5 weird and wonderful Autumn festivals in the USA

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Pretty as they are, the leaves changing colour isn’t the only reason to be excited about the arrival of Autumn

Pretty as they are, the leaves changing colour (want to see our picture posts on New England and Japan?) isn’t the only reason to be excited about the arrival of Autumn. Check out these 5 weird and wonderful Autumn festivals in the United States. The featured image is by osseous.

A gravestone in Broad Street Cemetery, one of Salem's oldest cemeteries
A gravestone in Broad Street Cemetery, one of Salem’s oldest cemeteries. Photo by Rusty Clark
The Friendship at Derby Wharf, Salem, Massachusetts, USA
The Friendship at Derby Wharf, Salem, Massachusetts. Photo by }{enry

Festival of the Dead – Salem, Massachusetts

Thanks to its legendary witch trials in 1692, Salem will forever be associated with witchcraft. Salem has in many ways embraced its occult identity. There’s a neighbourhood called Witchcraft Heights. Police cars are adorned with a witch logo (oh, how the tables have turned in the past 300 years).

And throughout October, Salem hosts the Festival of the Dead – a series of macabre events that include the Witches’ Halloween Ball and Vampires’ Masquerade Ball, as well as the chance to hunt ghosts (we said hunt, not bust), foretell the future and contact the departed.

Kennywood Phantom Fright Nights, West Mifflin, Pennsylvania
Kennywood Phantom Fright Nights. Photo courtesy of phantomfrightnights.com
Rainbow behind Phantom's Revenge, Kennywood Park, West Mifflin, Pennsylvania
Rainbow behind Phantom’s Revenge, Kennywood Park, West Mifflin, Pennsylvania. Photo by Russell Link, 2012
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Kennywood Phantom Fright Nights – West Mifflin, Pennsylvania

Kennywood is an old school amusement park with a great mix of classic wooden coasters and the more state-of-the-art steel hypercoasters.

They might not be the most extreme attractions in the country, but riding them in the pitch dark is a whole new level of thrills. And by thrills, we mean pulse racing, sweaty palms, and wobbly knees levels of terror. Phantom Fright Nights run late September through late October.

The Haunted Graveyard – Bristol, Connecticut

Lake Compounce has a scary attraction of an altogether different variety.

Turn up at dusk on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday night and you can explore a series of haunted buildings and spaces in the dark.

For around half an hour your mind and body go on edge (we’re not joking – this is no half-hearted children’s attraction) as you wander around the “slaughterhouse”, “cemetery” and “manor”, all the while encountering werewolves, zombies, demons, vampire and witches.

Trailing of the Sheep – Ketchum and Hailey, Idaho, USA
Trailing of the Sheep. Photo by Michael Edminster
Part of the Folklife Fair at the Trailing of the Sheep Festival
Part of the Folklife Fair. Photo by Julie Lynn

Trailing of the Sheep – Ketchum and Hailey, Idaho

This honouring of the local century-old sheep industry is a bit like South Dakota’s buffalo roundup, but with sheep.

Ketchum lies on an old trail linking high summer mountain pastures with winter desert fields. Each October, a 1,600 strong flock of ewes is herded through the small town on the final leg of its annual migration up and down the trail.

It’s all a big excuse for a festival of parades, a fair, handicraft workshops and local restaurants serving up lamb specialities.

The Circleville Pumpkin Show, Circleville, Ohio, USA
Photo by Jack Mader
The Circleville Pumpkin Show, Circleville, Ohio, USA
The winner! Photo by Jack Mader
The Circleville Pumpkin Show, Circleville, Ohio, USA
The queens… Photo by Jack Mader

Circleville Pumpkin Show – Circleville, Ohio

Everyone should make it to a pumpkin show at least once in their life. You’ll never see a 1,600-lb pumpkin in your local supermarket. Of course, oversized fruits aren’t the only attractions.

There is also the Pumpkin Queen parade and a pumpkin pie (apple dare not speak its name here!) eating contest, and the chance to wolf down pumpkin-based delights such as cookies, ice cream, fudge and doughnuts.

Written by insider city guide series Hg2 | A Hedonist’s guide to…

5 weird and wonderful Autumn festivals in the USA was last modified: June 26th, 2019 by Brett Ackroyd
Author: Brett Ackroyd (631 posts)

Brett hopes to one day reach the shores of far-flung Tristan da Cunha, the most remote of all the inhabited archipelagos on Earth…as to what he’ll do when he gets there, he hasn’t a clue. Over the last 10 years, London, New York, Cape Town and Pondicherry have all proudly been referred to as home. Now it’s Copenhagen’s turn, where he lends his travel expertise to momondo.com.