Fall brings many opportunities for fun family activities, both at home and away from home. Two of the most popular holidays — Halloween and Thanksgiving — occur in the fall. Football season and the school year also begin in the fall. Fall weather allows the last few opportunities to barbecue on the patio and the first few opportunities for hot soup by the fireplace. Still running low on ideas? Here are eight ideas for fun family activities for fall:
Deciduous trees shed their leaves in the fall in a multi-step process intended to protect the trees during the cold and dark winter months. Nutrients, sugars, and water stored in green leaves are pulled back into the trunk and roots to fuel the tree as days shorten after the autumnal equinox towards the end of September. And by cutting off circulation to the leaves, the trees conserve energy that would otherwise be wasted trying to keep leaves green when they will just freeze once the temperatures fall below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
This biological process produces a spectacular show. Fall foliage usually peaks in mid- to late-October, depending on your weather and location. New England has the best-known and most vibrant leaf-peeping opportunities as maple forests turn red, orange, and yellow. However, many of the forests in the Midwest, Mountain West, Pacific Northwest, and Southeast — particularly along the Smoky Mountains — have oak, birch, beech, and aspen trees that will turn yellow, with some flecks of orange and red, in fall.
Many weather websites track leaf color throughout the fall. When fall foliage season hits your locale, one of the most popular and fun family activities for fall is to pack a lunch for the entire family in a soft side cooler and rent a Jeep Wrangler or other SUV for a drive into the mountains. There you and your family can experience this annual event in its full glory. Just remember not to bring the dog unless he or she has had some dog training. While most national parks and national forests allow pets, they must be leashed at all times and you must clean up after them.
Football is an American fall tradition. Football (or American football as it is known outside of the U.S. and Canada) evolved from soccer and rugby over the first 70 years of the 1800s. In the fall of 1869, the first intercollegiate football game was played between Princeton University and Rutgers University. A standard set of rules was developed over 15 years from 1880, when the line of scrimmage and the center snap was codified, to 1895, when the first forward pass was completed. Walter Camp, a football player at Yale from 1878 to 1882, invented some of the most important and significant rules in football and is recognized as the “father of football” for his efforts.
From the beginning, football was a fall sport. Whether at the Pop Warner, high school, college, or professional level, the end of summer and the beginning of the school year are accompanied by football season. And football season has not officially arrived until the first tailgate party of the year.
Fun family activities for fall include gathering the family together for a tailgate party before a high school, college, or professional football game. You can even host a get-together before your child’s Pop Warner game so friends and family can show their support for the child’s nascent football career. While any party in the parking lot of a football game is technically a tailgate party, the traditional tailgating spread is a soft side cooler full of beer and burgers hot off the grill.
Fall block parties can be an opportunity to get to know the neighbors and blow off some steam after a hectic summer. Block parties can be themed to any of fall’s big occurrences, such as the end of summer, back to school, Halloween, Veterans Day, or Thanksgiving. The best part of these fun family activities for fall is that you do not have to do all the work by yourself. If you hold a pot luck block party and get a few neighbors to help out with the decorations, the burden will be more-or-less shared equally among all the families in the neighborhood.
Some neighborhoods even hold block parties in lieu of, or in addition to, trick or treating on Halloween. Not only is this a safer option than trick or treating, it allows everyone, both young and old, to join in the Halloween fun.
Another idea for a block party is to combine the block party with a service project such as helping out a neighbor or raising money for a worthy cause. It is often easier to hit up the neighbors for help when you are supplying food, beverages, and entertainment than just going door to door.
For example, on Veterans Day, you could hold a block party to help veterans and families of deployed service members to clean their yards and get ready for winter. It should be easy to round up volunteers with the promise of a pot luck lunch and games for the kids after the work is done.
Pumpkin patches and other festivals can provide excellent opportunities for fun family activities for fall. While pumpkin patches primarily have games and activities geared toward children, hayrides, corn mazes, arts and crafts, and every type of pumpkin spice flavored food and drink under the sun can provide endless fun for parents and teenagers too.
Also, do not forget the most adult of all fall festivals, Oktoberfest, which happens in the fall as well. The largest Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany traditionally took place during the 16 days preceding the first Sunday in October. After German unification on October 3, 1994, the Oktoberfest schedule was modified to run until Unification Day if October 1 or October 2 falls on Sunday. Thus, if you and your family are headed to the airport to fly to Munich for Oktoberfest, it ends on the first Sunday in October or October 3rd, whichever occurs later.
Many state and county fairs also take place in the early fall or late summer after the harvest. While these festivals are largely known for their fun family activities for fall, they are also agricultural and animal husbandry exhibitions and competitions. With the shift in the U.S. economy away from agriculture and toward services and finished goods, however, you would be forgiven if you skip the livestock barns and exhibit halls of award-winning fruits and vegetables and head straight for the amusement park rides and food vendors.
