The 10 Best Free Events Happening in October

Where you can have fun on (less than) a dime this month
photo by robert clifford photography
A wide variety of fall festivals, like the New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival pictured here, are among this month's best free events.

1. Chris Kressy's "Life As Art," Plymouth, October 1-23

This exhibition celebrates the local artist’s life with a selection of his meditative and vibrant paintings. This “color-filled feast” will inspire viewers. Kressy was admired and respected by his students at PSC/PSU for his quiet demeanor and thoughtful guidance. He viewed his studio work, teaching, spiritual practice and his life as opportunities for creative expression. (603) 535-3214;

2. Brew Ha Ha, East Madison, October 6

Okay, so the actual brews of this brouhaha aren't free. But you can have a lot of fun at the festival without shelling over any cash. The Lifters will provide live blues music, and activities including corn hole, giant-sized Battleship and Connect Four, and face-painting will be available throughout the day. Plus, fan-favorite breweries such as Smuttynose and Moat Mountain will be on hand, so you can pony up the money for a commemorative sample glass or just find intel on the brewers' latest concoctions in case you'd like to buy a six-pack later from your local grocery rather than a six-ounce taster at the tents. (603) 367-8896;

3. Monadnock Art Tour, various, October 6-8

Sure, you can use the open studios of this tour as a miles-wide art shopping mall, but this annual event doesn't have to cost any more than the price of gas. Use the tour map to chart a course through the 50 artist studio open houses, then enjoy a leisurely drive through the region's best art and best foliage. And if you are looking to buy, you're in luck — many stops on the tour include works on sale at discounted, this-weekend-only rates.

4. New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival, Laconia, October 12-13

Create, carve and experience your way through this street festival and enjoy booths from vendors like Sweetest Memories, Wild Bill’s Soda, Pat’s Apple Crisp and more. Don't forget to bring a jack-o-lantern for the impressive pumpkin towers. (603) 524-5531;

5. RiverFire, Berlin, October 13

By day, this free festival includes standard fall fun such as hay rides, a Halloween party and food, but the true spectacle comes after dark. Lit pumpkins on the bridges and small fires on the boom piers of the Androscoggin River create the illusion that the river itself is aflame. Bring your camera and prepare for some stunning, zero-cost sights. (603) 752-6060;

6. Nashua ArtWalk Weekend, Nashua, October 13-14  

Now in its 14th year, this showcase calls itself the largest arts festival in southern New Hampshire. It's a great opportunity to shop local — from both the participating artists and performers and the restaurants you'll find along the ArtWalk route — but, if you're low on cash, there's plenty to see for free. In addition to browsing the art, catch live music, enjoy craft demonstrations, and stay tuned for a number of other festivities to be announced as the weekend approaches. (603) 883-8093;

7. New England & Jackson Invitational Pumpkin Carving Competition, Jackson, October 19-21

The town of Jackson has always gone all out with their fall festivities — a monthlong Pumpkin People challenge, a two-week All Things Pumpkin fest — but this second annual event is the one you can’t miss. More than a dozen teams will bring their gourd-carving prowess to this contest, so come ready to watch the artists’ two days of carving and to peep the finished products at the end of the weekend. (603) 383-9356;

8. "It's Pastel," Portsmouth, October 20-November 24

More than 80 pastel paintings from award-winning, critically acclaimed artists across the country will be on view in the landmark Academy Gallery. (603) 436-8433;

9. Halloween Town, Madison, October 20

Madison is turning itself into a Halloween town that has the vibes of the 1998 classic “Halloweentown.” Two hundred volunteers are coming together for the 10th annual event with the desire to offer kids the opportunity to enjoy walking around a “neighborhood” and visit houses trick-or-treat style. There will also be a kid carnival, petting farm, food court, hot air balloon rides, entertainment and the incredible “trick-or-treat trail.”

10. Portsmouth Halloween Parade, Portsmouth, October 31

There's all kinds of free fun (and free candy) to be had around the state on October 31, but for the granddaddy of all New Hampshire Halloween events, mark your calendars for this storied community parade. Suit up in your best costumes and march through downtown Portsmouth on this annual dose of grassroots spookiness. We guarantee that you've never seen something quite like it before.

Categories: Featured Events, Features, Seasonal Guides – Fall