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When to Tour New England

Month-by-month New England weather, events, holidays & festivals: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Fall foliage at Old North Bridge, Concord, Massachusetts
Old North Bridge in Concord MA in autumn foliage season—New England's glory.

Touring Seasons

You can enjoy a trip to New England any time of year if you prepare for the weather and are wary of the busy times such as Memorial Day (May), July 4th, Labor Day (September), Columbus/Indigenous Peoples' Day (October), and Thanksgiving (November) when hotels, inns, restaurants, and transportation are filled to capacity.

There are also special local holidays such as Patriots Day (April) in Massachusetts and Maine, Hallowe'en (October 31st) in Salem MA, and Christmas (December 25th) in Newport RI.

Early summer and early autumn are less crowded than high summer for a trip to New England. Autumn foliage season and Indian summer are New England's glory times, but winter has its own pleasures: skiing & snowboarding, concerts, First Night & more.

Summer High Season

Without doubt, the most popular times to travel in New England are the summer travel season from Memorial Day to Labor Day (late May, June, July and August) and the autumn foliage season (late September, October and early November) centered on Columbus Day/Indigenous Peoples' Day, unless you're coming for New England skiing.

Frenchman Bay from Cadillac Mountain, Bar Harbor, Maine
Frenchman Bay from Cadillac Mountain at dawn, Bar Harbor, Maine.

Spring

Coming late and staying only briefly, spring in New England is often a disappointment. The week or two of spring days in April, May and June are a delight, with cool temperatures in the evening and just the perfect degree of warmth during the day, in bright, clear sun. But the delight of spring may be so brief that New Englanders joke "Oh, spring...yeah, last year it was on a Tuesday."

Mud Time

Late spring (April, early May), after ski season but before beach time, is traditionally called mud time, when the land thaws and runs to mud. It's the slowest season for tourist facilities, coming after ski season and before summer warmth and school vacations bring out the city folk. Some New England country inns take the opportunity to close, often for a week in April, to take a rest or make repairs. It's not the best time for outdoor activities, but cultural New England thrives.

Foliage Season

Vibrant reds, briliant yellows and muted tans and browns cover the branches. Countryside panoramas become blazing sweeps of color. Individual trees are like huge sun-lanterns. A single leaf can be a marvel.

The leaves die and fall to earth in a blizzard of fall foliage color that is one of earth's finest natural phenomena. The ground is covered in color, and you walk through it, scuffing the leaves about you, as though in a field of gold.

Harvest Weather

Throughout fall foliage season, days are still warm and pleasant, nights a bit chilly but not uncomfortably so. City people load their bikes into the car and head for the country, picking up fresh apple cider, pumpkins, and squash from farm stands on the way home.

Fresh cranberries are on sale in the markets all autumn, and although the blueberry-picking season is past, many apple orchards open so you can "pick-your-own" apples and get the freshest fruit possible at a low price. Many pick-your-own orchards feature fresh-squeezed apple cider for sale, along with apple pies, apple doughnuts and other fruit treats.

Fall foliage tree, Concord, Massachusetts
A maple tree explodes in color...

Color North to South

The cold touches the northern New England states of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine first, and the color change starts there in September and moves southward and eastward through the region, with the peak of color in the northern states usually in late September and early October.

The peak comes a bit later in the southern states of Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, often climaxing in mid-October—Columbus Day weekend is often thought to be the "peak," but there is little truth in this as peak color depends on the weather in a specific year, and your location in New England. There's usually plentiful color all the way through the end of October and the celebration of Hallowe'en.

In many years, fall foliage color extends well into November with some of the deepest, most glowing reds on maple, gum and oak trees coming then. You may not see whole forests in bright colors, and by mid- to late November some trees will be bare of leaves, but others will be at their blazing best. If severe wind and rain doesn't bring the leaves down, you may enjoy pockets of brilliant color in protected valleys right through Thanksgiving.

Indian Summer

After a period of chilly weather in October, and perhaps even a touch of frost, New England usually gets a respite, with a short period of warm weather known as Indian summer that can occur in late October or November.

Late summer returns and beckons New Englanders out of their houses to enjoy the chill heavy dew of dawn, the last blaze of color in the trees, the scent of leaf-mold and woodsmoke in the air, the gentle rustle of falling leaves, the crackle of dry leaves underfoot, and the quiet retirement of the natural year.

The sweetest of all New England Indian summers are those that come late in November around Thanksgiving. In rare years, the third week of November can have shirt-sleeve weather, with warm, abundant sun and the grateful feeling that we had received a priceless gift from nature.

Winter

Skiing and snowboarding usually begins at northern New England's loftiest ski resorts in early December, but the shopping and partying frenzy leading up to Christmas and New Year's often distracts all but the most resolute skiers.

After the holidays, outdoor winter sports boom until mid- to late-March, with the February Dr Martin Luther King Jr Day holiday weekend being the height of the season—you'll need reservations for everything at your chosen ski resort on "MLK."

Mount Washington Snow Coach going up Mount Washington in winter
Mount Washington Snow Coach going up the Mount Washington Auto Road.

