Your alarm goes off in the morning. After coffee, a shower, reading the newspaper and getting dressed, you’re out the door — and that’s when it hits you.
There’s a slight chill in the air. A yellow leaf flutters gently to the ground. Your clothing isn’t warm enough. Autumn has arrived.
In between unpacking your sweaters and bringing in the patio furniture, the change of season means a renewed vigor for experiencing all that Maine has to offer. From leaf-peeping driving trips around the state to Halloween events, from apple picking to concert-going, the fall is the time when Mainers really get to bask in the glory.
The gold, red, orange and yellow that light up treetops lasts only about a month — so what are you waiting for? Get out and have fun, before you make that appointment to put on your snow tires.
BangPop! Sunday, Sept. 19, Spectacular Event Center, Griffin Road, Bangor
All things comic books, fantasy, sci-fi and horror will be on the schedule at this annual comics convention. Author and illustrator Jimmy Gownley, author and University of Maine professor Alex Irvine, horror and sci-fi author Christopher Mills and cartoonist Mark Ricketts are some of the panelists set to present, along with vendors, performers and much more. Admission at the door is $12.
Lord Hall Galleries 9 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays, University of Maine campus, Orono
There’s always something interesting at this beautifully designed gallery space in Lord Hall on the UMaine campus. The annual Without Borders exhibition is now on the walls, featuring video, new media and installation art by artists from Maine and all over the world. Through Sept. 24.
Monday Blues at the Time Out Blues Pub 7 p.m. Mondays, 275 Main St., Rockland
Every Monday, Paul Benjamin brings some of the best touring blues artists in the country to the stage at the Time Out Blues Pub. Whether you feel like extending your weekend or you just want to hear some really great music, it’s an excellent excuse to go out on a school night. On Sept. 20, check out Smokin’ Joe Kubek and B’nois King; Sept. 27 brings L’il Ed and the Blues Imperials, and Oct. 4 features John Primer and the Real Deal Blues Band.
Pemaquid Oyster Festival Noon Sunday, Sept. 26, Schooner Landing Restaurant, Damariscotta
Three cheers for bivalves! The Pemaquid Oyster Festival is an annual celebration of the working waterfront and the Damariscotta River, where the cold, salty, succulent Pemaquid oyster is farmed. Last year, more than 10,000 oysters were served at the event, which benefits the Edward A. Myers Marine Conservation Fund. The celebration includes music, educational exhibits, boat rides and lots of oysters harvested fresh the morning of the festival from the Damariscotta River.
The Met Live in HD Screenings October-May at the Collins Center for the Arts in Orono, The Strand Theatre in Rockland and The Grand in Ellsworth
Even if you’re not an opera fan, the sumptuous, progressive productions offered at the Metropolitan Opera in New York are a must-have life experience. Five years ago, the Met began offering live, high-definition broadcasts of much of its season, showing operas from the classics of Rossini, Verde and Puccini to more modern fare from composers such as John Adams. The 2010-11 season is notable for many reasons — No. 1, because the Met will stage Wagner’s Ring cycle for the first time in more than 20 years.
Foliage Drive No. 1: Route 35, Windham to Bethel
The windy, mountainous road from just south of Sebago Lake to Sunday River country crosses rivers, runs alongside ponds and lakes, and lets drivers see some of the loveliest country in the state. Keep your eyes on the road and pick a nice, clear, sunny day. It takes about 1.5 hours to get from Windham to Bethel.
Common Ground Country Fair Sept. 24-26, Unity Fairgrounds; admission $8-$10
Get there early, bring plenty of cash, and enjoy the food, vendors, music, informational booths, farm animals and interesting people that are the hallmark of this nationally renowned event. For a first-time fair-goer, the experience can be almost overwhelming; there’s so much to see, from sheepdog trials and the farmers market to books, jewelry, fiber arts and lots of fabulous eats. Regardless of whether you’re a novice or a decades-long attendee, it’s an event all of Maine can be proud of. After all, 51,000 people attended last year, from all over the country. Need we say more?
