Best Things to Do in Fall in Dallas

10 best ways to celebrate fall 2021 in the Dallas area

While the weather may not exactly send chills up your spine, autumn in the Dallas area 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 entertains over three million visitors annually with livestock shows, midway rides and top-notch entertainment.

Those who enjoy leaf-peeping and pumpkin patches will want to hit the annual fall festival at Dallas Arboretum, where there's a spectacular pumpkin village constructed from more than 90,000 pumpkins, gourds and squash.

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

On the hunt for more epic things to do? Then check out our guide for the 10 best things going on around Dallas this September, October and November. Be sure to check with the venue for the latest Covid-19 safety precautions.


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 a cruise aboard a stunning 40-foot-long by 25-foot-wide wooden catamaran on Lake Ray Hubbard in Rockwall. Options include a daily 90 minute sunset cruise as well as 60-minute moonlight and daytime cruises on weekends. Passengers are encouraged to bring their own food and beverages, or they can also order delivery to the boat from one of the restaurants around the lake. The 2021 season runs from April 16 through the end of October, and ticket prices range from $25-$35 per person. Note that for the daytime cruise, children's tickets are $15.

Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: Sail With Scott is perfect for a date or anniversary celebration.

Ilene's expert tip: All cruises leave from the Harbor in Rockwall, located around 25 minutes from downtown Dallas. FYI: Take a cushion or something soft to sit on, the seats are wooden.

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Pumpkin Nights
Photo courtesy of Pumpkin Nights

For all things pumpkin, head to Howell Farms in Arlington where you can venture along a half-mile walking path showcasing six fantastical lands filled with over 3,000 hand-carved pumpkins in dazzling larger-than-life displays. See 10-foot-tall Jack-o-Lanterns, the world's largest pumpkin guitar, a flying 40-foot handmade dragon and a life-size pumpkin pirate ship, plus there will be real-life fire dancers, live pumpkin carving, pumpkin games, and a variety of treats from local vendors. The event runs every evening from September 23 through Halloween 2021. Weekday/weekend ticket prices are $18-$23 for adults; $14-$16 for kids (4 to 12); and free for ages 3 and under.

Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: Pumpkin Nights is a terrific family-friendly Halloween attraction minus the gore.

Ilene's expert tip: Tickets must be purchased online in advance. Limited tickets will be sold on-site at a higher price, but be aware that most time slots sell out fast.

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Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience
Photo courtesy of Dan Swartz for Exhibition Hub and Fever

Experience Vincent Van Gogh's greatest hits presented in 360 degrees. Running daily from August 19 to November 28, 2021 at Choctaw Stadium in Arlington, the exhibit features 20,000 square feet of floor-to-ceiling digital projections made possible by state-of-the-art video mapping technology. In addition to the central area, the experience includes larger-than-life galleries displaying panels, re-creations and interactives chronicling Van Gogh's life. Also find a VR experience offering a voyage through "A day in the life of the Artist," as well as a drawing studio for young artists. The visit takes around 60 to 75 minutes, and tickets start at $36.00 for adults and $19.90 for children.

Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: The Van Gogh Immersive Experience is a perfect outing for all ages.

Ilene's expert tip: Standard access tickets are sold online in half-hour time slots, access for the VR experience is extra and can be purchased either with a VIP ticket or separately on site. Kids under the age of 4 get in free.

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Dallas Museum of Art
Photo courtesy of Dallas Museum of Art

From October 17, 2021 to February 6, 2022, the Dallas Museum of Art, in collaboration with the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, will present "Van Gogh and the Olive Groves." It is the first exhibition showcasing the legendary artist's complete olive grove series, which he produced in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence during the final year of his life. Considered to be among Van Gogh's finest works, the series features 15 paintings highlighting the changing colors of olive trees during various times of day and in different seasons. Ticket prices for the special exhibition range from $20-$24. The exhibition is free for DMA members and children 11 and under.

Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: The Dallas Museum of Art is the only North American venue presenting Van Gogh and the Olive Groves.

Ilene's expert tip: All visitors must reserve a free general admission ticket for the DMA on their selected date. Guests will then be able to add on a matching exhibition ticket.

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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. The best part is that Dark Hour ups the creep factor by offering two different haunted attractions in one location. General admission starts at $15 per person. Open select nights from September 24 through Halloween 2021.

Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: USA Today ranked the Dark Hour as one of the nation's scariest haunted houses.

Ilene's expert tip: Recommended for ages 10 & up. Covid safety measures include social distancing, masked staff and temperatures taken upon entering. Visitors are also encouraged to wear masks.

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If your idea of celebrating the season includes frightfully fun Halloween activities for the entire family, then Fright Fest at Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington is just the ticket. Happening every weekend between September 18 and October 31, 2021, the park offers family-friendly attractions during the day, then turns up the fear factor after the sun goes down with everything from haunted houses to scare zones and spooky performances. And, of course, there's always a slew of terror-inducing rides, but don't be surprised if you find a monster in the seat next to you. Admission starts at $34.99. Note that some Halloween attractions require an additional fee.

Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: There's no shortage of spooky, family-friendly happenings going on at Six Flags during the Halloween season.

Ilene's expert tip: Six Flags only accepts card and mobile payments at all in-park locations including parking toll booths, restaurants, retail stores, games, and ticket windows. You can convert cash to a prepaid debit card for no upfront fee immediately inside the park entrance or at any of the other Cash to Card kiosks within the park. Save time by purchasing parking online before your visit.

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Dallas By Chocolate Tours
Photo courtesy of Dallas By Chocolate Tours

For those who want a spooky adventure that includes more treats than tricks, Dallas By Chocolate is offering several Halloween themed tours, ranging from a progressive Halloween dinner tour to a Halloween chocolate tour where guests can come in costume and even trick-or-treat. The company also features walking food tours; barbecue & brewery tours; tacos & margarita excursions and more. Guests have the option to go by motorcoach (capacity restricted to 20 maximum and all seating socially distanced) as well as via their own vehicle. Ticket prices range from $31 to $70 per person.

Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: Dallas By Chocolate Tours is a great option for foodies of all ages.

Ilene's expert tip: Save $3 per ticket with the code 3EAT when you place your order. As of August 2021, all guests are required to wear masks on the bus and inside all venues unless they are in the process of eating.

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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. Taking place September 16-19, 2021, the event showcases premium wines from Texas, California's Napa Valley and South Australia's Barossa Valley. There will be everything from wine tastings to grape stomping and a champagne cork shoot-off. Bringing the kiddos along? No worries, there's a slew of fun activities on offer for the entire family, including carnival rides, games, crafts, food booths and non-stop live music. General admission is $10 for adults and $5 for seniors and children ages 6-12.

Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: GrapeFest is a fun fall event for wine-lovers and families alike.

Ilene's expert tip: Note: Admission is free all day on Thursday, September 16. Children under the age of 6 years old are free. Parking is free and there are complimentary shuttles to transport guests from the parking lots to the festival grounds.

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

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 during the Arboretum's annual fall festival. Held September 18 to October 31, 2021, the event features chef demonstrations, animal presentations, live entertainment and a nationally acclaimed Pumpkin Village made up of more than 90,000 pumpkins, gourds and squash. This year's theme is "Bugtopia" so expect to find everything from hands-on demos of living specimens to massive insect topiaries and bugged-out pumpkin houses. Did we mention that on Halloween weekend, there will be trick-or-treating throughout the garden? General admission is $17 for adults and $12 for children ages 2-12.

Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: The Arboretum's Pumpkin Village was named one of the "Top 10 U.S. Pumpkin Patches" by the Travel Channel

Ilene's expert tip: Buy one, get one admission every Wednesday. Also note that general admission timed tickets are required and must be purchased online or by calling 214.515.6615. As of August 25, face coverings are required for all indoor spaces due to Dallas County executive order.

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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 24 through October 17, 2021), 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 corn dogs and turkey legs to deep-fried everything under the sun. Must-sees include the new State Fair of Texas Rodeo and the All-Star Stunt Dog Show to name a few. Ticket prices start at $15 for adult tickets and $10 for child and senior tickets.

Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: Going strong since 1886, the State Fair of Texas is one of the best state fairs in the nation.

Ilene's expert tip: Score admission tickets on Wednesdays for $5 with a canned-food donation. Also, after 5 p.m., adult admission is only $10. As of August 25, face masks are required when indoors.

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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