New England Weather & Climate

Temperatures are always cooler in northern New England (Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine), than in the south (Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island).

The greatest contrast in temperatures is between the higher elevations in the north (such as Mount Washington), and the southern coasts (such as the Connecticut Shoreline).

Spring brings maple syrup, summer means beaches, boating, hiking, biking, camping, canoeing and kayaking, fishing, and windjammer cruises along the Maine coast.

Autumn is New England's glory with its blazing fall foliage. Winter means skiing and snowboarding, concerts, theater, art and celebrations.

Here's more on New England's climate, with detailed descriptions of the four seasons (actually five), and horror stories of the dangerously severe weather at the summit of Mount Washington in New Hampshire's White Mountains. More...

Federal & State Holidays

Federal holidays are observed in all 50 US states. I've included New England state holidays here as well.

January 1 - New Year's Day

January, 3rd Monday - Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

February, 3rd Monday - Presidents' Day, commemorating the birthday of George Washington (February 22).

April 19, nearest Monday - Patriots Day, in Massachusetts and Maine, commemorating the battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775 that began the American War of Independence.

May 4 - Rhode Island Independence Day, a state holiday in Rhode Island.

May 17 - Evacuation Day, a public holiday in Suffolk County, Massachusetts (including Boston), celebrating the withdrawal (evacuation) of British troops from Boston in 1776. Rumor has it that the holiday is really in honor of Saint Patrick's Day because of Boston's considerable Irish immigrant heritage.

May, last Monday - Memorial Day, commemorating all who have served in the military for the USA.

June 17 - Bunker Hill Day, a public holiday in Suffolk County, Massachusetts (including Boston), celebrating the victory of American forces at the battle of Bunker (or Breed's) Hill, June 17, 1775.

July 4 - Independence Day, also called the Fourth of July, celebrating the publication of the Declaration of Independence (from Great Britain) on July 4, 1776.

August 8 - Victory Day, a state holiday in Rhode Island, first celebrated as "VJ Day," for the Allied victory over Japan in World War II.

August 16 - Bennington Battle Day, a state holiday in Vermont, commemorating the Battle of Bennington (August 16, 1777), an important victory for American forces in the War of Independence.

September, 1st Monday - Labor Day, celebrating working men and women and their organizations (unions).

October, 2nd Monday - Columbus Day, commemorating the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas (October 12, 1492). Not celebrated in Vermont.

November 11 - Veterans Day is a federal holiday honoring those who have served in the US armed forces. If the 11th is a mid-week day, commemoration ceremonies may be held on the Friday or Monday nearest the day. If the 11th is a Saturday, US government offices close on Friday. If it's a Sunday, they close on Monday.

November, 4th Thursday - Thanksgiving Day, celebrating the harvest, especially that of the Pilgrims in Plymouth Colony in 1621 after a terrible winter when many died.

December 25 - Christmas Day, celebrating the birth of Jesus, and for some people a mid-winter solstice celebration.

January

Cold and probably snowy, with some days of brilliant sunshine. The January sales bring out the shoppers, and the long Martin Luther King Day weekend brings out the skiers.

Vermont blizzard road

Except for the national holidays of New Year's Day and Martin Luther King Day, January is quiet—but not the ski resorts.

New Year's Eve & Day

New Year's Eve in New England is First Night, with elaborate celebrations in some cities and towns.

First Night Parade, Boston MA
Huge First Night procession, Boston MA.

New Year's Day (January 1) is a holiday, and transportation services can be busy on December 31st and January 2nd.

After New Year's, the first two weeks of January are not a busy time in New England, travel services are unburdened, and prices are lower.

January Weather

In January the weather is cold in New England, probably with snow, sleet or freezing rain, but also days of brilliant sunshine. High temperatures may be about 30° to 40°F (-1.1° to 4.4°C), but are often lower. Low temperatures may be 10° to 20°F (-12° to -7°C), but may be below 0°F (-18°C) during multi-day "cold snaps."

In the mountains temperatures may drop to -10°F (-23°C). Nobody in their right mind climbs to the summit of Mount Washington except the people who have to work there.

Mid-Winter Thaw

Everyone hopes for a mid-winter thaw, a period of several days when unseasonably warm weather moves in and temperatures rise to 50° or even 60°F (10° to 15.5°C), but it does not always happen.

January Shopping

The post-Christmas discount sales start right after Christmas in December, and carry into January as stores seek to extend the holiday shopping season (if at lower prices), and also to clear out inventory to prepare for the spring product lines.

Martin Luther King Day

Martin Luther King Day ("MLK"), a national holiday commemorating the life, work and tragic death of civil rights crusader Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., is the third Monday in January, making for a long weekend that many people look upon as the beginning of the ski season (even though the slopes usually open in December). The slopes are always busy on "MLK."

Ski lodges and country inns offer money-saving package deals, especially if you stay on weekdays rather than weekends.

Stowe Winter Carnival, Stowe VT, with ski races, parties and other festivities, many of them outdoors, is held in January.

