While most people are flocking to harvest fairs and Oktoberfests, set
your sights on something different this festival season. Here are a few unique
fall festivals, both stateside and farther afield, that are worth
traveling for. Many thanks to the folks at Smarter Travel for this information.
Lewes Bonfire, Lewes, England (November 5, 2013)
On one night each year—November 5—Brits build enormous bonfires to
mark the uncovering of Guy
Fawkes' gunpowder plot to blow up the Houses
of Parliament in the 17th century. And the biggest celebration of all
happens in Lewes, where more than 80,000 people come to see raucous
parades with full costumes, flaming torches, fireworks, drum beats, and
burning effigies of Fawkes made from old clothes and newspapers. Lewes Bonfire
also commemorates the town's Protestant history when 17 burning crosses
are carried through town in memory of the 17 martyrs burned at the
stake in the Marian persecutions in Catholic England. In Sussex, the
official bonfire season
runs 10 weeks every fall and various area societies organize
pyro-themed festivities. The Battle Bonfire Society's annual parade
lights up the infamous Battle of Hastings site late into the night.
The Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze, Croton-on-Hudson, New York (October–November 2013)
New York's Sleepy Hollow Country lights up the season with more than 5,000 hand-carved jack-o'-
lanterns during the Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze.
The elaborate display at the historic Van Cortlandt Manor in the Hudson
Valley runs 25 nights to sell-out crowds. Sip on hot apple cider as you
walk through the Tunnel O' Pumpkin Love or check out the carved
dinosaurs in the Jurassic Park-themed section. Special sound effects,
synchronized lighting, and an original soundtrack add to the glowing
spectacle. New this year is an exhibit of more than 20 pumpkin-inspired
sculptures created by local artists.
For a quick history lesson on Kyoto's 1,200-year past, there's no more visually stunning and
entertaining display than the Jidai Matsuri
(Festival of Ages), where time literally marches on in chronological
order through the old streets of Kyoto. From your spot on the curb,
watch thousands of people in period dress representing every era pass by
in a grand pageant. You'll see the costumes and customs of the samurai,
commoners from feudal times, and women in elaborate kimonos. A military
band strikes up ancient imperial court tunes as the masses stream from
the palace to the Heian Jingu Shrine in one of Kyoto's biggest festivals
of the year. Inside Asia runs tours during the festival.
Don't Miss: Leaf peeping in temple gardens
and across Japan's mountainsides. The peak period is late October
through late November, when skies are dry and temps hover around 70
Dia de los Muertos, Mexico (November 1–2, 2013)
A huge holiday in Mexico, Dia de los Muertos,
or Day of the Dead, dedicates the first two days in
Saints' Day and All Souls' Day) to welcoming back the spirits of the
dearly departed. Altars are built and grave sites are decorated into
works of art, with candles, purifying incense, brightly colored
marigolds, and creative displays of loved ones' favorite foods to help
guide the spirits back. You'll find late-night grave-site parties and
elaborately decorated altars in public squares throughout Mexico, but
the city of Oaxaca is one of the most renowned spots to celebrate this traditional holiday.
Don't Miss: Riviera Maya's celebration. Close to Playa del Carmen and Cancun, the eco-archaeological park Xcaret
honors the dead with music, dance, and food. Crowds of locals and
visitors gather to walk by torchlight past altars and into a graveyard
warmed by the heat and light of thousands of candles.