Common Ground Fair

Unity, Maine

Dates: Friday–Sunday, September 22–24, 2017
Location: Unity is a rural village 24 miles northwest of the waterfront town of Belfast and 100 miles north of Portland. Make sure to read the “Getting to the Fair” page on the fair’s website to avoid getting caught in “rush hour” traffic. Follow the directions there and getting to the fair will be a breeze!
Admission: With an estimated 60,000 visitors will attend the fair, it is wise to purchase your ticket in advance ensure a faster entrance. The fair’s website lists locations in Belfast that sell advance tickets.

The Common Ground Fair is the quintessential end-of-the-summer celebration. Held on 200+ acres, the three-day event celebrates agricultural heritage and promotes preserving the rural way of life and all things organic, handmade and long lasting. Attendees can milk a goat, sharpen a scythe, listen to a lecture on beekeeping or learn how to repair a bike. The Fibers and Fleece Tent alone has demonstrations and lectures on spinning, raising alpacas for fiber, harvesting wool of Angora rabbits and combing, carding and flicking.

As befitting such a special fair, all of the food vendors must use only organic, local ingredients for their products. (They may use organic food from out of state if it can’t be found in Maine.) Here you’ll find organic Thai food next to squash sandwiches across the path from an organic potato chips.

However, the Common Ground Fair is sure to enchant if you cherish the scent of just-harvested herbs; the sight of pumpkins, haystacks and bittersweet wreaths; and the sounds of kids squealing with delight as they ride cardboard “sleds” down a gentle hillside.

P.S. Comfy shoes, a backpack and your own water bottle are de rigeur here — water is plentiful at ample drinking stations throughout the fair, but bottled water is not allowed on the grounds.

 

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Belfast Bay Inn

Belfast, Maine

Located in the heart of downtown Belfast, the Belfast Bay Inn features eight elegantly appointed AAA guest suites. The boutique hotel is located in a lovingly restored Greek Revival building that is just steps from the town’s bustling waterfront and dozens of unique locally owned shops, galleries and bookstores.

Each guest room and suite varies in décor and features, but all are sophisticated, luxurious and impeccably decorated. Many of the bedrooms showcase beautiful woodwork, crown moldings and polished wood floors. All have private bathrooms that feature granite countertops, double sinks and marble floors.

Guests enjoy a full homemade breakfast served in the hotel’s garden courtyard, weather permitting, or en suite. Guests have only to step out the front door to discover all that Belfast has to offer. Attractions include a 2+ mile “Rail Trail” that meanders along the city’s waterfront; dozens of locally owned art galleries and shops; an award-winning vegetarian restaurant (Chase’s Daily); several bookstores and, of course, the town harbor, just two blocks from the Belfast Bay Inn. Whether relaxing while overlooking the water, exploring town or being pampered in an elegant European-style boutique hotel … enjoy!

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Fryeburg Fair

Fryeburg, Maine

Dates: October 1–8, 2017 (Sunday–Sunday)
Location: On the Maine/New Hampshire border, 50 miles northwest of Portland, ME, 11 miles southeast of North Conway, NH.
Admission: $10 daily (includes that evening’s 8 pm concert). Children under 12 are always free. Tuesday is Senior Citizen’s Day (65 and over are admitted free). Gates open at 7 am. Harness Racing post time is 1:30 pm Tuesday through Sunday.

The Fryeburg Fair is considered one of the best agricultural fairs in the US, and with some 300,000 people descending on the small town for eight days each fall, it’s certainly among the largest. Fryeburg residents have been perfecting the art of welcoming people to their town every fall since 1851, so they have the logistics down to an art.

Fairgoers enjoy a dizzying array of livestock, agriculture and farming exhibitions with highlights like horse and ox pulling, draft horse contests, calf and pig scrambles, cooking contests, flower shows, firemen's musters, sheepdog trials, tractor pulling and harness racing.

No fair experience is complete without sampling the local foods, and Fryeburg is no exception. It’s known for its french fries made with just-harvested Maine potatoes, along with crab rolls, barbecue, blooming onions and turkey dinners. Still hungry? Try some locally made blueberry crisp, candy apples, doughnuts or ice cream.

This year, on Monday (October 3), the fair celebrates the 50th anniversary of Woodsmen’s Field Day, the largest such spectator event in North America. Contestants come from throughout the US and Canada to compete in over 34 woods skills events such as log rolling, axe throwing, standing block chop, tree felling, skidder driving and log loading.

An enormous fireworks show takes place Friday after that evening’s concert, and a two-hour Grand Parade takes place Saturday morning.

Come one, come all to the Fryeburg Fair!

 

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Darby Field Inn & Restaurant

Albany, New Hampshire

At the gateway to New Hampshire’s White Mountains, Darby Field Inn & Restaurant sits at the end of an unwinding road, nestled into a hill surrounded by flower gardens, wooded trails and spectacular mountain views. In the fall, breathtaking displays of color are in every vista to be enjoyed on a scenic drive, by gondola or while hiking one of the many nearby mountain trails.

