Here are our ideas for things to do in autumn to create happy memories, the Good Times Glue to amazing relationships. How many things will you check off this year?
The air is crisp, the wind feels lovely against your face & caressing your hair, the leaves are turning gorgeous colors. It’s time to enjoy wearing sweaters & getting outdoors for one last blast. And time to prepare for cozy indoor time.
At Playtime & Party we believe in living intentionally by embracing the seasons, so this is our official bucket list of things to do in autumn, listed in alphabetical order.
Autumn is the perfect time for an antiquing road trip. Enjoy the gorgeous scenery while driving from one antique shop to the next. Don’t forget to have a picnic along the way!
Any autumn bucket list includes a visit an apple orchard to taste-test their cider. Watch for a cider festival or cider dinner party at a local orchard. Or, host an apple cider party of your own.
Want to keep it simple? Have a glass of hot apple cider with mulling spices or try an apple cider punch with extra kick from ginger beer. Grill up some apple cider ribs to go with it – see pitmaster Chris Lilly’s award-winning recipe.
Apple Crumble, Apple Cobbler or Apple Crisp
Make a hearty autumn dessert – an apple cobbler, apple crumble or apple crisp. Great served warm, especially with vanilla or cinnamon ice cream.
- A cobbler is baked in a pie dish, but doesn’t have a crust. It is topped with biscuit dough that looks like a cobblestone road when baked. In the deep south the biscuit is on the bottom.
- A crumble is baked in a pie dish, but doesn’t have a crust. Instead, a Crumble has a streusel style topping.
- A crisp is also baked in a pie dish without a crust. It has oats in the topping and is baked until it is, well, crisp.
- See more in Tart and Pie Recipes & Different Ways to Make a Pie.
You can even enjoy an apple crisp smoothie bowl for breakfast.
Visit an apple orchard during the harvest season. Make a day of it! Go apple picking, taste-test some apple cider, have a candy apple, and bring home some fresh apples to bake an apple pie or make applesauce.
Usher in the fall harvest season by spending an afternoon with the family baking a delectable homemade apple pie. Don’t let the pie crust scare you – use a frozen crust and go for it! (See our apple pie recipe collection.)
Apple Pie Taste Testing Party
Have an apple pie tasting party with your friends. Or, take it to the next level with a friendly Apple Pie Bake-Off.
Every family has a secret apple pie recipe, so gather everyone together to taste test the different recipes. Have cheddar cheese slices, vanilla or cinnamon ice cream and other favorite toppings to go with the teeny-tiny pie slices for taste testing.
Celebrate the harvest with an Applefest. Events at local orchards – and sometimes the whole community gets together to celebrate an apple festival. Find one near you.
The autumn equinox is the day when there is 12 hours of sunlight and 12 hours of night. It happens sometime between September 21 – 24.
Celebrate by staying up all night outdoors snuggled in blankets and watch the stars, go camping, or have a bonfire. Have a picnic at midnight.
Celebrate indoors by making your home cosy for the winter with blankets and scented candles. Celebrate with family and friends by hosting a harvest dinner party.
Back to School Celebration
Kids are excited or anxious about going back to school. Make it a smooth and joyful transition for them by having a back to school party so they can reconnect with their friends. A backyard party celebrates the ending of summer vacation perfectly, and is easy to clean up.
Or turn giving them their school equipment into a party by wrapping them like gifts and serving a back to school cake or cupcakes.
On the first day of school:
Food is scarce for the birds, so it’s time to bring out the bird feeders. Also time to feed the squirrels and chipmunks because they are “squirreling” away their food for winter.
Beer Tasting Party
Whether you’re celebrating Oktoberfest or want get your friends together to test their mad beer skills, autumn is the perfect time for a beer tasting party. Find a brewery, pub or bar that is offering one, or host your own. We tell you everything you need to know in our Ultimate Guide to Hosting a Beer Tasting Party.
Whether it’s an old-fashioned beet festival or Sugar Beet Days, local farms and communities celebrate the fall harvest. Of course there’s taste-tasting of beet products, but there’s also live music, and other popular attractions. (Try our beet recipes and host your own beet festival for family & friends.)
