13 New England food festivals to check out this fall

Chowder, oysters, vegetarian food — there's a festival for every taste this season.

The Big E Grilled Cheese. ESE Marketing Department

‘Tis the season for hooded jackets, warm cider doughnuts, and calendars filling up with some of New England’s tastiest festivals. Whether you’re in search of lobster smorgasbords or oyster shucking fests, our foliage-filled neck of the woods delivers. Here are 13 food festivals that promise no shortage of decadent bites and sips.

Salem Food Truck Festival
Prefer your festival on wheels? More than 45 food trucks will park in downtown Salem for the third annual Salem Food Truck Festival. Stop by Chubby Chickpea, Boston Burger, Oath Pizza, Cookie Monstah, and other trucks for a weekend of serious noshing. (Saturday, Sept. 29 and Sunday, Sept. 30; Salem)


Few dishes are as quintessentially New England as clam chowder. At this year’s Chowdafest, you’ll be able to get your fill with more than 40 chefs’ and restaurants’ unlimited samples, ranging from chunky, classic chowder to soups and bisques. Ticket holders will become the judges by giving each entry a rating in a handful of categories: Classic New England Clam Chowder, Traditional Chowder (Manhattan/Rhode Island), Creative Chowder, Soup/Bisque, and — a newcomer to 2018’s fest — Vegetarian. (Sunday, Sept. 30; Westport, Conn.)

The Big E
Sure, it’s more than a food festival, but you could spend an entire day at The Big E bouncing from one vendor to another. All of the state fair food groups are represented: Fried (Oreos, corn dogs, cheese curds), Baked (mac and cheese, pizzas, puff pastries), Smothered (nachos, Belgian waffles, cheese steak sandwiches). Stop by the State Houses for regional specialties, like the loaded, baked Maine potatoes and the apple pie smoothies made from Massachusetts apple farms. (Until Sunday, Sept. 30; West Springfield)

The cranberry harvest at the Cranberry Festival.

Cranberry Festival
Celebrate fall’s ubiquitous berry at the 15th annual Cranberry Festival, which will be held at the Nantucket Conservation Foundation’s Cranberry Bog. Along with harvesting demonstrations and history lessons about cranberry farming, there will be plenty of cranberry treats to sample, as well as freshly-pressed juices, clam chowder, and barbecue from B-ACK Yard BBQ. In a feel-good twist, all of the berries will be organic this year. (Saturday, Oct. 6; Nantucket)


Damariscotta Pumpkinfest and Regatta
This festival has everything: a pumpkin parade, a giant pumpkin drop, a pumpkin regatta. And, for those looking to actually ingest pumpkin: a pumpkin dessert contest, pumpkin pie-eating contest, and pumpkin pancake breakfast. Be sure to check out the “Giant Pumpkin Carving,” at which a handful of Maine artists will transform Atlantic Giant pumpkins into 200-plus pounds of art. (Friday, Oct. 5 to Monday, Oct. 8; Damariscotta, Maine)

Apple Harvest Day
If apples are more your thing, consider spending a day in Dover during the family-friendly Apple Harvest Day event. Sign up to compete in the apple pie contest, or stop by the various food and cider vendors to get your fill of the fruit. (Saturday, Oct. 6; Dover, New Hampshire)

The Taste of WGBH Food and Wine Festival
You don’t have to travel far for this one. The Taste of WGBH Food and Wine Festival will be held at the WGBH Studios, and will host a chef’s gala, a pig roast, a Food Fight competition, and more tastes and sips. (Thursday, Oct. 11 to Sunday, Oct. 14; Boston)

People help themselves to oysters at a previous Wellfleet OysterFest.

Wellfleet OysterFest
Oyster fans should flock to Wellfleet this fall for the annual oyster festival, a two-day celebration of the shellfish and their history in this town. Raw bars from Chopper’s Choice Oyster Bar, Sheila’s Oyster Farm, and Pirate Shellfish will provide the slippery bivalves, while other vendors will round out the food lineup with dishes like conch fritters, lobster rolls, cod tacos, and chowder fries. Attend the Oyster Shucking Competition for a Herculean display of shucking. (Saturday, Oct. 13 and Sunday, Oct. 14; Wellfleet)


Bowen’s Wharf Seafood Festival
A crisp, fall afternoon spent by the water while digging into clam cakes and lobster rolls — it’s just another day in seafood paradise at the Bowen’s Wharf Seafood Festival. As you move among vendors stocked with fish tacos and calamari, shrimp and stuffed quahogs, be sure to take in the sounds of the fest, including blues from Cee Cee and the Riders and reggae from The Copacetics. Don’t forget to finish up with kettle corn. (Saturday, Oct. 13 and Sunday, Oct. 14; Newport, R.I.)

Harvest on the Harbor
Portland, Maine, was recently named Bon Appetit’s 2018 Restaurant City of the Year, so you’d be wise to attend this six-day celebration for events that will sing praises to the city’s vibrant restaurant and bar scene. Buy individual tickets for a Bloody Mary and Pig Roast brunch, a Maine Lobster Chef of the Year competition, an On the Rocks happy hour with Maine spirits, and more festivities. (Tuesday, Oct. 16 to Sunday, Oct. 21; Portland, Maine)

Martha’s Vineyard Food and Wine Festival
Have a choose-your-own-adventure experience at this annual festival, where you can purchase event experiences à la carte. There’s Thrill of the Grill, which will feature grilled bites from some of the island’s best restaurants; Red Wine and Chocolate Decadence for those who truly want to indulge; and the Grand Tasting, when over 250 vendors will offer food, wine, beer, and spirits tastings with a view of the Vineyard shoreline. (Wednesday, Oct. 17 to Sunday, Oct. 21; Martha’s Vineyard)

Boston Veg Food Fest.


Boston Veg Food Fest
Hold the meat, please. The Boston Veg Food Fest, now in its 23rd year, is coming back with national chefs, educational exhibits, and dozens of samples from vegetarian chefs and restaurants. The festival space will expand to two floors this year to accommodate more than 120 exhibitors, including cookbook authors and cooking demonstrations. (Saturday, Oct. 20 and Sunday, Oct. 21; Boston)

Franklin County Cider Days
Love cider? Get psyched for Franklin County Cider Days, a weekend-long festival featuring cider-making workshops, cider tastings from more than 90 brands, cider and cheese pairings, and more. History buffs will enjoy talks like “A History of Apples in America,” while home chefs should attend the festival’s apple-themed cooking demos. (Friday, Nov. 2 to Sunday, Nov. 4; Franklin County)