When is the First Day of Fall?

new england autumn leaves
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The first day of fall is eagerly anticipated in New England, where the glorious fall foliage season is an unequaled annual spectacle. But when, exactly, is the first day of fall?

Fall officially gets underway with the autumnal equinox: the date in September when hours of day and night are roughly equal. Here are the dates for the first day of fall for 2017 through 2021:

Autumnal Equinox Dates

  • Friday, September 22, 2017
  • Sunday, September 23, 2018
  • Monday, September 23, 2019
  • Tuesday, September 22, 2020
  • Wednesday, September 22, 2021

But is it Really Fall?

Of course, just because the calendar says it's the first day of fall doesn't necessarily mean that New England will experience fall temperatures—nor fall colors—on that date. There are many natural factors that influence the progression of the fall foliage season. Learn a bit about why leaves change color, and, if you're hoping to see spectacular autumn hues, these tips on how to see fall foliage at its peak will help you time a trip so that the odds are stacked in your favor.

Hint: The first day of fall is probably too early in the season to see strong color anywhere but the northernmost regions of New England such as Maine's North Woods.

First Day of Fall Events and Travel Ideas in New England

  • One of New England's coolest places to be on the annual autumnal equinox is America's Stonehenge in Salem, New Hampshire (check rates and reviews for Salem hotels with TripAdvisor). This intriguing, ancient assemblage of rocks includes stones that seem to be aligned with astronomical phenomena such as the autumnal equinox. Be there at sunrise, and you may get to celebrate the first day of fall by observing the sun rise directly over a notched standing stone that points toward the sky.
  • The UMass Amherst Sunwheel at the south end of the university's Amherst, Massachusetts, campus is another fascinating place to gather with other equinox seekers at sunrise and/or sunset on the first day of fall. This stone calendar--a pet project of late astronomy professor Dr. Judith S. Young--immerses visitors in the astronomical origins of our change of seasons. The public is invited to attend presentations on the solstice by a UMass Amherst astronomer.
  • Where's New England's best place to stay on the first day of fall? How about The Equinox Golf Resort & Spa (check rates and reviews with TripAdvisor) in Manchester Village, Vermont? Mount Equinox, which rises more than 3,800 feet directly behind this historic, storied inn, was named thanks to a historic ascent by Alden Partridge: New England's first "peak bagger." According to lore, Partridge climbed to the summit and measured its height on or near the autumnal equinox in 1823. Nowadays, the drive to the top of Mount Equinox is one of New England's most exhilarating fall road trips.
  • Salem, Massachusetts, is home to many modern witches, who celebrate the Pagan holiday Mabon at the autumnal equinox. Check the Salem events calendar for open rituals you may attend.