• Children picking out their own pumpkins at Cider Hills Farm in Amesbury, Massachusetts.
    Children picking out their own pumpkins at Cider Hills Farm
    Amesbury, Massachusetts

Fall Food Festivals

New England's famous fall foliage is truly spectacular. But there is more to this glorious season — all the wonderful foods celebrated in the region. Fall is harvest time, so New England's roadside stands and farmers' markets are piled high with apples and pumpkins. New England's enthusiastic chefs feature fall produce while towns and villages host food-oriented festivals and traditional agricultural fairs. And what better way to start a day of traveling than devouring a hot pumpkin muffin baked fresh at a New England inn?

Apple Pie in New England  (credit-Discover New England)

New England Apples

New England's apple orchards grow some 40 varieties, providing fruit to snack on as well as for juices, ciders, pies and desserts. The Rhode Island Greening, America's first native apple, traces its history back to Colonial times. New England apples were taken across the USA by Johnny Appleseed. Explore the Johnny Appleseed Trail to find out more about the man who was born John Chapman in Leominster, Massachusetts in 1774. Two centuries later, author John Irvine worked at Applecrest Farm Orchards in New Hampshire. This experience later helped inspire his book and Oscar-winning movie The Cider House Rules.

LOST IN TRANSLATION! In the autumn, stopping at roadside stands for cider is a New England tradition. European visitors are often surprised to see children as well as adults sipping this drink. But, what Americans call cider is usually freshly-pressed apple juice; the alcoholic version is generally referred to as "hard" cider.

CELEBRATE THE APPLE In Connecticut, Glastonbury (just outside Hartford) hosts an annual Apple Harvest Festival in October with pie eating and baking contests, while the town of Southington hosts an apple festival — apple fritters until they run out! And, down on the coast at Old Mystic, sweet and hard ciders are produced at B. F. Clyde's Cider Mill. The oldest (1881) steam-powered cider mill in the U.S., it is family owned and run, and currently in charge is the sixth generation of Clydes!

New England Pumpkin Season - (Credit-Discover New England)

New England Pumpkins

Nothing shouts New England louder than orange pumpkins at the door of a white Colonial home; nothing smells better than a freshly-baked pumpkin pie; and nothing matches the enthusiasm of Keene, New Hampshire, for creating a magnificent display of carved Halloween pumpkins. There's pumpkin fun at the Damariscotta Pumpkinfest & Regatta in midcoast Maine with pumpkin boats, pumpkin catapulting, and pumpkin dessert and pie eating contests. And for giant pumpkins, it has to be Topsfield, Massachusetts, located north of Boston. In October, the All New England Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off is a highlight of the Topsfield Fair, America's oldest country fair (1818). The 2012 Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off was, without a doubt, the most exciting Weigh-Off to date. The world's first one ton pumpkin weighed in at a whopping 2,009 pounds/911 kg!

Hands with cranberries - Photo courtesy of the A.D. Makepeace Company

New England Cranberries

If New England's fall foliage weren't colorful enough, Mother Nature adds the deep red of ripe cranberries. Almost half of the USA's cranberries are grown in southeastern Massachusetts and Cape Cod. Harvesting begins in late September and continues through October. First, the bogs are flooded; then tractor-like harvesters pull off the berries, which float to the top to be corralled. Check the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers' Association for locations. Some members, such as Mayflower Cranberries, offer a "Be the Grower" experience, inviting visitors to pull on chest-high waders and help with the harvest. On Cape Cod, the Harwich Cranberry Arts & Music Festival is in mid-September. On the mainland side of the Bourne Bridge, Wareham throws its annual Cranberry Harvest Celebration in mid-October.

Boothbay ClawDown (credit-Ted Axelrod)

New England's Sensational Seafood

New England's coastal foliage matches the colors inland — with the bonus of seafood straight from the ocean! No wonder fall festivals celebrate New England's world-class seafood, with chowders and lobster stew, lobster rolls and good ol' plain boiled lobster. In Maine is Boothbay Harbor's classy Claw Down Maine Lobster Bite Competition in mid-September. And in late October, Maine chefs go head to head for the title of “Maine Lobster Chef of the Year” at Portland's popular Harvest on the Harbor festival. In New Hampshire, early September brings the Hampton Beach Seafood Festival, rated among "The Top 100 Events in North America" and a showcase for 60 of the Seacoast’s top restaurants. In September, the Rhode Island Seafood Festival takes place in Providence, bringing together the best local purveyors of seafood and other fine fare as well as beer, wine and spirits. And, Connecticut's ode to seafood in October is the Mystic Chowder Days — hot chowder is a perfect match for a cool fall day.  

Other Fall Food Fun

  • Head to the mountains: in Bethel, Maine, the focus is on chowder with the Bethel Harvestfest and Chowdah Cook-off.
  • A Gatsby experience: Rhode Island hosts the sophisticated Newport Mansions Wine & Food Festival over three days in September in the elegant mansions of Rosecliff, The Elms and Marble House.
  • On Cape Cod fun: it's a fair at the Cape Cod Scallop Fest.
  • Meet the fishermen: in New Bedford, Massachusetts — America's largest commercial fishing port — enjoy the annual Working Waterfront Festival.

State on a plate!

New England state fruits include the wild blueberry (Maine), cranberry (Massachusetts), pumpkin (New Hampshire), and greening apple (Rhode Island). Connecticut's state shellfish is the oyster!

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