New England Summer Festivals A to Z

Your Guide to 26 of the Best Summer Events in New England

The variety of New England summer festival offerings is mind-boggling, and wherever you wander throughout the region's historic cities and quaint towns, you're sure to uncover unique and wonderful events with themes ranging from from classical music and dance to eggs and crustaceans. Sadly, the Vermont Zucchini Festival is no more. Thank heavens for the Zydeco Festival!

Here's my A to Z guide to New England's festival offerings for the 2016 summer season:

  • 01 of 26
    Arts & Ideas Festival Connecticut
    © Judy Sirota Rosenthal, courtesy of the Arts & Ideas Festival

    The International Festival of Arts & Ideas in New Haven, Connecticut, is a multifaceted celebration of the arts that runs June 10-25 in 2016. This year's 21st annual festival features hundreds of performances; most events are free. Highlights include a free June 11 performance on the New Haven Green by George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, ticketed performances of Air Play--a grand scale comic adventure, Grand Avenue Gastronomy Tours and free family shows on the green like Tanglewood Marionettes' The Fairy Circus on June 15. The 2016 festival will also feature a free Community Movie Night on Friday, June 24, and a Box City activity on the New Haven Green for creative young builders on Saturday, June 25.

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    Did you know that Maine produces 99 percent of the country's wild blueberries? The 41st annual Machias Wild Blueberry Festival in Washington County, where the majority of these berries are harvested, celebrates the state's top fruit crop August 19-20. The event features a children's parade, blueberry farm tours, music, a blueberry pancake breakfast, crafts, a blueberry quilt raffle, a blueberry pie eating contest and more.

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    The Portland Chamber Music Festival marks its 23rd year this summer with five captivating classical performances in Portland, Maine. The Festival runs August 11-20 on select dates. Ticket and other information may be obtained by calling toll free: 800-320-0257. Or, order your tickets online at the festival Web site.

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    Burlington, Vermont, hosts 10 days of performances ranging from Latin sounds to reggae to funk and soul at a variety of venues on Lake Champlain during the June 3-12 Discover Jazz Festival. Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and Grammy, Emmy and Academy Award winner Randy Newman will play the Flynn MainStage on June 3, and other headliners include Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, Antibalas and Diane Schuur with the Count Basie Orchestra. Tickets for various performances may be purchased online. Some events at area restaurants, bars and clubs are free, as are shows on the Church Street Marketplace stages. For details, call 802-863-7992.

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  • 05 of 26

    Take part in the 44th annual Central Maine Egg Festival, July 11-16. Pittsfield, Maine's Manson Park is the place to be for egg breakfast cooked in a 300-pound frying pan, entertainment, the "Egglympics" and egg-citing surprises. The theme for 2016 is: "Egg"stra-Terrestrial. For information, call 207-341-3456.

  • 06 of 26

    Festival of Fireworks

    The Jaffrey Chamber of Commerce's annual Festival of Fireworks returns home to Jaffrey Airfield Silver Ranch in Jaffrey, New Hampshire, in 2016 after two years in Swanzey. Take your family to see this spectacle in the sky--touted as one of the best fireworks shows in New England--on Saturday, August 20. Tickets must be purchased in advance. The theme for 2016's Atlas PyroVision show is: Small Town... Big Dreams.

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    No vampires allowed. The 21st annual Southern Vermont Garlic & Herb Festival takes place in Bennington, Vermont, September 3-4 (Labor Day weekend). Enjoy live music, sample a wide variety of garlic foods, learn about garlic and herbs and watch cooking demonstrations. Call 802-447-3311 for more information.

  • 08 of 26

    Hillsborough Balloon Festival & Fair

    Watch hot air balloons lift off gracefully and color the sky during the four-day Hillsborough Balloon Festival & Fair, held July 7-10, in Hillsborough, New Hampshire. Other activities include a parade, carnival rides, an Artist's Fair, food, sky divers, fireworks and entertainment. For schedule details and more information, call 603-464-5858.

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  • 09 of 26

    The 19th annual Maine International Film Festival in Waterville, Maine, runs from July 8-17 and features screenings of nearly 100 American and foreign independent films, plus films made by innovative Maine and New England filmmakers. Call 207-861-8138 for more information.

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    With free "Inside/Out" performances Wednesday through Saturday evenings and a schedule of major performances by some of America's foremost dance companies and ensembles, Jacob's Pillow in Lee, Massachusetts, is definitely a dance lover's place to be this summer. 2016 marks the festival's 84th year; it is the longest running dance festival in the U.S. For information about this summer's events, call 413-243-9919. For tickets, call the box office at 413-243-0745.

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    From June 24-September 11, enjoy a wide array of Friday evening and Sunday afternoon classical concerts at Kneisel Hall in Blue Hill, Maine, as the Kneisel Hall Chamber Music Festival celebrates its 114th year in 2016. For more information on the festival, call 207-374-2811. To purchase tickets, call call 207-374-2203.

  • 12 of 26

    For the 30th year in 2016, head for one of the largest free folk festivals in the U.S.--three days of traditional music and dance, crafts, ethnic foods and more on five outdoor stages throughout Lowell, Massachusetts--from July 29-31. For more information about the Lowell Folk Festival, call Lowell National Historical Park, the event sponsor, at 978-970-5000.