Can you see your breath when you’re outside? As soon as there’s a chill in the air, it’s time to bring out the snuggle blankets for the whole family. Roll them into logs and stand them in huge wicker baskets in the TV room. Drape a blanket on the edge of the couch. Fold a faux fur blanket at the end of your bed for naps.
Even better – knit, crochet or quilt your own blanket! Take a class at a yarn or craft store and meet some new people.
Embrace the chill and start doing indoor activites like a game night. Get your friends together with snacks, a hot chocolate bar or candy bar, and play your favorite board games or action games. Dust off your shower game book and play all those silly games together. Have a family night where you interact instead of watching movies.
Laughing together connects our hearts and binds us with Good Times Glue.
Bobbing for apples
Bobbing for apples isn’t just for Halloween! When you’re looking for something to do for a few minutes of fun, or when you have the crew together for a mini-party, or as part of an apple-themed party, bobbing for apples is easy to pull together in a minute and a fun challenge for all ages. Find the deepest container for the most fun!
Bonfire with Friends
Bonfires with s’mores were fun in the summer, but the chill in the air means bonfires with friends serves a greater purpose. Keep warm with a fireside latte, hot chocolate or wine party.
Can’t have a bonfire because your area doesn’t allow it? Carve flames into the peel of pumpkins (leave a thin lining of the flesh) and pile them for a jack-o-lantern bonfire. Use battery operated candles.
Get your flowerbeds ready for spring by planting tulip bulbs and other spring flowers. When the soil is 60° F, it’s time. (See our tips on planting spring bulbs.)
Cabin in the Woods
Too cold for camping? Prefer to sit by the fireplace at night? Stay at a cabin in the woods and get the full autumn experience: bonfires, hiking through the fall leaves, fireside at night with hot chocolate or mulled wine.
Camping in Autumn Leaves
Camping in autumn is a totally different experience than in the summer. Enjoy the sights, sounds and smells the fall has to offer in the woods. (And bring your long johns, an extra blanket to wrap up in around the campfire and even a balaclava. One year I was wrapped so warmly – except for my nose. My nose was so cold I couldn’t sleep.)
The candy apple is a symbol of fall and the holiday season. You can find them at fall fairs, apple orchards, for Halloween, and at Christmas festivals.
Make caramel apples or chocolate covered apples. Have a caramel apple party with family and friends. Or keep it simple and enjoy apple slices with caramel dip while watching autumn romance movies. (See 4 Easy Ways to Make Caramel Apples for Family Night Fun for recipes & ideas.)
Daylight is shorter after the autumn equinox, so it’s time to bring out candles to add to the lighting. Create autumn candle displays in each room, especially where people hang out, like on this dining room table in an open concept house. Buy candles with fall scents that echo the seasons outdoors – live intentionally with autumn.
Cauldron Cocktail Party
Autumn has perfect weather to marry the fun of a backyard cookout with holiday fare. Have a cauldron cocktail party with campfire cauldrons filled with warm and spicy mulled wines and hot chocolate. Don’t forget to have cauldrons filled with ice and bottles of beer and soda too. A cauldron of chili is a must! See our autumn beverage recipes for ideas.
Cemetery at Night
In autumn, and Halloween right around the corner, visit a cemetery at night. Have a picnic. Read tombstones with a flashlight. Decide what you want your tombstone to say. Great to do with a group of friends.
You’ve probably heard the song about roasting chestnuts on an open fire, but have you ever tasted one? They are available in the autumn at your local grocery stores or online, but the best place to get fresh chestnuts free from mold is at your local farmer’s market.
Chestnuts grow inside a prickly casing called a burr. When roasted, the shells crack open, revealing a golden yellow nut that you eat. See how to roast chestnuts in the oven.
Chile Pepper Festival
September, October and November is the time for Chile Pepper festivals, or Hops and Hot Sauce festivals. Watch or participate in a hot pepper eating contest, enjoy music and dancing. See the world calendar for hot sauce & chile pepper festivals to find one near you.
