Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Fairy House Tours, Autumn-fest, Peanuts Corn Maze, Fluff Festival, Game of Thrones Weekend, and More: New England Fall Events Top Picks for Sept 21- 27

It's another white-hot weekend for fall festivities coming up! Your head just may spin from all the fabulous fun competing for your attention! 

New England Fall Events_Portsmouth NH Fairy House Tour
Mother and Daughter peering into a
Fairy House in Portsmouth, NH
This weekend's Portsmouth Fairy Tour is one of the most anticipated events of the season!
The excitement has been building for weeks! Our experience at the Portsmouth Fairy House Tour was so special and memorable that we simply insist that you try to attend one of the best events of the season!
Here's a sneak peek into the Fairy House Tour with our short video of festival moments and our complete write up to give you in-depth look at why this is a festival not to be missed!

Can't attend this weekend? Here's our Fall Guide to Fairy and Princess Events Across New England.

Gaines Farm "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" Corn Maze Celebrates the Peanuts!
It's the 50th Anniversary for Charles M. Schulz's beloved Peanuts this year and Gaines Farm in Guilford, VT is honoring them this fall with a "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" themed corn maze! Gaines Farm, situated just 1.5 mile north of the MA state line off Rte 91, is super easy to reach from anywhere in central New England.

CONTEST! Enter to WIN a Family Four Pack of tickets to Gaines Farm! Contest ends 9/26. Enter here.
You may remember that Gaines was host to the wildly popular Frozen corn maze two years ago--a huge hit with New England Fall Events readers! In addition to the maze, Gaines Farm has tons of family-friendly activities to enjoy such as the cow train, a corn pit, pumpkin bowling, and a corn cannon too! Learn more about Gaines Farm.

New England Fall Events_What the Fluff Festival Somerville MA  Union Square Donuts
Union Square Donuts' version of
Fluffernutter What the Fluff Festival.
Somerville's What the Fluff? Festival Coming up Saturday!
You may have heard that inventor Archibald Query developed Marshmallow Fluff right in Somerville’s Union Square 99 years ago. If you are a native New Englander you fully grasp how much nostalgia fluffernutter sandwiches hold in our childhood food memories.


This Saturday's What the Fluff? Festival gives this sticky sugary culinary goo it's due with wacky games, fluff-inspired food, fluff jousting, luff Fear Factor and more! Eating FlufferNutters are a New England childhood rite of passage and now you can add the What the Fluff? Festival to your True New Englander bucket list. Read about this one-of-a-kind festival right here: "Somerville's Fluff Festival is Sticky, Campy Fun for your Bucket List".

Bridgewater, MA Rings in 28 years of Family Fun at Autumn-fest this Saturday
New England Fall Events_Autumnfest Bridgewater MA
The BSU Quad at Autumn-fest
We know it is a busy weekend of fall fun ahead but if you are looking for a low-key yet entertaining fall festival, then make a beeline to Autumn-Fest in Bridgewater, MA. They've been hosting this ever-expanding fall festival for 28th years! 
Autumn-Fest is a family-friendly festival jam-packed with kids’ activities, performances, crafts, vendors, train rides, live music, bouncy houses, petting zoo, and more all on the grassy quad at Bridgewater State University. This is a large-scale fall festival with a personal touch and it's easy to see why it is an annual outing for many local families. Curious? New England Fall Events had the pleasure of attending this festival first-hand and here's everything you would love to know about Autumn-fest.

In case you missed it...
New England Fall Events_The Big E Springfield MA
The Big E Celebrates it's 100th Year!
In the lead up to the Centennial Opening Day at Springfield, MA's The Big E, New England Fall Events' Facebook page offered a daily feature from our our "Complete Guide to The Big E"blog post. 
Are you a first-time Big E Fair-goer? Check out our just-posted "Five Must-Sees and Top Tips for Families" who are making their plans to attend this super-sized New England fair. 

As King Richard's Faire in Carver, MA is still running every weekend through October 23rd, be sure to read our "King Richard's Faire Offers Charm and Good Cheer" for a taste of the delight you'll have awaiting you there.

