30 Small College Towns with Amazing Fall Festivals

Fall is a unique season! It’s crunched between summer and winter, making the neither-too-cold-nor-too-hot, extra cozy weather perfect for hikes! You’ll love the mildly cool breeze gently touching your face as you feast your eyes on vibrant gold, orange, or red foliage! The fall fashion, fall food, and fall mood is in a league of their own!

When fall arrives, the surroundings light up with colors as the transitional autumn mood sets in. Several places in the US begin to exude that distinctive autumn charm.

College towns—communities generally dominated and economically impacted by colleges and universities—are no exception. With more than 18 million in the collective population, college towns celebrate the fall season by hosting some of the most fascinating festivals!

College Town Fall Fest - fact

That’s right! The lovely fall season is about celebrations! On this list, we feature the tiny college towns that don’t skimp on the festivities to make the fall season a memorable one each year. A few of the festivals mentioned here may have changed their schedules and activities, but they are recurring traditional events that welcome or celebrate autumn.

GREENVILLE, South Carolina

Fall for Greenville

Home to Bob Jones University, Furman University, and Greenville Technical College, Greenville hosts the Fall for Greenville Festival.

Every year for the past four decades, people flock to Main Street for “a weekend full of flavor” featuring the city’s tastiest delicacies, concerts and entertainment from popular music makers, and a dizzying selection of beer taps—all to celebrate the autumn season! A popular Fall for Greenville event is the culinary contest that showcases the best kitchen connoisseurs this side of South Carolina!

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Harvest on the Harbor Festival

The world’s finest distillers converge in Maine during the Harvest on the Harbor Festival. Members of the Maine Distillers Guild showcase their locally made, top-of-the-line vodkas, gins, rums, bourbons, and wines in the Meet Your Maker event. Visitors enjoy the most delectable pairings, too. In the Maine OysterFest Sessions, the best oysters from Maine take the spotlight.

Harvest on the Harbor Festival Maine is an annual celebration that Portland’s 65,000 residents enjoy. It welcomes everyone from just about anywhere!

This bustling college town is the seat of the University of Southern Maine, Maine College of Art & Design, and Southern Maine Community College in South Portland.

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WHITEVILLE, North Carolina

North Carolina Pecan Harvest Festival

Love pecans? Head to North Carolina and enjoy the Pecan Harvest Festival! A Pecan Festival Parade kicks off the festivities, followed by classic car shows, cooking competitions such as the Columbus Cooks Pecan Cooking Contest, pecan orchard tours, the Pecan Run, and music entertainment, among so many other events!

The Whiteville community and neighboring areas look forward to the luncheon event with the Pecan Festival Queen, the Pecan Belles, and Camden Cadets.

​Here’s a fun fact! Did you know that on a good year, the State of North Carolina can produce at least 6 million pounds of pecan? It’s little wonder why the Pecan Harvest Festival has become a tradition!

A flourishing college town, Whiteville houses Southeastern Community College – North Carolina (SCCNC). Also nearby are the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, Brunswick Community College, Robeson Community College, and Bladen Community College.

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BIGLERVILLE, Pennsylvania

National Apple Harvest Festival

What’s not to love about apples? In southern Pennsylvania, fall is the perfect season to harvest this quintessential “American fruit,” and Biglerville residents in Adam County believe it is worthy of a celebration. Hence, the National Apple Harvest Festival!

It’s a full array of festivities and attractions featuring all things apples, such as apple orchard tours, delectable apple dishes, and apple farm exhibits! And what’s a festival without live music, rides, music, and entertainment? For two full weekends, it’s all about celebrating the beautiful fall and crop-harvesting season in Biglerville, PA!

The organizers of the National Apple Harvest Festival believe in giving back. The event proceeds are used to fund the public Oakside Community Park, community projects, causes, and numerous organizations that spearhead charitable work.

Biglerville has over 1,200 residents celebrating the annual outdoors event every first two weekends of October. Less than 10 miles from this borough are top-rated colleges Gettysburg College, Elizabethtown College, and Harrisburg Area Community College.

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West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta

Care to race around the Lake of the Commons dressed in pumpkins? This main attraction of the West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta draws countless visitors every fall to the southwestern city of Tualatin in Oregon!

Pumpkins weighing up to a thousand pounds are transformed into costumes, accessories, and even boats in this highly anticipated annual West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta. The event constantly attracts the mainstream media and frequently gets featured in numerous magazines and radio and television shows.

The West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta is held annually in partnership with the Pacific Giant Vegetable Growers. It’s a fun and unique event that has become a 15-year-old tradition in Tualatin!