Chili with Cornbread or Chili Bar Party
When there’s a chill in the air, we start yearning for hearty, heart and body warming meals like chili with cornbread. Make a pot of chili and share with someone you love.
Or . . . take it to the next level and invite everyone over for the game, the fall premier of your favorite TV series, or a movie you’ve been waiting to stream and have a chili bar for everyone to enjoy while they watch.
Chuseok (autumn eve) is the biggest holiday in Korea, also called the Korean Thanksgiving because it’s a special time for family, friends, and food. It happens around the full moon at the end of September/beginning of October and lasts for 3 days. (Look for the rabbit on the pattern of the full moon, making rice cakes under a gyesu tree.) Visit your local Korean restaurant for traditional holiday food like Songpyeon rice cakes (above), Pajeon (scallion pancakes) or Japchae (beef & vegetables with sesame glass noodles). Like Día de los Muertos, Chuseok is a time when families remember their ancestors & family members who have gone on before, and take care of the cemetery.
Cider Donuts are an autumn treat originally found at cider mills and apple orchards in the Northeastern United States. They are cake doughnuts flavored with apple cider and cinnamon. Today you can find them in donut stores and maybe even your local grocery store in the fall.
Colorfest usually happens the second weekend of October, all over the world. It was created to celebrate diversity in community and cultural understanding. It features the throwing of organic colors to promote love and friendship. Everyone is multi-colored and equal! (The colors are non-toxic and eco-friendly. Many celebrations feature blowing machines that blow the color off before you get in your car to go home. It’s very safe.) There are vendors selling art, live music and dancing. Most events are family-friendly with no alcohol, so check your local community for details.
Corn Maze (or Maize Maze)
This is an autumn bucket list item that you absolutely have to do at least once in your lifetime. Get the crew together and go to a local farm or pumpkin patch that’s hosting a corn maze. So much fun! Especially at night. (Wearing a glow in the dark necklace will help you locate everyone in your group at night, and help see a littl around you.) Find a corn maze near you.
This year, start planning your halloween costume early. Make it yourself so it’s a unique, one-of-a-kind no-one’s-like-you costume. Get the crew together and all agree on on wearing matching costumes from the same movie, book or TV show. Make it a costume and Halloween for the memory books this year.
Or, have an old fashioned costume party for the neighborhood, crew of friends or your kids’ friends.
You absolutely need to take an excursion to a local cranberry marsh or bog. It is so interesting to see how they harvest cranberries. Some places let you pick cranberries too. Seeing all the artisans and many cranberry products is the icing on the cake. Make sure you buy some cranberries to make cranberry sauce from scratch and many other cranberry recipes.
Take advantage of fresh cranberries. Try one – or more – cranberry recipes. We have appetizers, main course and dessert recipes.
Cuffing season is when singles try to find a partner for the long, cold winter months. All the best parties and significant holidays happen in the winter months! Try speed dating, online dating, ask friends to set up blind dates with their picks, or host an appetizer party where everyone invites all their single friends to mingle. (And if you’re in a happy relationship, try matchmaking for your single friends.)
Autumn is the perfect time to take a cycling excursion. Whether you cycle to work, for an hour through the park or an all-day pub hop, enjoy the crisp air, cooler temperatures and autumn leaves. Take a picnic and make it a real autumn adventure!
Dark Sky Festivals
With more hours of darkness but still good weather, the fall is time for the Dark Sky Festival. Starry skies are celebrated at dark sky preserves. (Find one near you here.) Most preserves are parkland, so it’s the perfect time to go camping too.
Día de los Muertos
Día de los Muertos is not the Mexican version of Halloween. This two-day celebration begins on November 1st. It is also called the Day of the Dead because it’s purpose is to show love and respect for deceased family members. Revelers don colorful costumes and wear catarina skull makeup. They dance, feast, and sing. See a Día de los Muertos parade & enjoy the festivities if you’re fortunate enough to have one near you. (Or watch the Disney-Pixar movie Coco.)
