Take a Moment to Enjoy Massachusetts Music & Food Festivals

Concert fans and food lovers can get their fill in the Bay State all summer long — and beyond.

By Yankee Staff

Jul 02 2023


Lowell Folk Festival

Photo Credit : Henry Marte/Courtesy of Lowell Folk Festival

Sponsored by the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism

Even before it officially became a state, Massachusetts had already proved it knew how to throw a party: On July 4, 1777, with the ink on the Declaration of Independence scarcely dry, the skies over Boston Common lit up with fireworks in honor of the nation’s founding. Today Boston’s multiday Fourth of July celebration, the largest in the nation, ushers in the Bay State’s peak festival season with a bang.

From the Berkshires to Cape Cod, visitors are invited to join in community events that make the most of summer’s breezy days and balmy nights — and among the biggest crowd-pleasers are the state’s colorful array of music and food festivals. Drawing on local, national, and international influences, these summer highlights are worth planning a trip around, but there are so many options you can easily add on one or more to any vacation plan, including family getaways.

Let the Music Play

Lowell Folk Festival, Lowell
Photo Credit : Henry Marte/Courtesy of Lowell Folk Festival

For fans of folk, roots, and rock, two of the hottest tickets in July can be found a mere 30 miles from Boston, starting with the South Shore’s Levitate Music & Arts Festival (July 7–9, 2023) at the Marshfield Fairgrounds: Now in its 10th year, this family-friendly event lets you dance to the music of top performers like Ziggy Marley and Brandi Carlile, peruse crafts by 60-plus artisans, and fuel up at more than two dozen food trucks. For the longest-running, second-largest free folk festival in the U.S., head north to the Lowell Folk Festival (July 28–30, 2023) to hear everything from Chicago blues to rockabilly to music from Haiti, Afghanistan, and Ukraine and enjoy food and dance performances from around the world. The concert scene continues to sizzle into late summer with Beach Road Weekend (Aug. 25–27, 2023) on Martha’s Vineyard, featuring Mumford & Sons and Bon Iver among the headliners, and the Wormtown Music Festival (Sept. 15–17, 2023), a weekend of camping and music in Greenfield that channels Woodstock vibes.

Beach Road Weekend, Martha’s Vineyard
Photo Credit : Jeremy Driesen/Courtesy of Beach Road Weekend

If you tend to frequent the classical end of the radio dial, look for the venerable Cape Cod Chamber Music Festival (July 25–Aug. 18, 2023), which in its 40-plus years has featured the likes of Yo-Yo Ma and Joshua Bell when they were still rising stars. Jazz aficionados, meanwhile, can get their fix in the hearts of two lively Massachusetts cities with the Springfield Jazz & Roots Festival (July 21–22, 2023) and the Salem Jazz & Soul Festival (Aug. 19, 2023).

Tanglewood, Lenox
Photo Credit : Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism

No mention of Bay State music offerings, however, is complete without Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra: From June through August, this world-renowned festival delivers the best in jazz, opera, classical, and pop music — plus drama and dance — against the backdrop of the beautiful Berkshire Hills.

Bring Your Appetite

Charlton Blueberry Festival, Charlton
Photo Credit : LOVE_LIFE/istock

Summer in Massachusetts transforms the great outdoors into our favorite dining room, with patios and picnic tables calling at every turn. And few things taste better alfresco than summer-ripe berries, crisp beers, and fresh seafood — all of which take starring roles in the Bay State’s food festivals. In Western Massachusetts, the Charlton Blueberry Festival (July 30, 2023) blends big berry flavor with small-town appeal for a day of kids’ activities, local crafts, and blueberry treats of all kinds.

The Art of Brewing Festival, Stockbridge

Down in Stockbridge, art lovers get a heady double bill at the Norman Rockwell Museum’s Art of Brewing Festival (Aug. 12, 2023), pairing regional craft brews and tasty food truck fare with a chance to explore the world’s largest collection of Rockwell’s art. As summer winds down, the oldest working fish pier in the U.S. welcomes thousands to the Boston Seafood Festival (Sept. 10, 2023), with a traditional lobster bake, oyster-shucking contests, chef demos, and seafood sampling galore.

