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Fall is in full swing on the North Shore—with leaves peaking and Halloween on the horizon, it’s time to get cracking on those autumn activities. Here you’ll find suggestions for things to do north of Boston in October, heavy on the pumpkins, cider donuts, and foliage. 

Salem Haunted Happenings 

Throughout October, Salem hosts a packed lineup of street vendors, live entertainment, ghost tours, parades, haunted houses, museums, and fireworks on Halloween night. Dubbed Haunted Happenings, the annual monthlong extravaganza brings thousands of visitors to Witch City every October—and this month marks the event’s fortieth anniversary. Highlights include a visit to the Salem Witch Museum and the Witch Trials Memorial to learn about the town’s tragic history; a stop by the outdoor marketplace on the common each weekend; a pet costume parade, Howl-o-ween, on October 8; and several 21+ costume parties on Saturday, October 29. Halloween night brings live music downtown and fireworks at 10:15 p.m.

Cider Hill Farm Fall Weekends

Each weekend in autumn, Cider Hill Farm in Amesbury puts on every fall happening you could dream of—hayrides, live music, hard cider, an outdoor market, pick-your-own apples, a food truck, and hot cider donuts. Their outdoor hard cider bar takes place on the main lawn on Fridays from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m., Saturdays 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sundays 12 to 4 p.m, where you’ll find their 100-percent orchard cider, plus non-alcoholic cider and free live music. Don’t forget to grab pumpkins and mums at the outdoor market, take photos at the pumpkin wagon, and grab a bite at the Pitchfork food truck.

Take a Hike

Foliage on the North Shore typically peaks during the last two weeks of October. There’s hardly a better way to explore the region’s stunning foliage than a hike through the woods—and our region has no shortage of those. Great leaf-peeping trails include Lynn Woods Reservation, with its 30 miles of easy trails and stone tower for great views; Ravenswood in Gloucester for both woods and coastal trekking; and Maudslay State Park in Newburyport, featuring a nineteenth-century walled garden, plus rolling meadows and wooded stretches. On October 22 and 23, Theater in the Open hosts its annual Maudslay Is Haunted show and guided tour at the property.

Smolak Farms Fall Weekends

Smolak Farms in Andover also puts on Fall Festival Weekends similar to Cider Hill Farm’s. Along with apple picking at its picture-perfect orchard, hayrides, and barnyard animals, fall festival weekends will include live music from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., a beer and wine bar with specials like Stormalong hard cider, gluten-free craft beer, and homemade sangria, and a concession stand for hotdogs, hamburgers, pulled pork, and more. Don’t forget to stop by the ice cream stand or the farm stand for baked goods, sandwiches, coffee, and cider donuts.

Visit a Brewery

While many area breweries have their traditional Oktoberfests in September, there’s still plenty of fun to be had at local breweries, and plenty of breweries to have fun at. Notch’s biergarten stays open through October, and breweries like Newburyport Brewing Co., True North Ale Company, and Old Planters Brewing Co. have regular lineups of live music on weekends and evenings. Some spots like BareWolf Brewing in Amesbury have food trucks on the weekends, and Granite Coast Brewing in Peabody has some unique events this month like 21+ pumpkin carving, a couples beer tasting, and an Oktoberfest workshop.

Farmhouse Wood-Fired Pizza at Appleton Farms

Photograph by Kindra Clineff

Every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoon this autumn, take a blanket or lawn chairs to Ipswich to enjoy wood-fired pizza, snacks, and drinks outdoors at idyllic Appleton Farms. Cheese, meat, or seasonal veggie pizzas are fired up and served alongside scratch-made artisan pastries, seasonal salads, and lighter fare—no reservations required. All dough is made in the farmhouse kitchen from locally grown flour, and area beer vendors provide brews—Rockport Brewing Company on Fridays, Old Planters Brewing Co. on Saturdays, and Essex County Brewing Company on Sundays.

Go on a Bike Ride

Between the cool, crisp weather, the foliage, and the preparations for winter hunkering down, fall just might be the best time for a weekend bike ride. Reference our September issue for a roundup of our favorite bike trails north of Boston. Some of the best for leaf-peeping include Bradley Palmer State Park and Willowdale State Forest, abutting properties in Ipswich with miles of wooded trails perfect for beginner mountain bikers, and the Coastal Trails Network in the Newburyport area. The network includes the Clipper City Rail Trail in downtown Newburyport, the dirt Ghost Trail connecting Salisbury to Newburyport and downtown Amesbury, along with all of downtown Amesbury’s restaurants, coffee shops, and breweries. (BareWolf Brewing and Brewery Silvaticus might be perfect stops.)

Explore a Corn Maze

Get your corn maze fix in this October at a few area farms. Marini Farm in Ipswich each year cuts a corn maze through eight acres of living corn stalks—and it’s not a typical quick jaunt through the corn. Taking an average of one and a half hours to complete, the interactive maze has 18 stations throughout to help you fill out the game sheet you’re given on entering and find your way out. The seven-acre maze at Connors Farms in Danvers this year is “Lost in Space” themed, and hosts “flashlight nights” on Friday and Saturday evenings in October. Kimball’s Farm in Haverhill also has a corn maze this year, open on October weekends from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Visit a Farmers’ Market

'Tis the season to celebrate a successful local harvest, and the North Shore has more farms than we can count. Farmers’ markets aren’t just for summertime—support local this fall and visit one of these markets that run well into the cooler months. The Newburyport Farmers’ Market, a 2022 BONS winner, is held every Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., rain or shine, at the Tannery Marketplace on Newburyport’s Water Street. The Salem Farmers’ Market runs through October 13 this year, held Thursdays from 3 to 7 p.m. in Derby Square, and the Marblehead market is Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon at the Marblehead Veterans Middle School through November 29. The Wakefield market, also on Saturday mornings, runs through October 29 at 465 North Avenue.