By Melanie Radzicki McManus | Photo courtesy Wisconsin Dells VCB (Wo-Dha-Wa Days)

One of the best ways to celebrate the sights, sounds and smells of autumn is by attending a fall festival. Here are eight within easy driving distance.

Sept. 15-18, Waunakee

This multifaceted festival, held at Endres Manufacturing in Waunakee, begins on Thursday night with wine tasting and live music. The Wauktoberfest grounds officially open on Friday, when you can grab some suds and enjoy music from various groups. Saturday features a pop-up market, beer-blessing and beer-keg race, where two-person teams battle to see who can roll a keg along the ground the fastest. There are even sauerkraut and limburger cheese-eating contests. The bash concludes on Sunday with more beer, music and fun.

Sept. 16-18, Wisconsin Dells

One of the more popular fall events, Wo-Zha-Wa Days offers a wealth of diverse activities and events. There’s an antique flea market, arts and crafts fair, carnival rides and Maxwell Street Days bazaar. Live music is playing daily, and Saturday morning features a fun run. The festival wraps up on Sunday with a 100-unit parade. Activities are held throughout the downtown, including Bowman Park.

Sept. 17-18, Cedarburg

Nosh on apple brats, cranberry turkey wraps, jambalaya or maybe “gator on a stick” at this autumnal fest, which is celebrating its 50th year. Specialty beers will be flowing in the Fermentorium Tap Tent, while the village’s Cedar Creek Winery will be selling a selection of tasty wines. Work off any calories consumed by taking part in the grape-stomping contest or the charity regatta, which involves paddling a 600-pound carved pumpkin boat.

Sept. 23-25, Elkhart Lake

The first annual Elktoberfest kicks off Friday night with a stein social and live music throughout the walkable village. Saturday features a Root Beer Garten for the kids, where they can get their faces painted or create a pretzel necklace. Adults can walk or run in the Wine-and-Beer 5K, with participants receiving a wine glass and ticket for a glass of wine or craft beer afterwards. A community breakfast on Sunday closes out the event.

Sept. 23-25, Warrens

Marking the 49th anniversary of the World’s Largest Cranberry Festival, you’ll find 800 arts and crafts booths, 300 flea market booths, 100 farm market booths and 100 food stand vendors at this favorite fall fest. If shopping isn’t your thing, there are cranberry bog tours, a parade and much more.

Sept. 30, Verona

This family-friendly evening festival boasts plenty of games and crafts for the kids, plus a petting zoo and both train and hay rides. Grab dinner at Food Truck Alley, where there’s some- thing to tempt everyone’s taste buds, then enjoy your meal al fresco while grooving to the live music. When the sun sets, warm yourself by the roaring bonfire or catch the outdoor flick.

Oct. 7-9, Lake Geneva

Head to Lake Geneva’s Flat Iron Park for this entertaining fall fest, which features a craft fair, live music and tasty treats, like apple cider donuts. Thereʼs also the requisite beer garden, and a special kids’ entertainment area offering activities such as a bouncy house and pony rides. Dachshund owners can enter their pooches in a short — but very entertaining — race. And adults can test their strength and endurance in the stein-hoisting competition, where they’ll fight to see who can hold a giant stein of beer in one outstretched arm the longest.

Oct. 15, Monona

Monona’s fall fest, held in Winnequah Park, kicks off with the Hoot Hoot Hustle, a run-walk event. A mix of paid and free attractions are available, including balloon sculptures, pony rides, pumpkin decorating, disc golf, arts and crafts, and a cow-milking contest. The highlight of the event is the chili cook-off, where contestants vie to create the tastiest chili, which festival-goers can sample.

Oct. 22, Delafield

Get ready for Halloween by strolling through the streets of downtown Delafield, trick-or- treating at local businesses to the music of Ring Tunes, a popular Lake Country DJ. The finale comes at dusk, when the Grand Pumpkin Illumination takes place in Clock Tower Square. Dozens of grinning jack-o’- lanterns are simultaneously set aglow, to the delight of all.


Melanie Radzicki McManus is a freelance writer specializing in travel. She has received numerous awards for her travel writing, most notably Lowell Thomas gold and grand awards, considered the most prestigious in the field. Her book "Thousand-Miler: Adventures Hiking the Ice Age Trail" was published in 2017 by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press.

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