Here are the best festivals in autumn for your annual world festival calendar. Number 9 would be the autumn festival of choice for me!
Autumn is here, and it is time to pack your backpacks for your next adventure – one of the many great autumn festivals.
From Halloween to Thanksgiving, to diverse festivals of lights and lantern festivals too, there’s a lot to cover this season.
Here are the top festivals in autumn for your seasonal bucket list…
Best festivals in autumn
Just because summer’s over doesn’t mean the festivals are. These are the best autumn festivals for you to look forward to.
1. Boun Awk Phansa, Laos & Thailand
28th October 2023
Marking the end of a three-month-long Buddhist Lent period, Boun Awk Phansa is a time of celebrations with lights and lanterns. During the Buddhist Lent, happening during the rainy season, monks hide themselves to meditate.
On the Full Moon day of the eleventh lunar month, the monks come out of their meditations. To mark this occasion, people would offer gifts, set out boats with incense and candles in the Mekong River. It’s a belief that focuses on honouring the ‘river spirit’.
People would also light paper lanterns at night, which creates a mesmerising ethereal glow. There are fireworks and decorated wats too as part of celebrating this festival in autumn.
As part of this autumn festival, other celebrations are also happening in Thailand. They range from the Naga Fireball Festival to the Wax Castle Festival. You can enjoy these occasions while visiting Thailand to be a part of Boun Awk Phansa this October.
2. Nuit Blanche, Paris, France
Moved from October to June from now on
Now, get ready to immerse yourself in an after-dark celebration of art with Nuit Blanche. If you’re visiting Paris in October, add this autumn fest to your bucket list. Here, you can be a part of a wonderful journey, where you can explore different facets of contemporary art. You can enjoy various installations and concerts that happen as part of Nuit Blanche.
First organised in 2002, Nuit Blanche takes place in the heart of Paris. As part of this event, you can learn more about different artworks done by several international artists. While you’re at Nuit Blanche you can also book yourself in for cabarets, shows, and dinner cruises too.
Other than that, there are numerous museums and exhibitions you can add to your visit. The best way to explore the event to the fullest is by walking around the streets. You can roam around in a zig-zag pattern as the start and end don’t matter in this avant-garde world of art. Renting a bicycle and riding through the streets of Paris can also add a unique touch to the entire experience.
3. Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, New Mexico
7th – 15th October 2023
It’s time to fly high this autumn by becoming a part of this incredible balloon fiesta. Started in 1972, Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is a one-of-a-kind event, which stands as the largest annual international event in the US. Over one million people travel to Albuquerque to be a part of this exciting event.
Taking place for nine days in the first week of October, this hot air balloon fiesta has over 500+ hot air balloons floating around in the sky. Perfectly described as “an event like no other,” Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta can create a backdrop that can stay in your memory forever. With these vibrant balloons ascending the sky in the autumn mornings, you can be part of an event that brings together crews from different parts of the globe. These colourful balloons float in the Rio Grande Valley.
There are entertainment programs in the Main Street Stage, Main Street, and North Main Street at this Fall festival. While you’re at this autumn festival, you can also book yourself a slot for a hot air balloon journey. One of the best October festivals out there!
4. Loi Krathong, Floating Lantern Festival, Chiang Mai, Thailand
27th – 28th November 2023
Commonly known as the floating lantern festival, Loi Krathong is a celebratory occasion of floating lights. It takes place on the twelfth Full Moon of every year, which often falls in November. Making it a great festival in autumn to enjoy. Offering a touch of serenity, Loi Krathong differs from other floating lantern festivals. Unlike others, you would be floating lanterns in the sky during this two-day-long festival in autumn.
As these fluorescent bulbs fly up in the night sky, people would make wishes for the upcoming year. It is a tradition followed by the people for a long time. Apart from floating the lanterns, there are other ways through which people embrace this occasion. As you walk down the streets of Chiang Mai, your eyes would glow with the decorations in the houses, temples, and other places. The people would light candles, use flowers and coconut leaves for the decorations.