New England Fall Events' Top Recommendations for this Weekend's Fall Fun
With plenty of fantastic festivities going on this weekend you'll have your work cut out for you to narrow down where to go! Here's our group of this weekend's Top Pick and you'll find even more terrific events listed on every New England state’s Fall & Activities and Food & Harvest Festival Guides on our website.

Here are our recommended activities for September 21-27, 2016

New England Fall Events_The Big E Springfield MA
The Big E
West Springfield, MA     Click for details
Wednesday through Tuesday, September 21st -27th, 2016
Plan ahead with New England Fall Events' essential "Complete Guide to The Big E"

Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival
Provincetown, MA      Click for details
Thursday through Sunday, September 22-25th, 2016
Read our article "The Provincetown Tennessee Williams' Theater Festival is Cultural Gem in New England"

Durham Fair
New England Fall Events_The Big E Springfield MA Maple Cream Cone
Durham, CT       Click for details
Thursday through Sunday, September 22nd – 25th, 2016

Acadia Night Sky Festival
Bar Harbor, ME       Click for details
Thursday through Sunday, September 22nd-25th, 2016
Click for more Moonlight and Sunset Fall Events.

Springfield VT Steampunk Festival
Springfield, VT        Click for details
Friday through Sunday, September 23rd, 24th, & 25th, 2016

47th Annual Scallop Festival
New England Fall Events_Portsmouth NH Fairy House Tour
East Falmouth, MA      Click for details
Friday through Sunday, September 23rd - 25th, 2016

Mushrooming, Owling and Elegant Dining at the Maxwell Mays Lakeside Cabin 
Coventry, RI       Click for details
Friday, September 23, 2016

Pentangle Light Garden
Woodstock, VT        Click for details
Friday and Saturday, September 23rd & 24th, 2016
Click for more Moonlight and Sunset Fall Events.

New England Fall Events_Portsmouth NH Fairy House Tour
The Portsmouth NH Fairy House Tour
Portsmouth, NH        Click for details
Saturday and Sunday, September 24th &  25th, 2016
Read about our visit "Portsmouth NH Fairy House Tour is a Magical and Imaginative Weekend"
Get a sneak peek at the delights at the festival with our Portsmouth Fairy House Tour video.
Click for more Fairy and Princess Fall Events in New England.

Game of Thrones Weekend at King Richard's Faire
Carver, MA        Click for details
Saturday and Sunday, September 24th & 25th, 2016
New England Fall Events_King Richards FaireRead about our visit to KRF and find faire-going tips in "King Richard's Renaissance Faire Offers Costumed Charm and Good Cheer"

Autumn-fest
West Bridgewater, MA       Click for details
Saturday September 24th, 2016
Click to read all about New England Fall Events' visit to Autumn-Fest and plan your visit.

"What the Fluff?" Festival
Somerville, MA       Click for details
Saturday September 24th, 2016
New England Fall Events_What the Fluff Festival Somerville MA
Read about our visit in our article "Somerville's Fluff Festival is Sticky, Campy Fun for your Bucket List".


Escobar's Farm Pumpkin Festival
Portsmouth, RI     Click for details
Saturday, September 24th, 206 (rain date Sun 9/27)

Annual Maine Lakes Brew Fest
Casco, ME       Click for details
Saturday September 24th, 2016

B.O.N.E.S. Annual Beagle Bash
New England Fall Events_Calder Sculpture Envisionfest HartfordAuburn, MA         Click for details
Saturday, September 24th, 2016
Click for more Dog-friendly Fall Events.
Click for Dog-friendly Apple Orchards.

Peru Fair
Peru, VT        Click for details
Saturday, September 24th, 2016

Aeronautics Day at Discovery Museum and Planetarium
Bridgeport CT        Click for details
Saturday, September 24th, 2016
New England Fall Events_Apple Days Old Sturbridge Village
International Oktoberfest
Providence, RI        Click for details
Saturday and Sunday, September 24th & 25th, 2016

Forest Festival Weekend
Woodstock , VT        Click for details
Saturday and Sunday, September 24th & 25th, 2016

Apple Days Festival at Old Sturbridge Village
Sturbridge, MA        Click for details
Saturday and Sunday, September 24th & 25th, 2016
New England Fall Events_Portsmouth NH Fairy House Tour
19th Century Apple & Cheese Harvest Festival
Strafford, VT        Click for details
Sunday, September 25th, 2016

VT Fairy House Festival
Grafton, VT         Click for details
Saturday and Sunday, September 24th & 25th, 2016
Click for more Fairy and Princess Fall Events in New England.

