ABOVE: Raise a glass to Oktobertfest in Helen. The annual event runs weekends through Sept. 26 and daily from Sept. 26 to Oct. 28. Prost!
Your mission, should you accept it: Find a cool festival
or two. Attend. Enjoy. Repeat.
A MIX OF RELIEF and melancholy can accompany the winding down of summer in this part of the country. Temperatures drop, to the joy of some and sorrow of others. And yet. The move from summer to fall also yields a bumper crop of festivals that can ease the transition and help you hang onto summer fun just a little bit longer.
Our rundown of events from now through mid-November is arranged chronologically and includes eco and film fests, fried green tomatoes, Native American traditions and chili for the chilly. Let’s get started.
OKTOBERFEST. Through Oct. 28. The hills of Helen are alive with the sound of waltzes, polkas and beer steins going click-a-clank. The 48th annual Oktoberfest is an all-ages party with live music. Kids get their own dance floor. $8-$10; free Sunday. Festhalle, 1074 Edelweiss Strasse in Helen, 90 miles north of Atlanta. Open Thursday-Sunday through Sept. 26, daily Sept. 27-Oct. 28. Details HERE or at 706.878.1908.
JEKYLL ISLAND SHRIMP & GRITS FESTIVAL. Sept. 14-16. A beach bash with live music, kids’ activities, an artists market, gorgeous views, craft brews and, of course, shrimp and grits. Named a Top 20 event by the Southeast Tourism Society, a regional nonprofit. Free; parking is $10-$18. Jekyll is about a five-hour drive from metro Atlanta. Details HERE.
HARALSON COUNTY FRIED PIE FESTIVAL. Sept. 15. Beach-body season is pretty much over. Grab yourself a hand-sized fried pie, vote on your favorite flavor and dig into barbecue. Event includes live music, arts and crafts, antique tractors, kids’ activities and a car show. $3 per fried pie with proceeds benefiting the Haralson County Historical Society. About an hour west of Atlanta at the Buchanan Historic Courthouse, 145 Van Wert St., Buchanan. Details HERE.
MARIETTA STREETFEST. Sept. 15-16. The two-day family-oriented fest includes a Kids Korner and Tiny Tot Town. Adults might want to check out Artist Alley and Jewelry Row, and specialty vehicles at the Hubcap and History Classic Car Show. Finishers of the 8 a.m. Toy Box Trot Fun Run (1 mile long) choose a toy at the end of the race. The Grassroots Music Festival begins at 3 p.m. Glover Park on the Marietta Square, 50 N. Park Square. Private parking lots might charge. City parking decks are free on weekends. Details HERE.
MUSIC MIDTOWN. Sept. 15-16. Mega-music fest fills Piedmont Park with dozens of marquee acts and multiple stages. This year’s lineup includes Pulitzer Prize-winning rapper Kendrick Lamar, Thirty Seconds to Mars, Khalid, Foster the People, Janelle Monae and more. Whatever your jam, it’s likely here. $145 plus fees for two-day pass; $600 VIP pass; $1,250 Super VIP pass. Small bags and totes only. No coolers, drones, strollers or selfie sticks. Attendees strongly advised to take MARTA (Midtown or Arts Center station) or rideshare. 400 Park St. NE. Details HERE.
OCMULGEE INDIAN CELEBRATION. Sept. 15-16. History and tradition highlight this gathering some 90 miles southeast of Atlanta. Expect dancing, storytelling, music, crafts, games and demonstrations by Native Americans, plus living history camps and warriors on horseback. Take time to discover the artifacts (more than 2,000) and natural glory of the 702-acre Ocmulgee National Monument. $3-$6; age 5 and under free. Ocmulgee National Monument, 1207 Emery Highway, Macon. Parking, with shuttle option, at Macon-Bibb Health Department, 171 Emery Highway. Details HERE.
SUWANEE FEST. Sept. 15-16. Family-friendly community festival about 30 miles north of Atlanta. Includes a Sunday parade, two sections of inflatables, rides and entertainers, fine arts and crafts, food and live music. Leashed dogs OK. Admission free. Rides accessed via $20 wristband (kids) or single tickets. Town Center Park, 330 Town Center Ave., Suwanee. No on-site parking. Shuttle buses runs from nearby lots. Details HERE.
