Wellfleet Oysterfest
Sillars Class

Cape Cod's Best Fall Festivals

Once Labor Day passes, most tourists and seasonal residents vacate the area. That's when life on Cape Cod slows to a crawl until winter is over, right?  Wrong. The fall season on the Cape is just as exciting and filled with memorable activities as the summer is. Autumn festivals on Cape Cod continue to make a vacation there fun, unique, and delicious—but without the crush of summer's peak crowds.

Christopher Setterlund is a 12th Generation Cape Codder. His book In My Footsteps: A Cape Cod Travel Guide, published through Schiffer, is available locally and online at Amazon.com.
The Yarmouth Seaside Festival, mid-October
The Yarmouth Seaside Festival, mid-October

The Yarmouth Seaside Festival was founded in 1978 to create community spirit in the Town of Yarmouth. Since then, it has grown into a gala event which includes a craft fair that attracts more than 125 crafters from all over the country, a giant parade, continual musical entertainment, races (kayak, canoe, 5K road), greased pole contests, pie-eating contests, and fireworks. Despite that packed roster, it's still free for everyone to attend.

The Harwich Cranberry Arts & Music Festival, mid-September
The Harwich Cranberry Arts & Music Festival, mid-September

Cranberries and Cape Cod go hand in hand. The Harwich Cranberry & Arts Festival is a two-day event that has been celebrating the cranberry harvest since the mid-1970s. Each year it raises money to make life in Harwich better for residents by funding scholarships and providing support for other nonprofit endeavors. Brooks Park brims with more than 100 vendors selling crafts, stages fillm with a music festival, and food vendors serve up New England favorites—heavy on the cranberry, of course. Entry to everything is free.

Wellfleet OysterFest, mid-October
Wellfleet OysterFest, mid-October

Perhaps the only thing more synonymous with Cape Cod than cranberries is seafood. The Wellfleet OysterFest, a two-day event, has become a premiere fall festival on the Cape since its inception in the late 1990s. Expect a fun and educational family festival attracting people of all ages—locals and visitors alike—in celebration of the town’s oysters, clams, and love of the arts. Although you'll find theatre and concerts, food plays a central role in the celebration, including meals, cooking demonstrations, and the annual Oyster Shuck-Off competition.

JazzFest Falmouth, late September to early October
Marv Goldschmitt
Falmouth Jazz, late September to early October

More than just a Cape Cod creation, jazz is uniquely American and like America itself, it's an umbrella term incorporating many different things: the blues, Dixieland, the crooning of Ella Fitzgerald, singers such as Catherine Russell (pictured above), and the swing of the 1940s and Duke Ellington. The Jazz Stroll gives a taste of many of these genres, providing something for everyone's taste, and it does it for free.

Falmouth and the Cape are at their best in the early fall. The weather is clear and still warm, the humidity is gone and so are the summer crowds. There is a lot to do in town (click here for Frommer's' recommendations), so Falmouth Jazz draws more than just music lovers.

Cape Cod BrewFest, last September
Matt Gray
Cape Cod BrewFest, late September

Since its inception in 2011, the BrewFest has grown rapidly in popularity. Apparently there is something about beer tasting in the cool fall air that people like. Typically, it welcomes more than fifty breweries to the Cape Cod Fairgrounds in East Falmouth, where they show off their latest brews. BrewFest also helps to raise money for the Barnstable Agricultural Society for its annual scholarships. Natually, the main attractions are the sampling 'sessions' where people can try more than 200 styles of beer while listening to live music and grabbing snacks from local food vendors.

Vinegrass Music Festival, early October
Vinegrass Music Festival, early October

A festival held in Truro, Vinegrass celebrates Bluegrass, Americana, and Rhythm & Roots music. The Vinegrass Organization is a nonprofit music production company which produces concerts, camps, workshops, and this festival. Its charitable mission is to provide scholarships to students studying music at an accredited 4-year university, and that noble goal is supported by a unique festival that appeals to lovers of all types of music as well as the scenery of the Outer Cape.

Sandwich PumpkinFest, late October
Katharine Campbell
Sandwich PumpkinFest, late October

Celebrate the season with a visit to the Sandwich Glass Museum's Annual PumpkinFest. Featuring a pumpkin patch filled with hand-blown, one of a kind glass pumpkins of all colors and sizes crafted by prominent local and national glass artists, these pumpkins are perfect for Halloween and Thanksgiving and make unqiue gifts. It’s also free—even the pumpkin bowling.

Provincetown Tennessee Williams Festival, late September
Joesph A, Pittsburgh PA/Flickr
Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival, late September

This is the premiere festival in the country honoring famed author and playwright Tennessee Williams. Since it was started in 2006, the festival has featured performances of many of his classics such as The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire. In addition, some lesser-known and undiscovered plays are featured, along with the work of some of his peers and music and writing that inspired him. While you're here, don’t forget to visit Captain Jack’s Wharf where Williams lived, wrote, and first staged Streetcar before bringing it to Broadway.