Daylight hours get shorter and temperatures begin to drop with the arrival of fall and there seems an almost urgent need to get outside to enjoy every fair weather day before the arrival of winter.
I especially notice this behavior in myself. Perhaps it is a by-product from having grown up in the Pacific Northwest where, after the vitality of summer, clear, sunny days become something of a rarity.
Here are some of my favorite outdoor fall activities—and they’re family-friendly.
Visit a Pumpkin Patch
Much more fun than picking out a pumpkin at the local supermarket, and more affordable too, heading out to a pumpkin patch is an annual tradition. I’ll usually hit the patch at least twice in October.
I love going to a pumpkin patch in early-October when the crop has just been brought in; all the vibrant shades of orange set against the still green fields takes me back to my childhood. I typically pick up a few smaller gourds for cooking and decorations on the first trip and I return later in the month, about a week before Halloween to find a few pumpkins for jack-o’-lanterns. If I purchase carving pumpkins on my first trip, they usually begin to go soft before Halloween
About.com has a good resource on what to look for when choosing pumpkins for carving or cooking.
I love carving pumpkins, but making that first cut on a jack-o’-lantern is such a big step—once you start, you’re committed. If you’re like me and need a little help getting started, check out eHow’s How to Carve a Pumpkin instructions, and Pumpkin Carving 101 for templates and more pumpkin-related tips.
I live near a farm, so finding a pumpkin patch is as easy as walking down the street. If you don’t happen to have a farm next door, try Pumpkin Patches and More to find a patch near you.
Get Lost in a Corn Maze
Although mazes date back over 4,000 years, the corn maze as a fall tradition hasn’t been around all that long really—the first modern corn maze was constructed in 1993. Today, farms across the United States (well over 200 this year) commission fall mazes.
I look forward to maze season, and often combine a trip to the corn maze with a pumpkin patch outing. Though a corn maze isn’t as easy to come by as a pumpkin patch, it’s well worth a small trip out of your way to find one, especially if you have children.
A couple of tips to keep in mind when walking a maze: bring a light jacket or windbreaker, once you’re in among the corn stalks and out of the sun you’ll likely get chilled quickly; start the maze well before nightfall, especially with little ones, you’re bound to get turned around at least a couple of times (that’s part of the fun!) and being lost in a maze at night may dampen the experience, especially for children afraid of the dark. Most mazes are designed so that you can complete them within 1–4 hours.
U-Pick at an Apple Orchard
In addition to hitting the pumpkin patches and finding a maze, another fall favorite is visiting a local apple orchard and cider mill—there is just something about being out in an orchard on a brisk day picking your own fruit.
Travel + Leisure put together a nice round up of America’s Best Apple Picking Farms. My favorite farms also have a cider mill. I absolutely love having a picnic with a warm cup of cider after an afternoon spent picking apples.
To find an orchard near you, visit All About Apples. Not all orchards have a U-Pick option, so it’s best to call ahead.
What are some of your favorite outdoor fall activities?