You can head to the banks of the Ping River if you wish to be a part of the occasion and release candles. If not, you can always be an observer and enjoy this mesmerizing view. For that, you have to find the best vantage points to immerse yourself in this serenity. The Saphan Lek and Wat Phan Tao are two locations in Chiang Mai, where you can enjoy the ascend of the lanterns to the sky to the fullest.
5. Village Halloween Parade, New York City
31st October annually
The Village Halloween Parade in NYC takes place on October 31 every year. It starts from Sixth Avenue and Canal Street, where you can join the fun if you’re in a costume.
Over 2 million people participate in this Parade, and it can be pretty crowded. Hence, you have to take care of your possessions while you are at the Parade. It lasts for around three hours so wrap up warm!
The Village Halloween Parade started in 1973, and since then, has gotten bigger and bigger. Dress up and get involved!
6. Guy Fawkes Night, UK
5th November 2023
As any good Brit knows, Bonfire Night aka Guy Fawkes Night is one of the best nights of the year for toffee apples, sub par burgers and fireworks. It’s celebrated on November 5, thanks to the GunPowder Plot that focused on the murdering of King James I in 1605. Robert Catesby planned an explosion of the British parliament on November 5, 1605. However, it failed, and King James I survived.
Guy Fawkes Night marks the survival of King James I, and its name comes from one of the plotters, Guy Fawkes. You might have noticed his portrayal in the movie V for Vendetta, where V wears a mask of Guy Fawkes.
In the past, Guy Fawkes Night has been pretty violent. However, in the 20th century, it subsided, and it became an event of social commemoration. Nowadays we celebrate it all over the UK, with huge bonfire feasts.
As part of the celebrations, we burn effigies and firecrackers. And everyone needs a sparkler.
For the town of Lewes, near Sussex, Bonfire Night is a little more extreme. Flaming torches are the necessary accessory as the townspeople march through the streets dressed as Vikings, smugglers and any other bad boy character they can think of. They drag behind them a burning barrel of tar while occasionally chanting the odd ‘kill the pope’ in unison.
This medieval state of affairs is all to honour the 17 protestant men who were burnt at the stake in Lewes after the failed 1605 gun powder plot led by Guy Fawkes. For those with a love of pyromania, this November festival is a must.
7. Diwali, India
10th – 14th November 2023
With different legends and numerous historical narratives, Diwali is a Festival of Lights – many view it as the beginning of a New Year as well. Diwali depicts the victory of light over darkness or good over evil.
Diwali is a five-day-long festival, with each day marking diverse and dazzling events. It has more to it than the burning of clay lamps outside the houses and buildings. It is about building togetherness and embracing each other. Here, people would put Rangolis, which refers to intricate designs and patterns made with colours. By taking part in this enchanting festival, you can gain a deeper understanding of Indian cultures. It’s one of the most important festivals in India.
If you plan to visit India during October or November, be a part of this exciting celebration. You can celebrate this joyous occasion from anywhere in India. Here, houses and buildings would be glowing with lanterns and lights. You can even be a part of this celebration if your host invites you to join them.
Some places in India where you can immerse into this historically rich event are Delhi, Jaipur, Varanasi, and Jodhpur. While you enjoy Diwali, don’t miss out on local delicacies, including Jaleebis and Kheer.
8. Yi Peng, Chiang Mai Lantern Festival, Thailand
27th – 28th November 2023
I can’t imagine how equally ethereal and grounding it must feel to be stand side by side with your fellow festival goers on a beach and look up look up to see the release of thousands of lanterns over Chang Mai, Thailand.
A bucket list must, Yi Peng and Loy Krathong are two sacred events held annually to honour the Buddha. While you’ll find similar lantern release rituals taking place across Asia on November 25th, it’s Chiang Mai’s greenery and scenery that make it the most spectacular place to be.
Locals light their lanterns and set sail to small boats made from banana stalks filled with incense and flowers. This symbolises the act of letting go of negativity, which, let’s face it, we could all be doing more than once a year.
It’s one of the best festivals in November.