February

The weather continues cold (like January) in New England, probably with snow and ice. The numerous cold, brilliant sunny days are great for outdoor activities if you dress warmly.

Winter at Walden Pond, Concord, Massachusetts
You can almost hear the crunch of bone-dry snow under my boots as I trudge around frozen Walden Pond on an overcast February day.

With luck, New England enjoys a brief mid-winter thaw in January or early February.

Ski season continues, though many New Englanders fly to the Caribbean or Mexico for a few weeks of warmth and to get away from the need to bundle up in lots of clothing whenever they go outside.

Presidents Day

The third Monday in February is Presidents Day, a national holiday honoring the birthdays of George Washington (February 22) and Abraham Lincoln (February 12). Some museums remain open, but most offices are closed.

School Vacation Week

Many schools take a one-week winter vacation (often in the week of Presidents Day), and airports may be crowded on the weekends before and after the vacation week as families escape to warmer climates.

The holiday weekend is particularly busy in ski country.

March

Last big snows, lots of skiing, St Patrick's Day, then "mud time" and tapping maple trees of sap to make maple syrup.

Old-fashioned maple sap pails, Brattleboro, Vermont
Old-fashioned maple sap collection pails in Brattleboro, Vermont.

Traditional wisdom holds that after St. Patrick's Day (March 17) there will be no more big snowstorms in the southern New England states (Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island)—but traditional wisdom is occasionally wrong.

In any case, the weather is still cold, and ski resorts in the northern New England states (Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine) have plenty of snow until April.

Saint Patrick's Day

Celebrated on March 17th as an Irish heritage day for all Americans, St Patrick's Day is not a holiday—except in Massachusetts' Suffolk County, which includes the City of Boston.

In Suffolk County, March 17th is officially commemorated as Evacuation Day, the date in 1776 on which British forces in Boston, under siege by the Continental Army, decided to withdraw ("evacuate") to Nova Scotia. This signal victory of the Revolutionary War was celebrated in 1902 with the completion of the Dorchester Heights Monument on the hill where the Continentals positioned the cannons that convinced the British to withdraw.

Irish influence having been powerful in Boston during the first half of the 20th century, the proclamation of March 17th as a local patriotic holiday allowed the celebration of St Patrick as well.

Some local government offices are closed on Evacuation Day, but most businesses, museums, etc. are open. A St Patrick's Day parade is held in South Boston, historic home of Boston's Irish-American community.

Mud Time & Maple Sugar

Late March and early April are "mud time" in much of New England, when warming days and chill nights produce partial thaw in the fields and on the hiking trails.

Farmers take advantage of the warming weather and rising sap for "sugaring off," tapping their maple trees for sap and boiling it down to make maple syrup.

A sugar house in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts
A sugar house ready for sugaring off. Note the good supply of firewood.

Some country inns and sugar houses provide glimpses of the maple sugaring process. More...

April

Patriots Day, Easter and universities' spring break are important as the weather warms and blossoms appear.

Redcoats at Lexington Green, Massachusetts
British redcoats ready for battle on Patriots Day in Lexington and Concord MA each April, as they did on April 19, 1775.

Ski season is winding down and spring has not really arrived, so many country inns close for all or part of April.

Diehard skiers head for the late-season thrills of Tuckerman Ravine in New Hampshire's White Mountains.

School Vacation & Spring Break

Easter falls in April in years in 2025, (Aptil 20th), 2026 (April 5th) and 2028 (April 16th), and New England's hundreds of colleges and universities empty out for Easter vacation (or spring break), complicating travel on the weekends before and after the vacation.

Good Friday, preceding Easter, is not an official holiday though some businesses close and many people travel. Most public schools also have a week's vacation following Easter, which may crowd airports.

Patriots Day

Lexington Minutemen, Lexington, Massachusetts
Lexington Minutemen line up on Lexington Green ready to do battle with Redcoats.

Patriots Day (April 19) is a state holiday in Massachusetts, and Maine, celebrated on the Monday nearest that date (usually the third Monday in April). The day commemorates the first battles of the Revolutionary War, fought on April 19, 1775 in Lexington and Concord.

Dates

2024: April 15th 2026: April 20th 2028: April 17th
2025: April 21st 2027: April 19th 2029: April 16th

All Massachusetts state government offices and many local businesses close, though federal government offices and offices of large interstate and international companies remain open. Most museums are open, with the exception of some state-funded museums.

Top Events

The headline events are the battle re-enactments in Lexington and Concord, and the Boston Marathon from Hopkinton MA to Boston. These are the events for which you must plan: transportation, parking, crowds.

Locations

Among the better-known commemorative events on Patriots Day is the Boston Marathon, which has been run now for over a century.

  Pancake Breakfast - Please Leave All Muskets Outside
  A useful rule...

The re-enactment of the battle on Lexington Green starts at dawn, but crowds of spectators begin to gather by 4 am. If you don't get there at least two hours early, you won't be able to find any good vantage point for the "battle."

Some people believe that to get the best views, you must stake out your spot three, four or even five hours before. (In other words, you spend the night there.)

About 5:30 am you will hear the redcoats marching along Battle Road as they approach Lexington Green.

