The Annual Nantucket Daffodil Festival will be held from April 26-28, 2024.
Nantucket is largely known as a summer haven for wealthy vacationers and seasonal residents. Known for its beautiful coastline and pristine beaches, Nantucket is certainly alive with activity throughout the summer season, attracting crowds of travelers that ferry over from Cape Cod for a week or even just a day to enjoy the island’s quaint downtown area with its cobblestone streets and abundance of shops and restaurants. Many walk to Brant Point lighthouse to enjoy the nearest beach areas, and others rent bicycles and ride out to Sconset, Madaket, or the Cisco Brewery. It’s a busy place with a population that blossoms from 11,000 in the off-season to over 80,000 during peak summer.
Then, as summer vacations wind down and fall begins to chill the air, Nantucket settles in for its long slumber. Restaurants close and seasonal workers head home. No doubt, it’s a welcome reprieve for some hardy islanders, but quite a harsh winter for others.
As April nears its end, Nantucketers celebrate the arrival of springtime with the largest seasonal festival on the Cape & Islands. Coinciding with the island’s daffodil bloom, the Nantucket Daffodil Festival is celebrated with great excitement. Not only islanders partake in the celebrations, but visitors from across the region travel to Nantucket to celebrate longer days, warmer air, and the bright yellow of over 2 million Nantucket daffodils. Finally, the Grey Lady isn’t so gray anymore.
When is the Nantucket Daffodil Festival Held?
The Nantucket Daffodil Festival is held annually on the last weekend in April. While this may seem a bit too early in the year to visit a summer paradise, it may be the only time that many folks can spend a night or two on the island. In 2023, my wife and I stayed for two nights during Daffodil Weekend at the Brass Lantern Inn. While nothing is ever cheap on Nantucket, the cost per night was about $200 less expensive on Daffy Weekend than during peak summer. And while you won’t care to spend hours on the beach in late April, much of downtown Nantucket is open for the weekend. Restaurants, shops, and bars are filled with people looking to have a great time.
What to Do During the Nantucket Daffodil Festival?
There are also outdoor activities to enjoy. Nantucket has 35 miles of bike paths leading to every corner of the island. While you may not want to ride out to some areas in April, there are two places that are worth it, even in early springtime.
Sconset Bike Path and Sconset Bluff Walk
Ride your bike along the six-mile paved bike path to the village of Siasconset, known locally as Sconset. This adorable village is still pretty sleepy in the springtime and you won’t find many shops or cafes open for business. However, the Sconset Bluff Walk is always open. This is a one-mile path along the bluffs facing the open Atlantic Ocean. The path is actually a right of way that traverses the backyards of some of the most desirable properties in the nation. There is a public access point to the beach near the beginning of the Bluff Walk, but otherwise, you will be confined to the dedicated path with private property on either side.
If the wind and temperature are agreeable, then this is a great walk to take on the Saturday of the Daffodil Festival. The car parade that starts in Nantucket village ends in Sconset with a large neighborhood picnic along Main Street from 12:30pm to 3pm. Be sure to pack some food and drinks (there’s an open container waiver for Sconset only on Saturday). Picnickers can also take the WAVE bus from Nantucket Village to Sconset, or even bike there and load the bikes onto the bus for a quick ride home.
Cisco Bike Path and Cisco Brewers
Cisco Brewers is OPEN during the Nantucket Daffodil Festival
One of Nantucket’s main attractions is Cisco Brewers, the island’s own craft brewery, winery, and distillery. That’s right – a triple threat. Cisco Brewers will be open for the weekend, with its wide selection of craft beers on tap, outdoor seating, and resident food vendors on site serving elevated, hot grub to go along with your drinks.
Nantucket Vineyards is Cisco’s wine subsidiary, and you can get pours of great tasting wines on-site. Just head across the courtyard to the wine counter and check out the blackboard to see what’s available/
Triple Eight Distillery crafts organic and flavored vodka, rum, gin, and bourbon along with a branded single malt Scotch. A bottle for later use back at home makes a great, and functional, souvenir.
