Autumn is the prettiest season in New England and one of the best times to experience Rhode Island’s natural beauty, local farms, and seasonal events. The trees are beautiful, the air is crisp, and the scent of woodsmoke is in the air. The red, yellow, and orange leaves flutter by your face and crackle under your feet. The apples are crisp and juicy, picked right off the tree and you can indulge in apple cider donuts and everything pumpkin spice.
If you are looking for ways to enjoy the season, these are our picks for the best things to do in Rhode Island in the fall.
Things to do in Rhode Island in the Fall
1. Go Apple picking
Apple picking season comes early in Rhode Island so get out there before the orchards are all picked out by mid- to late-September. If you can visit during the week, you may be able to avoid the crowds, but be sure to always check the hours first and dates when pick-your-own apples are available. And if you miss apple picking, you can still usually purchase apples and apple-related products at the farm stands.
I’ve put together a list of the best apple orchards in Rhode Island and some of our family favorites include:
- Phantom Farms at 2920 Diamond Hill Road in Cumberland
- Jaswell’s Farm at 50 Swan Road in Smithfield (USA Today recently named Jaswell’s one of the 10 Best Apple Orchards in the US)
- The Big Apple at 207 Arnold Street in nearby Wrentham, MA
2. Visit a pumpkin patch
Half the fun of making a jack-o-lantern is picking out the pumpkin from the pumpkin patch. Many farms in Rhode Island go all out in creating a perfect fall experience from hay rides to farm animals, food trucks to family crafts. These are also where you can stock up on other fall decor like mums, hay, gourds, and cornstalks.
We have a list of the best pumpkin patches in Rhode Island, but here are a few of my favorites:
- Phantom Farm in Cumberland — each weekend they host different activities and we enjoy the farm stand, outdoor sugar shack, burlap maze, and taking a hayride through the orchard.
- Adam’s Farm in Cumberland has really boomed in recent years with pumpkins, hayrides, farm animals, a hay maze, corn maze, cornhole games, and a tire playground, in addition to the farmstand. Plus, the drive out to the farm along the reservoir is gorgeous at this time of year!
- Confreda Farms in Hope is always bustling with hay rides, a corn maze, kiddie rides, a food court, and even a haunted hayride.
3. Escape a corn Maze
Corn mazes aren’t just for kids anymore. With many farms creating elaborate labyrinths and scavenger hunts, corn mazes are fun for the whole family. With so many to choose from, I’ve created a list of the best corn mazes in Rhode Island.
4. Eat Apple Cider Donuts
For years I’ve searched for the best apple cider donuts in Rhode Island and finally found them at Hard Pressed Cider Company in Jamestown. It is worth standing in line to get them when they are hot and crispy, but if you can stop by during the week when they are open you can avoid the hour wait. While you are there, try the apple cider slushies too! I’d say these are even better than B.F. Clyde’s in Mystic, CT.
5. Visit a Farm Stand or Garden Center
Even if you don’t go apple picking or visit a pumpkin patch, at least stop by a farm stand or garden center to take in the fall decor. The Farmer’s Daughter in South Kingstown is especially Instagrammable with pumpkin displays.
6. Browse the Scituate Art Festival
Taking place each year on Columbus Day weekend, the Scituate Art Festival brings together over 200 artists and crafters in a scenic, rural setting with musical entertainment and local and festival foods. After spending the afternoon or morning browsing, it is nice to take a ride through this part of RI, down narrow country roads, and past lakes and rivers to enjoy the foliage.
7. Be amazed by Atlantis Rising Sand Sculptures
Starting in 2022, the South County Tourism Council is hosting an annual “Atlantis Rising” sand sculpture competition over Columbus Day Weekend on Misquamicut State Beach. This family-friendly event will bring in artists from all over the world to compete for a cash prize. The event will include musical performances, food trucks, vendors, and even a drone light show.
8. Walk through the Jack-o-lantern Spectacular
Each year the Roger Williams Zoo in Providence plays host to one of the largest jack-o-lantern displays in the Northeast with over 5,000 artistically carved pumpkins, including at least 125 carved to match the theme of the year at the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular. Be sure to book your ticket online early as they do sell out and tickets aren’t sold at the door. It is also best to go during the week and early in the season to avoid the longest lines.
9. Get Spooked
If you love a good jump scare or creepy, ghoulish frights, grab some friends and head to one of Rhode Island’s after-dark fright fests. Scary Acres at Confreda Farms is one of the most popular “haunts” in Rhode Island with a Dark Harvest hay ride, Haunted Burial Grounds corn field, and the “Curse of the Bayou.” Tickets can be purchased online.
You can also get spooked at 13th World at Diamond Hill Park in Cumberland (formerly Haunted Hill.) You can even pay extra for a necklace that tells that monsters it is ok to touch you — not sure why you would want that, but it is an option.
10. Take a Scenic Drive
If leaf peeping is what you have in mind for a fall outing, jump in the car and take one of these scenic drives through Rhode Island. My favorite in the fall is through western Rhode Island along Route 102 and the reservoirs and lakes in Johnston and Smithfield.
11. Go for a Hike
After a drive, it is time to hop out of the car and take a nice fall hike. I’ve put together a list of some of my favorite walking and hiking paths in Rhode Island but you can also use AllTrails to find some that match your interests and abilities.
Fall is also a good time for birding in southern Rhode Island, especially at nature preserves such as the Ninigret Wildlife Refuge in Charlestown and the Napatree Point Conservation Area in Watch Hill.
12. Take a Ghost Tour
Combine history with spooky vibes on a Providence ghost tour. These lantern-led tours tell the tales of lingering Providence residents from local literary greats to one-time servants. This walking tour through College Hill may give you goosebumps.
The Providence Riverboat Company also partnered with Providence Ghost Tours to offer haunted boat rides through Providence that tell similar stories. On two nights (Halloween and the Day of the Dead), you can also sign up for a Haunted Booo-zy Boat Ride, which include complimentary wine and Prosecco to all passengers 21+.
13. Attend a Fall Festival
Local farms, towns, and cities trot out their best to celebrate fall in Rhode Island. Here are just a few fun fall festivals to put on your calendar:
- Norman Bird Sanctuary Fall Festival with sack races, hay rides, mud pit, tug-of-war and fair games with prizes
- The Southern New England Giant Pumpkin Growers Weigh Off at Frerich’s Farm in Warren with food trucks, family fun, and, of course, giant pumpkins
- Autumnfest over Columbus Day weekend in Woonsocket is the largest fall festival in Northern Rhode Island
- Bowen’s Wharf Seafood Festival in Newport serves up fresh, local seafood including fish tacos, lobster rolls, stuffies, chowder, fried calamari, clams, oysters, signature cocktails and cold beer, accompanied by live music and family fun
- Harvest Festival at Newport Vineyards in Middletown celebrates the fall grape harvest with grape stomping, wine and beer tasting, and tasty treats paired with live music
Tamara Gruber is the Founder and Publisher of We3Travel. A former marketing executive and travel advisor, Tamara is an award-winning travel writer and recognized expert in family travel. She is also the publisher of YourTimetoFly and the co-host of the Vacation Mavens travel podcast.