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  • 13 of 26
    Maine Lobster Festival
    Media photo courtesy of the Maine Lobster Festival

    If you love lobster, you need to be in Rockland, Maine, August 3-7 for the 69th annual Maine Lobster Festival. There's only one word for this gargantuan celebration of Maine's beloved crustacean--Yum! Each year, about 20,000 pounds of lobster are prepared in a giant cooker. Additional festival highlights include the Big Parade, Great Crate Race and entertainment for all ages. For details, call toll free, 800-576-7512.

  • 14 of 26

    The 62-year-old Newport Jazz Festival in Newport, Rhode Island, is produced by the non-profit Newport Festivals Foundation. The festival features emerging jazz artists, along with the jazz greats concertgoers have come to expect. In 2016, the Newport Jazz Festival runs July 29-31, opening Friday with a day of performances in Fort Adams State Park, followed by an Opening Night Concert featuring Gregory Porter, plus the Chick Corea Trilogy with Christian McBride and Brian Blade, at the International Tennis Hall of Fame. The event continues Saturday and Sunday at Fort Adams. Headliners for 2016 include Norah Jones, Kamasi Washington and Nels Cline. Tickets can be purchased online or by phone: 800-745-3000. Single day general admission tickets may also be purchased in person at the Newport Visitor Center.

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    Veteran's Park in Norwalk, Connecticut, is the setting for the Norwalk Seaport Association's 39th annual Oyster Festival. Highlights of the September 10-11 event include musical performances; children's activities and rides; an arts & crafts show; oystering and environmental exhibits and, of course, oysters galore! Tickets may be purchased online and printed prior to the festival. For information, call 203-838-9444.

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    The 69th annual Maine Potato Blossom Festival is July 9-17 in Fort Fairfield, Maine. Did you know that potato plants have beautiful white, pink or lavender flowers? Join in the celebration of one of Maine's most important crops with dozens of events including a parade, musical entertainment, mashed potato wrestling, fireworks over the Aroostook River and more. For information, call the Fort Fairfield Chamber of Commerce at 207-472-3802.

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  • 17 of 26

    The 40th Anniversary Ruby Jubilee Vermont Quilt Festival is June 24-26 in Essex Junction, Vermont. See hundreds of beautiful, hand-crafted antique and contemporary quilts at New England's oldest and largest quilt event, shop for quilting supplies, have quilts appraised and participate in a choice of dozens of full-, half- and multi-day classes taught by quilters from across the country. Call 802-872-0034 for details.

  • 18 of 26

    The Rockport Chamber Music Festival marks its 35th season of performances by some of the world's best chamber music artists. Performances are held on select dates June 3-July 22 in Rockport, Massachusetts, starting with an Opening Gala featuring the Grammy Award-winning Parker Quartet and pianist Menahem Pressler. To order tickets or for more information, call 978-546-7391.

  • 19 of 26

    The Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival offers summer performances under the stars of three of the Bard's classics--Measure for Measure, As You Like It and Macbeth--at Boscobel, a scenic Hudson River estate in neighboring New York State. Our Town by Thornton Wilder and the family-friendly So Please You will also be performed this season. Performances run from June 7-September 5. Order tickets online or by calling 845-265-9575.

  • 20 of 26

    If you adore the flavor of heirloom tomatoes, then venture to Verrill Farm in Concord, Massachusetts, August 21 for the Corn & Tomato Festival featuring the chance to taste more than 30 varieties of tomatoes grown on the farm, plus several varieties of corn and other farm-fresh foods. There'll be entertainment and children's activities, too. For details, call 978-369-4494.

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    Looking for a festival that's out of this world? Exeter, New Hampshire, is the epicenter of UFO lore in New England thanks to unexplained sightings that occurred in 1965. The annual Exeter UFO Festival, scheduled for September 3-4, features lectures and activities for believers and skeptics of all ages.

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    The towns and villages of the Mad River Valley in Vermont celebrate the arts during this month-long festival, August 1-September 5, which celebrates its 19th anniversary in 2016. Vermont Festival of the Arts events include open studios, concerts, gallery exhibits, theater performances, tours, workshops and more. For more information, call 802-496-6682.

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    Augusta, Maine's festival with the blasé name has been running for 39 years straight. From June 15-July 4, the capital area hosts 150 family-centered events. The highlight of the Whatever Family Festival is Kids Day in Capitol Park featuring music, dancing and hands-on activities. Most of the scheduled events are free. Call 207-623-4559 for details.

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    Head to Pittston, Maine, for the mudder of all summer festivals in New England! The annual 4x4 Festival (aka the Mud Run) is June 4 at the Pittston Fairgrounds, and even if you don't want to venture into the Deep Mud Pit in your vehicle, you'll love observing all of the sloppy, family-friendly action. Overnight camping is available.

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  • 25 of 26

    You'll find clams, crafts, clams, a carnival, clams, concerts, and, uh... clams! at this July 15-17 festival in Yarmouth, Maine, which marks its 51st anniversary year in 2016. The Firefighters' Muster is a must-see. Admission to the Yarmouth Clam Festival is free. Call 207-846-3984 for details.

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    Zydeco Festival

    The 20th annual Cajun/Zydeco Festival runs June 9-12 at Strawberry Park in Preston, Connecticut. Make a weekend of it by reserving a campsite or rental unit. Camping in the rough is free. In addition to the line-up of musical performers, the family-friendly festival features authentic Cajun and Creole cuisine, dancing and more. For tickets and reservations, call 860-886-1944.

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