Woofstock Dog Festival
Hudson, MA        Click for details
Saturday, September 24th, 2016
Click for more Dog-friendly Fall Events.
Click for Dog-friendly Apple Orchards.

Hartford ComiCONN
Hartford, CT        Click for details
Saturday and Sunday, September 24th & 25th, 2016

Going apple picking this coming weekend? New England Fall Events has complete guides, features, maps, and contact info for all the New England PYO apple orchards! Here are your quick links to the apple picking guides:

Even easier, New England Fall Events has state attraction maps which are handy for scrolling for farms near home or wherever you're headed. Quick links to orchard and fall attraction maps for ConnecticutMaineMassachusettsNew HampshireRhode Island, and Vermont.

Remember, always best to call ahead before adventuring out to PYO as some farms will adjust their hours for weather or they close to allow more time for fruit to ripen.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Big E 100 Years: Our Five Must-Sees and Top Tips for Families

In advance of The Big E's Centennial Season, New England Fall Events treats you to a taste of what this classic New England festival has in store for you and your family. Each of our posts leading up to their 100th year will feature a different section of the The Big E experience but if you want the whole enchilada at once, click to read our article "New England Fall Events' Complete Guide to The Big E."

Top Tips for Families Attending The Big E

Relaxing in the Farm-a-Rama Exhibit.
If your kids can fit, bring a stroller or a wagon to tow them. With so much physical ground to cover, little legs will wear out fast. Wagons and strollers can be rented for $10-15 but there are no advance reservations and they are rented first-come-first serve.

There is a drop-off area if you don’t plan to park or if you wish to drop off part of your group while your driver parks in a lot down the road.

Bring cash as the parking lots do not accept plastic.

Wear smart, comfortable, durable walking shoes. Leave the flip flops at home.

New England Fall Events_The Big E_Circus Museum_Miniature Circus Model_Clyde Reynolds_Brooke Evans_Lion Tamers
A detailed lion taming scene created
in miniature at the circus museum.
The crowds can be exhausting and overwhelming. Take breaks to rest in the calmer areas on the fairgrounds. We found the calmest areas to be Storrowton Village, the Mallary Complex, and the Coliseum. The Midway, the shopping complexes (the Young and Better Living buildings) the Avenue of the States Buildings, and Farm-o-Rama were the busiest on the Friday we attended. 

If you can attend on a weekday, do. Not only will the crowds and lines be more manageable but you can take advantage of the Midway Magic Pass which includes unlimited midway rides for a more affordable rate (and not available on the weekends).

You can enter the fairgrounds before the exhibits open. By arriving at the exhibits just before they open up at 10:00am you can be one of the first to see some of the more popular exhibits while there is still elbow room.

Painted squash entries at the veggie
display inside the Stroh building.
Popular shows like the Circus Spectacular and the Swifty Swine Racing Pigs can be enjoyed free of charge but there are limited seats (and viewing area) so unless you get there really early, you won’t get into the circus or be able to see the pigs’ tricks. Arriving 10 minutes before the show won’t cut the mustard on a busy day.

The amount of money you spend on food will add up fast. Consider snacking and sharing throughout the day to pace yourself financially and belly-wise.

There are gluten-free options but they may not be as healthful as you want. Plus, some gluten-free options like kettle corn and ice cream aren’t really lunch-worthy or nutritious (though kids won’t complain!). Other options like sirloin tips and salads may not be realistic “kid food”. There is a baked potato station near the food court and another in the Maine Building but Maine’s wildly popular loaded baked potato is also famous for its lines and could involve a 45-90 minute wait in line. Some tacos from the Crows’ Nest Mexican food vendor are gluten-safe and the BBQ pulled pork from the Pork Palace is made with gluten-free rub. In short, you may find gluten-free food for your child but you would be wise to pack a back-up lunch just to be confident.