This idyllic inn features 13 individually decorated rooms and suites, with almost all featuring mountain views, and others showcasing the Inn’s extensive gardens. Guests enjoy easy access not only to the Fryeburg Fair but also to numerous New England villages featuring town greens, covered bridges and locally owned shops and galleries.

Dining at the Darby Field Inn is a unique experience. The Inn’s owners have been bringing culinary excellence to the Mt. Washington Valley for over 30 years. Co-owner Marc Donaldson brought years of experience managing and cooking at fine restaurants in the US and Venezuela before buying the Inn with his wife in 1979. Their commitment to excellence in dining has made the Inn popular with area residents as well as with guests staying at the Inn.

Both the made-to-order full-country breakfast (served only to Inn guests) and multi-course candlelight dinners (open to the public by reservation only) are served in a beautiful dining room with spectacular views of the Presidential Mountains, including Mt. Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast. Both meals feature seasonal entrees prepared from local ingredients whenever possible, including herbs and vegetables from the Inn’s garden. A handpicked international wine list and New Hampshire beers and wines are offered in the evenings.

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New Hampshire Fall Festival

Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Date: Saturday, October 7, 2017 (10 am–5 pm)
Location: Strawbery Banke Museum in downtown Portsmouth (one hour north of Boston; one hour south of Portland, Maine).
Admission: Event admission is the same as regular daily admission with children under 5, members and active duty military/families admitted free. Adults $19.50, children 5–17 $9. Under 5, free. Family (2 adults/2 children) $48.

Founded in 1623 and one of the oldest seaports in America, Portsmouth is "the crown jewel" of the New Hampshire seacoast. Located on the fast-flowing Piscataqua River, Portsmouth is just four miles upriver from the Atlantic Ocean and offers the delightful contrast of the busy working port with an abundance of art, history and culture.

Originally named by British settlers for the wild berries growing there, Strawbery Banke is unique among outdoor museums in that it traces 300+ years of history in one of America's oldest continuously occupied neighborhoods. The 10-acre site with its authentically restored houses and shops, period gardens and costumed role players presents in engaging, accessible ways the daily lives of ordinary people who lived here — from Colonial times to World War II.

The museum’s beautiful grounds come alive in the fall with shades of gold, red, amber and persimmon. Its Fall Festival creates a traditional New England country fair with demonstrations from craftspeople, presentations by heritage breed experts, talks on heirloom seeds and food preservation, displays of fiber arts, exhibits on historic crafts and industries as well as garden tours.

This year, the festival welcomes the New Hampshire Wheelmen with a unique historic marine bicycle, plus dozens of traditional craftspeople and heritage livestock breeders, including nationally and internationally recognized craft interpreters such as a shoe maker, needle worker, rope maker, cooper, sheep shearer, gun maker, spinner, blacksmith, canvas rigger, oval box maker, quilter, textile specialist, fiber artist, tinsmith, rabbit warden, horner, bird carver, leather worker, harpsichordist, animal wrangler, basket maker and oxen teamster. In addition, craftspeople are at booths where they showcase their work for sale.

 

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Inn at Portsmouth

Portsmouth, New Hampshire

The Inn at Portsmouth, a 32-room boutique hotel, offers all the amenities of a large hotel plus the charm of a bed and breakfast. And it’s located an easy .3-mile walk to Strawbery Banke, where the Fall Festival takes place, and to historic Market Square in downtown Portsmouth, packed with shops, museums, dozens of dining options from seafood shacks to five-star gourmet restaurants, waterfront attractions and a historic theater that offers live shows, literary events and classic movies. Portsmouth is listed on the National Trust’s “Distinctive Destination” list and has been cited by Coastal Living magazine as America’s Best Seaside Town.

Located in an elegant Queen Anne Victorian (1881), the Inn features stunning original woodwork and hand-carved details. Guests have 24/7 access to personalized service, complimentary parking, free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel and personalized concierge service. A tapas-style small-plate breakfast is served each morning in a lovely, intimate dining room, where self-serve coffee and tea is available around the clock.

Guest rooms include standard and deluxe queen and king rooms, a two-level loft suite with a claw-foot soaking tub, a large penthouse suite and a pet-friendly garden suite that includes a private fenced-in patio. All rooms feature plush beds and linens, complimentary iPads and multifunction charging stations, 42” flat-screen televisions, luxurious bath amenities and kimono robes.

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Glastonbury Apple Harvest Festival & 5K Fun Run

Glastonbury, Connecticut

Dates: October 13–15, 2017 (Friday–Sunday)
Location: Downtown Glastonbury; Riverfront Park, 200 Welles St. (12 miles southeast of Hartford, CT)
Admission: $5/person (kids three feet tall and under are FREE!)

It wouldn't be fall in Connecticut without Glastonbury's Apple Fest. Year after year, the festival is voted “Best of Hartford” by Hartford Magazine readers. Located at a bend in the Connecticut River, the festival and 5K race attracts some 18,000 people who enjoy three days of live music, 100+ vendor booths, food trucks, amusement rides, pony rides, family entertainment and all things New England.

