Top Things to Do in the US in September

Festivals, Fairs, Fashion, and More

For most parts of the U.S., September is a time to enjoy nice temperatures and a cross-section of fairs, festivals, outdoor activities, and sports events. The month begins with a national holiday, Labor Day when many barbecue cookouts and beach gatherings 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. A visit to the 9/11 memorials, the National Archives, or Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C., might be fitting for the occasions.

Many of these events have been altered or canceled in 2020, so check the details below and event websites for more information.

01 of 11

Visit Bicoastal Labor Day Fairs and Festivals

Artists performing at the 2017 Electric Zoo Music Festival

Brian Killian / Getty Images 

These events have been canceled for 2020. Labor Day is the first Monday in September. Many Americans take their last vacations of the summer over the three-day weekend, so expect hotels and inns near beaches to book up quickly. The holiday is akin to "May Day," celebrated by many around the world as a salute to 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: One of New York City's biggest music festivals, this electronic event is held in late August and early September.
  • Labor Day Concert: See the National Symphony Orchestra perform for free on the West Lawn of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., on Labor Day.
  • LA County Fair: The LA County Fair kicks off on Friday night and features live music, rides, livestock shows, gardening demonstrations, and hundreds of gadgets to discover.
02 of 11

Attend Bourbon Festivals in Kentucky

Gary Clark Jr. playing guitar at Bourbon & Beyond Festival

 Scott Dudelson / Getty Images

These in-person events have been canceled in 2020. The Kentucky Bourbon Festival comes to Bardstown—the bourbon capital of the world—each year in mid-September. Check out more than 30 bourbon-related happenings, including the chance to sample the many different flavors of bourbon and whiskey, each of which may give you a nice kick in the gut. The Kentucky Bourbon Festival will be held virtually from October 15-18, 2020.

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

03 of 11

Party at Grape Harvests in Texas and California

Wineries from Napa Valley

Josve05a / Wikimedia Commons 

These events have been canceled for 2020. Grapefest is a favorite mid-September event in Grapevine, Texas, just outside of the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The grape-harvesting and wine festival features grape stomping contests, wine tasting, live music, and one of the largest consumer-judged wine competitions in the nation.

In California, September is Wine Month. Wineries from Napa Valley to Temecula Valley mark the harvest and celebrate with special wine tours, tastings, concerts, and more. 

If you're in Sonoma later in the month, consider attending the Sonoma Harvest Music Festival.

04 of 11

Enjoy Oktoberfest in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh

Dancers perform at Oktoberfest Zinzinnati

Ctomasetti / WikiCommons

These in-person events have been canceled in 2020. Oktoberfest, which originated in Germany, is celebrated with gusto in many parts of the U.S., particularly by German beer and bratwurst lovers. Some of the biggest gatherings in the U.S. include the Pennsylvania Bavarian Oktoberfest in Canonsburg outside Pittsburgh, and Oktoberfest Zinzinnati in Cinncinati, which in 2020 shifted to "Oktoberfest Zinzinnati in Za Haus" for a virtual experience from September 18-27, 2020, with neighborhood "polka pop-ups" around town.

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05 of 11

Delve Into the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C.

Woman reading with two kids on stage at National Book Festival

Rafael Suanes / Getty Images 

For 2020, the event will be held online on September 25-27. National Book Festival will feature over 100 best-selling authors and children's writers, novelists, historians, and poets. This event sponsored by the Library of Congress brings a huge gathering of book lovers to the National Mall for a weekend-long event. Participants can meet authors and browse book pavilions arranged by literary genre.

06 of 11

Check Out New York Fashion Week in New York City

Models use the catwalk at the Pamella Roland show during New York Fashion Week

Mark Makela / Getty Images

Get a sneak peek at the spring and summer collections at New York Fashion Week, which usually features runway shows and exclusive after-parties in posh New York City hot spots. The 2020 fall component of New York Fashion Week offers a Virtual Catwalk with Fashion Designers of Latin America from September 11 to 16, a Fashion Coffee Style Up show on September 12, and additional events.

