Fall festivals are not necessarily the same thing as harvest festivals. Harvest time does occur during the autumn in a good portion of the United States and Europe, but harvest times in other hemispheres occur at completely different times, and different crops are ripe at different times of year. Therefore, you will find that the best autumn festivals around the world celebrate a wide variety of traditions and themes as divergent as the Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Festival and the Mexico Day of the Dead Festival. The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta occurs over a one-week period in October and is the largest such event in the United States. The Day of the Dead is one of Mexico's most longstanding and colorful religious events, occurring over three days at the end of October and beginning of November.
Also at the end of October are various fall festivals celebrating Halloween or All Souls Day. A few of the largest and most famous include rowdy street partying and parades in New York City and in San Francisco, and West Hollywood in California. The New York Street party in downtown Manhattan is the largest Halloween celebration in the United States.
One of the world's most famous festivals celebrates something completely different—beer and food. The Oktoberfest held over more than two weeks in October in Munich, Germany, has been going strong since 1811. It is one of the best beer festivals but it's also the world's largest fair, drawing more than 5 million people each year. It celebrates traditional Bavarian food such as sausages, pretzels, potato dumplings, and sauerkraut, and, of course, beer. In recent years, the festival has gained a reputation as a sort of autumn spring break for drunken and rowdy young people. But there are "quiet tent" times, meaning that the festival is more family friendly at certain times. Many countries, especially the United States, Brazil, and Argentina have copied the Oktoberfest of Europe, and you will find these celebrations just about everywhere. They are especially popular in the northern Midwest states like Illinois, Michigan, and Minnesota where there is a large concentration of people with German ancestry.
Another of the best autumn festivals that also is one of the world's more unusual food festivals is the Galway International Oyster Festival in Ireland. Begun in 1954 at the beginning of the oyster season to extend the traditional tourist season, it is held during the last few days of September and features oyster shucking competitions, an Oyster Pearl beauty pageant, and a large Mardi Gras party.
More food festivals held in the autumn include the Alba (Italy) White Truffle International Festival held in October and the Paris Salon du Chocolat held in Paris during the last days of October. This is an international trade show that occasionally travels and has appeared in Shanghai, Tokyo, Beijing, Moscow, and New York.
More of the best autumn festivals include the Hermanus Whale Festival in South Africa, held to mark the return of huge numbers of southern right whales to the waters off the coast of Walker Bay. Nearly 150,000 people descend on this sleepy town to head out into the bay to view the magnificent marine mammals and to enjoy concerts, children's events, and much more. You might want to head to Hong Kong for the traditional Moon Festival, the Wigtown Book Festival in Scotland, or England's Isle of Wight Festival, which is one of the world's most famous music festivals. Or you can kick off the autumn over the summer solstice in the Nevada desert at Burning Man .