Top Things To Do in the United States in September

Festivals, Fairs, Fashion, and More

Low Angle View Of Smithsonian Institution Against Sky

Megan Kwiatkowski/EyeEm/Getty Images

For most parts of the United States, September is a time to enjoy nice temperatures, outdoor activities, carnivals, street fairs, markets, and sports events. In fact, the month begins with a national holiday, Labor Day, when many barbecue cookouts and beach gatherings happen to celebrate the unofficial end of summer.

Other national remembrances include Patriot's Day on September 11 to remember the attacks on the U.S. in 2001, and Constitution Day on September 17, the anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution. While those days are not national holidays, a visit to national 9/11 memorials or the National Archives or Smithsonian Museum in the nation's capital might be fitting for the occasions.

If you want to get an idea for the kinds of events that are going on across the county, take a look at a cross-section of the fairs, festivals, and sports activities you might want to take advantage of if you are in the neighborhood.

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Bicoastal Labor Day Fairs and Festivals

Save to Board settings 2017 Electric Zoo Music Festival
Brian Killian/Getty Images 

Labor Day is the first Monday in September. Many Americans take their last vacations of the summer over the three-day Labor Day weekend, so expect hotels and inns near beaches to book up quickly. Labor Day is akin to "May Day," the holiday celebrated by many around the world to salute workers.

This weekend is a popular time for music festivals, block parties, and carnivals in all major cities throughout the U.S. including New York CityLos Angeles, and Washington, D.C.

  • Electric Zoo (New York City): Electric Zoo is the largest and longest-running three-day electronic festival in New York City, which takes place each year from August 31 through September 2.
  • Labor Day Concert (Washington, D.C.): See the National Symphony Orchestra perform at the Capitol Building at 8 p.m. on Labor Day.
  • LA County Fair (Los Angeles, California): If you're in Los Angeles for Labor Day weekend, the LA County Fair kicks off on Friday night and features live music, rides, livestock shows, gardening demonstrations, and hundreds of gadgets to discover.
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Bourbon Festivals in Kentucky

settings 2017 Bourbon & Beyond Festival
 Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

The Kentucky Bourbon Festival comes to Bardstown, Kentucky—the bourbon capital of the world—each year in mid-September. The festival showcases more than 30 bourbon-related happenings, including the chance to sample the many different flavors of bourbon and whiskey, each of which is sure to give you a nice kick in the gut.

Around the same time of the month, you can go 40 miles north to Louisville, Kentucky, to stop in at the Bourbon and Beyond music festival, where you'll hear music icons like John Mayer, Lenny Kravitz, David Byrne, Sheryl Crow, Sting, Robert Plant, and Counting Crows as you sample some of the best bourbons in the state.

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Grape Harvests in Texas and California

Wineries from Napa Valley
Josve05a/Wikimedia Commons 

Since 1986, Grapefest has been a favorite mid-September event in Grapevine, Texas, just outside of the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Grapefest is a grape-harvesting and wine festival that features grape stomping contests, wine tasting, live music, and largest consumer-judged wine competition in the nation.

In California, September is Wine Month. Wineries from Napa Valley to Temecula Valley will be marking the harvest and celebrating the month with special wine tours, tastings, concerts and more. If you're in Sonoma later in the month, consider attending the Sonoma Harvest Music Festival.

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Oktoberfest in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh

Oktoberfest, which originated in Germany, is celebrated with gusto in many parts of the United States, particularly by German beer and bratwurst lovers.

Oktoberfest kicks off in late September and carries on for 16 days into October. Some of the biggest Oktoberfest celebrations in the U.S. include Oktoberfest Zinzinnati in Cinncinati and the Bavarian Oktoberfest in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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National Book Festival in Washington, D.C.

National Book Festival
Rafael Suanes/Getty Images 

Book lovers rejoice! Each August into September, the National Book Festival (sponsored by the Library of Congress) brings a huge gathering of books and book lovers to the National Mall for a weekend-long event. Here, participants can meet authors and browse more than one dozen book pavilions arranged by literary genre.

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New York Fashion Week in New York City

Men's Fashion Week
Matthew Sperzel/Getty Images 

Get a sneak peek at the spring and summer collections at New York Fashion Week, which takes place each year from early-to-mid September. During the semi-annual Mercedes-Benz FashionWeek—which also takes place in February each year—top fashion designers unveil the next seasons' new looks.