Pick Your Own Fruit and Vegetables
Harvest time not only brings state and county fairs, but it also brings pick-your-own season. Depending on where you live, apples, figs, pears, and Concord grapes all ripen in the early fall. And no discussion of fall would be complete without noting that pumpkins ripen in the fall. Many orchards and farms are open to the public, allowing you to pick your own fruit and vegetables and pay a fee based on the weight of the produce you take home. Picking your own produce can be one of the most fun family activities for fall. It also helps you to teach your children where their food comes from.
There are many benefits to picking your own fruit and vegetables:
- Often, the price you pay at a pick-your-own orchard or farm is less than you would pay at a grocery store because you have supplied the labor.
- Produce sold at grocery stores is picked before it ripens to take into account travel time and its lifetime in the store. By picking your own, you can pick fruit and vegetables at their peak of ripeness.
- You can pick only those that meet your criteria and are not stuck with old, bruised, or under-ripe produce because of a limited selection at the grocery store.
- Supporting local farmers creates a more sustainable and carbon-friendly way to get your food.
Once you have picked your produce, cooking, preserving, and eating your bounty provides even more fun family activities for fall. These days, people forget that pickles, jams, jellies, dried fruit, and fruit roll-ups were invented to preserve fruits and vegetables through the winter. Learning the lost skill of home canning provides you and your family with knowledge and a source of delicious food throughout the winter.
Even if you decide to eat your produce rather than preserve it, you and your family will enjoy finding fun ways to use your fruit and vegetables. No fall season is complete without pumpkin cookies, apple bread, hot soups and stews, and, of course, pumpkin pie.
When kids head back to school in the fall, their fall fun does not need to end. Field trips offer educational opportunities along with the fun of traveling to a local educational museum or art gallery.
Moreover, field trips are not just for school-age children. Volunteering to chaperone a school field trip can provide fun family activities for fall. Many schools allow chaperones to bring younger children as long as they ride with the chaperone. This will allow you to introduce your younger children to both the experience of going on a school field trip and the educational or cultural lesson to be learned from the field trip.
If you live in one of the unfortunate school districts where field trips are a rarity, you can use weekends to plan your own family field trips. These field trips do not need to be elaborate. Most kids are happy to take the behind-the-scenes tour at a bakery, watch an educational IMAX movie at the planetarium, or stroll through the zoo. As a bonus, many museums, zoos, and galleries host educational events tied to fall holidays like Columbus Day, Halloween, Veterans Day, and Thanksgiving that offer special exhibits and activities for kids.
Holidays With the Family
It may not require a trip over the river and through the woods, but grandma’s house always offers fun family activities for fall. Just a few of the benefits to spending time with your family, particularly during holidays and special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries, include:
- Traditions and culture. Children learn family traditions and cultural values by experiencing them first hand. Moreover, they learn the value of carrying those traditions on by seeing their importance to grandparents, parents, aunts, and uncles, and other relatives.
- Fun. Spending time with family is fun. Many of our likes and dislikes come from our families. For a family of football fans, there might be nothing more fun than sitting down together to watch the big college rivalry football game.
- Family bonds. Knowing family members and spending time with them is the way to build family bonds. These bonds can last a lifetime. Close family members can provide a support structure in difficult times and share in the good times.
- Memories. If you think back on your life, you will likely find that many of your best memories involve family. Whether it is trick or treating with your cousins, attending your sister’s wedding, or singing at your grandmother’s 90th birthday, family time often makes the memories that we value the most and bring us the greatest happiness.
- Health. People with larger social networks are scientifically proven to have a lower risk of dementia. Moreover, people who experience bouts of loneliness are more prone to depression and have a shorter life expectancy.
- Social confidence. People, including children, who have closer relationships with their family are more confident in social situations and are better able to form stable and lasting friendships.
Fly Somewhere Warm
When you live in a cold climate, finding fun family activities in fall may require a family trip somewhere else. If you enjoy traveling with your kids, you are not alone. According to surveys, 44% of Millennials travel with their children. This is logical since most people have a cherished memory of a family trip and many of our own behaviors are attempts to recreate the best memories from our childhoods.
To involve the entire family, plan vacations where everyone can spend time together. Some trips naturally require the family to split up. For example, amusement parks may require older children to separate from younger children since they will be drawn to, and meet the height requirements for, different rides. However, a trip to the beach, boating or camping trip, or even a cruise can keep the family together for family time.
For older families, you may even want to consider a team-building trip, such as a river rafting or a mountain biking expedition. Working together to accomplish a common goal or overcome a common challenge can bring a family closer. If the trip is a guided expedition, you and your kids might even learn something new.
The end of summer does not necessarily mean that family fun time is over. Cooler temperatures and shorter days can bring relief from the heat that allows you to find fun family activities for fall in the great outdoors. The beginning of the school year does not mean seeing less of your kids if you volunteer to chaperone field trips or set up weekend field trips of your own. With a little creativity, fall can bring many family-friendly activities for you and your children.