OLD FOURTH WARD FALL FEST. Sept. 21-22. Enjoy the Atlanta BeltLine Eastside Trail with thousands of your closest friends. This popular neighborhood party includes art, music, a kids’ play area, a pet zone, a craft beer tasting, a food truck rally and a Saturday lantern parade. Free. 830 Willoughby Way NE, Atlanta. The BeltLine’s Eastside Trail connects Midtown, Poncey-Highland, the Old Fourth Ward and the Inman Park neighborhoods. Details HERE.
HERITAGE SANDY SPRINGS FESTIVAL. Sept. 22-23. Bigger than ever this year as it moves to the City Green at the new City Springs downtown hub and green space. Includes art, music, cultural performances, a chalk-walk competition, 5K and 10K runs, classic fair rides and food. Attracts up to 20,000 festgoers each year. Enter the pet parade with your furry friends ($10, benefits Angels Among Us Pet Rescue). Free. 1 Galambos Way (bordered by Sandy Springs Circle and Johnson Ferry Road) in Sandy Springs. Details HERE.
ATLANTA PRIDE FESTIVAL & PARADE. Oct. 12-14. The annual three-day extravaganza is now in its 48th year. It celebrates diversity and community with live entertainment, cultural exhibits, a Pride Marketplace with more than 200 vendor booths, restaurant and bar promotions, a car and motorcycle show, a comedy showcase and three parades — the Trans March and Rally, the Dyke March and Sunday’s gigantic, enthusiastically costumed Atlanta Pride Parade. Most events are free and centered around Piedmont Park, 1071 Piedmont Ave. NE. Book parking at SpotHero.com, rideshare or use MARTA. The Arts Center and Midtown stations are about four blocks away. Details HERE.
WIRE AND WOOD ALPHARETTA SONGWRITERS FESTIVAL. Oct. 12-13. Expect 20 or so country, rock, blues, bluegrass and Americana acts, including Justin Townes Earle, Glen Phillips (from Toad the Wet Sprocket), Lilly Winwood (daughter of classic rocker Steve Winwood) and Alex Guthrie (from the “Lovely Day” insurance commercial with Jennifer Hudson). For all ages. Free. The fest takes place along Alpharetta’s Milton Avenue. Details HERE.
CLASSIC CITY FRINGE FESTIVAL. Oct. 18-21. Athens has always swirled with music (R.E.M., the B-52’s) and this fest gives the city’s fringe performers — performance-based art, dance, music, poetry, puppetry, vaudeville — a few days in the sun. $5 per show. Various downtown locations. Details HERE or at 404.201.0667.
TASTE OF ATLANTA. Oct 19-21. This year, the gourmet gathering returns to Historic Fourth Ward Park, where more than 90 restaurants will offer craveable bites alongside craft beer, wine and cocktails. The festival includes several presentation stages, cooking classes, chef demonstrations and an all inclusive Friday Night Kickoff Party. All general admission and VIP tickets include service fees (reflected here). The Friday Kickoff Party only (age 21 plus) is $102. General admission is $32 Saturday or Sunday; $50 for a two-day pass; and $130 for a three-day pass. General admission includes 10 Taste Points. Additional points ($1 each) are available online or at Taste Point tents on festival grounds. VIP admission is $89 Saturday or Sunday; $140 for a two-day pass; and $220 for a three-day pass. The VIP Grand Tasting Experience (age 21 plus) includes access to an exclusive lounge area with tastings from 10 select restaurants and pours from Georgia craft beer, wine and cocktail makers (12:30-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday). VIP ticket holders receive 20 Taste Points and a commemorative drinking glass. Before the event, all ticket holders receive RFID wristbands pre-loaded with Taste Points. Age 13 and under free with paid adult. Adult pays for child’s Taste Points needed to purchase food items. 680 Dallas St. Parking is limited. Ridesharing or taking MARTA to the Civic Center station and riding a complimentary Taste of Atlanta shuttle to the festival site is recommended. Secure bike parking provided, but no bikes are allowed inside festival grounds. Details HERE.
CRANE CREEK HARVEST FESTIVAL. Oct. 20. Crane Creek Vineyards in Young Harris, about 2.5 hours north of Atlanta. Offers 20 acres of vines and miles of mountain views. Celebrate the end of the grape-growing season with hayrides, grape stomping, winery tours, live music and kids’ activities. Take a sip or two and watch the leaves turn. $10-$25; age 12 and under free. Ticket includes wine tastings for adults and a souvenir wineglass. 916 Crane Creek Road, Young Harris. Details at 706.379.1236. Details HERE.
