Nine Fall Festivals for your Calendar

Harvard Square Oktoberfest. Photo by Bill Manley

All too often, fall is associated with two things: gorgeous foliage and Halloween. Nothing wrong with either one of those — but they’re not the end all and be all of the season. This month, festivals and fairs are taking place all across the region, celebrating everything from Irish ancestry and Oktoberfest to local foods and college. It’s the best time of the year, and we’ve prepped your handy guide to what’s happening when and where it’s taking place. — Becca Fox

Boston Local Food Festival
It’s not easy to be healthy or nature-friendly, but luckily, the 2nd annual Boston Local Food Festival that’ll be popping up this month at the Boston Waterfront is out to change all that. Presented by Sustainable Business Network of Greater Boston, it’s a chance to join local farmers, fishermen, producers, and chefs as they present all nature of local foods – with plenty of freebies to boot. In the lineup: a local craft brew tasting (our suggestion: reserve a spot and fast – offering everything from Pretty Things to Zoll Wine Cellars, it’ll fill early), a Seafood Throwdown reminiscent of a kindlier Top Chef episode, and a Crop Share at which guests can show off and share the pride of their own green thumb.

October 1, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visit or call 508-358-7355 for more info and inquires.

Harvard Square Oktoberfest
Put simply: Fall in Boston is not complete without a nod to one of the wildest, beeriest celebrations of the region – yes, we mean the 33rd annual Harvard Square Oktoberfest. It’s a daylong affair that pulls in over 100,000 participants with its massive, exuberant offerings of live music, dance, street performances, sidewalk sales, arts, crafts, kid’s games, and restaurant vendors. And that’s not even touching on the Honk! Parade, a 25-band procession (plus the host of strollers, bikers, and dancers who jump in as well) that begins in Davis Square and marches straight into the madness of the Harvard Square festivities. Be sure to bring a camera for documentation of this epic throw-down and dress warmly, because it’s all outdoors.

Event takes place October 2, from 12 to 6 p.m. Visit or call 617-491-3434 for more info and inquiries.

College Fest
Two words: free stuff. In its 25th year, College Fest continues to attract over 15,000 students to duke it out for giveaway merchandise. Held in early October, the student-based festival in Hynes Convention Center also serves up live music and celebrity appearances (fingers crossed Tom Brady and Gisele are there) for entertainment. With hundreds of sponsors ranging from Xbox Live to the Boston Red Sox, it’s the best chance anyone has to grab back to school deals for a steal. Entry is 10 bucks, but students: look out for ‘two for one’ coupons floating around all college campuses in the area – find a friend to share the love (or perhaps help you carry your goodies back to campus).

Collegefest takes place October 1 and 2, 12-7 p.m. and 12-6 p.m respectively. Visit to purchase tickets and for more info and inquiries. Event is not limited to college students, but it is aimed squarely at them.

Cranberry Harvest Festival
Okay, technically, this is pushing the ‘Boston-area,’ description, we know, but the Cranberry Festival is just so unusual and so much fun that it’s impossible not to include. Held by a real-life cranberry plantation in Wareham, it’s a two-day celebration of one of the most classic, and unique, New England harvests. There’ll be bog tours, artisan vendors, cooking demos, pony, boat, train and helicopter rides (we’re serious), pumpkin decorating, and, if you can believe it, even more beyond all that.

Cranberry Harvest Festival is on October 8-9, Visit for more info and inquiries.

Irish Heritage Festival
Red-headed, sunburned, freckle-faced Bostonians (and what the heck – everyone else, too): listen up! Your day has come and it’s officially time again to pay tribute to the emerald city with the Irish Heritage Festival. Adams Corner in Dorchester — also known as the state’s most Irish neighborhood — will hold the event free of charge. It’s offering up a day in which to gather, rejoice, and tour a street’s-worth of Celtically-inclined clothes, jewelry, and food, all to the tunes of The Joshua Tree, Devri, The Gobshites and additional Irish bands. Plus, any event with face painting and temporary tattoos for kids is a winner. Embrace the Irish culture and come ready to drink, but note the festival is a family event and alcohol is confined to designated areas.

Irish Heritage Festival, October 9 from 12-8 p.m. Visit for more info and inquiries.

Festival of the Dead
Halloween in the city: Not so scary. But Halloween in Salem, MA, heartland of America’s witch history? – worth the trek for a guaranteed fright. Festival of the Dead offers Halloween-themed events in October leading up to the main holiday of the month. Join Salem witches at genuine seances, try to catch a glimpse into the future at a Psychic fair and Witchcraft Expo, or — our pick — hit up the Official Salem Witches’ Halloween Ball, where a mix of pop, rock and goth will be spun, free psychic readings will woo and a cash bar will serve up spirits of the more traditional sort.

Visit for a full list of events, ticket prices, event locations and Salem accommodations information.

Boston Book Festival
Curling up with a great book as the leaves change is a biblophile’s favorite go-to activity. But for a more socially-inclined change of pace, try out New England’s largest literary event, The Boston Book Festival, taking place in Copley Square. Now in its third year, the festival promises over 100 world-renowned authors and thought leaders, plus workshops, exhibitors, live music, booksellers, book signings, children activities, food and events like the Writer Idol and Flash Fiction. It’s completely cross-genre, totally free, and may lure up to some 35,000 lovers of the written word, so you may as well include yourself if you have any love for the language at all. One note: popular sessions fill up quickly, so visit the website for updates on the event and to reserve seating. Happy reading!

The Book Festival takes place October 15 at Copley Square. Visit for more information.

Harbor Fall Festival
Autumn deserves celebrating by all ages – and the Harbor Fall festival at Webb Memorial this month clearly agrees, with their full day of designed-for-kids events and activities. Expect: wool-dying with wildflowers, cider-pressing demonstration, leaf peeping and music to keep everyone moving. Best part (not counting the fact that your kids will be thoroughly zonked for the rest of the day): it’s all absolutely free.

Fall Festival takes place October 15 at 12p.m., at Webb Memorial (399 River St., Weymouth, MA 02191). Check out for more info and inquiries.

Vegetarian Festival
Calling all vegetarians, vegans and healthy eaters (or those simply interested in learning more about the non-meat-eater lifestyle): there’s a festival custom-made just for you this month. Held at the Reggie Lewis Athletic Center on Tremont Street, the Vegetarian Festival brings natural food providers, speakers, chefs and educational exhibitors to any and all interested in life on the leafy side. For free, visitors can learn more about the lifestyle, try snack samples (c’mon, you might be surprised) and get the low-down on how to do the diet right. Free parking and easy T accessibility make it easy. Come with an open mind and perhaps leave with a new lifestyle… or maybe just the intention to eat a few more greens.

Vegetarian Festival is on Saturday, October 29th and Sunday October 30th, from 11 to 6 p.m. and 10 to 4 p.m. respectively. Visit for more info and inquiries.