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

Kansas City is full of fall festivals, whether you're looking for crisp, cozy or creepy

The 217-foot-tall Liberty Memorial tower at the National World War I Museum stands beyond an oak tree displaying fall colors Monday, Oct. 29, 2018, in Kansas City, Missouri.
Charlie Riedel
Associated Press
The 217-foot-tall Liberty Memorial tower at the National World War I Museum stands beyond an oak tree displaying fall colors Monday, Oct. 29, 2018, in Kansas City, Missouri.

Autumn is perhaps the best time of year in the Midwest, and all around the Kansas City region, people are ready to celebrate. Whether you're pro-pumpkin or already in macabre mode (or both!), here are some must-do events throughout the season.

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

Around Kansas City, our reward for making it through the dog days of summer are (slightly) cooler temperatures, a pumpkin spice latte, and a whole lot of fall festivals.

So whether you have been waiting for autumn since that first 100-degree heat wave, or you’re reluctant to let the warm weather go, it’ll be easy to get into the spirit of the season.

We put together this guide to autumn activities, fairs and celebrations — including some spooky selections as we get closer to Halloween — that will keep you plenty busy, inside and outside of Kansas City.

That fall feeling

A red tractor pulls red wagons full of people through a field.
Carolyn's Pumpkin Patch
Wagon rides (some with hay, some without) are a staple of the autumnal season, like at Carolyn's Pumpkin Patch in Liberty, Missouri.

If you want to experience a rustic, small-town festival this fall, Kansas City has plenty of great options.

Louisburg CiderFest runs for two weekends, Sept. 23–24 and Sept. 30–Oct. 1. You can make a day trip of it and get lost in the Louisburg Cider Mill’s 10-acre corn maze while eating your apple cider donut.

If you still need more apple treats, you can also head to Weston Applefest on Oct. 7–8. It features the standard fall festival fare of crafts and food vendors, but the town’s specialties are apple butter and apple dumplings.

Another small-town fall festival within a short drive is the Liberty Fall Festival on Sept. 22–24, which is a bigger celebration with carnival rides and a car show on Saturday. You can also head to Baldwin, Kansas (about 50 minutes from Kansas City) to celebrate their 65th annual Maple Leaf Festival on Oct. 21–22. The festival features a parade, crafts, and even a quilt show.

If you don’t want to travel too far from the metro, the Overland Park Fall Festival is held in downtown Overland Park on Sept. 29–30, and it includes musical acts, kids’ entertainment, and an artisan fair.

If you missed the Haskell Indian Art Market this September, you can see Haskell students perform Native American dances at the Shawnee Mission Indian Mission Fall Festival on Oct. 14. The festival also will have living history performers, a “cowboy music” performance, and kid-friendly crafts.

Cornucopia — which bills itself as “KC’s Ultimate Fall Fest” — brings the whole festival experience to the Power & Light District on Oct. 13–15. In addition to live music, crafts, and food, Cornucopia also has carnival rides!

Of course, it wouldn’t be fall without pumpkins. You can pick your pumpkins at the Fall Festival at the KC Pumpkin Patch in Olathe on Sept. 23, or at St. Joseph’s PumpkinFest on Oct. 13–15.

Carolyn’s Pumpkin Patch in Liberty provides a festival-like atmosphere all season — it is open Sept. 16–Oct. 30, Thursday–Monday and has a petting zoo, a giant slide, a corn pit, and pig races on the weekend.

Fall feast

People holding steins of beer dance and chat at KC Oktoberfest.
KC Oktoberfest
Steins in hand, partygoers enjoy the festivities at KC Oktoberfest.

Why not spend your October eating food from around the world? The Greater Kansas City Japan Festival is on Oct. 7 at Johnson County Community College, and will have traditional Japanese food in addition to music, dancing, martial arts workshops, a haiku contest, and more.

The KC Jewish Culture Festat The J in Overland Park on Oct. 15 features Jewish food, musical performances, and a wine tasting.

Oktoberfest at Crown Center on Oct. 6–7 is a traditional German beer festival that is fun for the entire family. You can spend your evening dancing at the Polka Tent, watching a “Masskrugstemmen” contest (a strength contest to see who can hold a full liter of beer the longest), and learning about German heritage in the Midwest. Oh yeah, and there will also be lots of beer and German sausage.

You can also swap out your beer for coffee and head to The Roasterie Factory on Oct. 7 for the Black Drip Octoberfest. This is a coffee festival, but you can stave off the caffeine jitters with a number of food options.