Fall Decorations in Every Room
Embrace autumn by decorating every room of your house, like this bedroom in autumn colors, with fall flowers, pumpkins, fairy lights and candles.
Fall Festival or Fall Fair
There are so many harvest festivals, county fairs and state fairs during the fall season. Find one that’s close to you and visit – or participate in your local fall fair. Contact the local agricultural society and ask for their brochure so you can make entries into the competitions. It’s so much fun – and you or your children can win prizes, usually money.
If you visit the farmer’s market only once a year, it absolutely has to be during harvest season. Pick up some flowers and artisan products along with some fresh produce. (Want more? See our tips in the Ultimate Guide to the Farmer’s Market.)
Get the flannel sheets out! As soon as the weather outside gets colder, we want our beds warmer, and comfy-cosy. The Eddie Baur Flannel Collection is our favorite – their sheets are ultra soft, of great quality and have designs for the whole family.
Fleece & Fibre Festival
If you are a fleece aficionado, you’ll love the fleece & fibre festivals that celebrate knitting, weaving, crocheting, dyeing, felting, padding, rug hooking and embroidery. You’ll see Alpacas and sheep, too. Make a pom pom, join a knitting bee, try your hand at the spindle and visit the vendors selling their woolen wares.
Autumn = football season. Even if you don’t know the rules or have never done it before, get your family or friends together and go to a local college or high school football game. You never know who you’ll meet! Or – make up your own rules and play a game of touch football with family at Thanksgiving or with your friends on Friendsgiving. It will be one for the memory books.
Some can’t celebrate Thanksgiving with family (others prefer not to), so they celebrate with their friends. Many celebrate Friendsgiving the weekend before Thanksgiving, but you can celebrate on the day or after. There’s no real set date to let your friends know you’re thankful for them.
Front Door Autumn Decorations
Welcome autumn and your guests by decorating your front door entryway for fall.
September is the time of year for Garlic Festivals. Celebrate the harvest, taste-test garlic products, take in a workshop. Find a garlic festival near you.
Discover local ghost lore with a ghost walk. Most cities have one in the fall, and they usually end in a pub where you can meet new friends in the tour group. Check with museums & pubs in your area.
Enjoy your local harvest festival! Most communities have a parade, pumpkin patch events, awarding the largest pumpkin, grape stomping, apple cider, candy apples and carnival rides.
Autumn is hat weather! It’s time to keep the sun out of your eyes but also for heavier materials to keep you warm. You can have a whole autumn hat collection from felt hats to berets to toques.
In October you’ll find many haunted excursions from the traditional haunted house walk through to a haunted boat ride, haunted castle visits and haunted museum tours. Check your local listings.
Want to take it up a notch? Stay overnight in a haunted hotel, castle or house. If you dare.
Put a hay ride on your autumn bucket list! Pumpkin patches, orchards, local farms and harvest festivals all give you the opportunity to create this happy memory.
Autumn is the perfect time to go hiking. It’s not too hot, no bugs, and beautiful leaves. Grab and friend and make a day of it with a picnic halfway.
Have a Hobo night this fall where everyone wears their best hobo costume or buffalo plaid, eat baked beans & roast weiners around the bonfire. Collect money for a local homeless shelter. Have one hobo sack for the guy’s donations and another for the gals and see who donates the most at the end of the night.
Horror Movie Marathon
This October, get friends together for an all-night horror movie marathon. Pick one movie and see all the sequels, pick several from one genre like vampire or zombie, or watch the classic monster movies with The Mummy, Dracula, The Wolfman, Nosferatu and Frankenstein.
Think you’ve seen them all? Check IMDb’s list of the best 100 horror movies. Or, maybe it’s time for the Scary Movie franchise. See them on Amazon: 1, 2, 3, 3.5 (unrated – same as 3 but includes deleted scenes), 4, 5.
Hot Air Balloon Ride
Autumn is the perfect time for a hot air balloon ride: cool days, gorgeous leaves, awesome scenery.