9. VooDoo Fest, New Orleans, USA
Put the dolls away because, despite the name, the only thing you stick a pin in at VooDooFest is your Facebook location to show off to aaalll your friends that you’re at this epic music festival.
New Orleans celebrates Halloween with a weekend of international music acts. Although you’d expect a line up of renowned jazz acts from this soul city, more mainstream artists can be heard, along with up and comers, with past performances from Tiesto, Nine Inch Nails and 50 Cent. Kinda like the New Orleans Jazz Festival held earlier in the year.
Across six stages in the Mississippi lagoons, it’s costumes on and party up for the full three days. As part of the whole Louisiana experience get stuck into the alligator bites and po-boys for the true NOLA food experience.
New Orleans is an incredible place to visit – check out my top tips for a cheap New Orleans experience here.
10. Mid-Autumn Festival, China
29th September 2023
Known to be one of the biggest celebrations held annually in China, the Mid-Autumn festival is an event of great cultural and traditional importance. It always takes place on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese lunar calendar, set this year to occur on September 29th, primarily celebrating one of the world’s greatest pieces of symbolism – the moon.
In this festival, the moon is celebrated as a symbol of peaceful times, and is best commemorated under the silvery light of the full moon.
It’s a festival that goes back around 3,000 years, and is heavily steeped in tradition. Participating in this event means you’ll have plenty of opportunities for stargazing, moon watching, lighting lanterns and incense burners, as well as enjoying the local cuisine!
Moon cakes are a particularly traditional food for this festival in September.
11. Day of the Dead Festival
1st – 2nd November 2023
Day of the Dead Festival is a two-day Mexican holiday that dates back thousands of years to the Aztec, Toltec and Nahua times. Mexicans believe that their ancestors rise from the dead and join the living for two days in November. This makes it sound a little morbid, it’s anything but.
The idea is to dress up, host parties, dance, sing, make offerings to the dead and generally celebrate life. I went to Day of the Dead Festival in autumn a few years ago and had an absolutely incredible time. The atmosphere is electric, and it really makes you feel differently about death as a celebration of life, rather than the end of it.
One of the best festivals of the world if you like dressing up and celebrating the dead!
As you can see from all these great festivals in autumn – there’s still loads to do this year to fill your festival calendar. Which one are you going to choose?
What do we celebrate in autumn UK?
In the UK, autumn includes several celebrations and special days. Perhaps the most iconic is Guy Fawkes Night, or Bonfire Night, on the 5th of November, commemorating the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605 with firework displays and bonfires. Halloween, on the 31st of October is another famous autumn festival, with children and adults alike donning costumes, carving pumpkins, and partaking in trick-or-treating.
What festivals are on in October Europe?
You can pick from several October festivals in Europe, whether it’s Oktoberfest, originating in Munich celebrating Bavarian beer culture, music, and traditional festivities, or Spain’s La Tomatina, although held in late August, often extends its jubilant atmosphere into October. There’s also Italy’s Alba White Truffle Festival celebrates the prized white truffle, while France has the Lumière Film Festival in Lyon. The list goes on, with each European country offering its unique take on autumn celebrations.
Why is Diwali celebrated in autumn season?
Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights, is celebrated in the autumn season primarily because of its roots in the Hindu lunar calendar. Falling between mid-October and mid-November, it marks the Hindu New Year and symbolises the victory of light over darkness and good over evil.
Are the festivals in autumn for kids?
Many autumn festivals cater to children, though they are enjoyed by people of all ages. Halloween is a prime example, with its focus on costumes, trick-or-treating, and spooky-themed activities. In the UK, Bonfire Night offers children the thrill of fireworks displays and the tradition of creating a ‘Guy’ effigy. Apple picking events, pumpkin carving sessions, craft sessions and storytelling; autumn festivals frequently offer a medley of child-friendly entertainments.
Which are the best music festivals in autumn?
Autumn hosts several music festivals, including the huge Amsterdam Dance Event in the Netherlands, The Pitchfork Music Festival in Paris, and Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg. Outside of Europe there’s also the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Texas, known for its eclectic mix of rock, indie, country, and more.