the dark and watch eerie performances. Bring your friends (and your courage) and have a spooky, fun time. seaworldparks.com.
Halloween Horror Nights
Select nights through November 1
Enter the haunted park, if you dare. These horror nights feature scare zones, horror movie moments, sinister live shows and most of the park’s rides. For nights designed to terrify you, see how long you can stay composed. halloweenhorrornights.com.
Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party
Magic Kingdom, Kissimmee
Select nights through November 1
Trick-or-treat for hidden candies in the not-so-scary park where all of your favorite Disney characters will appear in costumes and the Headless Horseman will lead the parade. Watch Disney villains put on a fireworks show, and celebrate with Mickey at the end of the night! disneyworld.disney.go.com.
The German, beer-guzzling, brat-munching tradition of Oktoberfest has become a celebration all over the world. Its history dates back to a royal, German marriage on October 12, 1810. The prince and princess invited the German citizens of Munich to attend the royal event, celebrating in front of the palace gates with, you guessed it, a bunch of beer.
Though the origin of this celebration is credited to the hitching of two royals more than two centuries ago, as with all textbook history, it’s not exactly the whole story. The late 18th century came with many developments, including the use of bottom fermenting yeast to make beer. This new lager beer had to be brewed in cooler weather, so fall was deemed the perfect season to brew lager, and October became the ideal month to celebrate the news of drinking it again.
Celebrate food, beer, culture and history at Oktoberfest celebrations throughout the state.
Oktoberfest at Circle Square Commons
German American Society of Central Florida Oktoberfest
Casselberry, October 3 and 24
Avalon Park Oktoberfest
Orlando, October 9-10
Oktoberfest On The Beach
Indian Rocks Beach, October 10
Top Of The Bay Oktoberfest
Tampa, October 23-25
Sources: oktoberfest.net, forbes.com, funtober.com, orlandosentinel.com, floridarambler.com