Boston Seafood Festival, Boston
Photo Credit : Brian Samuels

If your palate craves international flavor, Massachusetts offers food from around the world as part of its vibrant cultural festivals. Live reggae provides the soundtrack for Boston JerkFest (July 8, 2023), serving up spicy delights from the Jamaican jerk cooking tradition, while lion dancers add joyful color to the August Moon Festival in Quincy (Aug. 20, 2023), an Asian harvest celebration where you can sample such delicacies as fresh-baked mooncakes. In Raynham, the soaring golden spire of Wat Nawamintararachutis, the largest Thai Buddhist temple outside Thailand, marks the site of the fourth annual Thai Food and Culture Fair (Sept. 3, 2023). Want a bit of everything? Try Peabody’s International Festival (Sept. 10, 2023), celebrating diversity through music, art, and great eats from more than 65 food vendors.

August Moon Festival, Quincy
Photo Credit : Quincy Asian Resources, Inc. via Facebook

More globe-trotting feasts can be found statewide thanks to the churches and cultural clubs that help bring Massachusetts’s rich immigrant heritage to life, including an Oktoberfest in Walpole (Sept. 9–10, 2023) hosted by New England’s oldest German-American cultural club, and a food-and-music-filled Armenian Fest at St. Mark Armenian Church in Springfield (Sept. 3, 2023). But in terms of size and history, New Bedford’s Feast of the Blessed Sacrament (Aug. 3–6, 2023) is a league of its own: Founded by four Madeiran immigrants in 1915, it has grown into New England’s largest ethnic festival — and the biggest Portuguese feast in the world.

And Mark Your Calendars…

FreshGrass at Mass MoCA, North Adams
Photo Credit : Douglas Mason

The Massachusetts music festival scene may hit its high notes in summer, but if you’re in the Berkshires right around the first day of fall, don’t miss the annual FreshGrass Festival on Sept. 22–24, 2023. Held at Mass MoCA in North Adams, it features roots-music traditionalists and innovators on stages throughout the museum’s 16-acre campus, including Dropkick Murphys, Rhiannon Giddens, and Allison Russell. Plus: workshops, pop-up performances and retail shops, and local Berkshire food and spirits.

The Massachusetts food festival scene, meanwhile, keeps going strong well beyond Labor Day. A sampling of what’s on offer:

Wellfleet OysterFest, Wellfleet
Photo Credit : Lezli Rowell

Boston Local Food Festival, Boston, Sept. 17, 2023: Head to Boston’s Rose Kennedy Greenway to chat with local farmers, chefs, and entrepreneurs; learn from workshops and demonstrations; and enjoy activities, live music, and lots of tasty food.

Phantom Gourmet Food Festival, Waltham, Sept. 23, 2023: Organized by the popular foodie show Phantom Gourmet, the 21+ event features live music and samples from dozens of top-reviewed restaurants.

North Quabbin Garlic & Arts Festival, Orange, Sept. 30–Oct. 1, 2023: Don’t miss the famous raw-garlic eating contest at this celebration of music, art, and delicious garlic-inspired cuisine.

Boston Veg Food Festival, Boston, Oct. 14–15, 2023: Featuring a vegan marketplace packed with plant-based food and lifestyle products, notable speakers and chefs, and educational exhibits.

Franklin County CiderDays
Photo Credit : Franklin County Chamber of Commerce

Wellfleet OysterFest, Wellfleet, Oct. 14–15, 2023: Dive into local cuisine, a fine art and craft fair, educational lectures, culinary programs, children’s activities, eco-tours, live music, a road race, and the annual Oyster Shuck-Off.

Martha’s Vineyard Food & Wine Festival, Edgartown, Oct. 19–22, 2023: Explore the island’s rich tradition of farming and fishing as you meet local culinary talent and the farmers, fishermen, oyster producers, and artisans they work with.

Essex ClamFest and Arts & Crafts Festival, Essex, Oct. 21, 2023: Come taste Cape Ann’s finest chowders and vote for your favorite. Plus: arts and crafts, live entertainment, and plenty of food vendors on-site.

Franklin County CiderDays, Franklin County, Nov. 3–5, 2023: Tours, cidermaking and tastings, workshops, and more in orchards and venues county-wide.