A goat awaits his afternoon showing
inside the Mallary Complex.
If you don’t live nearby, consider staying overnight to attend over two days and spread out your entertainment. There is a lot to fit in and if your kids insist on midway rides that will eat up a couple hours of your time. The reasonable admission fee makes a two-day event do-able but all the extras—food, midway, purchases will add up.

The shopping extras will also tug at your wallet relentlessly and at nearly every corner of the fairgrounds—face-painting, jewelry, toys, games, etc. For kids who are learning about money, consider allotting each child an allowance for the day to spend how they wish to help you keep a lid on how much you are doling out.

Take advantage of the many interesting demonstrations and countless free exhibits. For kids, Farm-o-Rama is a must and don’t even think of skipping the Miniature Circus Museum. Allow time to browse the Mallary Complex and enjoy learning about and visiting the livestock.
Breathtaking quilts on display inside
the New England Center building.

Remind your children that the livestock are never to be touched or petted, no matter how cute.

The Mallary Complex has bathrooms with warm/hot water taps to get a good hand-washing in!

Kiddieland is the part of the Midway that hosts rides for smaller children—teacups, train rides, carousel, mini swings, etc.-- all for a fee.

There is a Mother’s Nursing Lounge inside the New England Center though we aren’t sure of the level of amenities or comfort you will find.

Sample award-winning local cheese.
You’ll find diaper changing stations in certain rest rooms around the grounds. Baby changing stations are in the ladies’ rooms inside the Young Building, Coliseum, Better Living Center, Visitors’ Center, Food Court, and the New England Center. There are diaper changing stations in the men’s rooms inside the Better Living Center, Visitors’ Center and Food Court. The Mallary Complex and the Moses Building host family bathrooms.

Make sure your family has a plan and knows what to do in the event that anyone is separated from your party. There is a “Lost People Center” at The Big E but it’s best to have a plan in place that your children understand and can follow.

Do yourself a favor by downloading the free Big E app. You can plan ahead, select events to populate your customized schedule, and if you enable the notification setting the app will alert you when events on your schedule are coming up! If there are vendors or attractions on your must-see list you can even customize your fairgrounds map to help you identify what you’d like to see. It’s a very flexible and super useful app. We suggest tinkering with it ahead of time to become familiar with how it can help you and to customize your fair experience.  Find it on iTunes and GooglePlay.

New England Fall Events TOP FIVE Must-Sees for Families
The Miniature Circus Museum… for wonder and charm. Read why.

The Mallary Complex… for interesting educational exhibits, animal demos, livestock showings, and an overall calmer environment. Read more.

Farm-o-Rama…for farm related displays, small live animals to observe, and interactive exhibits geared towards kids. Try the scavenger hunt! Details

The Coliseum… consult the schedule to check out the horse showmanship which will delight kids.

The Connecticut Building on the Avenue of the States…for the make-and-take Lego booth and the Dinosaur dig in the rear building. Read more.



Ready for more? Read our Complete Guide to New England's The Big E!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Harry Potter Day, EnvisionFest, American Girl Train, BaconFest, Harvest Moon Events and More: New England Fall Events Top Picks for Sept 14-20

Here at New England Fall Events we've noticed that it really does feel like fall is in full swing--at long last! Even though we continue to have as few warm days, the evenings have turned cool and crisp--just the way we like it! Even the leaves are ever so slightly starting to show more autumn color.

LIMITED tickets left for this Saturday's American Girl Train Ride Experience
This Saturday, September 16th is the very special American Girl Train Ride in Woonsocket, RI!
New England Fall Events had the pleasure of tagging along last year for this super sweet family event. The event kicks off 1 hour before train departure with the American Girl Red Carpet, photo opportunities and more. The hour-long train ride is packed with games, interactive entertainment, tasty treats, gift bags, special visits and you'll even receive an exclusive invitation for a private shopping event at the American Girl Store (Natick, MA) at a future date!


We wrote a big feature about our own train ride - Read "Our American Girl Train Ride Experience". Although we already notified our winners for the American Girl Train Ride contest, a limited supply of tickets are still available for this Saturday so act fast so you won't miss the boat--er, train! Click for full details about this event.

