Pick a peck of apples — and find bushels of fun — at Lookout Farm in Natick.Photo Credit : C. Holland/MOTT
By Courtney Hollands
Sponsored by the MetroWest Boston Visitors Bureau
Ah, autumn. Turning leaves, cooler temps, and flannel as far as the eye can see — it’s truly New England’s time to shine. And there’s no better place to experience the festivals, farms, and outdoor fun of pumpkin-spice season than MetroWest Boston. Just one example? Among the region’s 19 towns and cities, you’ll find a number of venerable, family-owned orchards representing Massachusetts’s apple-growing bounty: The Bay State devotes some 3,100 acres to this classic fall crop, the most among all New England states.
So, raise a glass of Jack’s Abby Copper Legend Oktoberfest lager — brewed right here in Framingham, naturally — and read on for your everything guide to autumn west of Boston.
There’s something to do every autumn weekend in MetroWest — literally. First up: Northborough goes all out for its four-day (!) Northborough Applefest (September 7–10). The weekend kicks off with a dessert bakeoff and Mr. Vinny the Bubble Guy blowing iridescent, oversized orbs at Ellsworth McAfee Park and continues with fireworks, a bike rodeo, a parade, a classic car show, arts and crafts, and more. Don’t fill up on all those delicious apple treats, however, because that same weekend features the Marlborough Food Truck & Arts Festival (September 10), where the suburb’s diversity is reflected in the food truck options (samosas, chicken tinga tacos, or poutine, anyone?) and art and culture alike. What’s more, the downtown fete offers live music, touch-a-truck, and a beer garden.
Jack’s Abby in Framingham is hosting its Oktoberfest again this year (September 22–October 1). The brewery is expanding its raucous fest to two weekends, so just think of all the extra brats and pretzels with beer cheese you can eat. And don’t miss the keg-tossing in the beer garden and the U.S. Steinholding Association State Championship. Prost!
Meanwhile, art on the menu at the 13th annual Arts in Common (September 30), put on by the Westborough Cultural Council. Billed as a “festival of all things creative,” it features food vendors and artisans of all stripes, from woodworkers and ceramicists to jewelers and painters.
In a category all its own is the Colonial Faire and Fife & Drum Muster (September 30) on the grounds of Longfellow’s Wayside Inn in Sudbury. Organizers expect 25 fife and drum corps from across New England and New York to march in the parade and perform for history-minded spectators; can’t-miss attractions include a Colonial encampment, militia and craft demos, and contra dancing.
You can truly make a day of it at Northborough’s Tougas Family Farm. Start with a wagon ride out to the orchard where 30-plus varieties of apples are available for picking throughout the season — including en vogue EverCrisps, a cross between Honeycrisp and Fuji — then hit the farm stand to enjoy the fruit in all its forms: dumplings, doughnuts, crisp, even cider slush. Once you’re sated, it’s time to pet the goats, try the playground, and choose a pumpkin from the patch.
Also buzzing with activities is the circa-1715 Hanson’s Farm in Framingham, where a still-warm cider doughnut is a fitting reward for finishing the 4.5-acre corn maze dubbed “Tom and Matt’s Excellent Adventure.” Other highlights include an Instagram-perfect sunflower field, pick-your-own pumpkins, barnyard animals (chickens, horses, and sheep, oh my!), and Haunted Hayrides on Friday and Saturday nights in October.
Lookout Farm in Natick, too, has historical cachet: Established in 1651, it’s one of the oldest continuously operating farms in the United States. It boasts apples and pears for picking; a farm stand brimming with local honey, jams, and produce; a play area, and, new this year, a corn maze. But the real draw might just be the beers and hard ciders brewed on-site (there’s a Pumpkin Patch pumpkin hard cider for diehard autumn-philes) paired with homemade BBQ and live music.
If farm-to-table is more your thing, head to Heritage of Sherborn, where you can tuck into Mexican street-corn pizza or bluefish pâté with toasted bread on the patio or sweeping lawn. In neighboring Natick, produce from Silverwood Farm in Sherborn stars in several of Buttercup’s contemporary American dishes. (We hear the roasted Crystal Valley chicken with parsnip puree, greens, and mashed potato is a must-try.)
And brunch-and-lunch spot The Farmer’s Daughter in Sudbury isn’t just a clever name: Owner Chandra Gouldrup’s father was indeed raised on a potato farm in northern Maine. Chandra’s seasonal ethos is seen in specials such as Apple Butter Pain Perdu, topped with cinnamon-honey butter, roasted apples, house-made granola, and local maple syrup. Note: The Farmer’s Daughter also has another location, in Easton.
Walking trails crisscross the wooded 1,500-acre Hopkinton State Park, many with views of the sparkling spring-fed Hopkinton Reservoir (all the better to reflect the glorious fall foliage); aprés-stroll, have lunch at one of the reservation’s 300 picnic spots. Within the boundaries of the Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park lies another worthy hiking destination: the 273-acre Hopedale Parklands, encompassing the popular kayaking site Hopedale Pond. Famed landscape architect — and student of Frederick Law Olmsted — Warren H. Manning designed this hidden jewel as well as the adjacent Town Park, which offers tennis and basketball courts and a playground.
If you prefer to leaf peep on two wheels, MetroWest is home to 53-plus miles of rail trails, including the almost-14-mile, multiuse Upper Charles Trail connecting Milford, Holliston, and Sherborn. Fuel up before you ride at a Holliston institution, Coffee Haven by Blue Moon Bagel Café, which is steps away from the trailhead parking lot.
For a less-expected way to immerse yourself in fall foliage, how about trying your hand at disc golf? Just as in traditional golf, the true pleasure here comes from walking the scenic courses. You can toss your discs at the target baskets and try to beat par at the wooded 18-hole course at Dacey Field in Franklin. And new on the disc golf scene is the hilly 12-acre course at Milford’s Louisa Lake. Designed by disc golf world champions, each of the nine holes has two basket locations — one at a shorter distance for beginners and one farther away for more skilled players.
MetroWest Boston is easily accessed from all over Massachusetts. Just 30 minutes from both Boston and Worcester, it makes a great home base for exploring other parts of the state. For your ultimate guide to this region — including dining, shopping, and lodging highlights — visit the MetroWest Boston Visitors Bureau.