The Big E, the largest fair in the Northeast and fifth largest in North America, has just kicked off its 101th year with big talent, phenomenal food, animals, rides, shopping and more! The 17-day event will feature a Mardi Gras Parade and The Big E Circus Spectacular.
Some of the biggest names from the past and present, as well as those on their way to the top, have played before crowds at The Big E. From legendary entertainers, like Bob Hope, Roy Rogers and Liberace, to the musical talents of Johnny Cash, Beyoncé and Destiny’s Child, Reba and Blake Shelton, the Fair has been the venue to introduce these icons. This year top name talent like Grand Funk Railroad, Smashmouth and Night Ranger take the stage! Concertgoers are in for a ton of great shows at the xfinity arena and Court of Honor Stage, sponsored by xfinity®.
A festival vacation – colorful, energetic, and culturally immersive – is a terrific way to meet locals and enjoy a new experience. In New Braunfels Fall is festival season and the mild temperatures and scenic Texas Hill Country make it a perfect vacation destination. Get away with your BFF or enjoy a romantic holiday with the love of your life. It’s a vacation to remember!
There are art festivals, craft beer pubs and wineries to visit. There’s outdoor recreation like cycling, running, kayaking and stand-up paddling. It’s often still warm enough to float the two fantastic rivers in a tube. Check some of the “festival” fun you can have in the Fall in New Braunfels:
The Comal County Fair – Have a taste of Texas culture! There’s a barbecue contest and a washer pitching contest. There’s a PRCA Rodeo, Bull Riding, a tractor pull, and livestock shows. Enjoy scooting a boot to The Bellamy Brothers and a George Strait Tribute Band. Don’t miss the parade that kicks it all off on Friday, September 29. New Braunfels takes the day off and everyone is either in the parade or gathered to watch it!
Cycling – As the weather cools off, cyclists converge for the Bike MS Valero Ride to the River. The October 7-8 Bike MS: Valero Ride to the River, presented by H-E-B, offers a variety of one-day and two-day ride distances. There’s even a 161-mile option. The ride from San Antonio to New Braunfels includes celebrations overnight and at the finish line. There are fun-interactive themed rest stops along the route. Experience the beauty of South Texas and the Hill Country for a cycling experience like no other.
Bring your bike for the Tour de Gruene November 4, too. Choose recreational tours from ride lengths of 14, 29, 41, 49, and 63 miles. Enjoy the Hill Country scenery along the tree-lined banks of the Guadalupe River. Ride through the heart of Texas and enjoy a post ride lunch and party. Cap off your evening with dining and dancing to Bavarian entertainment at Wurstfest!
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Wine and Craft Beer – The Gruene Music & Wine Festival October 5-8, is a four-day celebration of Texas and Americana music. Sample Texas, German and New World wines. Enjoy specialty beers, food and handcrafted items. “Texas Tastings & Tunes” on Saturday includes more than 40 wine and food producers for tastings. There’s ‘Le Cordon Gruene’ food alley, too. Sunday’s “Texas-Style Musicfest” includes a Specialty Beer Tasting event, two entertainment stages and the big game on a big screen TV. There’s a Craft Market on Saturday and Sunday. The “Not From Texas” kickoff event on Thursday features German and New World wines, live music and door prizes! Add a tour of the Texas Hill Country wineries and craft beer breweries. Start with the wineries and breweries in New Braunfels!
New Braunfels Historic Modelers Society Train Show – If you’re into model trains, you don’t want to miss this great show October 28-29. It takes up the entire New Braunfels Civic Center Exhibit Hall – 11,789 square feet! There are additional exhibits throughout the facility, too. Special features include a huge exhibit of Lego Trains and traveling model railroads of various scales. More than 60 vendors have displays on more than 300 tables for buying, selling, or swapping. There are door prizes, a silent auction, a museum store, and a mini food court. Children will enjoy the free ride ticket for the Landa Park Miniature Train. Or, they can be a Junior Engineer at a ‘Kids Run the Trains’ layout!