Tualatin is home to the Northwest College School of Beauty. Its closest neighboring towns Tigard and Portland, are homes to the University of Phoenix Oregon Campus and Reed College, respectively.

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The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze

What’s a better spectacle than a display of 7,000 hand-carved Jack O’Lanterns illuminating an autumn night? The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze, complete with lights and sounds synchronizing, treat spectators to an enthralling, memorable experience!

This 90-minute impressive sight is a major fall event in Crouton-on-Hudson, a New York village with less than 10,000 people—many of whom are master pumpkin carvers!

Located in Westchester County, Croton-on-Hudson is close to Ossining, the seat of Kehilath Yakov Rabbinical Seminary, a popular private Jewish college. It isn’t far either from the top-rated New York University and Columbia University.

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Georgia Mountain Fair Fall Fest

The Georgia Mountain Fall Festival is a 9-day fall event featuring the arts and crafts and delicacies of Hiawassee and all of Georgia! There’s entertainment and music too, which you can enjoy at concerts and musical fests!

Each year in October, the Georgia Mountain Fall Festival is held in the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds, which opened in 1978. The 70-year-old event is a must-attend for those who love nature and enjoy the scenic Hiawassee!

Hiawassee is a quaint town less than 6 miles away from Young Harris College and just a few hours away from Emory University and the University of Georgia.

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Schmidt’s Columbus Oktoberfest

The Annual Columbus Oktoberfest showcases Ohio’s craft breweries and a diverse selection of wines! Visitors also enjoy an engaging lineup of music events and competitions at the Ohio Expo Center-Ohio State Fairgrounds.

The event is for everyone, including children and young students! They can participate in enjoyable arts and crafts events throughout the festival, as well!

Here’s a Columbus tidbit: Did you know that, home to more than 50 higher education institutions, the Columbus Region takes pride in having one of the highest concentrations of colleges and universities in the US. Some of the most popular campuses are Franklin University, DeVry University and The Ohio State University.

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Oktoberfest Zinzinnati

Oktoberfest Zinzinnati, happening annually in Cincinnati, Ohio, is dubbed “America’s largest Oktoberfest!” This annual event in Southwest Ohio features a myriad of beer products and thousands of gourmets for the perfect food-and-beer pairings, plus music you can sing or groove to!

Be one of the nearly 600,000 attendees of Oktoberfest Zinzinnati!

The celebration happens yearly in this well-regarded college town where students attend the University of Cincinnati, God’s Bible School & College, Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, and Xavier University.

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International Balloon Fiesta

Love the sight of things floating in the skies on an autumn morning? Feast your eyes on some 588 colorful hot air balloons in the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta! The event, happening in Rio Grande Valley, is accentuated by the Mass Ascension, led by a hot air balloon reflecting the American flag!

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta also features carving exhibitions and auctions, gas ballooning events, and skydiving!

Did you know that this New Mexico area is a college town! The University of New Mexico, Central New Mexico Community College, Carrington College, and Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute are all located in Albuquerque.

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Autumn at the Arboretum

Dubbed as Dallas’ Favorite Fall Tradition, Autumn at the Arboretum is an event featuring pumpkins, squash, and gourds! The event is punctuated by the unique and fun Bugtopia, a massive produce exhibition straight from Texas pumpkin capital Floydada. Held every year at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden, Bugtopia features gigantic pumpkin houses, artistic topiaries, and creative mazes that kids love to explore!

The Dallas Autumn at Arboretum event includes demonstration cooking series and culinary classes, food and wine tasting, pumpkin scavenger hunts, and weekend musical performances!

Dallas is not just an awesome place for autumn celebrations. It is also a popular college town! Higher education students in Dallas attend some of the country’s top-rated institutions like Southern Methodist University, Dallas Baptist University, Richland College, and El Centro College.

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BOULDER, Colorado

Boulder Fall Fest

Every year, the Historic Downtown Boulder & Pearl Street Mall hosts the Boulder Fall Fest! The three-day autumn festival is a fun showcase of Boulder’s local food, spirits, artisans, and entertainment!

Throughout the event, a visit to the Firefly Handmade Markets is a must! This along with local food and beverages, artisanal goods, ceramics, decors, toys, apparel, pet items, and accessories from some of Colorado’s best artisans! Enjoy beer, margaritas, and wine at the Beer Garden! Kids and kids-at-heart enjoy the family yoga and craft activities! A Buffalo Auction also happens, where buffalo-shaped art pieces made of plywood are displayed for the public to take home!