Patriots Day events in nearby Concord are a bit nicer to your sleep-time. A 9:00 am parade with lots of fife-and-drum bands and groups of Minutemen from surrounding towns and as far away as Michigan is followed by a re-enactment of the battle at Old North Bridge, commemorative ceremonies, and the repeated firing of brass cannons by the Concord Independent Battery.

Brass cannon of Concord Independent Battery at Old North Bridge on Patriots Day, Concord, Massachusetts
Brass cannon goes boom at Old North Bridge on Patriots Day in Concord MA.

Several church halls open to provide pancake breakfasts to the multitude.

Patriots Day is also the name of a movie (2016) about the Boston Marathon of April 15, 2013, and the terrorist bombings at the finish line.

Boothbay Harbor, Maine

The Boothbay Harbor Fishermen's Festival, Boothbay Harbor ME, is on the second weekend in April, with seafood feasts, exhibits and games.

May

New England weather trends toward milder and more pleasant—but always unpredictable. A last snowfall is not unheard of, particularly in the mountains of northern New England; but Memorial Day, a national holiday, signals the official start of the summer tourism season. Many seasonal tourist services open for business, and are busy, at least on weekends, through June.

Blossom-covered tree, Woodstock VT
Strolling beneath a canopy of blossoms on a May afternoon, Woodstock VT.

May brings spring to most of New England, with flowers abounding and trees in blossom and early leaf.

Many seasonal tourist services (small museums, campgrounds, summer-schedule flights, etc.) begin operating in May, at least on the weekends.

Days and hours of operation for summer seasonal attractions may be limited, but prices may also be lower.

Memorial Day

Memorial Day, officially May 30th, is celebrated on the last Monday in May, and the long weekend signals the official start of the summer tourism season.

Civil War Re-enactors, Concord MA

"Decoration Day" began on May 30, 1868, when relatives, friends and comrades-in-arms of Civil War dead decorated the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery with flowers.

After World War I, the day became one to commemorate those who had served in the US military in any war.

Many towns organize parades or commemoration ceremonies on the last Monday in May, which was renamed Memorial Day.

The Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of the summer travel and vacation season. On this weekend, highways are busy, buses, trains and planes may run near capacity, and reservations for transportation and lodgings are strongly advised.

The weather is unpredictable. Although it's often very pleasant, it can be cold and raw, chilly but sunny, warm and sunny, or hot and humid. You won't know until it arrives.

The summer tourism season ends unofficially on Labor Day, the first Monday in September.

Rooms at country inns and resort hotels are in great demand on the Memorial Day weekend, and on weekends through Labor Day (in September), but demand may be lower during the week especially in June and early July as New England children are still in school.

Local Events

Mystic, Connecticut

Lobster feasts and live entertainment are featured at Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic CT in late May as part of Lobster Weekend. More...

Brimfield, Massachusetts

The famous Brimfield Antique Flea Market, in Brimfield MA, near Old Sturbridge Village, features up to 2000 dealers filling several fields near this central-Massachusetts town in mid-May, with similar fairs in early or mid-July and mid-September. More...

June

Days are long, school is still in session, there are no national holidays, so New England's attractions are uncrowded until late June when school lets out. Weather is mild, but changeable. Lobsters are in season now through the autumn and cheaper than in the cold months. Good month to visit!

Walkers on the rocky coast
Girls enjoying the Connecticut shoreline near Guilford. Bright, warm sun, but sweaters, too.

In June there are no national holidays, and New England's weather is at its most unpredictable.

On an early June weekend I have sat sweating on a porch in the open air, iced drink in hand, only to huddle in front of a fireplace the following weekend.

You never know!

Though the weather is changeable, it is usually fine for travel if you're adaptable. Lobsters are in season and cheaper than in the cold months.

Early June is not very busy in New England's vacation areas because most children are still in school.

But when school ends in mid-June, many families head out for their summer vacations at the beach in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, or in the mountains of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

Accommodations, campgrounds, and other services are fairly well occupied on weekends in early June, but are busy most days of the week by late June.

Local Events

Connecticut

Harvard-Yale Regatta, America's oldest collegiate athletic event (1852), is held on the Thames River in New London CT in early June.

New Haven Jazz Festival, on the green in New Haven CT, begins in late June and stretches into July. More...

Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Provincetown Portuguese Festival, Provincetown MA, on Cape Cod, with festivities, seafood feasts, dancing and exhibits; near the end of June. More...

Block Island, Rhode Island

Block Island Race Week, Block Island RI, late June, with boat races and parties. More...

July

Independence Day (July 4th) sees the tourist season in full swing. Prices climb to their highest and reservations are necessary for many services.

Flagbearers, Concord MA
July is for enjoying New England Outdoors!

In July, the weather is warm to hot in most of New England, and it may be humid.

Lots of sunny days alternate with some days of rain. It can be foggy along the Maine coast sometimes, however. Lobsters are in season and July is an excellent month for a traditional New England clambake.

