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With slowly dipping temperatures, changing foliage and the days of sweltering summer heat far behind, the period from the end of September through early November is a particularly special one. Not surprisingly, autumn’s welcoming weather and serene scenery tend to draw happy people out in droves to citywide and countrywide festivals.
Although many of us are familiar with Oktoberfest, one of fall’s most famous festivals, a slew of other colorful, culturally rich community gatherings take place across the globe. Oh, and at many of these seasonal fests, you can count on a bevy of fried, smoky street food and seasonal brews, too.
London, November 5
For many non-Brits, the phrase “remember, remember the fifth of November” might be reminiscent of the 2005 blockbuster V for Vendetta; however, it has historical context––the night pays homage to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, when King James I escaped assassination by Guy Fawkes. Although the festival used to have a somewhat violent undertone, today the “violence” is all an act, with shouting and costumed paradegoers holding a torch in one hand and presumably a beer in the other, firework displays (above) and more.
New York City, October 31
Known for housing some of the country’s most colorful characters year-round, New York City knows how to celebrate Halloween. Trek down to the Village to see ghosts, ghouls and celeb lookalikes dancing, chanting and spooking in the street, all while noshing on some of the best street grub in the world. If you want to nab a spot in the parade, be sure to line up early. Otherwise, find a spot on the sidelines, anywhere on Sixth Avenue between Spring and 16th streets, and get your camera ready.
Mexico City, October 31 – November 2
If Cinco de Mayo and Halloween had holiday offspring, the Day of the Dead (or Dia de los Muertos) would be it. The vibrant, skull-spotted festival draws massive crowds to its hub in Mexico City, where gatherers honor and celebrate the dead. Catch locals leaving brightly colored displays on loved ones’ graves, or hit the streets to eat the deceased’s favorite treats, like sugar skulls and marigolds. And don’t forget to don a costume. Bold colors are a must!
Bavaria, Germany; San Francisco; Cincinnati, dates throughout September and October
Of all the fall festivals, Oktoberfest is arguably the most famous, celebrating German beer, food and culture. Of course, you don’t have to trek to Bavaria to fill up your stein, devour a bratwurst or find a slew of festivalgoers in suspenders or puffy apron dresses—there are hundreds of celebrations around the world. Head to San Francisco’s Oktoberfest by the Bay, held on Pier 48 overlooking San Francisco Bay, for traditional German foods, beer, live entertainment and dancing. Or venture to Cincinnati for Oktoberfest Zinzinnati, unofficially dubbed “America’s Oktoberfest.” The festival draws half a million guests each year for food, beer and the annual running of the wiener dogs race.
Albuquerque, New Mexico, October 7 – 15
Although boasting one of the biggest balloon festivals in the world is likely enough of a title to hold, that’s only where the charm of Albuquerque’s International Balloon Fiesta begins. With a painted desert backdrop, crisp blue skies and high temperatures hovering in the 60s, the Southwest city is an idyllic location to hold such a gathering. When you’ve had your fill of balloon gazing, check out the light shows, artist displays, fireworks, bands and other performances.
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