6 New England towns to visit in October

Salem, MA:  10-15-2016:  Visitors to Haunted Happenings pass a creepy paper mache figurine on the Essex St. Pedestrian Mall in Salem, Mass. Oct. 15, 2016.  The month long Haunted Happenings lead up to Halloween. 

Photo/John Blanding, Boston Globe staff    story/, Metro ( feature )
Visitors walked the streets of Salem in October 2016. –John Blanding / The Boston Globe

From a month-long Halloween party to fall foliage tours by foot, train, and horse-drawn wagon, there’s plenty to see and do across New England in October. Ahead, discover six places worth visiting throughout the month.

Walk the festively spooky streets of Salem

Each October, more than 250,000 people travel to the city famous for the 1692 Salem Witch Trials for the month-long Haunted Happenings festival, filled with everything from parades, street fairs, and family film nights on the Salem Common to costume balls, live music, and a Pyschic Fair & Witchcraft Expo. As always, visitors can nab museum tours — made extra spooky by the time of year — at the Salem Witch Museum and The Witch House, the 17th-century home of witchcraft trials Judge Jonathan Corwin, and pop into plenty of downtown bars and restaurants in the very walkable city. Come Halloween weekend, hundreds of revelers will take to the streets in costume.

Immerse yourself in the arts — and cranberries — on Nantucket


October is one of the best months to visit Nantucket. Hotel prices drop, and so do crowd sizes. The weather hasn’t gotten too cold yet, many of the tourist attractions remain open, and the island is alive with festivals. One of them is the nine-day Nantucket Arts Festival (Sept. 30-Oct. 8), a celebration of the island’s arts and culture in the Nantucket Cultural District. This year’s theme is “Imagination at Sea,” and scheduled events include performances by the North Star Jazz Ensemble, a film festival, and the annual Nantucket Music Center Organ Crawl, where participants walk from church to church to hear organists play. Another such festival is Oct. 7’s Cranberry Festival, an ode to the fruit at Milestone Cranberry Bog.

Make your way to Damariscotta, Maine, for pumpkins galore

October is the month of the pumpkin, and Damariscotta, Maine, is arguably the town of the pumpkin. Up to 15,000 gourd lovers flock there each year for the Damariscotta Pumpkinfest & Regatta (Oct. 6-9 in 2017). The four-day bonanza includes a pumpkin parade, a giant pumpkin weigh-off, a pumpkin soapbox-style derby, a pumpkin hunt, pumpkin pie-eating contests, a pumpkin drop, and a display of more than 65 carved pumpkins. (Did we mention there would be pumpkins?) The weekend culminates with a regatta, during which people race down the Damariscotta River in hollowed-out pumpkins fashioned into boats.

An artist paints a pumpkin during a previous Damariscotta Pumpkinfest & Regatta. —Damariscotta Pumpkinfest & Regatta

Get lost in a gigantic corn maze in Danville, Vermont


‘Tis the season to test your corn maze skills. If you’re searching for a serious challenge, you’ll want to head to Danville’s Great Vermont Maze, billed as “the largest maze in New England.” Situated on 24 acres, the maze boasts three miles of dirt trails lined with 10-inch-tall corn stalk walls. It typically takes guests more than two hours to make their way through it, according to the maze’s website. Those looking for a shorter adventure can opt for the “scenic maze,” located within the big maze, which takes approximately 40 minutes and includes an underground tunnel and bridges with panoramic views. Children under age 15 must be accompanied by an adult in both mazes, and there’s a play area for smaller kids. Tip: Arrive well before 2 p.m. because that’s when the last visitors are allowed to enter the big maze.

In Adams, hike to the highest spot in Massachusetts

If it’s fall foliage you’re after, the Berkshires have plenty of it. Get a bird’s-eye view of the jewel tones from the top of Mount Greylock, the highest point in Massachusetts at 3,491 feet, during the 50th Annual Greylock Ramble on Oct. 9. Shuttles will take hikers from downtown Adams to the base of the mountain’s Cheshire Harbor Trail. It’s a festive atmosphere at the top, with refreshments and souvenirs, and on a clear day, you can see 90 miles away. Turn the trip into a weekend getaway and check out other fall foliage events, like North Adams’s monthlong scenic fall foliage train rides, Williamstown’s Fall Foliage and Mid-Century Architecture Tour at The Folly at Field Farm on Oct. 7, and Sheffield’s fall foliage horse-drawn wagon rides around Bartholomew’s Cobble on Oct. 8. 

Join a massive, foliage-filled Oktoberfest in Lincoln, New Hampshire


Drive to the White Mountains for beer, brats, and stunning foliage views. Loon Mountain will host White Mountain Oktoberfest on Oct. 7 and 8, and the weekend’s activities will stretch all the way to the summit. Guests can ride the Loon Mountain gondola to mountaintop yoga classes and beer lessons from Samuel Adams representatives, who will share brewing secrets and beer samples. Back down at the base, there will be live music and plenty of games: stein-hoisting and keg tossing contests for the adults and root beer keg tossing and pumpkin painting for the kids. Looking for more ways to leaf peep from above Lincoln? Head over to Alpine Adventures, where you can take the colors in via zip line. The park offers several courses over 300 acres of White Mountain forest, including one with an 80-foot “white knuckle drop.” If you’d rather keep your feet on the ground (or in the car), take a drive along the Kancamagus Highway, named one of the 7 best places to see fall foliage in New England by Town & Country magazine.