For a health-conscious food celebration, head to Midwest Soul Vegfest in Swope Park on Oct. 7. This day-long festival will feature vegan cuisine and will have booths and speakers highlighting environmental and animal rights issues. You can also do some socially conscious shopping at their eco-marketplace.

You can also eat your veggies at Kansas City Community Gardens’Fall Family Festivalin Kansas City, Kansas, on Sept. 23. The festival offers fruit and vegetable tastings, and a free basil plant so you can get a start on next year’s harvest. The event is great for kids, with crafts and hand painting as well.

Your dog can even get in on the fun! Bar K at Kansas City’s Berkley Riverfront is hosting the dog-friendly Fall Beer Fest on Sept. 30. There will be live music, and the ticket price includes free appetizers and nonalcoholic drinks, as well as discounted beers and cocktails.

Día de los Muertos

Dia de los Muertos decorations in front of Corinthian Hall.
Kansas City Museum
Many Kansas City institutions, including the Kansas City Museum, honor Día de los Muertos.

Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a holiday observed in Mexico and other Latin American countries on Nov. 1–2 to honor relatives who have died.

You can get an early start at the Kansas City Museum’s Día de los Muertos event on the evening of Oct. 21, which is hosted in collaboration with Mattie Rhodes Center. Another option is Guadalupe Centers’ Día de los Muertos Celebrationon Oct. 27. Head to Kansas City’s Westside for an evening festival filled with face painting, ceremonial dancers, and food vendors.

You can also celebrate on Nov. 4 at Día de Muertos On Central Avenue in Kansas City, Kansas, a daylong celebration that will feature Walking Catrinas—or “elegant skulls”—and a parade at 6 pm.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art hosts its annual Día de los Muertos Festival on Sunday, Nov. 5.

Spirits and spooky things

Two women dressed as zombies pose in front of a black van that has "Don't Open" painted on the door.
Haley Fleisner
Lawrence Zombie Walk
Lawrence, Kansas' Zombie Walk is spooky, yet lighthearted, and also serves as a fundraiser for the Humane Society.

While Día de los Muertos is a distinct holiday from Halloween, the season also brings more opportunities to learn about real historical figures who have died.

Several local historical sites offer ghost tours, including the Harris-Kearney Civil War Home in Westport on Oct. 6–7 and Oct. 13–14.

The Dillingham-Lewis House Museum in Blue Springs is a historical home that claims to be “one of Missouri’s most haunted locations.” You can also go on a ghost tour there and at the Chicago/Alton Hotel next door on Oct. 6–7 and 13–14. The Alexander Majors house at 82nd and State Line, built in 1856, is hosting ghost tours on Oct. 22 as well as Oct. 29–31.

For some serious Halloween frights, head to the Carved event in Riverside, Missouri, on the night of Oct. 21, for what promises to be “the most terrifying night of your life.” The main attraction is a haunted trail, and if the website’s storyabout haunted circus performers is to be believed, that may just be true. If you aren’t up for that, you can still attend Carved and celebrate Halloween on the family-friendly spooky trail, or by watching a magician or getting a palm reading.

Carved isn’t the only haunted trail around town. Exiledin Bonner Springs is an outdoor haunted house that is open every Friday and Saturday starting the weekend of Sept. 29 through the weekend of Oct. 27. The experience promises to be both physically demanding as well as incredibly scary, and warns people to skip it if they do not want to stoop down, crawl around, or get sweaty. (You’ll want to hear KCUR’s Lisa Rodriguez story where she got afirst-hand taste of Exiled.)

For more lighthearted, but still spooky, fun, check out Lawrence’s 16th annual Zombie Walk. Put on your scariest zombie costume and meet in Lawrence’s South Park on Oct. 19. While there you can get your make-up done or walk through a blood bath station, and then join as a crowd of zombies overtakes downtown Lawrence. The event is also a fundraiser for the Lawrence Humane Society, so you can spook for a good cause.

Other family-friendly events include Enchanted Forest at Lenexa’s Sar-Ko-Par Trails Park on Oct. 26, Historical Hauntings at Shawnee Town 1929 on Oct. 29, or Boo Bash at Creekside in Parkville on Oct. 29.

Wear your Halloween costume to Boo at the Zoo at the Kansas City Zoo & Aquarium on Oct. 28, or head to The Great Pumpkin Fest at Worlds of Fun from now until Oct. 29.

Hannah Bailey is a cultural studies scholar and a freelance writer for KCUR. You can email her at hannah@coneflower.org.
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