Hidden Gem: Hartford's EnvisionFest is Delightful, Interesting and Family-friendly!
One of the most enjoyable fall festivals we attended last year was EnvisionFest which takes place right in Hartford, CT. Spread over a number of very walk-able blocks and a park in the downtown area, EnvisionFest is a lovely showcase of the arts and culture in the Hartford community. There is a full day of fun, family-friendly activities for you to enjoy. We saw everything from hands-on silkscreening lessons, puppet crafts, a lego area, art exhibits, live music, a street full of food trucks and much more. The "human foosball" game was riotous fun as was the giant Jenga and giant Chess games going on all day (and kudos to the organizers to have volunteers at these events to draw people in and even jump in to help them play).


We toured through the newly renovated Hartford Athenaeum and soaked up the vibrant and breathtaking foyer mural--just stunning!--and took time to browse the excellent art exhibits inside.

Families could take a ride on the antique carousel or step inside an inflated hot air balloon for an unusual photo. You could join an open air yoga class, try hula hooping, or kids could make their own giant Calder sculpture. Booths showcasing local artists and cultural events were truly terrific and so much thought and originality went into each one.Night Fall Hartford's fish-bicycle and giant puppets roaming the park were some of the highlights for us and it certainly inspired us to attend Night Fall's October 8th event.With events spread across the lovely park and inside of local buildings, everything was easy to access, well-marked, and offered something new. This was an under-the-radar event for us last year and we were beyond thrilled that we were able to check it out first-hand. It's well organized, jam-packed with something for everyone, and the festival shows the amount of heart that was put into planning something special for all. Click for event details.





Full Moon this Week--We'll help you find under-the-moonlight and stargazing events!
September is known as the Harvest Moon and those of us with CSA memberships can attest to nature's glorious bounty these past few weeks! As we're always encouraging folks to enjoy the beautiful fall weather while you can, jump at the chance to bask in the moon glow while enjoying special full moon events going on this fall. 
Wednesday, September 14th
Sunset Kayak at Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary (MA)    Details
Thursday, September 15th
Sunset Kayak at Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary (MA)    Details
Full Moon Hike: Avondale Preserve (CT)    Details
Full Moon Canoe Tour at Scarborough Marsh (ME)       Details
Friday, September 16th
Sunset Kayak at Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary (MA)     Details
Full Moon Canoe Tour at Scarborough Marsh (ME)        Details
"Harvest Moon" Full Moon Dinner at Sunday River (ME) - all ages    Details
Saturday, September 17th
Evening Canoe for Adults at Wachusett Meadow (MA)    Details

Check out our complete Fall Guide to Moonlight and Sunset Events across New England.


Apples! Apples! MORE Apples! 
Now that the weather has turned crisper, so have the apples! With apple season getting a little further along every week, there are even more varieties ripe and ready for pick-your-own.
Kimball Fruit Farm in Pepperell, MA is picking Honey Crisp, McIntosh, Gala and they just added Cortland this week.
Carlson Orchards in Harvard, MA is picking raspberries as well as McIntosh and Gala apple varieties.

Doles Orchard in Maine is picking Paula Red, Sansa, Gingergold, Mollies Delicious, and McIntosh as well as PYO raspberries--they still need a few weeks for their Honey Crisp to be ready.
March Farm in Bethlehem, CT is picking Honey Crisps, McIntosh, Gala and Cortlands. 

Lyman Orchards in CT is picking McIntosh, Honey Crisp, Cortland, Jonamacs, Gingergold, and Gala varieties. Even better, they've got PYO pears too (Asian Pears, Red Bartlett, and Bosc).

Of course, these are only 5 of the hundreds of New England PYO apple orchards of every size and shape so t
o make it super easy, New England Fall Events has your complete guides, features, maps, and contact details for your local or destination-area New England PYO apple orchards. Here are your quick links to our apple picking guides:ConnecticutMaineMassachusettsNew HampshireRhode Island, and Vermont

Contests are up on New England Fall Events
We're so excited to give you opportunities to win tickets to some wonderful upcoming events! This week we have away two Family Passes to the Portsmouth NH Fairy House Tour and four pairs of tickets to the American Girl Train Ride this Saturday in Woonsocket.
We've got one last chance to win a family pass to the Portsmouth Fairy House Tour but enter soon because this contests ends Friday!  Click to find all contests can be found at our website New England Fall Events.


