I know I’m not the only one who loves fall the most. This week alone, I’ve bonded with the mail lady, three moms in the pickup line, my bank teller, and practically everyone at our local food co-op, over how much we just LOVE this time of year.
But for everyone I meet who adores fall as much as I do, it seems like there’s always at least one other person nearby who wants to know, “But WHY? And what do you DO in the fall?”
Well, let me tell ya. I am happy to proselytize. If you happen to be one of those dear souls who wants to be a fall-lover, but struggles to think of activities that make the fall magic happen–today’s post is dedicated to YOU.
Here are 50-somthing tried-and-true FUN family activities. Don’t have kids at home? NO worries. Grab some friends, borrow a grandmother, or…just get out there and have fun yourself! There’s no wrong way to embrace the joy of fall, and I hope this list gives you some great ideas for getting started.
Outdoor Fall Activities
Get lost in a CORN MAZE.
Wander through a pumpkin patch worthy of the Great Pumpkin. Have fun picking out your soon-to-be Jack o’Lanterns by visiting a farm’s pumpkin field, instead of the farmstand or grocery store. Is it just me, or do pumpkins with curly stems get bonus points? Often there’s complimentary hot cider or even cider donuts, but sometimes it’s not advertised, so keep your eyes open for bonus fun that might be had while you’re at the farm!
Drive through a scenic byway to admire the fall foliage.
Take a walk along the coast. The Marginal Way in Ogunquit is great walk for a beautiful fall day. (Pro Tip: If the parking lot is full, visit the restaurant first, and use the concierge parking…then collect your car after enjoying both the restaurant and the walk.)
Go on a hay ride! It’s hard to beat a good horse-drawn wagon piled with straw for those good old-timey autumn vibes.
Gather corn stalks to decorate your front steps, porch, or mailbox.
Have a garlic-planting party. Planting garlic is just more fun when you do it together, and the job gets done quickly when you’ve got some people separating and sorting garlic cloves, other prepping the beds, and others planting. Celebrate getting next year’s garlic harvest in the ground by making a wonderfully garlicky meal or snack, using some of the smaller cloves that weren’t suitable for planting.
Visit a Shaker Village. The Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village here in Maine always has the most wonderful fall events, and I know the same is true of Canterbury Shaker Village in NH. I don’t think there’s any more beautiful or exciting time of year to see all those old-fashioned building and inventions than at harvest time!
Go leaf collecting! See how many different colors and shapes of beautiful fall leaves you can find.
Go on a mushroom walk. September and October can still be a great time of year to find some of the most colorful woodland mushroom varieties. Take a camera or sketchbook to document your finds.
Go beach-combing after a big fall storm. It’s amazing what you can find on the beach after the remnants of a tropical storm blow through. Warm up those cold fingers afterward by wrapping them around a hot cup of chowder from a local seafood shack!
Gather some friends and challenge them to a FALL SCAVENGER HUNT. You can make your own, or print one you find online.
Go for a hike in the mountains. Getting up above the treeline during foliage season is breathtaking!
Find a local Farm Museum, and try to visit when they’re demonstrating cider making, frying donuts, or some other delightful harvest-time activity. You can often find a museum within driving distance simply by typing “farm museum near me” into your browser’s search bar. The NH Farm Museum is one I adored as a child, and it’s still going strong!
Take in the beautiful foliage by boat. You’ll get a whole different perspective on the New England coast from the deck of a Windjammer. Or get out on the lakes and enjoy a tour on a boat like the Mount Washington, which offers beautiful foliage cruises on Lake Winnipesaukee.
Go kayaking or canoeing. New England rivers are absolutely beautiful in the fall!
Go apple picking. Try as many in-season varieties as you can! You’ll be amazed at the variety of colors and flavors in some of the more obscure apple varieties that you can’t find in a grocery store!
Enjoy a local farmer’s market, and stock up on locally-grown produce. September and October are great times to find abundant and unique greens and root vegetables. AND – it’s not uncommon for New England farmer’s markets to host live music during market hours. You might get to take in some fine fiddling while you’re stocking up on beets and carrots!
Climb a fire tower. This is another neat way to see the scenery from up above the trees! Did you know there are many fire towers throughout New England that you can climb? Some are still staffed during periods of high fire danger. NH even has a Tower Quest program, where you can get a patch and certificate once you visit all of the towers!
Go on a graveyard tour! In the month or two leading up to Halloween, there are some really incredible graveyard tours, at many historic New England graveyards. You’ll be amazed how much history you can learn, along with some wonderfully spooky local ghost lore!
Take a train ride. Seeing the fall foliage by train is a glorious thing, and a fun thing about many scenic trains is that they still offer a dining car, where you could score a hot cup of cider or cocoa to keep your hands warm–in between taking pictures that is!
Enjoy a gondola ride at a ski mountain. Many ski areas offer rides in their gondolas during the fall foliage season, including Loon Mountain, Bretton Woods, and Sunday River, just to name a few.
Rake all the leaves into a giant pile, and…JUMP IN IT. Let your inner 4 year old loose, and revel in that crispy, crunchy pile of fun. Bonus if you have an actual 4 year old to play in the leaves with!
Go oyster harvesting. Do you know the old rule of oystering? You’re supposed to harvest during months ending in the letter “R”. That mean fall is the time to get out there in the bay, sink your toes in the sand, and go oyster harvesting. There’s nothing like oysters on the half-shell, when you know exactly where they came from!
Explore your hometown. Fall is such a beautiful time of year, and it’s a great chance to get to know your own hometown a little better. You never know what you might find! The other day, I discovered a beautiful section of rail trail just two blocks over from the streets where I usually walk–and I’d had no idea it was there!
Enjoy a backyard bonfire. Get out the marshmallows, or try sometime more ambitious, like baking apples in the embers.