Fall is the beginning of hot chocolate season! Instead of iced coffee, it’s time for hot chocolate at the local cafe with a barista design. Substitute your morning latte for a hot cocoa. Or – take it to the next level and really celebrate autumn by hosting a hot chocolate bar on movie night. (See our hot chocolate recipes for one, for a slow cooker, mulled & more.)
Hygge [hue-gah] is the Danish word meaning comfy-cozy warmth. It is actually a state of mind. It gets very cold & dark during the winter months in Scandinavia, so as soon as the cool weather sets in there’s a change. Candles and blankets are set out but it goes beyond physical coziness to a contentment as families hunker down. There’s baking and gathering around the table for conversation over a cheese board and wine. It is a collection of moments that are convivial and charming but low-key.
This fall, carve a jack-o-lantern. Make it spooky. Or, make it look like your favorite TV, movie or book hero – or villain. Or make it look like you or your pet. Take it to the next level by hosting a jack-o-lantern party – winner gets to take them all home for an epic Halloween yard.
Jump in a Leaf Pile
You know you wanna. This year, go for it! Make a pile of leaves then jump and kick and run through them to your heart’s delight. Celebrate with a hot chocolate picnic, then rake them and bag them.
Knit a Scarf
This year, knit your own scarf to match your fall or winter jacket. Or – make it a party. Find a quick, easy, straight-forward knitting pattern that can be made in a couple hours (or use big knitting needles). Get everyone together BYOY (Bring Your Own Yarn and needles.) Have a knitting/chatting/laughing session with a hot chocolate and goodies bar.
Go for a walk or hike in a leaf crown. Gather some fresh leaves (doesn’t work with dried leaves.) Take the first leaf, and fold 1/3 back. Punch a hole through both layers of leaf beside the cross-section of veins of the leaf, between the middle vein and your fold. Punch another hole about 1/2″ higher on leaf, along the middle vein. Weave the stem of a leaf through the holes (easier if big end of stem cut off.) Now weave the stem of that leaf through another folded leaf with 2 holes on one side. Continue until you have a ring of leaves big enough to fit your head. Fold first leaf, make 2 holes, and put last stem through. Braid or tuck the stems into one another. Now tuck other leaves into the stems of the ring of leaves to make the crown as big as you want.
Leaf Rose Bouquet
They are easy to make, and oh-so-gorgeous. See our instructions for a maple leaf bouquet with tips on using other leaves, too.
As part of the harvest celebration, there is a resurgence of barn dances and especially line dancing. Cowboy boots not required, but are a fun part of the whole adventure. There are always classes starting in the fall at the local YMCA or community center.
Yes, maple syrup is made in the spring but the maple leaves changing color makes you crave syrup. Give in with pancakes smothered in maple syrup. Drink maple coffee – especially if you’re not into the whole pumpkin spice thing.
Bird sanctuaries celebrate the fall migration of geese, hummingbirds, warblers, hawks and other birds with a Migration Festival. Some communities also get involved, making it a weekend of family fun events.
October is Monster Month. Some communities celebrate with fun family activities like pumpkin walks at night to see jack-o-lanterns, ghost walks in the community, a twilight zoo of monsters that light up after dark, haunted excursions and fun events like classic monster movie viewing.
Create your own monster month by watching a classic horror movie with themed food every weekend – or every night. AMC features horror movies all month, and you can find them at your favorite streaming service.
Murder Mystery Dinner
This is a fun way to spend an evening with friends, especially if they are actors at heart. (When our kids were teens, we hosted a murder mystery dinner with them and their significant others at the time.) We used a murder mystery dinner kit which makes it a whole lot easier, and the host can play because they don’t know who the murderer is either.
You choose a theme such as a time period like the 50s, or a place like an Italian restaurant. You create characters for each dinner guest and give them the details before the dinner date. They are required to memorize their character’s details and come in costume. The murderer will know who he is before he arrives as well. As you eat a themed dinner, the murder happens or guests discuss the event. At the end, each tries to guess which person at the table is the murderer.