Most events for New York City Fashion Week are ticketed, though many of these tickets are free to reserve. Be sure to check the NYFW website for full details on runway shows and exclusive afterparties for the event.

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Texas State Fair in Dallas

Cotton candy at the State Fair of Texas
Donovan Reese Photography/Getty Images 

Beginning the last Friday in September, the annual Texas State Fair unfolds over 24 days in Dallas, Texas.

With plenty of fun for the whole family—including the chance to ride the largest Ferris wheel in North America—the Texas State Fair is an annual event that brings visitors from all over the country to partake in fair foods, fun games, and exciting rides.

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Waikiki Roughwater Swim

If you're looking to get a little wet and competitive over Labor Day weekend, the Waikiki Roughwater Swim in Honolulu, Hawaii, invites over 1,000 swimmers to compete in a massive race through the ocean waters each year. Starting at 8:30 a.m. on Labor Day, this annual tradition has been a staple of Hawaiian culture since its inception in 1970.

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College Football Games

September means kick-off time for college football. Grab your buds and head to America’s top college football destinations, from "the Big House" Michigan Stadium (the largest football stadium in the U.S.) in Ann Arbor to the home of the 2018 National College Football Champions the Crimson Tide of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

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Music Festivals Throughout the U.S.

Hopscotch Music Festival in Raleigh, NC
Bz3rk/Wikimedia Commons 

September is a great time for music festivals in the U.S. with hot summer temperatures starting to cool down throughout the states. Big acts come out in full force throughout the month:

  • Hopscotch Festival (Raleigh, North Carolina): This festival in downtown Raleigh brings more than 450 bands together and has featured such names as The Flaming Lips, Nile Rodgers, and Miguel. More than 60,000 fans are expected each year.
  • LouFest (St. Louis, Missouri): Music fans from across the country descend on historic Forest Park in St. Louis each September for three stages of music including headliners like Robert Plant, Modest Mouse, and Michael McDonald.
  • One Musicfest (Atlanta, Georgia): There will be 11 hours of music featuring rock, hip-hop, electro, reggae, funk, disco, house, and more. A couple of past headliners include Nas and George Clinton and Parliament.
  • RiotFest (Chicago, Illinois): For fans of punk and alt-rock, you can see bands like Blink 182, Incubus, Beck, Suicidal Tendencies, Cypress Hill, and many more in Chicago's Humbolt Park each year. The popularity of this festival has spawned editions in Toronto and Denver.  
  • Grandoozy (Denver, Colorado): The first-ever Grandoozy came to Denver on September 14 to September 16, 2018, and will return to Overland Park in 2019 over the second weekend of the month. Acts like Kendrick Lamar, Florence and the Machine, and Stevie Wonder headlined the first year.
  • Monterey Jazz Festival (Monterey, California): The world's longest-running jazz festival brings with it Herbie Hancock, Norah Jones, Wynton Marsalis, the Spanish Harlem Orchestra, and many more each year. 
  • River City Rockfest (San Antonio, Texas): One jam-packed day features headliners like Nine Inch Nails, Primus, Stone Temple Pilots, Joan Jett, Bush, Clutch, Suicidal Tendencies and much, much more.
  • iHeartradio Music Festival (Las Vegas, Nevada): This two-day festival has featured acts like Justin Timberlake, Fleetwood Mac, Carrie Underwood, Mariah Carey, Imagine Dragons, Dua Lipa, Lynard Skynard, and Kelly Clarkson, among others.
  • Sea. Hear. Now (Asbury Park, NJ): After premiering in 2018, this festival returns to the Jersey Shore with three stages and more than 25 bands. Past acts include Jack Johnson, Incubus, Blondie, and Social Distortion.
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Burning Man (Black Rock Desert, Nevada)

Coyote is a steel sculpture standing 25′ tall by 24′ wide.
Jennifer Morrow/Getty Images

Some have called Burning Man a social experiment. Others call it a full-time party for nine days. For each person, Burning Man means something different—there's art, music, dance, community, and partying.

From late August to early September each year, an ancient lakebed of the Black Rock Desert in Nevada (called the Playa) becomes the most populous town in the entire country. On the second to last day of the event, "the Man," a large art installation that looks like a giant wooden human, burns, and on the last day of the event, the annual Temple (dedicated to a theme each year) burns, too, and everyone and everything leaves with it. 

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