Out & About | Best New England Summer Events for 2019

From big-top thrills to signature seafood festivals, these New England events are worth the drive.

By Yankee Magazine

May 30 2019


Founded in 1987, Vermont’s Circus Smirkus gives young circus performers from around the world a chance to shine during its annual Big Top Tour.

Photo Credit : Robert Sanson
Founded in 1987, Vermont’s Circus Smirkus gives young circus performers from around the world a chance to shine during its annual Big Top Tour.
Photo Credit : Robert Sanson

Best New England Summer Events | 2019


Circus Smirkus | July 2–3

Fresh off their June 29 season opener at their Greensboro headquarters, these award-winning troupers ages 10 to 18 hit the road for a two-month, five-state tour. First up is St. Johnsbury, where the Green Mountain Mall hosts this impressive array of young aerialists, acrobats, clowns, and more. St. Johnsbury, VT.See the full tour schedule at


Yarmouth Clam Festival | July 19–21

Over 100,000 people are expected to show up for this homage to the humble clam—and they’ll be bringing their appetites, with more than 6,000 pounds of clams expected to be consumed. There’s more to the fun than just the food, though, thanks to live music, a shucking contest, a firefighters’ muster, a parade, street dancing, and fireworks. Yarmouth, ME.207-846-3984;


League of N.H. Craftsmen’s Fair | Aug. 3–11

Showcasing the talents of more than 300 juried artisans, this annual event at the Mount Sunapee Resort represents a wonderful chance to peruse and buy—but also to learn and make, thanks to all the live demonstrations and DIY workshops. Newbury, NH.603-224-3375;


Provincetown Carnival Week | Aug. 15–24

Hands down, there’s no livelier place on Cape Cod in August than Provincetown, where parties, art fairs, a costume ball, and other celebrations of LGBTQ life all lead up to the vibrant spectacle of the Carnival Parade. Provincetown, MA.


Washington County Fair | Aug. 14–18

The biggest fair in Rhode Island returns to delight all ages. Top-name musical headliners and New England’s largest traveling roller coaster are just the beginning: Factor in animal shows, grange and 4-H exhibits, crafts, games, and tractor and horse pulls, and you’ve got a celebration well worth the drive. Richmond, RI.401-539-7042;


Dragon Boat & Asian Festival | Aug. 17

The Connecticut River comes alive with the flashing paddles and pounding drums of dragon boats, a Chinese tradition that’s made itself at home in Hartford’s Riverside Park since 2000. Aside from watching 80-plus teams of rowers duel it out on the 500-meter course, attendees can partake in the accompanying celebration of Asian dancing, music, and food. Hartford,

Additional New England Summer Events for 2019


THROUGH AUG. 17: NORFOLK, Norfolk Chamber Music Festival. Believed to be the nation’s oldest active summer music festival, this annual Yale University School of Music event offers 30-plus performances and events.

JULY 12–14: NEW LONDON, Sailfest. More than 300,000 visitors are expected on the New London waterfront this weekend for entertainment on two stages, roughly 200 food and craft vendors, amusement rides, and a fireworks show. 860-444-1879;

JULY 19–21: GUILFORD, Craft Expo. Historic Guilford Green is the backdrop for one-of-a-kind ceramics, fiber, glass, leather, metal, painting, and more—with everything on display and offered for sale being proudly hand-made.

JULY 19–21: HARTFORD, Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz. Since it was started by bassist Paul Brown in 1991, this free festival in Bushnell Park has played host to many of the biggest names in jazz (Dave Brubeck, Herbie Mann), along with rising stars from the New England scene.

JULY 20–21: WESTPORT, Fine Arts Festival. Along the picturesque Saugatuck River you’ll find works from 175 national and international fine artists, including paintings, ceramics, photography, sculpture, and jewelry. 203-293-0099;

JULY 26–28: WASHINGTON,Litchfield Jazz Festival. This jazz fest got under way in 1996 with a lineup that any well-established festival would envy (e.g., Diana Krall, Christian McBride, and Terence Blanchard). The event continues to spotlight up-and-coming talent.

AUG. 8–11: GOSHEN,Podunk Bluegrass Music Festival. Head to the Goshen Fairgrounds to groove to some of the finest bluegrass anywhere. Other highlights include free workshops and storytelling and jam sessions.