With more than 330,000 people, Boulder is a festivals-filled spot in Colorado that is also a top-ranking college town! It is home to the University of Colorado Boulder and Naropa University.

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BLUEMONT, Virginia

The Bluemont Fair

The Bluemont Fair highlights the historic village in the Blue Ridge Mountains and all its crafts and traditions! The country fair, which happens annually, features antiques, flea and farm markets, an archaeology exhibit, a petting zoo, a heritage museum, an art show and sale, artisan and blacksmith demonstrations, a bake sale, wine and beer tasting, a caboose exploration, a pickle and pie contest, and musical performances! Happening every third weekend of September, there is always something for everyone at the Bluemont Fair!

Just 7 miles from Bluemont is the liberal arts institution Patrick Henry College in Purcellville. An hour’s drive away is the University of Northern VA in Annandale.

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Chattahoochee Mountain Fair

As temperatures begin to cool across North Georgia, the charming small town of Clarkesville is in for a celebration!

The Chattahoochee Mountain Fair in Clarkesville is a 45-year-old family tradition. Since 1975, the fair has drawn thousands of visitors from all over the country with its Habersham County-themed activities! The activities include livestock judging, carnival rides, art and photography contests, arts and crafts exhibits, talent shows, and food and beverage sales. Over 200,000 fairgoers grace The Chattahoochee Mountain Fair each year in Clarkesville.

Undergraduate students in the city attend North Georgia Technical College. A few miles away from Clarkesville are Emory University and the University of Georgia.

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Harbor and Seafood Festival

Craving for some top-quality, fresh, and sustainably caught seafood this fall? The Santa Barbara Harbor Festival is all about that and more! Wander through the Santa Barbara Channel and check out the food booths everywhere to indulge in a delicious array of dishes featuring crab, chowder, fish mussels, oysters, albacore, sea urchins, and clams!

The seafood feast is just one of the many enjoyable ways to enjoy The Santa Barbara Harbor Festival. Visitors also get to visit the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, go on free boat rides, and take dockside tours.

A leading college town, Santa Barbara is home to the reputable University of California – Santa Barbara, Westmont College, Antioch University Santa Barbara, and Santa Barbara City College.

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SALEM, Oregon

Oregon Fall Wine Country Half Marathon/Expo Festival

What happens when you mix wine and racing? The Oregon Fall Wine and Music Festival in Willamette Valley–a gorgeous racecourse and a wine-tasting fest combined–is what you get!

During the two-day race, the Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon welcomes participants to walk, jog or run solo, with a partner, or as a team! The marathon’s proceeds go to local charities and help fund community programs. 

Open to the public, the post-marathon festival welcomes wine-tasting participants! Marathoners and spectators also enjoy an outdoor brunch! Cap off the marathon-and-festivity-in-one with live music performances!

Willamette Valley is in Salem, a lively college town where Willamette University is located. Salem College and Salem University are landmark institutions in the area.

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September Stroll at the K-State Gardens

The September Stroll at the Kansas State University or K-state Gardens is a free, family-friendly event in Manhattan!

Enjoy garden strolling and meeting some K-state horticulture students and master gardeners! Visitors can participate in fun family activities throughout the event, visit informational booths, join garden product raffles, or be part of scavenger hunts for all ages! This autumn-perfect event also features the Give a Gnome a Home sale and treats visitors to light refreshments!

K-State may be Manhattan’s most famous university, but the city is also home to higher education institutions Manhattan Area Technical College and  Manhattan Christian College.

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The Downtown Festival & Art Show

Celebrate art and creativity this fall in Gainesville, Florida’s well-renowned Downtown Festival & Art Show! The ultimate fall event in Florida for art lovers, the Downtown Festival & Art Show showcases masterpieces in oils and acrylics, watercolor, sculptures, jewelry, ceramics, and photography. Art sales and competitions are held throughout the event.

Now on its 40th year, the annual event transforms the streets of Gainesville into a full stretch of creative works of art, with live music and global cuisine on food trucks to boot!

The vibrant Gainesville City is home to the land-grant University of Florida – Gainesville and Santa Fe College.

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DENVER, Colorado

Pumpkin Festival

It’s pumpkins galore at the Pumpkin Festival presented by Denver Botanic Gardens- Chatfield Farms.

Being the ultimate fall fest, this October tradition in Denver, CO, features a tour of the 10-acre pumpkin patch and access to the freshest locally grown pumpkins sold at incredibly reasonable prices! Throughout the festival, visitors can check out the booths that sell and exhibit local crafts.

Food trucks and beer vendors are everywhere, coupled with live music and entertainment for that added festive atmosphere!

