There’s really nothing like fall in Western Mass. You can see it, smell it, taste it (we’re looking at you, cider doughnuts!).
Whether you’ve lived here your whole life, you’ve been here long enough to claim the area as home, or you’re a visitor looking for an opportunity to become a New Englander for a week or two – welcome to fall and welcome to Western Mass!
Some of our very favorite memories seem to revolve around fall.
We’ve jumped in countless piles of leaves. Yeah, we didn’t stop just because we technically grew up, and yes, we know when you jump in it, it just doubles your work. We still can’t resist.
We’ve done everything you can imagine (well, almost everything) related to corn – we’ve eaten it, popped it, decorated with it, gotten lost in it. The list goes on and on.
We’ve grown up looking forward to the Big E all year, and to be honest, that’s another thing we haven’t grown out of. The concerts, the midway games, the rides – honestly, we’re not going to kiss and tell, but someone on our Explore Western Mass team may have even had their first kiss on the Big E’s Ferris Wheel (cue the oohs and aahs now!). And, just to show that we really did grow up – shout out to the Wine and Cheese Barn, which is totally the adult version of rides and kettle corn and cotton candy.
Ahh…. look at us…. We’ve gotten all mushy and nostalgic about just how great it is to have the privilege of enjoying fall here in Western Mass. If you also want to sigh longingly as you flip your calendar to the September and October pages, check out some of our favorite fall activities to enjoy out and about in Western Mass. Take a look, then let us know your must-do items as well.
Okay, so the technical details first. Officially, this Mike’s Maze is a well-recognized place and a fall cultural institution; it’s been voted Best Corn Maze in the US by multiple national publications.
Informally, Mike’s Maze is aaahhh-maaaaze-ing (see what we did there? Puns FTW).
In all seriousness, the maze, located at the foot of Mount Sugarloaf, was designed through a partnership between a farmer and an artist, so it truly is a combination of agriculture and art that’s worth seeing.
You’ll come to enjoy exploring the maze and seeing this year’s fun design and theme. We have two words for why you’ll stay.
I’m sorry, but how often do you get the chance to launch vegetables at a target and feel like you’re totally acing life every time you score a bullseye?
And, if the grown-up version of a food fight isn’t exactly what you want to do, there’s SO MUCH more available – wander through the maze, race on the pedal carts; frolic at The Pasture playground (let your kids spend a couple of hours on the jump pad so they’ll sleep the whole way home and you can listen to whatever you want on the radio).
After you’ve burned off all that energy, make time to savor some farm fresh food at the Corn Cafe. We recommend the fried okra and kettle corn; and you absolutely have to make room for at least three cider donuts.
(BONUS FALL FUN: If you have a little extra time, you might want to schedule a hike up Mount Sugarloaf as part of your day. Foliage as far as the eye can see and trails for all levels of hiking skill.)
Mike’s Maze is open from Sept. 7 to Nov. 3; a full listing of hours and special events can be found on the Mike’s Maze website.
Sonny’s Place – Harvest Happenings
Have you even been a kid if you haven’t begged your parents to let you play at an arcade? Or go to laser tag? Or to go to a haunted house or hear just one more scary story?
Okay, basically the point of that is – kids can be annoying. KIDDING. The point is – Kids love getting together with their friends to do anything. If you’re a grown up and responsible parent now, you can score major parenting cool points by planning an outing to Sonny’s Place.
And, if you want to know the honest truth, you don’t even have to be a kid or have a kid to go there. Remember Barney from HIMYM? We’re pretty sure he would have been up for dominating the spooky, Halloween-themed Zombie Laser Tag that’s part of Sonny’s Place’s Harvest Happenings.
That’s right. Zombies. Because when fall rolls around, the Sonny’s Place team goes all out and makes the amusement park a festival of fall fun.
Even if you’re a long-time fan of Sonny’s Place, you’re going to need to schedule time for a special visit during this season. We love how almost every attraction gets a makeover, including:
- Pumpkin Mini Golf, where the course is bedecked with more than 500 hand carved pumpkins, skeletons and other decorations
- Haunted Hay Rides, where the ride is so super-spooky it’s only recommended for those brave riders who are age 10 and up
- Halloween Crafts, which are available on the weekend and which include a variety of fun projects suitable for all ages.
These bewitching seasonal activities are available between Sept. 20 and Oct. 27; full scheduling information can be found on the Sonny’s Place website.
Six Flags Fright Fest
“Thrills by day and fright by night” is the theme for the area’s biggest theme park’s biggest holiday celebration.
Over the years, we’ve been to Six Flags New England a lot, and the rides can give you thrills and chills almost any time – one of our team members is pretty sure her life flashed before her eyes when she went on Superman: The Ride for the first time.
Add to that – zombies and ghouls and living in your own personal episode fear factor. Whatever your own personal secret fear is, there’s probably an attraction built around that; they even have one where you have to get up and give a speech in your underwear (kidding, but the Nightmares attraction does bring you face to face with spiders, bees, needles and a ton of other gross personal phobias).
If you want to have your pants scared off, CarnEvil is a must-see. ALL. THE. CLOWNS. Still not scary enough for you? Go at night. We promise you’ll be creeped out to the max.
Fright Fest is intensely, unforgettably scary, and may be a little overwhelming for children under the age of 13. For teens and adults ready to have their socks scared off, though, Fright Fest is the best time of year to visit Six Flags.
The park is open select days between Sept. 21 and Oct. 27. For more information about park entrance and tickets, visit Six Flags New England’s Fright Fest website.
If the scary stuff isn’t quite your cup of tea, plan on some more relaxed fall fun when you visit Atkins Farms. More than a grocery store, it’s a place to shop local and connect with the community.
If you ever visited your grandparents’ hometown and went to the grocery store where everyone knew your name and how you did in school last year, and then asked how your mom was doing – you’ll feel extreme deja vu when you visit. It’s in the best possible way, though – a cozy homecoming kind of feeling that makes you just want to be a part of the community.
We love building scarecrows at the fall workshops on weekends, then stocking up on autumnal treats, including the store’s world-famous cider donuts. Did you know Atkins Farms produces more than 10,000 of their sweet, spicy, cinnamon-sugary treats each day during the fall? Our mouths are watering already.
And, once you stock up, you might want to consider just making a day of it. You can head over to Mount Holyoke Range State Park for a hike and to work off all the delicious cider-y goodness you were just compelled to consume.
The Big E
Anytime an attraction has Big in its name, you – reasonably – expect big things. The Big E (more formally known as the Eastern States Exposition) is big on activities, big on taste, big on shopping and big on nostalgia.
This year, The Big E runs from Sept. 13 to Sept. 29. It includes everything your fair-going heart could desire, from games to circuses to parades to car shows to some of the best musical entertainment the area has to offer.
We recommend making it for the daily parade at least once. If you want to participate as well as observe, you can also purchase a ticket to join in the parade fun, throwing beads from a float in one of the Big E’s Mardi Gras themed celebrations.
And, is it really a festival without food? The Big E’s cream puffs — we dream about them all year. This year, if their usual goodness wasn’t enough, they’re also offering a delectable chocolate ganache version that we can’t wait to get our hands on. Other fair foods on our list:
- Hot Wisconsin Cheese
- “Healthy” brussels sprouts (did we mention they’re deep fried?)
- Fried pineapple upside down cake on a stick
Tickets for The Big E can be purchased online, and you can also upgrade your ticket options with reserved circus seats or premier seating for the concerts.
Fall activities in Western Mass are bushels of fun (yes, we’re still going with the puns). For more activities you can enjoy with family, friends and your community, check out our Explore Western Mass events page.