From community parades to train rides to a highway of scarecrows, here are a handful of fall-themed family-fun activities in New Hampshire.
From the old cobblestone and brick towns that are reminiscent of old New England to our incomparable fall foliage displays, there is nowhere else like New Hampshire when the weather starts to chill and the leaves begin to change. Here are five fall activities that are fun for the whole family.
All aboard the Pumpkin Patch Express [North Conway]
You may better know the Conway Scenic Railroad as the place to take a ride through history, aboard old-fashioned railcars through the Mount Washington Valley. But for two weekends leading up to Halloween, the railroad also offers two-hour round-trip excursions aboard their “Pumpkin Express” train. Departing from Schuler Park in North Conway, the vintage coach cars travel just a few miles to Conway to a pumpkin patch, where the real fun begins. Not only are kids invited to get off the train to pick their own pumpkin, but join in on fun and games, like corncob toss and face painting.
An Afternoon among the Apples [Walpole]
Previously chosen as one of the top 12 orchards in the U.S. by Travel + Leisure, the 450-acre Alyson’s Orchard is one of the most picturesque in the state – especially come fall, when the ground’s 50 acres of fruit-bearing trees are laden with 37 different types of apples, including heirloom varieties. After a few hours of carefully selecting the most perfect golden delicious, Macintosh, and Honeycrisp apples, let the kids visit the property’s goats or play a game of bocce, while you peruse the farm stand for fresh produce, honey, maple syrup, and ready-made meals like chicken pot pie.
The Scenic Scarecrow Highway [Atkinson to Auburn]
Was that Tom Brady you just saw standing on the edge of Route 121? Benjamin Franklin? The four members of KISS? You’re not seeing things. During the month of October, the 20-mile stretch of Route 121 – also known as the Old Stagecoach Byway – becomes peppered with 800 individual scarecrows, decorated and put there by members of the neighboring towns of Auburn, Chester, Hampstead, and Atkinson. Originally started in 2009 by the Chester Historical Society as a fundraiser (decorators purchase a wooden body for $20), other towns have since picked up on the tradition, attracting visitors say from all over the Eastern Seaboard to see it. Chester alone boasts over 600 of these displays, so a fall drive down route 121 will treat you and the kids to quite a few laughs, and might inspire you to go home and make your own clever scarecrow.
The King of Donuts [Meredith]
Nothing smells of fall more than cider donuts. And at Moulton Farm near the northern shores of Lake Winnipesaukee, that aroma hangs heavy around the property’s 40- by 80-foot pole barn that serves as a farm market. While the market sells scores of produce and locally made goods, it is also the home base for Cider Bellies Doughnuts, where fresh, hot apple-cider flavored donuts are handmade right in front of you by Jessica Stephens (wife of Farm Manager Rob Stephens). While you can’t go wrong with the classic cider donut hand-dipped in cinnamon sugar, they also offer a variety of toppings to jazz things up, including a savory bacon and maple drizzle. Let the kids watch Stephens make all 11 versions before selecting their toppings and heading out for a tractor ride with farm owner John Moulton or exploring the four-acre corn maze.
A Parade You Can Be a Part of [Portsmouth]
No sign up necessary. Just dress up, gather at Pierce Island by Prescott Park, and march. Those are the essential rules to become a part of the Portsmouth Halloween Parade, a grassroots, all-inclusive celebration of community, creativity and free expression that walks, stalks, dances, and drums its way through downtown Portsmouth every October 31st at 7 p.m. Groups spend weeks in preparation to make elaborate costumes like Cruella Deville and her 101 Dalmatians (alright it was only 13), the entire cast of Beetlejuice, and a life-size purple dragon from Shrek. The parade shuts down much of town to car traffic so it’s crucial to get in early if you want to watch the festivities. Or, better yet, just come join the march.