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Family Vacations: Keene Pumpkin Festival

Four towers of illuminated carved pumpkins light up downtown Keene during the annual Keene Pumpkin Festival.

After dark, when volunteers have lit the thousands of pumpkins in downtown Keene, New Hampshire, a switch is flipped and four immense towers of carved, light-filled pumpkins blaze in the night.

During this annual festival, held in late October, there are pumpkins aplenty -- side-by-side along the streets and sidewalks and all around the gazebo in Central Square. The carved gourds take all forms -- classic peg-toothed grinners, artfully chiseled ghouls, leering witches, pop-culture celebrities, and even advertising slogans. The record for number of pumpkins lit was set in 2003, when 28,952 pumpkins were all glowing at once.

There is plenty of fun to occupy your time while you're waiting for the great pumpkin lights. The festival features trick-or-treating on Main Street, a pumpkin pie eating contest, a pumpkin seed spitting contest, a craft fair, food vendors, a climbing wall, and a kids' activity tent called Jack's House. Volunteers at a pumpkin carving station will help you create your own jack-o'-lantern. The Museum of Pumpkin Oddities exhibits the strangest pumpkins grown that year. A kid favorite, the enchanting children's costume parade is the biggest in New England, with thousands of participants.

Later, as the tea lights in the glowing orange heads begin to burn down, fireworks of all colors explode overhead.

Keene Pumpkin Festival Information

Address: Main St. and W. St., Keene, NH

Telephone: 603/358-5344

Hours of Operation: Festival takes place in late October, 10:30 a.m. - 10 p.m.

Admission: FREE

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • New Hampshire State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in New Hampshire, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.


Laura Sutherland is a widely acknowledged authority on family travel and has published several books on the topic, including Best Family Ski Vacations In North America and Tropical Family Vacations.