A popular college town, Denver is home to the University of Denver, the University of Colorado Denver, Community College Of Denver, Johnson & Wales University – Denver Campus, Metropolitan State University of Denver, Regis University, and the Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design.

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AppleJack Harvest Festival

Celebrate fall at the AppleJack Harvest Festival in Nebraska City! This treasured tradition features a spectacular array of apple-inspired food, including apple ciders, apple donuts, candy apples, apple pies, apple salads, caramel apples, and everything else in between! The festival draws up to 80,000 visitors each year.

The AppleJack Harvest Festival is an activities-filled event where attendees enjoy apple harvesting, golf tournaments, fishing demos, laser shows, quilt shows, educational exhibits, “all things apple” contests, games and rides, museum tours, and food trucks, bazaars, and fairs.

Colleges and universities surround Nebraska City. Within 40 miles of the city are Bellevue University, College of Saint Mary, Nebraska Christian College of Hope International University, Grace University, and National American University-Bellevue.

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Anamosa Pumpkinfest

This fall, Anamosa, the Pumpkin Capital of Iowa and home to the best pumpkin growers, presents the Anamosa Pumpkinfest. This 30-year tradition’s major event is the Ryan Norlin Giant Pumpkin Weigh-off, questing for the largest and heaviest pumpkin and watermelon!

This weigh-off also hunts for the world’s longest gourd. The winners will be leading the Pumpkinfest parade on Main Street! Other activities include the pumpkin carving and painting, pumpkin toss, and pumpkin fest run. In true festival spirit, the Anamosa Pumpkinfest also features various food and craft vendors, a petting zoo, a beer tasting event, and a car show.

While a small town, Anamosa is only a few miles away from reputable higher education institutions, such as Grinnell College, Cornell College, and the University of Iowa.

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Adirondack Balloon Festival

A nearly 50-year tradition, the Adirondack Balloon Festival in Queensbury never ceases to amaze spectators. The popular event presents a breathtaking view in Upstate New York, drawing more than 150,000 throughout the festival.

Balloonists from anywhere in the United States and global-based pilots grace the event. Traditionally, festival attendees enjoy craft fairs and choose from a wide variety of dishes from numerous food vendors.

A not-for-profit organization, the festival is open to the public and free of charge.

Queensbury is home to SUNY Empire State College- Adirondack, where the balloon festival was held in the early days.

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DULUTH, Minnesota

Bird Watching in Duluth

What better way to enjoy the migratory bird season in Duluth, Minnesota than attend the Birding in Duluth event?

Visitors explore the outdoors and enjoy the bird-watching event, witnessing the majestic flights of songbirds, waterfowls, raptors, and bald eagles flying north. And because Duluth boasts the world’s highest bald eagle sightings, it’s even more fun! At Hawk Ridge, visitors can also view the fall raptor migration.

The Birding in Duluth is essentially a festival of migratory birds, but there’s more to it. Attendees can go on guided tours to the trails, parks, wetlands, and waterways that have become birds and wildlife habitats.

Duluth, a fine spot for enjoying the outdoors, is also a college town! It is where the University of Minnesota Duluth, Lake Superior College, and The College of St. Scholastica are located.

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DURHAM, California

California Nut Festival

If you love chestnuts, pecans, walnuts, almonds, or pistachios, go nuts in California this fall!

The California Nut Festival, a weekend event in Durham, CA, features nut-inspired gourmet food and cooking demos, wine and beer sampling, an art show showcasing the works of local artists, and live entertainment!

Throughout the day, attendees can go bike riding on the gorgeous bike path, wander through the Patrick Ranch Museum, where local products are sold, and learn how agriculture impacts the Durham economy through nut production and farming workshops. A tour of the Glenwood Farmhouse is also a major attraction of the California Nut Festival.

The beautiful Durham town of roughly 5,000 is in Butte County, where California State University and Butte College are located.

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WAYNESVILLE, North Carolina

Apple Harvest Festival

Autumn and apple really go together, don’t they? In downtown Waynesville, NC, visitors enjoy the Apple Harvest Festival weekend!

Numerous apple growers in the local area fill the streets to sell a dizzying variety of apples to suit everyone’s taste! The Apple Harvest Festival is about apple ciders, apple cakes, apple pies, and other apple goodies! Some 200 booths will also be featuring other types of food, arts and crafts, and several kinds of merchandise.

A vibrant city, Waynesville has Haywood Community College in Clyde as its nearest neighboring college.

