Fall has officially arrived -- both on the calendar and in the air. With the first "cold" snap of the year, Houston residents are cautiously creeping out from their air-conditioned confines and reacquainting themselves with the outdoors.
Along with the beautiful weather each year comes a bevy of food festivals, starting with this weekend's Wine Conference and Oktoberfest. From longstanding traditional festivals to road-trip-worthy events, we've rounded up the best of what's happening in the next few months. Start planning your calendar (and letting out your pants) now!
Oktoberfest in The Woodlands: September 26 - September 27
The Woodlands Rotary Club is hosting the town's first annual Oktoberfest this weekend, staring at 10 a.m. Saturday and running through 6 p.m. Sunday. The official opening to the festival will be the keg tapping at 11 a.m. at the Town Green Park, which will be followed by roughly 48 hours of oompah bands and various schnitzels. The organizers are also promising tasty "two-fisted pretzels," but this is a family-friendly event, so get your mind out of the gutter.
The Original Greek Festival: October 1 - October 4
Now in its 43rd consecutive year, there's no question that the Greek Festival is one of Houston's most beloved yearly events. Held on the beautiful grounds of the Greek Orthodox Cathedral (near the campus of St. Thomas), the festival offers opportunities to sample savory Greek food and sweet Greek pastries, and it has educational benefits: The Cathedral tour with its presentation on the fascinating history of Orthodox Christianity and a Q&A session with the priests is one of our favorite things to do, year after year.
Turkishfest: October 10 - October 11
For almost 20 years, the Houston branch of the American Turkish Assocation has been hosting the Turkishfest. This year marks the first time that the popular festival will span two days. Held downtown at Jones Plaza, the festival features dancers (including but not limited to some gorgeous belly dancers) and music from artists like Tuana Sanat Kulubu. And the food on hand is from some of our favorite restaurants in town, like Cafe Pita +.
Texas Renaissance Festival: October 10 - November 9
Although it's at least an hour away from the city, a trip to the Texas Renaissance Festival is a must for all Houston residents each year. This year marks the 35th anniversary of the fair, which is the largest Renaissance festival in the nation. Held in a permanent village (yes, the houses and castles and jousting grounds really are there year-round) with all manner of entertainment for every man, woman and child, the Renaissance Festival is a spectacle in the best sense of the word. Don't miss the excellent turkey legs and -- believe it or not -- the Polish food.
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Festa Italiana: October 16 - October 18
Nearly every major city hosts their own Festa Italiana each year, and Houston is no exception. Located on the St. Thomas campus, the festival runs three days starting at 11 a.m. on Friday morning. As expected from an Italian festival, there are the requisite wine tastings, olive oil samplings and grape stomps. But there is also a pasta-eating contest on Saturday and Sunday that accepts 10 willing volunteers each day -- are you man (or woman) enough for the challenge?
The local non-profit responsible for the popular Bayou City Farmer's Market will be hosting its very own Fall Festival this year on the site of the weekly market (Richmond Ave. at Eastside). Produce from local farms and orchards as well as urban community gardens will be at the event, which will also feature demonstrations on home composting, patio gardening and how to properly build a garden bed (for the truly ambitious). Feel free to bring the kids, too, for face painting, origami lessons and much more.