07 of 11

Play at The State Fair of Texas in Dallas

Cotton candy at the State Fair of Texas

Donovan Reese Photography / Getty Images 

This event has been canceled for 2020. Beginning the last Friday in September, the annual State Fair of Texas unfolds over 24 days in Dallas. With plenty of fun for the whole family—including the chance to ride one of the largest Ferris wheels in North America—the annual event brings visitors from all over the country. Attendees learn about live animals and partake in festive foods, fun games, and exciting rides.

08 of 11

Dive Into Waikiki Roughwater Swim

Aerial shot of swimmers in the Waikiki Roughwater Swim

tropicalpixsingapore / Getty Images

This event has been canceled for 2020. 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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09 of 11

Watch College Football Games

Michigan Wolverines playing against Indiana Hoosiers

 

Gregory Shamus / Getty Images 

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

10 of 11

Partake in Music Festivals Throughout the U.S.

Hopscotch Music Festival in Raleigh, North Carolina

Bz3rk / Wikimedia Commons 

These in-person events have been canceled for 2020, but some are being held virtually. With hot summer temperatures starting to cool down, September is a great time for music festivals in the U.S. Big acts come out in full force throughout the month at events like these.

  • iHeartradio Music Festival: The 2020 event will be held virtually. This Las Vegas festival spanning three days has featured popular acts like Alicia Keys, Fleetwood Mac, Mariah Carey, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and others.
  • One Musicfest: Monthly online indie artist performances are taking place online in 2020. Typically the Atlanta event features music such as rock, hip-hop, electro, reggae, funk, disco, and house. Past headliners include Jill Scott and George Clinton and Parliament.
  • Hopscotch Music Festival: Held in downtown Raleigh, the three-day gathering brings together more than 120 bands and has featured such names as The Flaming Lips, Nile Rodgers, Liz Phair, and Miguel.
  • RiotFest: Fans of punk and alt-rock can see bands like Blink 182, The Pixies, Cypress Hill, and more in Chicago's Douglass Park.
  • The Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival: Manchester is home to this large four-day bash on hundreds of Tennessee acres with over 150 musical acts, art, camping, and party barns.
  • Monterey Jazz Festival: The world's longest-running jazz festival brings with it stars like Herbie Hancock, Norah Jones, and the Spanish Harlem Orchestra to Monterey. 
  • KaaBoo: Held in San Diego, the three-day KaaBoo bash offers various types of music, along with comedy, art, and food. Past acts include Sheryl Crow, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Black Eyed Peas.
  • Ohana Festival: Music fans gather for three days in late September at Doheny State Beach in Southern California's Dana Point. The 2021 lineup will feature Kings of Leon, Pearl Jam, Yola, and more.
  • Sea. Hear. Now: A popular waterfront festival held in Asbury Park, this Jersey Shore event has more than 25 bands, as well as surfing demos, art, and regional foods. The 2021 lineup includes Pearl Jam, The Avett Brothers, Ani DiFranco, Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears, and others.
  • Treefort Music Fest: Hundreds of musicians from around the globe perform in Boise for five days of fun. The event also includes art, film, comedy, skating, and children's activities.
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Experience Burning Man (Black Rock Desert, Nevada)

Coyote steel sculpture in the middle of Burning Man

Jennifer Morrow / Getty Images

This event will be held virtually from August 30 to September 6, 2020, with a theme of The Multiverse. Each year, an ancient lakebed of the Black Rock Desert in Nevada (called the Playa) becomes the most populous town in the entire country for several days. There's art, music, dance, community, and partying.

On the Saturday night before Labor Day, "the Man," a large art installation that looks like a giant wooden human, burns. The last day of the gathering features the burning of the annual Temple (dedicated to a theme each year), and everyone and everything leaves with it. 

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