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FRISCO, Colorado

Fall Fest

Frisco, a laidback town in Colorado, is celebrating the season with Fall Fest! One of the main events is the ARToberfest art show in Frisco Historic Park, featuring local and regional artists. The authentic works of art will be displayed and sold at great prices.

The nearby Frisco Bay Marina is perfect for boating activities. Dillon Reservoir offers pontoon boat and paddleboard rentals. If non-water events are not an option, visitors can also go mountain biking or hiking in the area!

Throughout the festival, visitors will enjoy German beer that highlights the German brewing tradition. Local craft cocktails will be served, too, along with delectable sausages and pretzels!

The go-to Colorado spot for the adventurous, Frisco’s closest colleges are the Colorado School of Mines located in Golden, the University of Colorado in Boulder, and the University of Denver.

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Fall Fun at the Arboretum

Celebrate autumn in Waterloo, Iowa, at The Cedar Valley Arboretum and Botanic Gardens at Hawkeye Community College!

Aptly called Fall Fun at the Arboretum, the weeks-long event features a Scarecrow Contest, where spectators are asked to vote for the best and most creative scarecrow. Volunteer-made scarecrows take the spotlight in the Scarecrow Stroll event, where visitors can take photos with their favorites. The Fall Fun at the Arboretum also features an open-air market where the freshest locally grown flowers and produce are sold at great prices

Besides Hawkeye Community College, the healthcare education-focused Allen College is also located in Waterloo.

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BOZEMAN, Montana

Bridger Raptor Festival

The Bridger Raptor Festival in Bozeman, Montana, highlights the preservation of golden eagles and national forests! Open to the public, this event happens every year at Bridger Bowl in the Gallatin National Forest where spectators witness the country’s largest golden eagle migration.

Visitors capture this breathtaking migratory activity and continue the festivities throughout the day! The program includes a Wildlife Film Festival, nature walks, storytelling, bird hiking, interpretive programs involving live raptors, face painting, and storytelling or education activities.

Montana State University is a landmark in Bozeman. Also within the city are College of Technology-Bozeman and Gallatin College MSU.

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TEMPE, Arizona

Tempe Fall Festival of the Arts

Occurring twice a year, The Tempe Festival of the Arts is a top-ranked urban fine art fest in Tempe–a great destination for fall season travels! It is the oldest and largest of its kind in the Desert Southwest. The Fall Festival, which happens every October, is a 50-year-old event!

This award-winning artfest features 17 different art categories, including wood, photography, ceramics, jewelry, and wearable art, uniquely created or hand-made by 350 visuals artists from all over the United States.

Of course, what’s a festival without food and beverage, wine and spirits, or music and entertainment? Appreciate art and enjoy delectable dishes everywhere in the area, and sing or dance to live performances before calling it a day!

The busy city of Tempe is a college town where Mesa Community College, Rio Salado College, University of Advancing Technology are located.

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ARTHUR, Illinois

The Great Pumpkin Patch

The Great Pumpkin Patch is a rich exhibit featuring 300 varieties of squash, pumpkins, and gourds from 20 countries from around the globe–all grown locally within Arthur, Illinois! Visitors to this pumpkin fest can wander through the Squash Tasting tents, diverse gardens, mazes, and animals!

The Great Pumpkin Patch offers Arthur a fun and festive atmosphere with all the locally cooked or Amish-baked goods, candies, fudge, caramel apples, apple cider slushes, and more!

Arthur is primarily an Amish town known for its numerous product-manufacturing enterprises! It is surrounded by The University of Illinois, Eastern Illinois University, and Millikin University.

Frequently Asked Questions

What area of the country offers the most college fall festivals?

The Northeast region of the United States is home to some of the most popular college fall festivals. Cities like Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. have plenty of college festivals during the fall, ranging from pumpkin festivals to Oktoberfests.

What is so special about fall festivals on college campuses?

Fall festivals on college campuses are an excellent opportunity for students to bond, have fun, and relax. They often feature live music, food, games, and other activities. It’s also an excellent way for students to explore the local culture and take a break from their studies.

What entertainment do college festivals offer, and why should I participate?

College festivals often offer a variety of entertainment, including live music, comedy shows, interactive games, and craft fairs. Participating in a college festival is a great way to have fun and meet new people. It’s also an excellent opportunity to explore the local culture and try new things. The discounted tickets make it an affordable and exciting way to spend an afternoon or evening.

Can I meet new people at a college fall festival?

Absolutely! College festivals are a great way to meet new people and make new friends. Many festivals have designated areas where people can socialize and get to know one another. Plus, the fun activities and performances create a great atmosphere for networking and bonding.

Malcolm Peralty
Chief Editor