AUG. 10–11: MYSTIC, Mystic Outdoor Art Festival. All told, there’s more than two miles’ worth of arts and crafts booths to peruse, a children’s “art park,” plus food and drink for sale by local charitable organizations. 860-572-9578;

AUG. 17: MILFORD, Milford Oyster Festival. An impressive music lineup featuring nationally known headliners, an artisans fair, kids’ rides and games, and a shucking contest round out the fun, but the true stars of this show are the oysters. Sample them all!

AUG. 22–25: BROOKLYN,Brooklyn Fair. The food, the animals, the midway, the entertainment, the arts and crafts, the contests—there is something for everyone at the area’s oldest agricultural festival. 860-779-0012;


JULY 5: PENOBSCOT BAY,Great Schooner Race.North America’s largest annual gathering of tall ships will see at least 20 schooners—including members of the Maine Windjammer Association—face off in a race fromIslesboro to Rockland, followed by a festive awards ceremony.

JULY 6: BAR HARBOR,Native American Festival and Basketmakers Market. The Abbe Museum hosts this showcase of handcrafted Wabanaki ash and sweet grass baskets, wood and stone carvings, jewelry, beadwork, and more. 207-288-3519;

JULY 12–14: LISBON FALLS,Moxie Festival. From soda chugging contests to a fireworks show, this celebration of Maine’s official soft drink is chock-full of fun.

JULY 12–21: WATERVILLE,Maine International Film Festival. One hundred films will be screened at various Waterville venues, spotlighting some of New England’s most innovative filmmakers, many of whom will be on hand for the fun. 207-861-8138;

JULY 26–27: RANGELEY, Logging Festival and Parade. Enjoy an authentic Maine bean hole dinner, music, parade, and logging exhibits, demonstrations, and competitions at the Maine Forestry Museum fairgrounds. 207-864-3939;

JULY 31–AUG. 4: ROCKLAND,Maine Lobster Festival. Come ready to do your part as Harbor Park plays host to five days of feasting and fun, during which more than 20,000 pounds of lobster will be consumed. In between feasts, view a sea goddess coronation, a parade, and live entertainment, arts and crafts, and cooking contests. 207-596-7126;

AUG. 2–4: UNION,Maine Antiques Festival. Vintage treasures abound at Maine’s largest antiques festival, featuring dealers from more than two dozen states. 207-221-3108;

AUG. 9–11: ROCKLAND, Maine Boat & Home Show. The largest in-water boat show north of Newport lures nautical types with more than 60 boats in the water and 100-plus exhibitors. 207-594-8622;

AUG. 15–18: MADAWASKA,Acadian Festival. Explore Maine’s deep French-American heritage with a reenactment of the first Acadian landing, a traditional Acadian supper, a poutine eating contest, cultural displays, and a parade. 207-316-8333;

AUG. 16–18: MACHIAS,Wild Blueberry Festival. Head to the scenic Down East village of Machias for blueberry farm tours, cooking and pie eating contests, and art and crafts for sale from more than 250 artisans. 207-255-6665;

AUG. 23–25: BANGOR,American Folk Festival. Your biggest challenge will be figuring out where to turn your attention as four stages fill with world music and dance performances. 207-262-7765;


JULY 5–7: MASHPEE,Mashpee Wampanoag Powwow. Held at the traditional powwow grounds in Mashpee, this annual get-together dating back to 1921 celebrates Native American culture through dancing, drumming, food, and competitions.

JULY 12–14: GREENFIELD,Green River Festival. Greenfield Community College plays host to a sprawling array of world-class live music. 413-341-5995;

JULY 13–14: MARBLEHEAD,Glover’s Summer Encampment. At Fort Sewall you can take a peek inside a Revolutionary War camp and watch a regiment of reenactors drill, march, and fight.

JULY 20: NORTHAMPTON,Glasgow Lands Scottish Festival. The state’s only Scottish festival is held in Look Park and offers the chance to experience Highland athletic contests, pipe and drum competitions, Scottish food, dancing, and more.

JULY 22–28: BARNSTABLE,Barnstable County Fair. A Cape tradition since 1844, this classic fair offers a petting zoo, 4-H demonstrations, live music, arts and crafts, rides, and more.

JULY 26–28: LOWELL, Folk Festival. Come out and enjoy authentic world cuisine, crafts, and music at Dutton Street Dance Pavilion and Boarding House Park. 978-970-5000;

JULY 27–AUG. 3: WOODS HOLE, Woods Hole Film Festival. With screenings, workshops, panels, readings, and parties, this nonprofit showcase of independent films is a must for cinephiles. 508-495-3456;

AUG. 1–4: NEW BEDFORD,Feast of the Blessed Sacrament. The single largest ethnic festival in all of New England offers Portuguese food and performances, a 5K road race, a midway, and a parade.