Autumn is the perfect time for mushroom picking. (If there was a forest fire in your area the previous year, this is the place to go for the most mushrooms.) When mushroom hunting, choose those with an open cap because they are easier to identify. 90% of mushroom poisoning is from the Amanita mushroom species, so make sure you know it. Here is a list of all the poisonous mushrooms. The best site to help identify a mushroom is Mushroom World. (See our mushroom recipes.)
Nuit Blanche (White Night)
Nuit Blanche is a contemporary art festival that happens every October. The largest happens in Paris, France, but other large cities around the world host Nuit Blanche too. Art can be seen in the streets from sunset to sunrise, and many museums are open as well.
Neighborhood Potluck Dinner or Fuddle
Everyone is starting to go indoors, and Thanksgiving is just around the corner, so gather your neighbors together for a potluck dinner – also known as a fuddle. A “potluck” is when everyone brings one dish to the meal, and it’s the luck of the draw – everyone could bring a similar dish. (For this reason, the organizer usually ensures a meat, and everyone else brings a side dish.) A neighborhood dinner is a great way to reconnect after summer vacations, and to make plans for Halloween trick-or-treating and Christmas decorations on your street.
Mid-September to the first week of October is the German festival of Oktoberfest with beer, pretzels and bavarian sausage. Keep it simple with a beer tasting party with different Oktoberfest or German beers, or a build-your-own bratwurst bar party. (See our Oktoberfest recipes.)
You absolutely have to put celebrating Oktoberfest with a German community on your once-in-a-lifetime bucket list. Or travel to Munich, Germany for the ultimate Oktoberfest party!
Paint Leaves for Fall Decorations
Not all leaves are colorful. The brown ones need help! Let out your creativity and paint leaves. Use to decorate your home or release them back to the wild to blow around and make people smile. Put inspiring words on them!
You have to add a pecan festival in a southern state on your autumn bucket list. They happen in late September to November. (Find one here.) Visit a pecan farm, celebrate with live music and the arts.
Photos and Selfies in Autumn Leaves
This year, at the peak of colored leaves, take a walk for a photo shoot. Take pics of friends, take selfies, take a picnic.
Picnic in the Autumn Landscape
Colored leaves, sunny days, and sweater weather mean awesome picnic opportunities. Keep it simple with just mulled wine or hot chocolate in a thermos or add your favorite picnic food. Take a moment with that special someone to breathe the crisp fall air and connect.
When the air gets crisp an cool it’s time to exchange those dishes of seashells for pine cones. Go for a walk and fill your pockets, then fill baskets, dishes and vases with them.
Potpourri with Autumn Scents
Decorate your home for fall and fill the room with a comforting scent. Gorgeous apple cider & cinnamon potpourri brings the autumn indoors.
What’s your favorite fall fruit or vegetable? Make your own preserves this year. Canning and jam and jelly making iisn’t difficult. It can be time consuming, but it’s so rewarding! Just think of those shelves lined with food all winter, made by your own hand.
Pumpkin pie is good. But Pumpkin Cheesecake is better! Rich, decadent, and sweet; Thanksgiving desserts don’t get much better than this. They can be tricky to make, so see our tips How to Make the Perfect Pumpkin Cheesecake. We tell you how to bake a pumpkin cheesecake without a crack – and 4 things you can do if it does crack. (And we have 6 recipes.)
Scary Movie Marathon with the Family
One weekend before the Halloween chaos, have a family night of scary kids movies. Need ideas? See Rotten Tomatoes’ 36 Essential Kids Halloween Movies.
Or make it a weekend – put a mattress on the floor in front of the TV and all have a slumber party. (You may be up with them if they’re scared anyway!) Serve meals picnic style on the mattress too. Or, plan themed food to go with each movie to make it truly a memory that lasts a lifetime.
Thanksgiving or Harvest Church Service
Share your gratitude with your community and express thanks to God for the bountiful harvest at a church harvest festival or Thanksgiving service.
TV Show Premiere Party
Is your favorite TV show returning for another season? Maybe there’s a new one you can’t wait to check out. Get everyone together and make it a party with themed food!