The Texas Clay Festival – The Gruene Historic District hosts the 25th annual Texas Clay Festival October 28-29. It features the work of more than 60 Texas potters and clay artists. You’ll find a wide variety of pottery, from traditional to sculptural by the top clay artists in Texas. The festival also provides a unique opportunity to watch and learn. There are demonstrations in four tents throughout both days. From the potter’s wheel to hand-building to raku firing, there is something for everyone.
Dia De Los Muertos – This fun packed festival October 29 includes food, arts & crafts, shopping, live music, and entertainment, as well as educational info on the history of the day. Entertainment includes Mariachi Internacional Monarca, Compania de Danza Folklorica and Tejano star Patsy Torres.
Marathons – November 18, runners gather for the Chosen Marathon CHOSEN HALF MARATHON & 5K. It’s the “Prettiest Race in Texas” making it the perfect destination race to add to your calendar. The Half Marathon is a point-to-point course that runs beside the Guadalupe River. The 5K is an out-and-back course that starts and finishes at Rockin R River Outfitters in Gruene. There’s also a Kids Fun Run!
Thanksgiving in New Braunfels includes the opportunity to run off a few pounds on November 23 with the city’s “Turkey Trot.” Enjoy an exhilarating 5k run/walk through the Gruene Historic District to start the day. Children under 12 years old can participate by chasing a Turkey Mascot for ¼ mile through Gruene!
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Wurstfest – The food festival to enjoy in Texas according to National Geographic Magazine. Wurstfest is one of the two top “Oktoberfest” celebrations in the nation according to USA Today. You don’t want to miss this November 3-12 unique annual celebration rich in German culture and full of Texas fun! There’s great food including sausage on a stick to sausage tacos. There’s lots of music and dancing, carnival rides and games. Try the German, Texan and domestic beers. Enjoy special events and the finest in Alpine and Bavarian Style Entertainment. It’s the best ten days in sausage history.
It’s time for a festival vacation! Make your reservations in New Braunfels now!
This fall and winter, there is more to see and do in Orlando than any other time of year. With numerous food and wine feasts, unparalleled Halloween thrills and merry holiday theme park events, the excitement in Orlando is warming up even as the weather cools down. For a full schedule of fall happenings, year-round events, insider attraction tips and vacation planning guides, go to VisitOrlando.com.
Orlando’s Food & Wine Feasts
The destination’s growing reputation for superb dining meets a seasonal surge of events for a food-lover’s dream vacation in the fall. From a month-long affordable fine dining program to theme park and resort smorgasbords, there are flavors for all palates through November.
- Guests can dine on haute cuisine without burning through their budget during the 12th year of Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month (Aug. 25 – Oct. 1), when more than 100 of Central Florida’s top restaurants feature three-course, prix fixe dinner menus for $35. Joining the lineup of this year’s participating venues are six restaurants from Walt Disney World Resort hotels.
- At the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival (Aug. 31 – Nov. 13), taking place at the Walt Disney World Resort, guests can sip, sample and savor treasures from some of the world’s most famous wineries and celebrated chefs as they circle World Showcase. New this year, guests can enjoy tastings from the Coastal Eats Booth and Cheese Studio, as well as delicacies from India, Thailand and Spain in the Global Marketplace.
- Waldorf Astoria Orlando and Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek’s Food & Wine Weekends (Sept. 8 – Nov. 12) celebrate fine wine, spirits and the culinary arts. Now in its seventh year, the event takes place on a series of weekends throughout the fall and features a variety of distinct menus and pairings curated by the executive culinary team. Open to resort guests and the public, the program will include a macaron bar, traditional Royal Tea and Bar du Chocolat with Champagne tasting.
- The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic (Oct. 27 – 28) features wines from around the world and a variety of culinary dishes prepared by award-winning chefs. Educational seminars range from wine-blending to pasta-making from scratch. A special Sunday Bubbles Brunch returns this year on Oct. 29, featuring a variety of cured meats, imported cheeses, an array of sushi and of course, Champagne.