AUG. 3–4: STURBRIDGE,Redcoats and Rebels. See Old Sturbridge Village transformed into a military camp from the time of the War for Independence, and learn what it was really like for those who fought to win America’s freedoms. 508-347-3362;

AUG. 16–25: MARSHFIELD,Marshfield Fair. Held at the town fairgrounds, this agricultural fair has been a community tradition for over a century, with midway rides and games, livestock contests, an old car show, and more. 781-834-6629;

AUG. 24–25: SALEM,Antique and Classic Boat Festival. You don’t get to see vintage motor yachts and sailboats like these every day, so set aside plenty of time for strolling. 978-831-7905;

AUG. 31–SEP. 1: PLYMOUTH, “Let History Ring” Weekend. Part of the homecoming schedule for the newly restored Mayflower II, this Plimoth Plantation event features the casting of a new ship’s bell, plus food, music, and kids’ activities. Slated for Saturday is a “Night of Fire & Wine” soiree at the museum’s Peabody Pavilion overlooking the Eel River. 508-746-1622;


JULY 13: EXETER,American Independence Festival. View a rare original printing of the Declaration of Independence, listen to a dramatic reading at the American Independence Museum, then step to the beat of fife and drum while enjoying an arts and crafts sale, kids’ activities, tasty food, and more. 603-772-2622;

JULY 18–21: STRATHAM,Stratham Fair. Stratham Hill Park provides the backdrop for live entertainment, 4-H exhibits, rides and games, arts and crafts, and the crowning of Miss Stratham Fair. 603-772-4977;

JULY 27: CANTERBURY, Canterbury Fair. Old-fashioned family fun featuring games on the green, farm animals, an antiques mart, a dunking booth, road races, and more.

AUG. 8–10: MANCHESTER, New Hampshire Antiques Show. Explore the finds of more than 60 dealers—furniture, paintings, textiles, ceramics, etc.—at the DoubleTree by Hilton. 603-876-4080;

AUG. 11: PETERBOROUGH, MacDowell Colony Medal Day. The nation’s oldest artists’ colony opens its grounds to the public. Tour studios and meet artists in residence, picnic on the grounds, and celebrate the contributions of visual artist Charles Gaines, recipient of the 2019 Edward MacDowell Medal. 603-924-3886;

AUG. 16–18: THORNTON, White Mountain Boogie n’ Blues Festival. The state’s largest outdoor blues festival takes place in a natural amphitheater amid a 72-acre pasture. Along with the award-winning blues artists, there’s a climbing wall, fireworks, food, and crafts. 603-726-3867;

AUG. 17–18: HILLSBOROUGH, History Alive. In Hillsborough Center you can interact with period artisans or watch the cavalry charge and hear the cannons roar. Learn to make butter and ice cream, pan for gold, press cider, and more. 603-464-0377;

AUG. 18: HENNIKER, Fire on the Mountain Chili Fest. Chefs and amateur chili makers strut their stuff at Pats Peak Ski Area. Between chili samples, check out the classic-car show, live entertainment, and kids’ activities.

AUG. 23–24: COLEBROOK, North Country Moose Festival. Pay homage to the giants of the northern forest with a moose calling contest, maple syrup tastings, moose chili, a barn dance, and horse-drawn wagon rides. 603-237-8939;

AUG. 24–25: MEREDITH,Lakes Region Fine Arts and Crafts Festival. This juried outdoor festival is filled with works by more than 80 artists and craftspeople, displayed among the Meredith Village Shops and the Mill Falls Marketplace. 603-279-6121;


JULY 4: BRISTOL, Fourth of July Parade. The country’s oldest Independence Day celebration (established in 1785!) draws a crowd in the historic downtown, so arrive early for a key spot along the route.

JULY 13–14: WICKFORD, Wickford Art Festival. The tree-lined downtown streets are filled with 200 fine artisans exhibiting their work. 401-294-6840;

JULY 25–27: NARRAGANSETT,Blessing of the Fleet Weekend. Highlights include a 10-mile road race that winds through town, and the procession of boats into the Port of Galilee to be blessed by clergy and vie for prizes.

