The weather might be cooling down, but the calendar north of Boston certainly isn’t. Arguably the most beautiful month here in New England, September begs to be taken advantage of with festivals, outdoor shows, art exhibits, and community events galore. Below are a few to get you started.
Enjoy the harvest season with family-friendly events at Appleton Farms or Cider Hill Farm, catch shows at Shalin Liu, the Gloucester Stage Company, or Castle Hill, or join in community events like the Gloucester Schooner Festival and Salisbury Days. And, of course, don’t miss one of the North Shore’s biggest annual happenings at the end of the month—the iconic Topsfield Fair. Read on for our top ten things to do this month north of Boston.
Gloucester Schooner Fest
Aug. 31–Sept. 3
The Gloucester Schooner Festival returns for its 39th iteration this Labor Day weekend, bringing family-friendly activities to Gloucester for the last official weekend of summer. The fest kicks off on Thursday, August 31, and wraps on Sunday, September 3, with the much-anticipated schooner race. Saturday, September 2, is Maritime Heritage Day, bringing vendors and exhibits to downtown Gloucester, all revolving around the city’s maritime history.
The Addison Gilbert Hospital Art Collection
Through Oct. 8
Now through October 8, head to the Cape Ann Museum in Gloucester to check out its new exhibit featuring works from the Addison Gilbert Hospital’s art collection. The 300-piece collection showcases works by influential Cape Ann artists like Anthony Thieme, Alice Beach Winter, Peter Vincent, and Charles Movalli, and is full of impressionist paintings of beautiful Cape Ann scenes.
Tall Tales from Blackburn Tavern at Gloucester Stage Company
The Gloucester Stage Company puts on the world premiere of Tall Tales from Blackburn Tavern, a new show by playwright John Minigan, this September 1 through 24. Commissioned in honor of Gloucester’s 400th anniversary, the ghostly show tells folk tales from the city’s oral history, following players like the infamous Gloucester Sea Serpent and the Witches of Dogtown.
The Salem Witch Trials: Restoring Justice at PEM
Sept. 2–Nov. 26
Opening September 2, the Peabody Essex Museum reexamines the consequential events of 1692 to 1693 through authentic historic objects, adding a human element to the often-recounted tale. The exhibit shows handwritten documents and artifacts like a walking stick and a loom owned by folks who lived through the trials, breathing new life into the tragic hysteria that took the lives of 25 innocent men, women, and children. The exhibit runs through November 26, perfect for a spooky autumn visit to Witch City.
Country Fair at Cider Hill Farm
This Labor Day weekend, Cider Hill Farm in Amesbury puts on its first ever Country Fair from September 2 through 4. The weekend celebrates the season with apple picking, hayrides, cider tastings, line dancing, fall flower cutting, old-time games, and live music. And if you’re not around that weekend, get your fall fix at Cider Hill any weekend in September with live music, hayrides, apple picking, and hot cider.
Rockport Celtic Festival
Curated by WGBH’s Brian O’Donovan and harpist/composer Maeve Gilchrist, the 4th annual Rockport Celtic Festival celebrates the music of both the Celtic and French diasporas in Eastern Canada, with musicians and storytellers performing throughout the weekend. Most shows take place at the Shalin Liu in Rockport, and highlights include a performance by the duo Rakish on September 14 at 7:30 p.m., a traditional ceilidh on the 15th at 9:30 p.m., and a “pub” sing on the 16th at 1 p.m.
Farm Days at Appleton Farms
On September 16 and 17, Appleton Farms in Ipswich holds its annual Farm Days, a weekend of live music, food trucks, beer, games, barnyard animals, and exploring Appleton Farms’ stunning grounds. Visitors can take self-guided nature walks, play lawn games, listen to live music, and enjoy food and drinks from local vendors like Fat Belly BBQ food truck and Essex Brewing Company. Timed tickets must be purchased in advance for either noon or 2:30 p.m.
A recently revived Salisbury tradition, Salisbury Days returns for a long weekend of celebrating life in the seaside town from September 21 through 24. This year’s event features highlights like a bike and car show and “Kites and Castles” at the beach on Saturday, September 23, and an open house at the Salisbury Historical Society along with “Fair in the Square” on Sunday, September 24.
The Topsfield Fair
Sept. 29–Oct. 9
The oldest agricultural fair in America returns to Topsfield this September 29 through October 9, bringing all the usual excitement to the Topsfield fairgrounds. Visitors can expect carnival rides and games, fair food including caramel apples and fried dough, and live entertainment like music and agricultural shows. Make sure to see who won blue ribbons in each category—from livestock and giant produce to fine art, canned goods, wine, and quilts.
Macbeth at Castle Hill
Sept. 29, Oct. 1
Castle Hill in Ipswich puts on Shakespeare's Scottish play this September 29 and October 1 using a pay-what-you-can model, even if that amount is $0—although the suggested ticket price is $20. Theater in the Open and Glass Dove Productions present this classic tale of power and tragedy using both Castle Hill’s Barn Complex and Tower Garden for an immersive, indoor/outdoor experience.