DEEP ROOTS FESTIVAL. Oct. 20. Named a Top 20 event by the Southeast Tourism Society and awarded Best Fest 2009 by the Southeast Festivals and Events Association. This cool cultural field day in downtown Milledgeville is worth a 90-minute ride southeast from Atlanta. Expect visual artistry and all-day live music and entertainment, a barbecue competition, special events for kids and a hot-rod car show plus 100 vendors and shops. $6 advance; $8 day-of event; age 10 and younger free. Details HERE or at 478.414.4014.
BRASELTON ANTIQUE & ARTISAN FESTIVAL. Oct. 26-28. More than 250 vendors line the streets of the city (population: 10,300) to sell antiques, repurposed creations, original artwork, rustics, salvage, primitives, furniture, pottery and jewelry to crowds of 25,000. Plus food trucks and live music. Similar events are held throughout the year. Free admission and parking (shuttles run from YearOne, 1001 Cherry Drive). Braselton is about an hour northeast of Atlanta. Details HERE.
GREEN TOMATO FESTIVAL. Oct. 27-28. Juliette was one of the locations for 1991 movie Fried Green Tomatoes, and this fest is a reminder of culinary charms found in small Southern towns. You can’t get fried green tomatoes everywhere, but you can get them here. Also with artists’ booths and other family-friendly fare. Admission and parking are free. 474 McCracken St. in Juliette, 60 minutes to 90 minutes southeast of Atlanta. Details HERE.
NATIVE AMERICAN FESTIVAL AND POWWOW. Nov. 1-4. One of the largest Native American gatherings in the state happens yearly in Stone Mountain. It has been named a Top 20 event by the Southeast Tourism Society. Indigenous cultures highlight this four-day fest featuring an intertribal dance and drumming competition, craft demonstrations, storytelling, American Indian traditions and more. Browse the artists’ marketplace and check out the heritage cooking and handcrafted pottery. Park entrance is $15 per vehicle or $40 per year. 1000 Robert E. Lee Blvd. Details HERE.
BIG PIG JIG. Nov. 2-3. This pork party, born in 1982 as a contest between barbecue fans, expanded to include concerts, an arts and crafts fair, and a county livestock show. It has become the region’s largest and best-attended barbecue competition, organizers claim. The American Bus Association twice named it a Top 100 American event; Travel Agent magazine considers it one of America’s Top 500 festivals. Tom Clynes, author of Wild Planet!, listed the Jig one of the world’s 1,001 Most Extraordinary Events. Hungry? $5-$20. 350 Pig Jig Blvd., Vienna (two hours southeast of Atlanta). Details HERE.
HEMLOCK FEST. Nov. 2-4. An eco-fest run and managed by volunteers. It focuses on efforts to save trees and keep waterways clean. Attendees can visit for a day or camp for the weekend and learn about traditional living skills and the biodiversity of the Southern Appalachians. The Kids Nature Village lets them unplug digitally and connect with the natural world. Arts and crafts booths, nature walks, and three solid days of concerts round out a fest that can also be a retreat — all about 90 minutes from Atlanta. $20-$55 single tickets and camping fees; age 15 and younger free with paid adult. At Starbridge Retreat, a 50-acre private resort on Ga. 52, seven miles southeast of Dahlonega. GPS address: 396 Starbridge Road, Murrayville. Details HERE.
PEACH STATE CHILI COOKOFF. Nov. 10. Find your perfect pot just as the weather turns chilly. Sixty teams vie for top honors in a competition sanctioned by the International Chili Society. Winners in three categories (Red Chili, Chili Verde and Salsa) will compete in the 2019 World’s Championship. Plus live music, a kids’ play area, and arts and crafts vendors. Proceeds benefit the Gift of Adoption Fund, helping Georgia families with adoption costs. Tasting wristbands $8 plus fees. Town Center Park, 330 Town Center Ave., Suwanee. Details HERE.
BURIED ALIVE FILM FESTIVAL Nov. 14-18. If you’re looking for a spine tingle you can’t get from run-of-the-mill fright flicks, look no further. Buried Alive, now a spooky 13 years old, promises independent films that ooze from the darkly comic to the generally gory, bizarre or just plain weird. This festival comes with a warning: “Films not for the faint-hearted or timid.” Be afraid. Be very afraid. You must be at least 17 unless you accompany a parent or guardian. $8-$15 per screening; $100 full festival pass. 7 Stages, 1105 Euclid Ave. NE, Atlanta. Inman Park MARTA station is a 10-20 minute walk away. Paid parking ($10 up) can be sparse on busy nights. Smart ghouls rideshare. Details HERE.