10 Best Ways to Celebrate Fall in the Dallas Area

Fall is on its way–at least according to the calendar. Though, while the weather may not exactly send chills up your spine, it usually signifies a much-welcomed break from triple digit temperatures. It’s also the time when the entire metroplex shifts into high gear with non-stop events leading all the way up to the holiday season. And one of the biggest is the State Fair of Texas, which draws over three million visitors annually for livestock shows, top-notch entertainment, a jam-packed midway and deep-fried everything.

If leaf-peeping and pumpkin patches are your fall favorites, then you’re going to want to check out the autumn festival at the Dallas Arboretum. Along with over 150,000 fall blooming plants and a nationally acclaimed pumpkin village, the fest boasts a full slate of fun activities for adults and kids alike.

Speaking of festivals– for four days every year, the city of Grapevine plays host to GrapeFest, the largest wine festival in the Southwest. There's also a massive Oktoberfest celebration going down in the city of Addison.

And we’d be remiss not to include Halloween. So those looking for a truly immersive, next-level haunted house experience, Dark Hour is the place to go.

On the hunt for more stellar things to do? Then check out our guide for the 10 best things going on around Dallas this September, October and November.


Outside the City
Sail With Scott
Photo courtesy of Sail With Scott

We can't think of a better way to enjoy the cooler weather than with one of Scott Self's sailing cruises on Lake Ray Hubbard. From April through the end of October, Self operates moonlight and daytime cruises every weekend, and sunset cruises every day on board a beautiful 40-foot-long by 25-foot-wide wooden catamaran which can comfortably seat 49 passengers. All 90-minute excursions sail off from the Harbor in Rockwall, located about twenty-five minutes from downtown Dallas. And yes, it's BYOB and BYOF (food) too. Best of all, it will only set you back $30.

Shakespeare in the Park
Photo courtesy of Shakespeare in the Park

Those seeking an open-air culture fix will want to head to one of Shakespeare Dallas' alfresco performances, held at Samuell-Grand Amphitheatre and Addison Circle Park. The 2018 fall season features one of Shakespeare's greatest tragedies, Othello, the classic drama about a noble Black Venetian general whose marriage is sabotaged by theater's most infamous villain, Iago. Blankets, lawn chairs, and picnics are welcome, plus there's also concessionaires available on site. Shows begin at 8 p.m. and run Wednesdays through Sundays, from September 19 to October 14. Arrive early, seating is on a first come-first served basis.

Outside the City
YesterLand Farm
Photo courtesy of YesterLand Farm

Nothing screams the arrival of autumn like pumpkins. And to really ratchet up the fall factor, Yesterland Farms, located about an hour east of Dallas, will be decking the fields with pumpkins of all sizes, colors and shapes. But the seasonal fun goes well beyond pumpkin patches, this 42-acre spread also boasts an intricately carved 3-acre corn maze as well as activities ranging from retro carnival rides to pig races, pony rides and gemstone mining. Looking for something spookier to do? You're in luck. After the sun goes down, guests can get their fright on in a creepy corn maze or with haunted hayrides and zombie paintball. Wait, there's more: they do fireworks every Saturday night too. The Fall Festival and Fright Farm run every weekend from September 22 until November 4.

Meadows Museum of Art
Photo courtesy of Carrie Sanger

Art enthusiasts are descending on Dallas this fall for a first-of-its kind exhibition focusing exclusively on the small-scale paintings of Salvador Dalí. "Dalí: Poetics of the Small, 1929–1936," on display from September 9 through December 9, will feature nearly two dozen of Dalí's works, notably, The Accommodations of Desire (1929, Metropolitan Museum of Art), The Angelus (c. 1932, private collection), and The Weaning of Furniture-Nutrition (1934, The Dalí Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida). It's all going down at the Meadows Museum (on the SMU campus), which houses one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of Spanish art outside of Spain, including Dalí's early surrealist masterpiece, L'homme poisson. Also, in conjunction with the exhibit there will be gallery talks, lectures, musical performances and film screenings of Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel's, Un Chien Andalou (1929) and L'Age d'Or (1930).

