New England is filled with plenty of fall festivals, but kids are particularly enamored with events celebrating the humble pumpkin: the symbol of Halloween. Whether you stick close to home or make a day or weekend trip out of it, going to a pumpkin festival or visiting a glowing Jack-O-Lantern display is a fun, family-friendly way to get into the spirit of the season. Here's a sampling of pumpkin fun in Massachusetts and beyond over the next month; get inspired for a trip to the pumpkin patch for your own family Jack-O-Lantern display!
Three-Day Pumpkin Festival—Brookline, MA
September 14-16, 2018
One of the first events to kick off pumpkin season, this free weekend festival hosted by the Gardens of Gethsemane includes pumpkin crafts and bowling as well as moonwalks, a petting zoo, a video game truck, and food vendors.
Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular—Roger Williams Park Zoo, Providence RI
October 4 - November 4, 2018
The Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular celebrates 30 years of wowing guests with some 5,000 intricately carved pumpkins on Roger Williams Zoo grounds. After a stroll through the pumpkin trail, take a ride on the Soaring Eagle Zip Line (42 inch minimum height). Consider visiting on a weekday evening for a discounted rate, or on a special theme night, new this year (Fairy Tale Nights are 10/10-11; Wizarding Nights are 10/17-18; Superhero Nights are 10/24-25).
Franklin Park Zoo's Jack O' Lantern Journey glows after dark. Photo courtesy of Franklin Park Zoo
Jack-O-Lantern Journey—Franklin Park Zoo, Boston
October 5 - November 4, 2018
Walk along a half-mile, tree-lined trail at the Franklin Park Zoo to see more than 5,000 pumpkins carved into designs based on prehistoric creatures, sea life, and even endangered species (as well as some spooky scenes, too). Open at dusk after the zoo closes for the evening, the trail ends with pumpkin carving demonstrations and seasonal treats.
Pumpkinfest—Mass Audubon Boston Nature Center, Mattapan
October 6, 2018
Let kids carve pumpkins, play pumpkin games, and sample autumn treats while they learn about the history of pumpkins and hear a Jack-O-Lantern story. Register at least a week in advance to ensure a pumpkin of your own.
Pumpkin People in the Park—Chatham, MA
October 13-31, 2018
This annual tradition down the Cape brings together local businesses which craft clever, funny, or awe-inspiring displays of people and activities out of pumpkins.
Bring your pumpkin creation to the Frog Pond Pumpkin Float. Photo courtesy of The Skating Club of Boston
Frog Pond Pumpkin Float—Frog Pond, Boston Common
October 19, 2018
The family-friendly event includes decoration of Halloween luminaries, refreshments, and more. Attendees of all ages are encouraged to wear their Halloween costumes and bring an 8-inch or smaller carved pumpkin to be floated on the Frog Pond for a thrilling early evening display.
Pumpkin Fest—Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary, Norfolk
October 19, 2018
BYOP! Bring your own pumpkin and organizers will supply patterns, safe carving tools, and expert guidance. Then play pumpkin games and enjoy some pumpkin treats before everyone's creations are lit. The evening ends with a moonlit stroll on the Stony Brook trails to listen to the sounds of the night.
New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival—Laconia, NH
October 12-14, 2018
The spell-binding centerpiece of the annual festival in the state's Lakes Region (less than two hours from Boston) is the Spectacular Pumpkin Tower, plus thousands of jack-o-lanterns lining the street. Other highlights include rides, food and craft vendors, and children's activities along Canal Street (Pumpkin Alley).
Great Pumpkin Nights—EcoTarium, Worcester
October 12 - October 28, 2018 (Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays)
This museum-based fest features a host of Halloween fun, including a display of more than 1,000 carved and lit pumpkins—from dinosaurs to safari animals—after dark.The museum and grounds are open from 6pm to 9pm for exploring exhibits, visiting animals, and interactive crafts. Family-friendly costumes are encouraged for trick-or-treating. Bring a flashlight to light your way at night and be sure to dress for the weather, because Great Pumpkin Fest takes place rain or shine. Snacks, festival foods, and light fare are available for purchase, but you can bring your own and picnic on the EcoTarium grounds instead. Tickets are available in advance or at the door.
Pumpkinfest—Volante Farms, Needham
October 27, 2018
Benefiting Boston Children's Hospital, this 6th annual pumpkin extravaganza includes carving stations, storytelling, and a Jack-O-Lantern stroll. Linger to enjoy Volante's fresh apple cider doughnuts, local apples, and other market treats. Costumes are encouraged.
Post originally published October 2011; updated 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018
Top photo by SitMonkeySupreme/CC BY 2.0