Halloween Capital of the World
The Theme Park Capital of the World® transforms into the Halloween Capital of the World during the six weeks leading up to Oct. 31, where the celebrations are mild, wild and wonderfully themed to capture the fun and thrills of the Halloween season.
- At Walt Disney World Resort during Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party (Aug. 25 – Nov. 1), guests have an extra week to enjoy trick-or-treating throughout the Magic Kingdom, catch the “Boo-to-You” Halloween parade or Hocus Pocus Villain Spectacular and stay for the bewitching “Happy HalloWishes” fireworks.
- SeaWorld’s Halloween Spooktacular (Sept. 23 – Oct. 29) at SeaWorld Orlando invites youngsters to trick-or-treat among friendly sea witches, octopuses, mermaids and pumpkin fish in an underwater fantasia. Cookie decorating and candy galore make this a sweet Halloween event for families to splash into.
- Universal Orlando Halloween Horror Nights (Sept. 15 – Nov. 4) at Universal Studios Florida allows guests to face their deepest fears in themed haunted houses, “scare zones” and mazes inspired by critically-acclaimed movies and television series. This year’s terrors are inspired by the hit television show American Horror Story, horror movie classic, The Shining, and much more.
- Brick or Treat (Oct. 14-15, 21-22, 28-29, 31) at LEGOLAND Florida Resort promises the spookiest and kookiest Halloween event. Celebrate weekends in October with larger-than-life LEGO models, a costume parade, trick-or-treating, a Halloween-themed fireworks show and much more.
Holidays at Orlando’s Theme Parks
Orlando celebrates the most magical time of year with balmy weather, special events and spirited live entertainment, creating an unforgettable and festive setting for a winter getaway that trades snow for sunshine.
- Walt Disney World Resort offers an array of holiday fun (Nov. 9 – Dec. 22), including the transformation of Cinderella Castle into a glistening ice palace at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party; the Candlelight Processional at Epcot features an exciting line-up of new celebrity narrators including Neil Patrick Harris, Pat Sajak, CCH Pounder and Trace Adkins; and a free-entry holiday wonderland at Disney Springs showcases carolers, performances and a meet-and-greet with Santa.
- Universal Orlando Resort invites guests (Nov. 18 – Jan. 6) to the Macy’s Holiday Parade at Universal Studios, where the streets are filled every evening with the same larger-than-life balloons seen in Macy’s famous Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. Meanwhile, at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, families will light up with holiday cheer as Grinchmas comes to life throughout Seuss Landing. New to this year, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter will be transformed with wondrous, holiday spirit.
- Waves of holiday spirit splash over the park during SeaWorld Orlando’s Christmas Celebration (Nov. 24 – Dec. 31). In a wintery, watery wonderland, guests of all ages will enjoy stunning live shows inspired by the natural world, a glittering sea of lit Christmas trees and beloved Christmas character Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and friends.
- LEGOLAND Florida Resort offers families one-of-a-kind photo opportunities with a life-sized LEGO Model Santa Claus and 30-foot-tall LEGO Christmas tree during Christmas Bricktacular, taking place select dates in December.
The Orlando Destination
Home to seven of the world’s top theme parks, Orlando is the No. 1 family vacation destination, Theme Park Capital of the World®, and most visited destination in the United States. An unparalleled mix of unique experiences create cherished memories for visitors, including legendary theme parks from Disney, Universal and SeaWorld, an array of world-class water parks, entertainment venues, an award-winning food scene, shopping, sports and nightlife. And, with 450 hotels, Orlando offers more lodging options than nearly any other destination in the world, from expansive resorts to uniquely themed hotels.
Cultural tourists are treating themselves to a bounty of activities, exhibitions and experiences on the streets of Palm Beach County this summer season.
From June through August 31, visitors to the West Palm Beach waterfront will be transported into a colorful collection of classic tales during the City of West Palm Beach Summer in Paradise, a creative series of events offered all summer long.