Tourists High Season

Early July sees the tourist season in full swing. The seven weeks from July 4th through Labor Day are the busiest time of the year. The beach resorts and islands are often filled to capacity. Reservations for lodgings, flights, ferryboats, etc. are essential.

The Fourth of July

The Independence Day holiday (July 4th), always celebrted on the day itself, is very busy. If it falls on a Friday or a Monday, travel is even busier, as New Englanders have a long weekend for a vacation.

America's War of Independence began at L>exington and Concord in 1775, so New Englanders know something about patriotism.

Color Guard, Concord MA
Parading the colors in Concord MA.

Independence Day, the Fourth of July, is celebrated on the day itself (not the nearest weekend), with parades, fireworks displays, speeches, picnics (especially at the beach), and cookouts everywhere.

The weather is usually hot, the beer cold, and the food plentiful. Lobster is plentiful, at the lowest prices of the year.

Almost every city and town organizes a patriotic parade, various civic groups sponsor picnics and fairs, and everyone celebrates independence and summertime.

Boston puts on a particularly spectacular display, with an elaborate fireworks show over the Charles River coordinated with a Boston Symphony Orchestra concert at the Hatch Memorial Shell on the Esplanade.

The traditional finale is the playing of Tchaikowsky's pyrotechnical 1812 Overture, complete with the firing of real brass cannons, all computer-coordinated with the fireworks display.

Local Events

Boston, Massachusetts

Harborfest, a week of concerts, exhibits and special events culminates in the famous Boston Pops Fourth of July concert at the Hatch Memorial Shell on the Esplanade in Boston: after Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture (with real cannons), a mammoth fireworks display is ignited over the Charles River.

The Berkshires

Tanglewood Music Festival, the summer season of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, brings symphony and chamber concerts and solo recitals to the Berkshire Hills near Lenox MA in July and August.

Getting ready for a Boston Symphony concert at Tanglewood, Lenox MA.
A picnic before the Boston Symphony concert at Tanglewood, Lenox MA.

Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, Lee MA, July and August, the region's premier summer dance festival.

Connecticut

Historic Homes Tour, Litchfield CT, one day in mid-July is your only opportunity to tour this beautiful town's historic houses. More...

Rhode Island

Newport Music Festival Chamber music concerts are held in the great mansions in Newport RI.

Maine

Bar Harbor Music Festival, Bar Harbor ME, features both classical and popular concerts. More...

Boothbay Harbor Windjammer Days, Boothbay Harbor ME, second week, with boat races and cruises. More...

Vermont

Marlboro Music Festival, Marlboro VT, among New England's oldest and most renowned musical events, continues through August.

August

The height of the tourism season continues through August to Labor Day. Temperatures vary from pleasant to very hot and humid—except on Mount Washington and the Maine coast, which have their own weather.

Wingaersheek Beach, Gloucester MA
Ahhh, a New England beach! Just the place to be on a hot August day.

August in New England can be hot and humid. The "dog days" (hottest and most humid days) make everyone dream constantly of New England's beaches, chilly New England sea water, and air-conditioning.

There may be only one or two dog days, there may be more, or the weather may be delightfully temperate: warm to hot in the sun, pleasantly warm in the shade.

If it's hot, escape to the cool shade of Vermont's Green Mountains, New Hampshire's White Mountains, or the cooler, sometimes foggy coast of Maine. Go on a Maine windjammer cruise, with a lobster clambake on a deserted island. More...

Tourist High Season

All tourist services are filled to capacity, and advance reservations are advised for most everything, and essential for many things such as inn and resort hotel rooms, car ferries, and tables at the most popular vacation restaurants. Lobsters are in season and cheaper than in the cold months.

Travel smart and enjoy smaller crowds and lower hotel prices: visit cities on weekends, and the countryside on weekdays.

September

Labor Day , the first Monday after the first Sunday in September, is the end of the summer vacation season, though most attractions, including beaches, are open through September, and some into October. Children are back in school, so attractions are less crowded on weekdays. Good month to visit! Foliage season begins at the end of September and gets better and better into October.

Picking--and Juggling--Apples, Bolton MA
September is for apple-picking—and juggling!

Labor Day Weekend

The 3-day Labor Day holiday weekend at the beginning of September is the unofficial end of the busy summer tourist season.

America's September salute to workers began in 1882, and thus predates the celebration of May Day (May 1). Labor groups demanded an 8-hour workday in 1884, to begin on May 1, 1886. The general strike and disastrous Haymarket riots that started on that date in Chicago, the Bread and Roses Strike in Lawrence MA in 1912, and the May Day labor riots of 1919, may be why the USA celebrates labor and workers' contributions in September rather than on the day that the rest of the world—and particularly the socialist and communist parties—now celebrate.

Although there are commemoration ceremonies, Labor Day is overwhelmingly a three-day-weekend national holiday. In New England, many people head to the beaches for a last swim before the weather turns cold, or to the mountains for a hike.

Highways and transportation are busy on Friday afternoon, Saturday morning, and Monday afternoon.

Labor Day weekend is busy, but the two weeks following are a good time to travel since children are back in school, few families travel, services are uncrowded, and some price reductions are offered.