New England Fall Events' Top Recommendations for this Weekend's Fall Fun
With so many fun and charming events and festivals going every weekend it's tricky to whittle down our Top Picks to just a handful! Thankfully, you can find the complete list of terrific fall events listed for each New England state’s Fall & Activities and Food & Harvest Festival Guides on our website. 

New England Fall Events' Top Recommendations for September 14th-20th, 2016

Full Moon Hike: Avondale Preserve
Mystic, CT        Click for details
Thursday, September 15th, 2016
Click for more Moonlight, Stargazing, and Sunset Fall Events

21st Annual Taste of Jamaica Plain
Boston, MA         Click for details
Thursday, September 15, 2016

Full Moon Canoe
Barnstable, MA       Click for details
Friday, September 16th, 2016
Click for more Moonlight, Stargazing, and Sunset Fall Events

Mushrooms of Rhode Island
Bristol, RI        Click for details
Friday, September 16th, 2016

British Invasion - A Three Day Celebration of All Things British
Stowe, VT        Click for details
Friday through Sunday, September 16th-18th, 2016

Autism-Friendly Weekend at Edaville USA
Carver, MA        Click for details
Friday through Sunday, September 16th-18th, 2016

The Big E
West Springfield, MA     Click for details
Friday, September 16th - Sunday, October 2nd, 2016
Plan ahead! Read New England Fall Events' "Complete Guide to The Big E"

Full Moon Foray at Ravenswood Park
Gloucester, MA     Click for details
Friday, September 16th, 2016
Click for more Moonlight, Stargazing, and Sunset Fall Events

Full Moon Walk
Edgartown, MA     Click for details
Friday, September 16th, 2016

Greater Danbury Irish Festival
Danbury, CT      Click for details
Friday through Sunday, September 16, 17 & 18th, 2016

NH Highland Games
Lincoln, NH       Click for details
Friday through Sunday, September 16, 17 & 18th, 2016

Harry Potter Day at Escobar Farm
Portsmouth, RI     Click for details
Saturday, September 16th (rain date: Sunday 9/17)

American Girl Train Ride in the Blackstone Valley
Woonsocket, RI    Click for details
Saturday, September 17th, 2016
Read about our memorable experience in our article "Our American Girl Train Ride Adventure"

Envisionfest Hartford
Hartford, CT        Click for details
Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Great Mark Twain Look-Alike Contest
Hartford, CT      Click for details
Saturday, September 17th, 2016

Brattleboro Baconfest - Bacon, Brews, and Blues
Guilford, VT       Click for details
Saturday, September 17th, 2016

Newington Waterfall Festival
Newington, CT      Click for details
Saturday, September 17th 2016 (rain date is Sept 24)

Raspberry Festival at White Silo Winery
Sherman CT       Click for details
Saturday and Sunday, September 17th and 18th, 2016

Coggeshall Farm Harvest Fair
Bristol, RI         Click for details
Saturday and Sunday, September 17th & 18th, 2016

Granite State ComiCon
Manchester NH        Click for details
Saturday and Sunday, September 17th & 18th, 2016

Vermont Mac and Cheese Festival 
Barre, VT         Click for details
Saturday, September 17, 2016

13th Annual Revels RiverSing
Cambridge, MA      Click for details
Sunday, September 18th, 2016

Boxer Bash
Hopkinton, MA       Click for details
Sunday, September 18th, 2016
Click for more dog-friendly Fall Events.

Housatonic Heritage Walk with Hilltop Orchards, home of Furnace Brook Winery
Richmond, MA         Click for details
Sunday, September 18th, 2016

Heading out for some fall fun this weekend? 
Need ideas for where to go? New England Fall Events’ state page maps are handy for scrolling and easily spotting farms near home or near your road-trip destination.
Orchard and fall attraction maps for ConnecticutMaineMassachusettsNew HampshireRhode Island, and Vermont.

Remember, always call ahead before heading out to PYO as some farms will adjust their hours for weather or they close to allow more time for fruit to ripen.

