The changing leaves and vibrant colors aren't the only reasons to visit New England in autumn, since locals celebrate the fall foliage season with a neverending lineup of fall festivals and events. From major cities like Boston to the rural villages of Vermont, almost every town in New England hosts some type of annual festival in the fall, commemorating the fall harvest, Halloween, Oktoberfest beers, and much more. Not many places can beat New England in autumn, but the region's popularity also makes this one of the busiest times of year to visit; be sure to plan well in advance if you need to book accommodations.
Many events have been modified or canceled in 2020, so be sure to confirm the latest updates on the webpages of individual organizers.
Harpoon beers are one of New England's most popular beverages, with one brewery location in Boston, Massachusetts, and a second one in Windsor, Vermont. Each fall, each brewery hosts its own Harpoon Oktoberfest that transports guests directly to Bavaria. Apart from sampling Harpoon beers, you'll also enjoy a full menu of typical dishes, live performances by German oompah bands, and lots of playful events.
In 2020, the event has been re-dubbed OktoberFEAST and instead of being a full festival, it's a ticketed event that includes a German-inspired four-course meal, where each course is paired with a Harpoon beer. You can choose to dine on October 3 or 4, 2020, at the Boston brewery or any night from October 9–12, 2020, at the Vermont location. Space is limited, so make your reservations early if you plan to attend.
Northeast Kingdom Fall Foliage Festival
This seven-day fall festival showcases a different town each day in Vermont's remote and incredibly scenic Northeast Kingdom. The seven participating towns are Marshfield, Walden, Cabot, Plainfield, Peacham, Barnet, and Groton, and each town holds its own one-day festival. Jump in your car and travel town-to-town meeting local folks as they open the doors of their homes, historic sites, and churches and host a variety of activities ranging from guided tours, cider pressing, giant pumpkin contests, concerts, pancake breakfasts, chili cook-offs, and barbeques.
Warner Fall Foliage Festival
Each year since 1947, the town of Warner, New Hampshire, has hosted the Warner Fall Foliage Festival. The town entices visitors with an arts and crafts fair, carnival rides, parades, a farmer's market, food, and a full lineup of free entertainment. One of the highlights is a full dinner with New England lobster and barbeque.
In 2020, the event will take place virtually during the first two weeks of October, including events such as an online raffle and a "virtual" 5K that individuals can run on their own.
Sunday River Fall Festival Weekend
Fall Festival Weekend at the Sunday River Ski Resort in Newry, Maine, is scheduled to take place—in a scaled-back version—from October 9–11, 2020. The usual festivities will be smaller than usual, but you can still enjoy scenic gondola rides and the signature event, the North American Wife Carrying Championship. Just like it sounds, husbands carry their wives through a 278-yard obstacle course to win a joint prize of beer and cash. Other events scheduled for 2020 include wine and beer tastings, self-guided hikes, and a chainsaw carving demonstration.
Manchester Fall Art and Craft Festival
The Manchester Fall Art and Craft Festival is canceled in 2020.
Each year, Manchester, Vermont, hosts the Manchester Fall Art and Craft Festival featuring works by 200 artists plus live entertainment, local food, craft beer, and more. Apart from the festivities, Manchester is also nestled in the heart of some of Vermont's best fall foliage, so you can complement your shopping with spectacular leaf peeping at this three-day event.
Boothbay Harbor Fall Foliage Festival and Craft Fair
The Fall Foliage Festival in Boothbay Harbor is canceled in 2020 but returns on October 9–10, 2021.
This fall festival at Boothbay Railway Village features crafts, entertainment, food, activities for kids, a pumpkin carving contest, and steam train rides for a nostalgic look at the leaves on Columbus Day Weekend. Dozens of vendors are on-site selling handmade goods and delicious food, and there are plenty of opportunities to listen to some great local music and meet the residents of Boothbay Harbor, Maine.
Mystic Seaport Chowder Days Festival
The Chowder Days Festival is canceled in 2020.
Another Columbus Day weekend tradition is the Chowder Days Festival in Mystic, Connecticut, at the Mystic Seaport Museum. If you're hungry for chowder, do not hesitate to visit the annual festival featuring New England's signature soup. There are several varieties of chowder, apple fritters, mulled cider, and other seasonal selections, all of which must be purchased separately from museum admission. While there, enjoy family activities, live music, and all of the sights and experiences of this sprawling maritime museum.
NH Pumpkin Festival
The NH Pumpkin Festival is canceled in 2020 but plans to return October 15–16, 2021.
Make plans to help New Hampshire hold onto its title of Pumpkin Capital of the World in when the NH Pumpkin Festival returns to Laconia, New Hampshire. Bring a carved pumpkin—or a few. There will be kiddie rides, a zip line, a 10K run, a 5K walk, and much more.
The people of New Hampshire recaptured their Guinness World Record for the most lit jack-o-lanterns in one place in 2013 by besting the 30,128 glowing gourds Boston assembled in 2006.
Oyster Fest is canceled in 2020 but returns October 16–17, 2021.
The annual OysterFest in Wellfleet features opportunities to sample oysters and clams prepared every which way. You can also shop for crafts, cheer for competitors in the Oyster Shuck-Off, participate in family activities, listen to music, and even learn something about the marine environment.
The fun takes place on the weekend after Columbus Day, rain or shine, in Wellfleet, Massachusetts. Enjoy an uncrowded Cape Cod in the fall, the off-season rates, splashes of fall color, mild temperatures, and, of course, the oysters.
International Oktoberfest is canceled in 2020.
Savor a taste of Germany at the annual International Oktoberfest featuring authentic entertainment including Bavarian bands on the first Saturday in October at Bold Point Park, East Providence, Rhode Island. The waterfront event offers a Biergarten atmosphere and authentic German food as well as a number of local vendors on-site selling their artisan crafts.