The weather is usually excellent: moderate temperatures, little of the heat of August or of the chill of October. Lobsters are still abundant and reasonably priced, though most will be hard-shelled now. More...

Weekends in September tend to be almost as busy as in August, but on mid-week days (Sunday through Thursday nights), those beach resorts and mountain villages that were so crowded just a few weeks before in August are now pleasantly low-key.

Fall Foliage Season

New England's fall foliage season begins in mid-September in northern New England (Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine) and spreads southward.

By late September good foliage color begins to appear in the southern New England states (Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island).

The countryside and seacoasts can be crowded on weekends as city-dwellers enjoy the fine fall weather and go hiking, biking and apple-picking. More...

Visit the cities on weekends, and the countryside during the week, if you can—smaller crowds, lower prices.

On October weekends, travel services are in high demand.

Reserve your hotel, motel, inn and B&B rooms well in advance! More...

Use this Hotel Map with Prices to locate the lodging you want, at a price you'd like in your favored location anywhere in New England:

Hotel Map with Prices

 

October

New England's glory: fall foliage season at its best, culminating on Columbus Day. Every inn, motel and B&B room in the countryside is reserved well in advance. The last day of the month is Hallowe'en.

Pumpkin field, New England
Time to find the perfect pumpkin for a Hallowe'en jack-o'-lantern.

In October, New England is a world-class tourist attraction because of the brilliant, varied colors of its autumn foliage.

The weather is usually wonderful: cool to warmish days, cool to chill evenings with lots of bright sun (if we're lucky). You can still have a fine lobster dinner at a reasonable price. More...

In northern New England (Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine) there will be some frosty nights, and perhaps a bit of snow.

Fall Foliage Season

Bright yellow beeches, flame-red and yellow maples, russet oaks and many other trees turn the countryside into a vast brilliantly-colored painter's canvas.

The blazing crescendo in foliage season is traditionally thought to be the weekend of Columbus Day, a holiday in most US states. Beautiful foliage color lasts well into November.

Autumn maple color over the Old Burying Ground in Concord MA
Autumn maple color over the Old Burying Ground (1600s) in Concord MA

First celebrated in New York City on October 12, 1792, Columbus Day commemorates Captain Christopher Columbus's landfall in the New World at the Bahamas in 1492. In recent years, New Englanders have also commemorated the indigeonous people who lived on this continent before the advent of Europeans and Africans.

Columbus/Indigenous Peoples' Day

In New England, Columbus Day/Indigenous Peoples' Day, is a national holiday celebrated on the second Monday in October, makes a long weekend that is traditionally considered the height of New England's fall foliage season.

New Englanders pour out of the cities, visitors come from around the world, and special excursion trains and buses packed with "leaf peepers" cruise through the countryside to enjoy the brilliant reds, oranges, yellows and browns of the region's forests of maple, beech, birch and other deciduous trees.

Along with August and Labor Day, foliage season and Columbus Day are the busiest tourism times in New England.

Make Reservations!

If you plan to travel here from early to late October—and especially on Columbus Day weekendmake your lodging and transportation reservations as early as possible!

If you have no reservations, you may still be able to find a place to stay, but it may not be of the type, or in the location, that you prefer.

Peak Color

Columbus Day is not the end of foliage season—and may not even be at the "peak color" of the season. Don't think that you must be in New England on Columbus Day weekend to enjoy good foliage color.

Peak color usually begins first in the relatively colder climate of mountainous northern New England and slowly spreads southward, coming much later to the warm shores of Long Island Sound.

It may begin in the north in mid- or late September, and the wave of color finally fade from the southern New England shores of Connecticut and Rhode Island by mid-November.

In Boston, hotels are often filled by conventioneers since October is also a popular month for meetings and conferences.

In the countryside, every hotel, motel, country inn and guest house room is reserved well in advance.

Check room rates and availability here...

Some inns and seasonal services close for the winter after the Columbus Day weekend, and late October is fairly quiet in the countryside, though busy in the cities.

If you plan to tour at this time, however, there will be plenty of services for you, you'll enjoy lower prices, no crowds, and pockets of late-maturing fall color in many places, especially in the southern New England states.

Hallowe'en

The last evening of the month, October 31st, is celebrated as Hallowe'en,America's version of All Saints' Day.

Halloween Jack-o-Lantern, Concord MA
A jack-o-lantern carved from a ripe autumn pumpkin, symbol of Hallowe'en.

Hallowe'en started out spooky and malevolent, but has been transformed by jaunty American commercialism into a fun kids' festival of sweet consumption. Children dress in costumes ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous, teenagers pull pranks....especially in Salem, Massachusetts. 

A Bit of History

All Saints Day (November 1) is a principal feast of the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches, probably following the medieval custom of commemorating "saints known and unknown" on this day, sometimes known as Allhallows or Hallowmass.

In countries with Celtic influence the vigil on the night before All Saints, the evening of October 31st, incorporated old customs of the Celtic and British Isles, including lighting bonfires, fortune-telling, masquerading and mummery (masked performers in a folk play or mime).