Guests are invited to enjoy a whimsical art installation, featuring classic fables, where even the picnic tables are art. “Aesop’s Tables” is an installation of colorful picnic tables and benches adorned by Palm Beach County artists. There will be interactive story-telling activities for all ages, and larger-than-life versions of favorite games—including human foosball. Families can extend the reading theme with a visit to the wonderful Children’s Library at the Society of the Four Arts across the bridge in Palm Beach. Here, children borrow books, use computers and enjoy special event programs free of charge. The library’s Mary Alice Fortin Children’s Art Gallery features exhibitions of special interest to young people.
Oregon’s newest Scenic Bikeway traverses the strikingly scenic high desert canyon of north central Oregon, known as the River Canyon Country. The Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission formally approved the designation of the Sherar’s Falls Scenic Bikeway during its June 14 meeting in Salem, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) and Travel Oregon announced today.
This 33-mile loop winds along the Deschutes River en route to the Bikeway’s namesake, Sherar’s Falls, where the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs fish for salmon, as they have for thousands of years: from wooden scaffolds using traditional dipnets and setnets. Riders will follow a section of the White River and pass White River Falls State Park, one of Oregon’s secret hideaways, where a short walk leads to views of the river’s 90-foot plunge over a basalt shelf.
Family Vacation Critic, TripAdvisor’s family travel site, has just named the Best Amusement Parks for Families in 2017 – naming the best parks in the U.S., and sharing the year’s newest attractions and highlights for every age group.
“Amusement parks are one of the most quintessential summertime activities for families,” explains Lissa Poirot, editor-in-chief of Family Vacation Critic. “But for those traveling with family members of various ages – including kids-at-heart – finding a park that caters to thrill-seekers and the younger set isn’t always so easy. This list includes parks that successfully cater to both, and those that also have exciting new features for the 2017 season.”
The list of the best amusement parks for families in 2017 include:
- Cedar Point (Sandusky, OH)
What’s New: Cedar Point Shores, an 18-acre waterpark located along Lake Erie with 17 water attractions for all ages, VIP cabanas, restaurants, shopping and live entertainment.
- Dollywood (Pigeon Forge, TN)
What’s New: Drop Line, a 230-foot tall drop tower, with a spinning gondola that offers riders a breathtaking view of the Great Smoky Mountains. Also joining the park in 2017 is Whistle Punk Chaser, a junior coaster positioned as a great first-coaster for younger park visitors.
- Hersheypark (Hershey, PA)
What’s New: Hershey Triple Tower offers three drop towers for park guests to choose from – Hershey’s Tower, the tallest at 189-feet high; Reese’s Tower, is the second tallest at 131-feet high; and Hershey’s Kisses Tower standing at 80-feet tall.
- Kings Island (Mason, OH)
What’s New: Mystic Timbers, a 3,265-foot long wooden coaster with a 48″ height requirement – making it an ideal coaster for riders of various ages.
- Silver Dollar City (Branson, MO)
What’s New: New Silver Dollar Food Days run from July 31 – August 20, highlighting favorite festival food like funnel cakes, kettle corn and milkshakes, and taking them to new levels.
- Universal’s Islands of Adventure (Orlando, FL)
What’s New: For guests visiting the park, plan a trip to Universal Orlando Resort’s newest water theme park, Volcano Bay – a 25-acre park featuring 18 unique attractions including a wave pool, winding river, raft rides, body slides and more.
- Universal Studios (Hollywood, CA and Orlando, FL)
What’s New: Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon brings guests a simulated race through New York City – a history of The Tonight Show, Hashtag the Panda and the Ragtime Gals barbershop quartet also join in the fun.
- Six Flags (Nationwide)
What’s New: Six Flags is unveiling new rides at each of its parks across North America, including Warner Brothers and DC Comics-branded rides and attractions.
About Family Vacation Critic
Family Vacation Critic® is a comprehensive online travel resource for families that offers reviews of family hotels, resort and destinations. The site features vacation ideas, family travel tips and an online forum for family travelers. Family Vacation Critic is published by The Independent Traveler, Inc., a subsidiary of TripAdvisor, Inc.