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Each week, KCUR's Creative Adventure newsletter brings you a new way to explore the Kansas City region.

A Guide To The Best Fall Festivals And Activities In Kansas City

People walk beneath a maple tree sporting fall colors Friday, Oct. 30, 2020, at a park in Kansas City, Mo.
Charlie Riedel
Associated Press
People walk beneath a maple tree sporting fall colors Friday, Oct. 30, 2020, at a park in Kansas City, Missouri.

Here's your must-do list of autumn events in Kansas City, plus scenic drives, Dia de Los Muertos celebrations and ghost tours to fill your fall.

This story was first published in KCUR's Creative Adventure newsletter. You can sign up to receive stories like this in your inbox every Tuesday.

With the autumnal equinox arriving, it’s officially fall! Here in the heart of the Midwest, we relish our seasonal changes and annual celebrations.

Festival organizers take advantage of our blue-skied days and crisp temperatures with events that meet just about anyone’s interest: harvest festivals and cultural events, cozy bonfires and athletic challenges, football and marching bands — all capped off, of course, by Halloween and Dia de Los Muertos.

It’s also Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. The Latino Arts Foundation holds its annual Latino Arts Festival throughout the month, with mini pop-ups in the region. On Sept. 26, the festival partners with the Kansas City Chiefs for a day of events, including the halftime show. The Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center hosts a free celebration on Oct. 13.

Note: Due to the pandemic, some annual events have been postponed. Even with outdoor events, large or close gatherings can pose a risk to one’s health. Use discretion and follow CDC recommendations.

Fall Festival Season

Troostapalooza on Oct. 2 is just one of the many fall festivals happening in and around Kansas City.

This year, we see the return of some of our long-running seasonal favorites, including the 90th annual Plaza Art Fair (Sept. 24-26), and the Kansas City Renaissance Festival, which runs Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 17, as well as Monday, Oct. 11.

But there’s much more.

Troostapalooza is Oct. 2 at 30th and Troost. It’s a free exuberant street party with musical performances, skateboard demos, mural painting and more.

KC Oktoberfest transforms Crown Center into the “Munich of the Midwest” on Oct. 1-2. Organized by Kansas City Bier Co., the event brings together some of the best German imports (polka and pretzels, of course!) and much more, including the traditional Masskrugstemmen, or stein-hoisting competition. Proof of vaccine or negative COVID-19 test results for patrons 12 and older are required for entry.

For a celebration of Italian heritage, join Festa Italiana in Zona Rosa Oct. 8-10. The event features music, food and the Italian Motorsports Show on Sunday.

Harvest Time

Woman picking apples
Priscilla Du Preez
You can find u-pick orchards across the Kansas City region, from Weston, Missouri, to South Kansas City and Olathe, Kansas.

Many festivals started as a celebration of a successful harvest. You can get pickin’ with a visit to local pumpkin patches and apple orchards. No matter where you find yourself in the metro, a festival or farm visit is not far away.

The Liberty Fall Festival on Historic Liberty Square includes a parade, a carnival, vendors, music, artwork and more, Sept. 24-26. Also near Liberty, Missouri, is Carolyn’s Pumpkin Patch at Raasch Farms, with activities, pumpkin picking, a carousel and concerts on select nights.

Weston Applefest, now in its 33rd year, runs Oct. 2-3 with entertainment, a parade on Saturday morning, games and a makers’ fair. And, of course, its famous apple dumplings. You could also visit the Historic Weston Orchard & Vineyard for activities, u-pick fruit, cider making and wine tasting.

Faulkner’s Ranch in South Kansas City has a farm market and play area beginning Oct. 1. Johnson Farm in Belton, Missouri, is a u-pick farm with apples, pumpkins and other seasonal offerings, including a variety of mums and family-fun activities. Down in Olathe, KC Pumpkin Patch has an array of climbing structures and slides, along with pumpkin picking, opening on Sept. 25.

Cornucopia KC, a fall festival in the Power and Light District, tries to replicate that farm fun in the heart of downtown with food, entertainment and family-friendly activities, Oct. 15-17.

Color And Movement

Fall scenic drives
Chris Bair
Explore our region's gorgeous fall foliage via scenic byways, boulevards or hiking trails.

Just being outside can be enough. With boulevards, byways, miles of urban hiking trails and state parks close at hand, you can explore the area and soak in the sunshine as it filters through the changing foliage.

Go for an autumnal auto day trip. For a spectacular view, take the Glacial Hills Scenic Byway, starting in Leavenworth, Kansas, up to the Four-State Lookout in White Cloud, Kansas. Then travel back to Missouri and visit the Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge to see tens of thousands of migrating flocks.

For a different color scheme, visit StoneLion Puppet Theatre’s 2nd annual drive-through Puppets A Glow-Go, a reverse, giant puppet parade at the National World War I Museum, Sept. 24-25.

It’s also the season to get outside and move your body before the chill of winter sets in. International Walk to School Day is the first Wednesday in October. The Kansas City Marathon takes over the city on Oct. 16. And the Elmwood Cemetery Graveyard 5K Run/Walk is on Oct. 30.

KC Parks also hosts Walktober 2021 with weekend hikes scheduled each Sunday in October, including a Union Cemetery hike on Oct. 31.

Souls And Ghouls

Dia De Los Muertos and Spooky House pumpkins
Drew Hays
Dia de Los Muertos and Halloween aren't synonymous holidays, but many Kansas Citians celebrate both.

While Dia de Los Muertos and Halloween are not synonymous holidays, stemming from different cultural traditions, many Kansas Citians do celebrate both.

Traditionally, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and the Kansas City Museum have hosted community events. Due to the pandemic, these events will not happen this year, but both will have altars displayed.

The altar at the Nelson-Atkins is on view Nov. 1-15 during museum hours and provides a special activity sheet. Kansas City Museum has altar viewing on Oct. 23 only, on the grounds of the soon-to-be-open facilities. Timed ticket required.

Mattie Rhodes Center starts its Dia de Los Muertos celebration with its traditional street festival on Oct. 1, with more activities throughout the month. Kansas City, Kansas, holds many contests and events leading up to the weekend celebration on Nov. 6.

Many communities and organizations have their particular takes on Halloween, from cutesy to spooky, sweet-toothed or supernatural. Worlds of Fun has the family-friendly Great Pumpkin Fest on Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 31 and scary Halloween Haunt select nights through Oct. 30.

Lenexa transforms Sar-Ko-Par Trails Park into an Enchanted Forest on Oct. 28. And the Kansas City Zoo hosts Boo at the Zoo on Oct. 30-31.

If you want to add a little history to your fright, try the Wornall/Majors House Museum Ghost Tours, or the October Ghosts Tours of the 1859 Jail and Marshal’s Home & Museum on Fridays and Saturdays in Independence, Missouri.

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Originally from Indiana, Libby Hanssen covers the performing arts in Kansas City. She's written for KCUR, KC Studio, The Kansas City Star, The Pitch, and KCMetropolis. Libby maintains the culture blog Proust Eats A Sandwich and writes poetry and children's books. Along with degrees in trombone performance, she was a Fellow for the NEA Arts Journalism Institute at Columbia University.
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