These customs probably had more to do with the onset of winter (the "dead season"), traditionally commemorated on November 1st in pagan societies, than with the celebration of Christian saints.

Trick-or-Treating

In America today the saints have no part to play on October 31st. Hallowe'en is a masquerade festival when children dress in costume and go door to door ("trick-or-treating") asking for sweet treats.

Traditional costumes echo the theme of death and monstrosity: witches, ghosts, goblins, monsters, but in fact any fantasy costume is acceptable, from fairies and spacemen to fruits, vegetables, playing cards and roadkill.

"Trick or Treat," the door-to-door custom, used to be a jocular, minor shake-down routine: "give me a treat or I'll play a trick on you."

Although vandalism and pranks (occasionally vicious) are still in evidence, the "trick" part of the holiday has little part anymore, at least among the throngs of small children who fill the streets on Hallowe'en evening, going from house to decorated house asking for treats.

The symbol of welcome for trick-or-treaters is having the house's porch light on, and/or a lighted jack-o-lantern and perhaps other Hallowe'en-theme decorations: ghosts, witches, black cats and harvest symbols.

Adults may attend Hallowe'en-themed parties, often in costume.

Hallowe'en in Salem MA

Unfortunately, the noble city of Salem MA is inundated with Hallowe'en revellers every year because of a mistaken belief in its link to witchcraft. More...

The unfortunate martyred souls persecuted by superstitious colonial officials and religious bigots in Salem during the Salem witch trials of 1692 must turn in their graves at the sight of thoughtless romantics dizzy with ditzy visions who turn Salem into an absurd carnival of bizarre pseudo-mystical claptrap every October 31st—but it's good for business.

Local Events

The Maine Cheese Guild holds its Open Creamery Day in October, the day on which you can visit its member artisanal cheesemakers and see how their tasty cheeses are made.

November

Many inns and seasonal attractions close after Columbus Day (mid-October), so November is a slow month for travel. The foliage crowds have departed and the ski crowds have not yet arrived. With luck, we may get Indian summer. Then, Thanksgiving, a national holiday, is the busiest travel time of the entire year.

Mount Washington, White Mountains, New Hampshire
Plimoth Patuxet Museums: the re-created village of the Pilgrims (1600s) at the indigenous settlement of Patuxet.

Fall foliage season usually extends well into November, particularly in the southern New England states, and even late in the month you'll come across protected valleys still aflame with color.

Veterans' Day

Grave of Louisa May Alcott in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord MA
The grave of Louisa May Alcott in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord MA. The American flag and medal commemorate her nursing services to Union soldiers during the Civil War (1861-1865).

Veterans Day, November 11th, is a US national holiday commemorating those who have served in the US military forces.

The holiday extends to three days the early- or mid-month weekend nearest November 11th. Businesses and government offices are closed for the day, as are some shops and stores.

All cities and towns remember the day with patriotic decorations, flags, parades and speeches. Often there are ceremonies and prayers in cemeteries where war veterans are buried.

Veterans Day is especially important in New England, as this region of the country has sent its young men and women off to war for longer than any other part of the USA.

The graves of Revolutionary War Minutemen in Lexington and Concord MA are especially commemorated, as these were the first to risk their lives in their country's service.

Veterans Day celebrates the service not just of soldiers, but also of those who brought mercy and comfort to the afflicted of war, such as Concord's Louisa May Alcott.

Ms Alcott served as a nurses' aid in a hospital near Washington during the Civil War. She suffered from illness contracted during her service, never fully regained robust health, and her illness may have contributed to her early death.

With luck, New England's fall foliage season lingers until mid-November, at least in a few places, and New Englanders feel especially lucky if Indian summer brings warm days and not-too-cold nights.

By mid-month the snow has usually arrived in the mountains of the northern New England states, ski resorts begin to open a few lifts and trails, and there may be some flurries or fast-melting snow in the south, especially later in the month around Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving

The fourth Thursday in November celebrates the arrival of English Calvinist Pilgrims in Plymouth MA, and their establishment, with Wampanoag (Native American) aid, of a successful colony.

Pilgrim Commemoration

Thanksgiving commemorates the first successful year (1621) of the Pilgrim colony at Plymouth MA.

After the first terrible winter, when half of the Pilgrims died, came a summer of abundant crops and successfully hunted game. After the harvest was gathered, the Pilgrims reportedly held a feast of thanksgiving and invited their Wampanoag neighbors who had aided their survival.

President George Washington designated November 26, 1789 as a day of thanksgiving for the new US Constitution, but it was President Abraham Lincoln who, in the midst of the Civil War, declared Thanksgiving to be an annual federal holiday.

Every November, the original Thanksgiving celebration is re-enacted at Plimoth Patuxet Museums in Plymouth MA.

A Family Holiday

Everyone wants to be with family at Thanksgiving. If this is not possible, they want to be with friends.

  Cranberry Wine, Plymouth MA
  Plymouth wine

Traditional foods served at the Thursday dinner include roast stuffed turkey with cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes (yams), sweet corn, green beans, lima beans, salads, and of course sweet pumpkin pie for dessert.