Camden International Film Festival Sept. 30-Oct. 3, Camden, Rockport and Rockland; individual films $8.50, passes $50-$100
Now in its sixth year, this documentary film festival shines the spotlight on new, challenging films by filmmakers from around the world while offering some great music and panel discussions. This year, check out “The Road Not Taken,” about the solar panels installed by the Carter administration on the roof of the White House, which ended up in Maine before some of them headed back to Washington. Also notable is the film “Do It Again,” about one man’s quest to reunite the 1960s British rock band The Kinks.
A special screening of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 7, The Grand, Ellsworth; $10
Ahead of Halloween, The Grand will present a very special screening of the 1974 horror classic. Gunnar Hansen, who played the original Leatherface, the evil villain of the movie, will be on hand for a discussion with the audience after the show. If you’re a horror fan, this is pure cinematic joy.
Searsport’s Fling Into Fall Friday and Saturday, Oct. 8 and 9, downtown Searsport
This family-friendly event is a fun, upbeat celebration of the most colorful season in Maine. The event will include children’s games, musical entertainment, public suppers and breakfast, a craft fair, jack-o’-lantern carving and scarecrow competitions, and more.
Foliage Drive No. 2: Route 1 and Route 161, Houlton to Fort Kent
If you live in The County, you know how beautiful it is. You don’t need anyone to tell you that. But to those in the rest of the state, it can seem a bit daunting to drive that far north. Listen, people: This is the year that you pile into the car, drive up 1-95 to Houlton, and take Route 1 to Presque Isle and then Fort Fairfield. From there, take Route 161 to Fort Kent. You’ll remember it for the rest of your life; the rivers, the fields, the farms and the glorious foliage. It takes about two hours to get from Houlton to Fort Kent.
SmackFest 10 a.m.-end Sunday, Oct. 10, Bangor Waterfront; tickets at waterfrontconcerts.com
What started as simply Godsmack, Drowning Pool and Five Finger Death Punch playing on the waterfront has turned into an all-day music festival, featuring nearly 20 metal and hard-core bands from all over Maine. Bull Moose Music No. 1 best-sellers Deadseason headline the local acts. It’s the most metal the Bangor Waterfront has ever seen.
Haunted Woods Walk 6-9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 15, Aroostook State Park, Presque Isle; admission $5
Walk through the woods at Aroostook State Park two weekends before Halloween — but beware the spooks and spirits that are celebrating the season. Make sure you take your flashlight and lots of courage. Enjoy stories around the campfire and hot refreshments afterward.
American Harvest Picnic 2-5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 17, Morris Farm, Route 27, Wiscasset; admission $10, children $5
Slow Food Midcoast Maine brings the last hurrah of this year’s spectacular growing season to the table at the second annual American Harvest Picnic. This celebration of local foods features farmers, growers, bakers, beekeepers, winemakers and brewers, along with tasty dishes from midcoast restaurants such as Cafe Miranda in Rockland, Francine Bistro in Camden and the Azure Cafe in Freeport.
Foliage Drive No. 3: Route 1, Machias to Calais, with detours
Route 1 from Machias to Calais covers some lovely coastal ground, with ample options for detours. You could go to Lubec and admire Quoddy Head State Park. You could cross the causeway to Eastport and amble the narrow streets. If you have a passport, you could hop across the Canadian border to St. Andrews or St. Stephen, or even Campobello Island.
Art and Poetry Gallery Walk 1-7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 16, throughout downtown Belfast
The main event of the Belfast Poetry Festival features poets and artists in four locations around town, including the Belfast Free Library, the Belfast Dance Studio, Waterfall Arts and Roots & Tendrils. Poets such as Carol Bachhofner, Bruce Pratt, Jacob Fricke, Linda Buckmaster and Leonore Hildbrandt will be paired with visual artists such as Robert Shetterly, Beth Henderson, Harold Garde and more. The event is free.
