1. Osborne Heritage Days, Elkader
Osborne Heritage Days dates back to 1975. The festival takes Iowans back to pioneer times through living history displays, contests and other activities. This two-day fall festival is jam packed with old-timey good fun, from Dr. Dusty’s Medicine Show, to a chili cook-off, to pumpkin decorating and even a buffalo chip throwing contest. The festival is held on October 8th and 9th. Location: 5 miles south of Elkader on Highway 13.
2. Walnut Antique Fall Festival, Walnut
This indoor/outdoor antique festival is a great way to kick off fall. There are plenty of quality exhibitors at this antique show, with a huge variety of treasures to discover. Admission is free, and the show runs Saturday, September 17th, from 8am to 5pm, and Sunday, September 18th, 8am to 3pm. Location: Inside dealers will be set up in the American Legion Hall and in the Amvet building. Outside dealers will be located on Highland Street and Antique City Drive.
3. Monarch Festival, Des Moines
Located at the Blank Park Zoo, this unique festival celebrates the migration of the monarch butterfly to Mexico. The day is packed with activities, like Mexican dancing, puppet shows, monarch tagging and even free seeds to start your own butterfly garden. There will also be a bug parade, where kids can dress up as their favorite insects. The festival will be held on Sunday, September 18th from 12pm to 4pm. Location: 7401 SW 9th St., Des Moines, IA.
4. Kalona Fall Festival, Kalona
This charming Mennonite community is a perfect place to celebrate fall. This festival offers pony rides, a pumpkin-carving contest, old world artisan demonstrations, music and a plethora of homemade goodies, like potato chips, apple fritters, ice-cream and chicken and biscuits. The festival is held on September 23rd and 24th. Location: Kalona Historical Village, 9th St., Kalona, IA.
5. Oktoberfest, Des Moines
If beer is your thing, then you definitely don’t want to miss Oktoberfest. This festival takes place in the Historic Court District of Des Moines, and offers activities like polka-dancing lessons, Bier Maiden or stein-holding contests and costume contests with prizes. Be sure to visit the Hofbrau Rooftop Bier Garden, Craft Beer Village and the Lederhosen Lounge while you're there. The festival runs from September 23rd to 24th. Location: 119 4th St., Des Moines, IA.
6. GermanFest, Guttenberg
This festival along the Mississippi River is a must-visit. GermanFest features an arts and crafts market, biergarten, kraut cook-off, hog roast, homemade beer tasting, live music, food vendors, a 5K walk/run, kids' games, chalk drawing, lock and dam tours and even Wiener dog races! The festival runs from September 23rd to 24th. Location: River Park Dr., Guttenberg, IA.
7. Oktoberfest, Amana Colonies
Held in the charming and historic Amana Colonies, the Oktoberfest if packed full of fun and interesting activities. There's plenty of German music and food, contests like the Eisenmann (or Iron Man), a competition that includes team keg rolls, balancing on a balance beam with full steins of beer and sawing logs. Don’t miss the parade on Saturday at 10am in Main Amana. The festival runs September 30th to October 2nd. Location: Main Amana, IA.
8. Madison County Covered Bridge Festival, Winterset
This charming and scenic area is John Wayne’s birthplace, as well as home to the famous Bridges of Madison County, so you know it’s an idyllic setting for a fall festival. There are, of course, guided bus tours of the bridges, free horse-drawn wagon rides to John Wayne's house, old west shootouts, live music and a parade at 2pm on Sunday. The festival runs on October 8th and 9th. Location: Winterset, IA.
9. Scenic Drive Festival, Van Buren County
11 villages make up the historic villages of Van Buren County, and they are as quaint and inviting as you might imagine. The festival features quilt shows, scarecrow contests, bake sales, tours of historic sites, wine tasting and street fairs. Runs October 8th and 9th. Location: Van Buren County.
10. Nelson Pioneer Farm Fall Festival, Oskaloosa
The Pioneer Fall Festival features over 30 exhibits and demonstrations of pioneer living skills, antiques, hands-on activities like butter churning and rope making, a country dinner, parade, demonstrations of old-fashioned farm equipment and more. There is also an Old-Fashioned Fiddle Contest that showcases the talents of fiddlers from across Iowa. The festival is on Saturday, September 17th, from 9:30am to 4pm. Location: Nelson Pioneer Farm, 2211 Nelson Ln., Oskaloosa, IA.
11. MidCoast Fine Arts’ Riverssance, Davenport
This fine arts festival showcases the work of top artists from throughout North America. If you’re looking for beautiful fall scenery, you’ll be happy to know that the festival is set on a scenic hill overlooking the Mississippi River. The festival will also have a free children's art tent, wine tasting, gourmet food and live regional music. Runs September 17th and 18th. Location: Lindsay Park, Village of East Davenport.
12. World Food & Music Festival, Des Moines
This festival is a food and music lover’s dream. You’ll have a chance to taste cuisines from across the globe, as well as enjoy live music. The festival runs from September 16th through the 18th. Location: Walnut Street Bridge, 2-98 East Walnut Street.
13. Fall Fest, Sioux City
This festival is fun for the whole family, and it showcases plenty of Sioux City venues. There are many fun activities, like baconfest (yum), crafts, pumpkins, ice-skating, a scarecrow farm, delicious food and more. The festival runs October 7th and 8th. Location: Multiple locations around Sioux City.
14. Harvest Festival, Decorah
Heritage Farm is a perfect place to celebrate fall. This farm is dedicated to saving seeds for all kinds of produce. The festival will feature workshops on food preservation and seed saving, as well as a soup cook-off, pumpkin carving, garlic workshop, cider pressing and more. Runs from 12pm to 4pm on October 15th. Location: Seed Savers Exchange, 3074 N Winn Rd., Decorah, IA.
15. Pumpkinfest, Anamosa
Come and celebrate Pumpkinfest at the official pumpkin capital of Iowa. The 2016 theme for the festival is “A Work of Art,” to commemorate the 125th anniversary celebration of local artist, Grant Wood. The festival takes place on Main Street and includes pumpkin carving, a 5k run, a parade and plenty of arts, crafts and delicious food. Also, you’ll get to see giant produce at the pumpkin weigh-off! The festival is held on Saturday, October 1st on Main Street in Anamosa.