JULY 26–28: FOSTER,Old Home Days. Enjoy a dose of classic small-town fun: pony pulls, a skillet toss, a pie eating contest, live music, 4-H demonstrations, and more. 401-397-5687;

JULY 27–28: MIDDLETOWN,The Newport Show. More than 40 antiques dealers converge on St. George’s School, with plenty of paintings, furniture, folk art, and jewelry to be appreciated and purchased. 401-846-2669;

JULY 31–AUG. 18: WESTERLY,Shakespeare in the Park. The Bard’s comedic A Midsummer Night’s Dream provides a free evening of laughs in lovely Wilcox Park. 401-596-7909;

AUG. 2–4: CHARLESTOWN, Seafood Festival. This gastronomic extravaganza at Ninigret Park highlights the state’s best seafood plus a bevy of other foods, amusement rides, a car show, petting zoo, raffles, and music. 401-364-4031;

AUG. 3: WESTERLY/PAWCATUCK,River Glow. Take part in hayrides through downtown and enjoy live music as more than three dozen floating bonfires illuminate the Pawcatuck. 401-596-7761;

AUG. 6–11: PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island International Film Festival. The RIFF hostsgala celebrations, premieres, and educational programs in addition to a lineup of the year’s most innovative and creative films. 401-861-4445;

AUG. 9–11: BRISTOL, Black Ships Festival. Celebrating the 1854 treaty that made Japan and the U.S. trading partners, this festival embraces Japanese art and culture, from music to origami and martial arts. 401-846-2720;

AUG. 10: JAMESTOWN,Fools’ Rules Regatta. Participants have two hours to convert a pile of “non-marine items” into a sailing vessel capable of transporting them across the finish line.

AUG. 16–18: PAWTUCKET, Grecian Festival. More than 90 years strong, this cultural celebration at the Assumption of the Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church features Greek pastries and cuisine as well as dancers performing traditional and modern Greek dances, an indoor-outdoor marketplace, a café, and activities for children. 401-725-3127


JULY 5–7: STOWE,Hot Air Balloon Festival. More than 25 hot air balloons take flight over Stoweflake, while on-the-ground diversions include food, drink, music, and activities. 802-253-7355;

JULY 11–14: BRANDON, Basin Bluegrass Festival. Bluegrass pickin’ and the rolling green hills of Vermont combine for a weekend of family fun.

JULY 13–AUG. 11: MARLBORO, Marlboro Music Festival. Founded in 1951 by legendary pianist Rudolf Serkin, this world-class chamber music festival showcases the talents of young musicians and master artists side by side. 215-569-4690;

JULY 26–28: WOODSTOCK, Bookstock. Bibliophiles, rejoice in three days of appearances by emerging and prize-winning writers plus poetry slams, art exhibits, live music, workshops, and an enormous used and vintage book sale. 802 989-4338;

JULY 26–AUG. 4: WILMINGTON, Deerfield Valley Blueberry Festival. A blueberry pancake breakfast and a pie eating contest are only the tip of the iceberg at this sprawling 10-day community party. 802-464-8092;

AUG. 1–4: SPRINGFIELD,Stellafane Convention. One of the oldest and largest assemblies of night-sky enthusiasts returns with astronomy talks, telescope-making demonstrations, swap tables, and lots of heavenward gazing.

AUG. 2–4: BURLINGTON,Festival of Fools. Starring street performers from around the globe, this weekend is filled with circus arts, music, and comedy, all centered on Church Street Marketplace and City Hall Park. 802-865-7166;

AUG. 8–11: WILMINGTON,Deerfield Valley Farmers’ Day Fair. Over a century old and still going strong, this country fair offers fun, food, and friendly competition, from a kids’ tractor rodeo to an exhibit hall filled with prize winners. 802-319-0117;

AUG. 11: SHELBURNE,Vermont Cheesemakers Festival. With more cheese makers per capita than any other state, Vermont knows from good fromage. Sample local cheeses and meet their makers at Shelburne Farms. 866-261-8595;

AUG. 13–17: RUTLAND, Vermont State Fair. Agricultural exhibits, livestock shows, amusement rides, concerts, comedy shows, pig races, and much, much more. 802-775-5200;

AUG. 23–SEP. 1: ESSEX JUNCTION,Champlain Valley Fair. The state’s biggest single event is packed with enough exhibits, vendors, rides, games, and entertainment to keep all its estimated 300,000 attendees happy. 802-878-5545;

AUG. 25: HARTFORD, Quechee Games. Don your kilt for some Celtic fun at the Quechee Polo Field, where good music, microbrewed beer, sheepdog trials, a pipe band competition, Highland games, and a dancing competition will transport you, temporarily, to Scotland.