Living fairly locally on Cape Cod, I like to visit Nantucket every now and then. When I do, I always take my bike on the ferry and head to Cisco Brewers. It’s certainly one of Nantucket’s highlights, especially when the weather is a bit cooler. For those who do not want to pedal to the brewery, Cisco offers a free shuttle to and from Nantucket village that runs every half-hour, so no Uber is necessary to get there.
Brant Point Light
It’s about a 15-minute walk to Brant Point Light from the center of town. This lighthouse is New England’s shortest, measuring only 26 feet tall. And although the architecture is modest, it has its own charm and is worth the walk. The lighthouse is decorated with a huge daffodil wreath for the weekend and makes for an excellent photo opportunity. It is also surrounded by a sandy beach, so if you are looking to get a little sand between the toes, this is the place to conveniently do it.
Brant Point Light is also the most rebuilt lighthouse in the US. Originally constructed and commissioned in 1746, it is now in its ninth iteration, having been destroyed by weather and erosion several times.
Lobster Bloody Marys at the Brant Point Grill
While you’re walking over to Brant Point Light, stop in at the Brant Point Grill, the main restaurant within the White Elephant luxury resort. Sit at the bar and enjoy one of their signature drinks, the Lobster Bloody Mary. Almost a meal in itself, it is actually served with a plate and fork. With a rim dipped in bacon salt, this is a quintessential Nantucket experience not to be missed.
Antique Car Parade
On Saturday, the Antique Car Parade is a highlight of the official Daffy Weekend events. It kicks off at 12pm, but much of the fun is getting up close to these heavily decorated vehicles and talking with their owners and other spectators. The cars stage on Main Street beginning at 9:30am and the street is packed with spectators shortly thereafter. Vintage cars and trucks are decorated with daffodils or are otherwise just very cool to see. One of our favorite cars from 2023 was decked out in a Candyland theme, with the crew in full costume.
After parading through the downtown village, the parade ends in Sconset with a large street-side picnic.
Daffodil Flower Show
On Saturday and Sunday, the Nantucket Garden Club sponsors a daffodil show with a juried competition to see who can grow the best-looking flowers. It is located at Bartlett’s Farm, which just happens to be right around the corner (walking distance) from Cisco Brewers. I am not a horticulture enthusiast, and to be honest, a daffodil is probably one of the only flowers I can positively identify along with a rose and tulip. I have not been to the show, but you may wish to check it out before heading to the brewery for food and drinks.
Noteworthy Locations on Island
Brotherhood of Thieves
A proper dimly lit basement-level bar and grill is not to be missed on any travels, and on Nantucket, this is the place to go. Serving pub food as well as local favorites such as raw oysters and clam chowder, Brotherhood of Thieves makes for a great lunchtime stop. Be sure to get your name added to the wait list well before hunger strikes. This is one of the “must-go” places on the island and there was a two-hour wait the last time we visited.
Nantucket Whaling Museum
European settlement of Nantucket began with…farming. That’s right, farmers wanted a place to graze sheep without getting attacked by wolves. But it didn’t take long before whaling completely took over the island as the primary industry and propelled Nantucket into one of the most prosperous societies in the American Colonies and the fledgling US. Nantucketers dominated the whaling industry until the discovery of petroleum as a main source of fuel.
The Nantucket Whaling Museum pays homage to Nantucket’s roots as a community and houses many artifacts from that bygone era.
Let’s face it. Winter around here can get pretty long. Any excuse to celebrate the coming of longer days and at least some mildly warmer air is a welcome relief. With two Daffy Weekends in the books for us, we are thinking that this might become an annual tradition. If you plan on visiting in 2024, please feel free to drop a comment below. You can also DM or email me and we can figure out a time to link up for a beer on the island. See you there in 2024.
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