Plano Balloon Festival
Photo courtesy of Priscilla Killion

Each September, more than 90,000 balloon enthusiasts converge on Plano for one of the largest hot air balloon festivals in Texas. Running September 21 through September 23, the event showcases more than 40 balloons (including twelve special shaped ones) and features everything from evening balloon glows to concerts, dance performances, skydiving demonstrations and fireworks. As if that weren't enough, there's also food vendors, a race (10/5/1K), a kid's fun zone and an instrument petting zoo sponsored by the Plano Symphony Orchestra. Feeling adventurous? Then how about taking a tethered balloon ride? For $25 ($15 for children ages 6-12), you can soar 20-30 feet above the crowd while still staying anchored to the ground. It's a great way to experience hot air ballooning without having to pay the cost of a full balloon ride.

Dark Hour Haunted House
Photo courtesy of Dark Hour Haunted House

It's a given that the autumn season is also the Halloween season. So, those who have a plight for fright may want to hit up this 30,000-square-foot house of horrors located in Plano. With elaborate sets, high-tech special effects and professional-grade actors, it's no wonder this haunt is consistently ranked as one of the nation's scariest. For Halloween (September 21-October 31), Dark Hour is presenting both its regular haunt, which takes you on a journey through the grounds of Coven Manor, and an add-on attraction, Carl's Playhouse, which takes place in a themed children's pizza parlor. Can't make it for Halloween? No worries, Dark Hour offers a variety of fright-filled experiences on select weekends throughout the year.

Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden
Photo courtesy of Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden

Leaf peeping in Dallas? Yes indeed. There's not a better place to experience the colors of the season than at this 66-acre oasis, especially when it holds its annual fall festival, Autumn at the Arboretum. Held September 22 to November 21, the event features everything from seasonal tastings to chef demonstrations, animal presentations and live entertainment. The Arboretum's nationally acclaimed Pumpkin Village also returns with more than 90,000 pumpkins, gourds and squash creatively displayed in the form of Peter Pan's Neverland. Peter, Tinker Bell and Captain Hook will be making appearances on weekends too. Oh, and did we mention there are concerts every Thursday evening from September 6 to October 25?

Grapevine GrapeFest
Photo courtesy of Grapevine Convention and Visitors Bureau

Considering that Texas is the fifth-largest wine producing state in the nation, it's only fitting that a Texas town named after grapes would be the setting for the biggest wine festival in the Southwest. The four-day event (held September 13-16), showcases wines from Texas as well as from guest wineries from North Coast California and the Rioja region of Spain, and features everything from pre-festival wine dinners to wine tastings, a grape stomping contest and a champagne cork shoot-off. But, there's more to GrapeFest than wine tasting. Fun times can be had for the entire family, with carnival rides, games, crafts, food booths and non-stop live music. Parking is free and there's even complimentary shuttles from the parking lots to the festival grounds.

Addison Oktoberfest
Photo courtesy of Addison Oktoberfest

Sure, Munich may be home to the grandest Oktoberfest of all, but Addison's celebration (held in Addison Circle Park) is no slouch. Billed as one of the most authentic in North America by Forbes and USA Today, the Addison Oktoberfest features an assortment of family friendly activities, ranging from midway rides, bier barrel rolling and yodeling competitions to live music, polka dancing and a dachshund parade. Of course there will be copious amounts of German food and brews too. Speaking of brews, don't miss the Paulaner keg tapping ceremony, which takes place at 8 p.m. every night of the event. The festivities kick off on Thursday, September 20 at 6 p.m. and run through September 23.

State Fair of Texas
Photo courtesy of Kevin Brown-State Fair of Texas

For Dallasites, fall means the arrival of the State Fair of Texas, one of the country's largest and longest-running state fairs, attracting over 3 million visitors each year. Held in Dallas' historic Fair Park, the event runs for 24 consecutive days (September 28 through October 21) and features competitions, livestock shows, concerts and exhibitions as well as a jam-packed midway with the largest Ferris wheel in North America. And then there's the food. We're talking everything from corny dogs and turkey legs to deep fried everything under the sun. Must-sees include the birthing barn, the Texas Auto Show and the All-Star Stunt Dog Show. Try to score tickets to one of the annual football games and be sure to take a photo op in front of the State Fair's mascot, Big Tex, a 55-foot tall talking cowboy.


Meet Ilene Jacobs

As a perpetual wanderer, foodie freak and wannabe chef, Ilene is always on the lookout for the best places to see, eat, drink and sleep. When she's not writing about the latest happenings in...  More About Ilene