Strangers and foreigners are invited to join in the feast and join a group of friends or family. No one wants to be alone, or for others to be alone, on the day of national thanksgiving.

If you're visiting New England at Thanksgiving, strike up an acquaintance and you'll probably be invited to join the feast.

Travel Nightmare

This means that the week of Thanksgiving is also the busiest travel time of the entire year in the USA as everyone heads home to be with family: 40 million travelers, 31 million on the highways, 29,000 flights. Flights are fully booked months in advance, highways are clogged, trains and buses are packed to capacity. Transport is slow everywhere.

Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, is usually the busiest day, next is the Sunday following Thanksgiving. Tuesday and Saturday of that week also see heavy travel.

The Weather

With a bit of luck, New England's Indian summer may coincide with the Thanksgiving holiday. Fall foliage season and its colorful trees have passed, making a few days of warmth even more welcome.

The Mini-Low-Season

By the way, the weeks in November before Thanksgiving, and the weeks after Thanksgiving until mid-December (that is, before the ramp-up to the Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year's holidays), are excellent times to travel in New England. Transport is uncrowded and fares are lower, although summer businesses are closed off-season.

Some inns also close in November, reopening in December with the advent of ski season.

Get Ready for Skiing!

New England's ski resorts begin to make their own snow if nature has not provided the traditional cover, and some eager skiers take advantage of the Veterans Day holiday (November 11th) for a first schuss down the slopes. By the end of the month most of the large resorts are in action.

December

Early December travel is easy and inexpensive, but after December 15th, airfares rise, roads become more crowded, everything—especially shopping—is busier right up to Christmas and New Year's Day.

Lighting the holiday tree, Concord MA
Winter decorations in Concord MA.

Winter comes to northern New England (Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont) in November, but by December the entire region is in its thrall.

High temperatures may be about 30° to 40°F (-1.1° to 4.4°C), but are often lower. Low temperatures may be 10° to 20°F (-12° to -7°C).

Usually there is some snow, although in a snowless winter December is best for ice skating on New England's thousands of glacial lakes and ponds. Once snow arrives in quantity after the ponds freeze, degrading the ice surface, the skating season may be over for the winter (barring a January thaw and re-freeze.)

New England ski resorts are open in December, and though they may be fairly busy on weekends, innkeepers offer special low prices on weekdays to lure vacationers.

The Holidays

Christmas at The Breakers, Newport RI
The Great Hall at The Breakers in Newport RI, decorated for the holidays.

Until the national holidays of Christmas (December 25th) and New Year's Day (January 1), this is not a busy month for tourism. Travel is heavy on the day or two preceding the 25th and the day or two following, then there is a lull until New Year's, when travel intensifies again.

The holidays are a time of tradition, and as New England is a traditional place, Christmas fits right in. Government offices, banks, most businesses and many public facilities such as museums and libraries are open on Christmas Eve (December 24th), but closed on December 25th.

Colleges and universities tend to close for vacation from just before the 25th until after New Year's Day.

In Boston, a towering Nova Scotia white spruce is erected on Boston Common, a gift of the people of Halifax, perpetually thankful for the aid Boston gave to Halifax after the terrifying munitions explosion of December 6, 1917—the largest man-made explosion in history until that time—leveled most of the city.

In Newport RI, several of the city's sumptuous mansions are decorated for the holidays and opened to visitors for tours, concerts, mulled cider and cookies. The holidays are a great time to visit Newport.

Mystic Seaport in Mystic CT has a special program of holiday festivities.

Nantucket MA features carolers in Victorian garb, art exhibits, and tours of historic houses.

The Interim

The week between Christmas and New Year's Day is one long festival in New England.

On December 26th, the day after the Christmas holiday, the shops and stores re-open to mobs of bargain-hunters eager to get their hands on the heavily-discounted merchandise left over from the frenetic post-Thanksgiving shopping season.

Colleges, universities and schools are on vacation, so young people are everywhere, and especially in the cinemas.

In the holiday interim, many New Englanders go skiing and snowboarding, or take short vacations to New York City, which is very busy then.

First Night/New Year's Eve

As in most of the world, the last day of the year, December 31st, is a perfectly good excuse for a party—in this case, New Year's Eve and First Night.

Ice Sculpture, Boston MA
Ice sculpture on Boston Common, First Night, Boston MA.

First Night varies from place to place, but the common theme is good clean fun despite the cold. Arts are prominent, including music, sculpture (ice sculptures are a favorite), exhibitions, costumes, and even parades with decorations and floats. Some cities in the region, especially Boston, organize special amusements and entertainments.

Enjoy the music, performances, shows, parades and processions, lights, noise and winter merriment to drive away the cold and the dark.

Boston's First Night features indoor and outdoor concerts, an ice sculpture show and competition on Boston Common, fireworks over the river, and a dozen other activities.

Burlington VT also has elaborate First Night activities and entertainments.

New Year's Day

New Year's Day is a national holiday. Virtually everything is closed for the holiday: offices, businesses, museums, attractions—all closed.