Day Trips from Dallas: Five Must-See Fall Festivals
Written by: Tania Taylor Griffis
The months of the fall season are perhaps the best to be living in Texas. The temperature has finally dropped to a tolerable range, football reigns, and it feels like the entire state can finally breathe again. With all the beautiful weather, it is no wonder that Texas boasts some of the finest outdoor fall festivals, many within a short day trip from Dallas! Pull on your boots, pile into the car, and give some of these trips a try.
September 13-16, 2018
This year marks the 32nd year of GrapeFest, a four-day experience filled with music, food, fun, and (of course!) wine. This celebration of the literal fruit of the vine is unlike any other. As Megan Body, communication coordinator for the Grapevine Convention & Visitor’s Bureau put it, “GrapeFest is no exception to the phrase everything’s bigger in Texas!” As the largest wine festival in the Southwest United States, more than 260,000 guests attended the festivities last year.
GrapeFest is also home to the largest consumer-judged wine competition in the entire United States, named the People’s Choice Wine Tasting Classic. Festival attendees will have the opportunity to sip, savor, and rate more than 200 Texas wines. Although
GrapeFest certainly has wine (and plenty of it!), there are a number of family-friendly activities as well, making this a destination everyone can enjoy. Families will have fun visiting the Carnival and Midway, KidsWorld featuring SEA Life Grapevine Aquarium,
and LEGOLAND® Discovery Center, just to name a few.
Additionally, festival attendees can enjoy many other activities ranging from a grape-stomping contest to a champagne cork shoot off, as well as delicious festival food and three stages of live entertainment.
September 29, 2018
If you are in the mood for a boozy, yet authentic celebration of Germany’s finest, look no further than the lone star capital, Austin. The AustOberfest is a one-day-only event that is guaranteed to put the oomph in your polka. The AustOberfest is perhaps most famous for its all-you-can-eat sausage from more than a dozen local vendors, paired with a wide spread of ice-cold beer to wash it down. Executive
Director Jill Kilgore promised that the event gets better every year. “Our sausage vendors continually step up their game with new takes on their bites, such as last year’s sweet-and-salty combo of part sausage, part donut.”
If you have a competitive streak, you might want to partake in the contests such as best costume, best air accordion, and the David Hasselhoff lip-sync. Otherwise, you can enjoy your spoils and listen to the live polka music. AustOberfest is an event produced by the Austin Saengerrunde, the oldest ethnic organization in Texas. The Austin Saengerrunde was formed in 1879 and according to its website, continues to provide an atmosphere that encourages both members and guests to celebrate German heritage. “Our members help preserve the Texas German history and culture through traditional events all year long,” Kilgore said. “This coming together and bringing good cheer is what we call gemütlichkeit, and we invite everyone to join in the gemütlichkeit with us!”
Plano Balloon Festival/Plano, TX
September 21-23, 2018
This year marks the 39th year of the Plano Balloon Festival, a family-friendly event spanning three days in September. More than 40 large hot-air balloons will fill the skies and delight attendees of every age. “The InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival offers our attendees an opportunity to participate in an event that showcases the kaleidoscope of colors and graceful balloons that float across the Plano sky in September,” said Jo Via, the executive director of the event. Included in the 40-plus air balloons are ten to twelve specialty-shaped balloons in the shape of bees, butterflies, cats, and more.
If you are a thrill-seeker, keep an eye out for the RE/MAX parachute team at 5:30 p.m. They will perform parachute jumps from planes above the event. You can also enjoy the music from live concerts on Friday and Saturday nights, finishing with a fireworks show.
Children will enjoy the Central Market Kid’s Fun Zone, an area full of activities, arts and crafts, and inflatable rides. There are plenty of food options for the entire family to enjoy! The Plano Balloon Festival serves Texas’s finest fare including funnel cakes, turkey legs, barbecue, and more. https://www.planoballoonfest.org
Oktoberfest/Fort Worth, TX
September 27-29, 2018
Just an hour’s drive from Dallas, the Oktoberfest Fort Worth held at Panther Island Pavilion celebrates German culture with food, music, games, bier, and more. The festival lasts from Thursday to Saturday. A three-day pass costs $15 and provides entry for the duration of the festival. There are numerous Lederhosen-approved activities in which to participate, like a midway with rides for the whole family, a dachshund race, German-style competitions, and the Oktoberfest Olympics. Of course, any good Oktoberfest boasts tasty food and drink, and the Oktoberfest Fort Worth is no exception. Spaten beer will be served, along with other craft beers from around the country. There will be an abundance of authentic German food to choose from, including bratwursts, pretzels, crepes, strudel, schnitzel, and potato pancakes. Attendees can enjoy the air-conditioned comfort of Spaten Hall as well as multiple outdoor tented beer gardens.
What sets Oktoberfest Fort Worth apart from other DFW festivals? According to Wendy Stane, the marketing manager at Trinity River Vision Authority, it is the event’s genuineness. “There are tons of German-style Oktoberfest events in DFW, but Fort Worth boasts the most authentic.”
YesterLand Farm/Canton, TX
Weekends, September 22 – November 4
A wholesome, family-friendly experience like this could only take place in such an idyllic setting: a working farm in Canton, Texas. YesterLand Farm offers a unique experience that never goes out of style. With over 30 attractions, this is an experience kids are sure to love. Visitors can navigate their way out of the three-acre corn maze or get in touch with their wild side at the farm’s petting zoo. Other fun activities include vintage amusement rides, wagon train rides, a candy cannon, and pony rides. Paired with face painting, gemstone mining, and fair foods, there is an activity for everyone in the family to enjoy.
Select Friday and Saturday nights in October, things take a sinister turn as YesterLand morphs into Fright Farm, a spookier version of their daytime experience. This Halloween spin offers slightly different versions of their attractions meant for the brave at heart, including a sinister corn maze, a horrid hayride, and zombie paintball. As with any popular Texas attraction, the food choices at YesterLand are plentiful. You may, however, bring in your own picnic and even reserve a campfire ahead of time for a farm-cooked meal.