The Big E 100 Years: A Shopping Expo for Shopaholics

In advance of The Big E's Centennial Season, New England Fall Events treats you to a taste of what this classic New England festival has in store for you and your family. Each of our posts leading up to their 100th year will feature a different section of the The Big E experience but if you want the whole enchilada at once, click to read our article "New England Fall Events' Complete Guide to The Big E."
Shopping Shopping Shopping
The Big E is also an expo for shopping. If you are a shopaholic, tchotchke-lover, or a sucker for infomercials and as-seen-on-TV goodies, this just may be your Mecca. The Young Building and The Better Living Center house a combined 178,000 square feet of retail booths inside their massive airplane hangar-sized buildings. Any household, clothing, wearable, buyable item you could ever imagine (and many you couldn’t) is for sale and collectively fill over 150 vendor booths. For us this was the least intriguing part of our Big E adventure and the vendors do not have any discernible hand-crafted requirement or New England connection. 

New England Fall Events_The Big E_Shopping Expo
Endless opportunities to shop from retail vendors at The Big E. L to R: Local wine, pots and pans, aqua massage "lung".

The sheer volume of booths can be as overwhelming in numbers as it may be, for us, underwhelming in appeal but we readily admit we aren’t avowed shopaholics. I don’t know how many people attend The Big E to purchase giant, iron-lung-like, aqua massage capsules, reclining chairs, home security systems, emoji pillows, or barn cupolas but you’ll find them here along with color-changing pots and pans, flagpoles, and a talent agency. Though we did spot the occasional hand-crafted quilt stall or Shark Tank-worthy invention, we were more likely to be accosted by Comcast trying to get us to sign up for a cable package or by someone selling hot water bottles and lucky bamboo.

If you do purchase anything of physical size within these buildings, many vendors will offer to hold your purchased goods at their booth for you to pick up later so you won’t need to lug your new extendable broom or bottle lamp around the fairgrounds all day—all in all, a welcome and important perk.

New England Fall Events_The Big E_Shopping Expo_Critter Gear_Magic Sceptre
L to R: ME's Prospect Harbor Soap Company, RI's The Magic Sceptre children's book, NH's Critter Gear.

Not confined to the Young Building and Better Living Center, fair-goers will also find nearly 100 more exterior commercial vendors and large exhibits across the fairgrounds. Large areas were set aside for gazebos, landscapers, barn-builders, hot tub displays, and military recruitment kiosks. Outdoors vendor stalls were populated with cooking knife demos, basement finishers, bed sheet discounters, wrench sets, and evangelical children’s education. There seems nothing too random for someone to sell or exhibit and every eight feet there is an opportunity to purchase something. Again, an early holiday- shopper’s paradise because there is something to fit every personal style imaginable.

Although there are plenty of people buying items from the many vendors, it should be said that considering how much acreage there is to cover on foot and how crowded the fairgrounds can get, anything we considered buying was met with the sobering reality that whatever we acquired we would need to be carried around for hours—a real disincentive. Hm, maybe we don’t need that fancy car wax as badly as we thought…

New England Fall Events_The Big E_Shopping Expo_Wine and Cheese Barn
L to R: Find local wine and cheese in the Wine & Cheese Barn; buy a gazebo or jacuzzi at the fairgrounds.














As we mentioned in our Avenue of the States building section, inside the state buildings you actually will find crafts, local artisans, small businesses, native food, and manufactured items that are specific and relevant to that New England state. With The Big E functioning as New England’s regional fair, we found the local context for the items the vendors sold within the state buildings both more interesting and frankly more meaningful. We saw many goodies within the state buildings that we wanted to buy (and eat) and remarkably few that caught our eye in the larger vendor warehouses.To be fair, we didn’t attend The Big with shopping high on our to-do list so others may feel quite differently.

The food and goodies for sale in the state buildings appealed to our New England pride and reinforced our appreciation for our local economy and agriculture. Coupled with the charm of the buildings themselves, shopping or browsing in the state buildings was satisfying for us as we were meeting people rooted in New England small business, farming, or manufacturing community.