Visit a castle. Did you know that New England is home to many wonderful old castles? I love Castle in the Clouds in NH (those walking trails are great!), but there are many others to explore as well! Check out the websites, because many castles host fun fall activities, like “dinner murder mystery” nights!
Indoor Fall Activities
Set up a fall-themed hot drink station in your kitchen, and leave it up all season. Fill shakers with cinnamon, nutmeg, powdered sugar, and cocoa powder, to gussy up everything from your morning coffee, to hot cider, to a mug of steaming hot chocolate.
Get our the soup cookbooks, or borrow some from the library. Try making some wonderful fall soups that you’ve never tried before.
Watch “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown“. It’s not fall, without a re-watch of this childhood classic! I like to request hard-to-find titles from our local library, if they’re not available free from a streaming service.
Have a doughnut making day. I have always associated doughnut making with fall. As a kid, there were several years when we make donuts as a family, and then settled in to watch Charlotte’s Web afterward. Talk about a perfect fall double-feature!
Put away the summer clothes and get our all of your sweaters and fall jackets. This is so much more fun and festive when you turn it into a family activity. Pack those shorts away, get out the woolies, and then celebrate your cold-weather-ready closets with a mug of hot cider.
Decorate the house for fall. It doesn’t take much to make the house feel like a celebration of all things Autumn. A little burlap here or there goes a long way, as do anything plaid, and lots of cozy blankets for cold-weather snuggling!
Have a fall themed game night. Lay out cozy fall snacks and warming drinks, and get out the Scrabble board.
Make old fashioned apple dumplings. This is a fun and special dessert to make as a family, since there are several steps involved. Pare and core some large apples, place them on a circle of pie crust, stuff the centers with raisins and walnuts, then wrap the dough up like a present, fully covering the apple. Place the crust-wrapped apples in a large baking dish, dust them with cinnamon and sugar and drizzle generously with maple syrup. Then bake at 350 until they’re slouchy and soft, and the crusts are browned…about 45-55 minutes, depending on the size of your apples.
Have a spooky movie night. You don’t have to wait until Halloween…there’s something about the arrival of cold, blustery weather that just invites “the shivers”, to quote Frog and Toad.
Crafty Fall Activities
Make window art with brightly colored leaves you’ve collected. This can be a simple as using clear contact paper to sandwich the leaves, then punch a hole in the top of your creation for hanging. OR–get out the iron and use waxed paper for the old fashioned version of this craft!
Have a photo contest with your family or friends. Get creative with awards for every submission! Some ideas: Most Colorful, Classic New England, Best Black & White, Most Unexpected Subject, Funniest Photo. You get the idea!
Use colored leaves and mod podge to create fun greeting cards on cardstock, and send them to friends who live in places where Autumn is less colorful. (Poor them!)
Press colored leaves between the pages of a heavy book. Leave them there for a few weeks, and you’ll be amazed how they’ve dried, while keeping much of their vibrant color. I still have 40 year old fall leaves that I pressed between the pages of my Bible when I was a kid!
Get out the knitting needles, and make something warm for fall. It’s amazing how much joy there can be in whipping out a simple scarf to add to your fall wardrobe!
Make a wreath together for the front door. This can be so much fun! Get out the hot glue gun, gather some natural items like dried flowers, acorns, and fir cones, and work together to create a beautiful wreath on a simple grapevine or straw wreath frame. (You can find these right at most dollar stores!)
Make candles. There’s something about chilly fall weather that makes lighting a candle just feel COZY, and what better candle than one you make yourself? These fir & pine beeswax candles smell incredible, and feel perfectly in season for fall or winter.
Have a Bob Ross painting party. Get out paints and canvasses for everyone, then pull up a fall painting scene tutorial from Bob Ross’s Joy of Painting. I’m partial to this one, called The Old Weathered Barn.
Community Fall activities
Volunteer at a local clothing distribution center. This is a season when EVERYONE is about to need warm clothes, jackets, hats, and mittens. If you’re not aware of a local church or free clothing center that helps people out with getting the warm clothes they need, try calling your local food pantry. They definitely know who’s doing the work of feeding and clothing people in your community, and will help you find a place to jump in and help.
Take in an old fashioned Country Fair. There are SO many wonderful fairs throughout New England. The Sandwich Fair in NH is one of my absolute favorites, as is the Common Ground Fair up in Maine. The Deerfield Fair is another good one!
Cheer on the kids at a local soccer or football game. Both sports are played in the fall, and can be so much fun to watch. I was at my son’s first kindergarten soccer game last weekend, and one mom described it as watching a bunch of kittens scrambling after a ball of yarn! It’s hard not to feel a lot of joy when you’re watching kids have THAT much fun, giving it their all!
Have a wood-stacking party for an older neighbor or single mom. There are plenty of people this time of year who need to get their winter firewood stacked, but may have physical limitations, or just never enough time. See if you could help by bringing a few friends over to make quick work of stacking that wood for them. (Don’t forget to provide the snacks and cider, so it’s a 100% blessing and not a burden on the folks you’re helping!)
Sign up for a holiday Turkey Trot. If you don’t want to join a run on Thanksgiving Day, many Turkey Trots now have an online option to log your run or walk at a different time. You can still get out with family and friends, and get some miles in for a good cause.
Go to a fall PowWow and learn more about the Native American heritage and history of your area.
Go to an old fashioned Contra Dance. Fall is a great time to find contra dances, and the fun of this kind of dancing is that you really don’t have to know what you’re doing ahead of time. Just listen to the caller, go with the flow, and you’ll be fine!
WHAT ELSE SHOULD BE ON HERE? I know there are a hundred more great ways to have fun in the fall (especially if you’re in New England!). Let me know what I’m missing by putting your ideas in the comments below!