Blue Hill Fall Foliage Food & Wine Festival Oct. 15-17, throughout Blue Hill region
Three days of food, wine and fun, in the middle of the prettiest season — what better excuse to take off Down East for the weekend? Check out events such as the Omelets for Omnivores breakfast at 8 a.m. at the Breakfast Shed in Brooksville, followed by a guided hike at Holbrook Island Sanctuary. There’s an artisan chocolate-making class with the folks from Black Dinah Chocolatiers, a wine dinner at Arborvine in Blue Hill, and on Sunday, a big chowder cook-off. One word: yum.
Foliage Drive No. 4: Appleton Ridge
Take Route 1 from Thomaston and turn onto Route 131. Stay on that road until you get to Union, where you’ll turn onto Butler Road, which eventually turns into Appleton Ridge Road (or just Ridge Road). It’s only a half-hour drive, but it’s some of the most stunning backcountry hills you’ll see in Maine, along with blueberry barrens and glorious foliage. Ridge Road connects back up with 131, which will take you to Route 3 and eventually back to Route 1.
State Theatre Opening Weekend Oct. 15-17, Portland
After five years with darkened windows and a questionable future, last May the historic State Theatre in Portland found two new operators (The Bowery Presents and Higher Ground Presents) and began heavy renovations. The theater will open the weekend of Oct. 15, with popular indie rock band My Morning Jacket taking the stage Friday night, and seven Maine bands including Jacob and the House of Fire, Brenda and Grand Hotel playing Sunday, Oct. 17. Other bands coming up include Josh Ritter, Guster, Michael Franti and Rusted Root.
Hunters Breakfasts Everywhere, during hunting season
Until the end of November, there’s a very good chance that somewhere in or near your town there’s an early morning hunters breakfast happening — 4 a.m., 5 a.m., 6 a.m. — whenever you’re up and ready to go, there’ll be pancakes on the griddle, sausage in the pan and coffee a-brewin’. Granges, lodges, churches, community centers, snowmobile clubs and schools all are common hosts for breakfast, which can be as little as $3 for a hearty, extremely early morning meal. Check your local listings.
Great Maine Apple Day Noon-4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 23, Common Ground Education Center, Unity; admission $4, kids $2
Everything apple is on the menu for this afternoon of celebration. There are workshops and talks, cider-making demonstrations, heirloom apple tastings, apple identification sessions, vendors and, of course, an apple pie contest at 3:30 p.m.
Fright at the Fort Oct. 22-23 and Oct. 29-30, Fort Knox State Park; admission $5
Easily the best Halloween experience in the state. Gaggles of ghouls, ghosts, zombies and other beasties take over Fort Knox for two weekends before Halloween. The costumes, sound and lighting are great, and even the most hardened of souls will admit that it’s genuinely scary — the location alone ups the spooky factor.
Foliage Drive No. 5: Mount Desert Island
It might be an obvious choice, but there’s a reason everyone goes there: It’s breathtakingly beautiful. Pick a nice day and tool around the island; visit Seawall, drive up Cadillac, or just take in the salt air and vibrant colors. Then go get a hot chocolate or cider in Bar Harbor.
“Last Gas,” new play by John Cariani Nov. 2-21, Portland Stage, Forest Avenue
John Cariani, author of the beloved “Almost, Maine,” which has been produced by theaters from Broadway to Bangor, has written a new play. It’s called “Last Gas,” and it’s about lovelorn Nat Paradis, a manager of a gas station in northern Maine. It will have its premiere at Portland Stage, starting Nov. 2. For tickets, visit www.portlandstage.org.
Gifted Hand Fine Art, Craft and Gift Show Nov. 12-13, Ramada Inn, Ellsworth
More than 50 artists, artisans and craftspeople will show their wares at this annual event. Already thinking about shopping for the holiday season? You can get something unique and totally Maine for anyone on your list. This year’s show benefits Schoodic Arts For All.