Ready for more? Read our Complete Guide to New England's The Big E!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Hidden Gem: Hartford's Envisionfest offers Creativity, Culture, and Food Trucks

Hidden Gem: Hartford's Envisionfest is Delightful, Interesting and Family-friendly!
One of the most enjoyable fall festivals we attended last year was Envisionfest which takes place right in Hartford, CT. This was an under-the-radar event for us last year and after the terrific time we had there, we were beyond thrilled that hadn't overlooked it!
Envisionfest Hartford will take place Saturday, September 17th, 2016. Open from 9:00am-6:00pm, this is a totally FREE event!! Click here for event details.

Spread over a number of very walkable blocks and a park in the downtown area, Envisionfest is a lovely showcase of the thriving arts and culture in the Hartford community. Moreover, it offers an in-person experience with the exciting efforts from the iQuiltPlan--downtown Hartford's urban design Plan for re-energizing the downtown area with the vibrancy of the community. There is a full day of fun--both indoors and outdoors--and dozen of worthy family-friendly activities to even count.

The majority of the events and activities are held on the giant lawn at Bushnell Park but there are plenty of local municipal and arts buildings which host events and exhibits as well so be sure to venture out and about to fully take advantage of the festival.

Envisionfest Hartford New England Fall Events Wadsworth Athenaeum Night FallThe plentiful activities will draw you to different areas of downtown which is a helpful way to explore the excellent facilities that Hartford is home to such as the Wadsworth Athenaeum, the Bushnell Performing Arts Center, and the Bushnell Plaza Sculpture Garden. Some civic buildings even offered scheduled guided history tours and without a little wandering around we might have missed seeing the Alexander Calder sculpture "Stegasaurus" which is placed in a plaza adjacent to the Wadsworth.

We toured through the newly renovated Hartford Athenaeum and soaked up the exuberant and breathtaking half wall mural--just stunning!--and took time to browse the excellent art exhibits inside--all free to enjoy during Envisionfest.

Envisionfest Hartford New England Fall Events Calder Sculpture
With live music as a soundtrack to the festival, there was a rotation of different performers from the area and it was a nice touch that one of the stages was set up near the food truck area to make the area more vibrant. The food trucks were set up together on a side street and the small touches like having cafe chairs and tables to eat at were very welcome (and made us realize how frequently other festivals have left us to find space on the ground or on steps somewhere to eat precariously from our lap).

The Envisionfest Marketplace hosts were dozens of booths featuring hands-on silkscreening lessons, puppet crafts, a lego area, art exhibits, face-painting, and more.  You could join an open air yoga class, try hula hooping, or kids could make their own giant cardboard Calder sculpture.

Booths showcasing local artists and cultural events were truly terrific and so much thought and originality went into each one. Night Fall Hartford's fish-bicycle and giant puppets roaming the park were some of the highlights for us and it certainly inspired us to make a point to attend Night Fall's October 8th event this year.

Envisionfest Hartford New England Fall Events Human Foosball Night FallThere's a section set aside for "Big Games"--and they were plenty of fun. The "human foosball" game was riotous as people (mostly kids) stood inside an enclosed rink (the "table") and functioned as the players in a foosball game--only your feet could be used to kick the ball to score.
There were enormous blocks for a round of giant Jenga, jumbo Bananagrams tiles, and super-sized chess and checkers games going on all day. Kudos to the event organizers who smartly assigned enthusiastic, high energy volunteers at these events to draw people in, offer instruction, or fill in as a player just to get a game rolling. Every single game in this area was being used and enjoyed--and we think the volunteers deserve all of the credit for keeping this area active and well-used. 

Envisionfest Hartford New England Fall Events Bananagrams, Carousel, Wadsworth Athenaeum exhibitFamilies could take a ride on the antique carousel or step inside an inflated hot air balloon for an unusual photo. With events spread across the lovely park and inside of local buildings, everything was easy to access, well-marked, and offered something new.

Envisionfest a very family-friendly atmosphere with booths, crafts and games to draw in young children up through teens. That being said, it's not just for families as there were plenty of activities, exhibits, and events that will appeal to adults on their own. Of all the fall festivals we attended this past year, this may have been the most organized one, jam-packed with something for everyone, and the festival shows the amount of heart that was put into planning something truly original. We'd recommend this annual event wholeheartedly and enthusiastically. Click for event details.