Anahuac, a small town on the Trinity Bay an hour east of Houston, is “The Alligator Capital of Texas,” or so it claims, and it reinforces that title every fall with a gator-themed weekend packed with Cajun food, airboat rides, and the crowning of the Gatorfest Queen. Timed to coincide with the 20-day gator-hunting season, the event features the Great Texas Alligator Round-Up, with prizes going to the hunters bagging the longest specimens.
Sept 12–14. $10; $5 children 5–12, seniors, & military. Fort Anahuac Park, 1704 S. Main St., Anahuac. texasgatorfest.com
Houston Italian Festival
Founded in 1978, Festa Italiana has become one of the largest ethnic festivals in the city. The four-day event is held these days on the University of St. Thomas campus and features Italian music, dancing, and of course food. Parents will love sipping wine and noshing, while kids will get a kick out of the pasta-eating contest, grape stomp, and sidewalk art contest.
Oct 9–12. $8; free for children 12 and under. University of St. Thomas, 3800 Montrose Blvd. houstonitalianfestival.com
Katy Rice Harvest Festival
The Katy area has been growing rice since the late 19th century, a practice that reached its peak in the 1960s, when there were over 300 rice farmers. Today that number has shrunk to 15 who cultivate just 9,500 acres collectively, but the annual Rice Harvest Festival goes on, a fun weekend of food and entertainment, along with a parade that draws 50,000 each year.
Oct 11 & 12. $8 per day. Downtown Katy between 1st St., 4th St., Ave. A, and Ave. D. riceharvestfestival.org
Texas Renaissance Festival
Okay, so it may have been founded on a former strip-mining site an hour north of Houston. But 40 years on, this festival’s 55 wooded acres are about as close to Merrie Olde England as you’ll get without a time-traveling British Airways jet. This year’s festivities: a Highland dance contest, a haggis-eating contest, and something called a “great sheep hunt.” You’re on your own there.
Oct 11–Nov 30. $27; children $13. 21778 FM 1774, Todd Mission. 800-458-3435. texrenfest.com
East End Street Fest
Now held at the recently completed Navigation Esplanade across from the Original Ninfa’s, this popular festival celebrates Hispanic culture with a weekend of music, dancing, art, and craft markets. Each year, a rey and reina—community leaders chosen for their contributions to the neighborhood—preside over the festivities.
October 25. Free. 2600 Navigation Blvd. eastendstreetfest.com
Featuring performers both local and national—last year’s event attracted the Radio Disney Road Crew—this festival brings The Woodlands and surrounding areas together for a two-day celebration of fun and family, including face painting, kite flying, Lego building, games, and much more.
Nov 8 & 9. $8 in advance; $10 at door. Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 2005 Lake Robbins Dr., The Woodlands. woodlandscenter.org
Each fall, the streets around downtown’s Hermann Square become a canvas for the city’s chalk artists, who draw fantastic, kaleidoscopically colored designs directly on the asphalt. This year, as a bonus, you can watch central Texas artist Scott Wade transform a Mini Cooper into one of his signature “dirty cars,” in addition to enjoying live music, and an exhibition of spiders and bugs courtesy the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Your kid a budding Rembrandt? Let them create their own chalk masterpieces on a square of blacktop.
Nov 22 & 23. Free. Hermann Square at City Hall. centerhearingandspeech.org/via-colori