Fall is such a wonderful time no matter where you live, but in Alaska it is particularly wonderful. The abundance of wild land and the many excellent farmers mean that harvest time is a celebration of fish, berries, and mushrooms from the forests and zuchinnis, pumpkins and tomatoes from the farms. Although in the temperate climates August is high summer, the autumn harvest starts in northern Alaska and fall continues through September and October as you head south. Head to these festivals to celebrate the harvest and the end of the summer work season.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Alyeska Blueberry Festival, Girdwood, third week of August.
Wild Alaskan blueberries are a worth celebrating and this cool festival in the Chugach Mountains is a party for the whole family. Live music and vendors entertain the 4000 people who come to pick berries in the Alpine meadows and eat all the Alaskan blueberries they can in various foods and beverages. Pie eating contests, fun runs and exploring the beautiful mountain trails are highlights of the weekend.
2. Alaska Botanical Garden Harvest Day, Anchorage, late August.
Show up to the garden for a day of hard work in the sunshine harvesting the bounty of the garden for local food banks. This community event is about helping the garden stay beautiful and helping those in need.
3. Anchorage Hops & Harvest Festival at PubHouse, Anchorage, mid-August.
The Anchorage Hops & Harvest Festival features live music, vendors, lawn games and barbeque. A celebration of local breweries and the wide variety of beers they create. A super fun fall party where you can dance your cares away.
4. Sitka Seafood Festival, Sitka, late August.
This festival takes over the town of Sitka with a parade, games for all ages, and lots and lots of fresh Alaskan seafood. Seafood, both subsistence and commercially caught, is the backbone of the economy, culture, and lifestyle of the town. Wild food from the sea including sea asparagus, oysters, sea salt and the abundance of fish are eaten, discussed and recipes are shared.
5. Cordova Fungus Festival, Cordova, first weekend of September.
This two day, family friendly event focuses on the wild mushrooms that flourish in the forest near Cordova. Mycologists lead forays to hunt for wild mushrooms, then take them back inside to identify and prepare. This is a great activity to get out into the great outdoors and learn about the fungi of Alaska.
Here for more information.
6. Pyrah's Pioneer Peak Farm annual Fast Festival, Palmer, third Saturday in September.
This huge, beautiful farm in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley offers a day of good, clean fun at their farm in the crisp autumn air. The annual fall festival features hayrides and fun lawn games for everyone. Hayrides complete the country experience.
7. Seward Music & Arts Festival, Seward, third weekend in September.
The Seward Arts Council throws this fabulous party in Septmeber as an exciting conclusion to the busy summer season that appeals to local Alaskans and visitors alike. A gathering of the state's best live musicians, art and food vendors, and activities over the two days of the fest.
8. Burning Basket Festival, Homer, late September.
A community-based Interactive, impermanent art experience. Mavis Muller, lead artist, guides her community through the process of weaving the giant basket out of branches and burning it on the beach. The evening is filled with music, fire dance, and community engagement.
9. Starvation Gulch, Fairbanks, Late September.
The University of Alaska, Fairbanks Campus has a strange tradition where student groups build enormous structures out of wooden pallettes and burn them to an audience of hundreds. See this incredible fall festival in the darkest time in Fairbanks before the snow falls.
10. Unalaska Blueberry Festival, Unalaska, last Sunday in September.
The town of Unalaska in the Aleutians hosts a party celebrating the wild Alaska blueberry harvest. An amazing array of blueberry dishes – table after table loaded with variations on tasty pies, cobblers and tarts, along with jams, vinegars, chutneys, salsas and everything in between. Prizes are awarded for all things blueberry, including biggest berry and best pie.
11. German Club of Anchorage Oktoberfest, Anchorage, early October.
The annual Oktoberfest in Anchorage is a huge party. This two-day event is started in Town Square Park with a traditional beer hall tent, live music, traditional bell ringers, dancing, food and refreshments from participating breweries. Dancing and costumes are encouraged!
12. Alaska Day Festival, Sitka, October 18.
The Mount Edgecumbe Athabascan Dancers perform during the Alaska Day parade.
Nowhere in Alaska celebrates Alaska Day (October 18) quite as seriously as Sitka does. Sitka was site of the transfer ceremony from Russian to American ownership when the United States purchased Alaska from Russia on that day in 1867. The town dresses in clothing from the past and holds a reenactment of the changing of the flag ceremony, along with a parade, an elegant ball, kayak races, running races, and a variety show.
13. Ketchikan Shellfish Festival, Ketchikan, late October.
This celebration of shellfish is an annual event in Ketchikan. The community meets to taste geoduck, scallops, and oysters prepared in delicious ways. The event is to encourage enjoyment, recipe sharing and love of shellfish. This event is scheduled during the geoduck harvest and restaurants compete to provide the most interesting culinary twist on cooking local shellfish.
14. Downtown Anchorage Trick or Treat Street, Anchorage, Saturday nearest October 31.
The streets of Downtown Anchorage explode with fun activities and candy for families to enjoy on the Saturday nearest Halloween.
Have you been to any of these harvest festivals? Tell us about it in the comments below.