The event opens at 6 pm on Friday and closes at 5 pm on Sunday. More than 30 local musical acts perform on three stages, the little ones enjoy a petting zoo and everyone enjoys the popular pie-eating contest. No festival is complete without food vendors, and the Apple Fest doesn’t disappoint. In addition to the requisite apple dishes — apple fritters, apple cider, candied apples and apple pies — vendors offer everything from Thai food to poutine.

Eat too many apple fritters? Consider joining one of the festival highlights, Sunday’s 5K Run/Walk. Awards are given for the top three male and female finishers and the top finishers in age groups from 12 and under to 70+.

 

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Silas W. Robbins House

Wethersfield, Connecticut

The Silas W. Robbins House Bed and Breakfast, a Yankee magazine’s Editor’s Choice, has been called “a jewel in Wethersfield’s impressive historic district” by the Boston Globe. From the outside, the 1873 French Second Empire home evokes images of an elaborately decorated, multi-tiered wedding cake in its towering presence and attention to detail. An intricate cast-iron “crown” encircles its mansard roof.

Inside are five elegantly appointed guest rooms where guests are transported to the Victorian age of elegance — lush fabrics, elaborately carved headboards, detailed crown moldings, marble-topped dressers — yet are pampered with 21st-century amenities. All rooms are equipped with flat-screen cable televisions, rainfall showerheads and plush bathrobes. Wi-Fi is available throughout the property, and a full homemade breakfast is served daily.

Wethersfield has the largest Historic District in Connecticut, and visitors will find 50 houses built before the Revolutionary War and 100 built by the time of the Civil War. The best way to discover the town’s quiet beauty is by walking along the leaf-covered sidewalks on Main Street. The Wethersfield Museum offers walking tours.

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Salem Haunted Happenings

Salem, Massachusetts

Dates: October 1–31, 2017
Location: Downtown Salem
Admission: Varies depending on event.

The city of Salem is forever linked with witchcraft, sorcery and wizardry. In 1692, 19 residents — mostly young girls — were accused of being witches and sentenced to death for their “crime.” Over 325 years later, “wizardry” has taken on a vastly different mantle, and Salem today is the place to be as All Hallows’ Eve approaches.

Haunted Happenings is Salem’s annual month-long celebration of Halloween and fall that attracts more than 250,000 people. Events include a Grand Parade, the Haunted Biz Baz Street Fair (a weekend-long street fair), Family Film Nights on Salem Common, costume balls, ghost tours, haunted houses, live music and chilling theatrical presentations.

A partial list of “spooktacular” events, many repeated throughout the month, includes Psychic Fair & Witchcraft Expo, Wicked Bloody Mary Sundays, An Authentic Salem Séance, a screening of “The Haunting” followed by a panel discussion, Haunted Magic Show, A Tarot Experiment, Red Cross Blood Drive (seriously!), a Witch Pix Selfie Soiree, Lanterns in the Village and Tales & Tombstones Trolley Tours.

The 22nd Annual Haunted Halloween Grand Parade takes place this year on Thursday, October 5, and features the theme “Movie Monsters.” This kickoff to the Halloween season is full of color, pageantry, music and the enthusiasm of thousands of Salem’s students from kindergarten to college age, as well as local business owners.

Even Salem’s internationally acclaimed Peabody Essex Museum gets into the spirit of Halloween with a special exhibit. “It’s Alive: Classic Horror and Sci-Fi Movie Posters” is a collection owned by Kirk Hammett, the guitarist of the rock band Metallica. The exhibit explores the interplay of creativity, emotion and popular culture through 135 works from 20th-century cinema, including posters by an international array of graphic designers, as well as related memorabilia such as electric guitars, lobby cards, film props and costumes.

Trick or treat, anyone?

 

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Harbor Light Inn

Marblehead, Massachusetts

The Harbor Light Inn has a distinct flavor and character as individual as each of its 20 guest rooms. Its 18th-century architecture, chandeliers, hand carvings, finely tooled furnishings and artwork reflect the fortunes and treasures brought home to Marblehead by sailors from seaports around the world. The Inn has received numerous national awards (Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor; 2013 Fodor’s Choice Distinction) and accolades (“the most charming Federalist-Mansion Inn ever,” Redbook, 2015) for its personal service, elegant atmosphere and first-class amenities.

Guests can choose from a variety of different rooms, suites and apartments. Many feature canopy beds and working fireplaces. Some have cathedral ceilings and original exposed beams, while others have private outside spaces (sundeck; patio; rooftop deck overlooking the pool, gardens, and rooftops of the historic district). All feature luxurious baths, with five enhanced with double Jacuzzis. A heated pool is open mid-May to mid-October.

The Inn offers an extensive breakfast buffet daily, which always includes assorted quiches and hot casseroles. Signature items include a fresh salmon platter and crème brulee French toast (offered on weekends only). In the warmer months, guests may enjoy breakfast at a garden table overlooking the pool. Complimentary afternoon refreshments are offered daily. For those who don’t feel like venturing out to dinner, the Inn’s Tavern serves fine wines, beers and high-quality local favorites like chowder, crab cakes, shrimp and grilled paninis.

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