45 Fall Activities to Add to Your Bucket List
Enjoy every minute of the crisp autumn season with these must-do fall activities
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Fall bucket list
Wedged between sweltering summer and frigid winter (and without spring’s tendency toward rain), fall is many people’s favorite season. With back-to-school, the first day of fall, Halloween and Thanksgiving, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy fall activities. Don’t let this season pass you by without checking some of these fun activities off your bucket list—like apple picking and visiting a pumpkin patch.
Plan a fall weekend getaway
Fall is a gorgeous season, and there are plenty of places to soak in every bit of autumn’s essence. Plan a fall weekend getaway and embrace all the cozy activities you can—like leaf peeping and cider sipping. Make sure to consider one of these destinations that have the best fall foliage in America.
Plan a fall-themed photo shoot
Fall is a great time of year to get family photos taken. Get the brood together and snap some frame-worthy pictures to hang on the walls. Plus, it’s one of those fall activities you can happily include the family dog in!
Host a glow party
Fall’s shorter days and longer nights make it the perfect time to host a glow party, providing fun for kids and adults alike. (You can host indoors or outdoors, depending on the weather.)
Set up some black lights, tell guests to wear neon colors and provide glow sticks and UV body paint or stickers. Decorate with UV balloons, streamers and tape—it’ll all glow under the black light. You can also level up your fall or Halloween party games by making them glow-in-the dark. Crank the dance tunes, put out some snacks and enjoy all the laughter.
Hand out thank-you cards on the fly
‘Tis the season of giving thanks, and gratitude is more fun when you share it with others. Get a stack of cheap thank-you cards (or make your own!) and pre-write thank-you notes to a variety of people, like teachers, grocery clerks, nurses, neighbors, bus drivers and friends. Kids can decorate them with stickers, markers or puffy paint. Keep the stack in your purse or car and hand them out whenever you see someone who could use a little boost.
It won’t just help others, it’ll benefit you too. That’s what one woman learned when she wrote a thank-you card every day for a year.
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Play live Clue
Get in the mood of the spooky season with one of the most fun fall activities. You’ve probably played the classic board game Clue, but it’s even more fun when you bring the murder-mystery game to life by hosting a live Clue party. You can buy or stream the video version, find one of the many different versions online or try the downloadable game from Queen of Theme, which comes with printable and detailed instructions. It’s like a murder mystery party but with all the fun and campiness of the childhood game.
Take a historical ghost tour
The dead are a lot less scary (and a lot more interesting) when you learn their history. Many cities offer “haunted” tours through cemeteries, historical sites or local museums. Have fun and learn something new. Check with your local commerce board, library or genealogical society to see what activities are available in your area. If you live nearby, you could also tour one of the most haunted places in America.
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Run a turkey trot
Fall is full of fun runs, ranging from 5Ks to full marathons. The cooler weather is ideal for outdoor cardio, and a footrace is great for both serious runners and people looking for some fun with their exercise. The most popular races this time of year are the turkey trots, hosted in nearly every city in America around Thanksgiving. Have fun, enjoy time with loved ones, spend the afternoon outdoors and burn a few calories before indulging in the big feast. Thanksgiving not your favorite? Look for Halloween-themed runs, featuring the best costumes, haunted or glow-in-the-dark courses, and night runs.
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Host a pumpkin potluck
Pumpkins are versatile, and we’re not just talking about pie filling and Halloween jack-o’-lanterns. Whether you’re using a can of pumpkin or the fresh veggie, you can create a wide variety of pumpkin recipes, including pumpkin soup, pumpkin cookies or bread, pumpkin pie smoothies, pumpkin scones, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin pie lattes, pumpkin ravioli and so much more. Invite your friends and family to a pumpkin-themed potluck and ask each person to bring their favorite dish with the recipe to share. And come hungry!
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Crochet something cozy
Knitting and crocheting are two of the best fall activities when you want to spend a chilly night indoors. Both are relaxing and easier than you think. Pick up a basic kit or watch some tutorials online, and you’ll be knitting scarves, hats and pot holders in no time. There’s something so satisfying about feeling the yarn between your fingers and seeing the stitches line up. Bonus: You can craft homemade holiday gifts!
Say cheers to Oktoberfest
Oktoberfest is a seriously underrated holiday. It’s customary to enjoy a few drinks in the beer garden, but you can also eat Bavarian pretzels, sample dozens of traditional sausages, try folk dancing and learn about the rich culture of Germany.
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Visit a national park
Summer is peak time for visitors in the 423 U.S. national parks, so going in the fall will allow you more time and space to enjoy all the amazing views. Get a national park pass, then take a hike through the woods, picnic on a beach, climb a mountain, pan for gold, study hieroglyphics, observe marine life or take a cave tour—there is something for everyone to enjoy.
Pick up new school supplies
If you have school-aged children, then you have the perfect excuse to buy fresh packs of pencils, crisp notebooks and other back-to-school supplies. Don’t have kids at home? Everything is on sale, so now is the time to stock up on office supplies and perhaps a few fun nostalgic items. Get a new journal and some gel pens, decorate your work binder with stickers, buy a few smelly erasers or pick out a new lunch box.
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Go line dancing
Line dancing is easy to learn, takes place outdoors or inside, can be done alone or with friends, provides some exercise and—oh, yeah—is so much fun. You can learn line dances with online tutorials or head out with a group to a line-dancing bar. They often offer free lessons. Square dancing and folk dancing are also fun fall activities. Dress up in your favorite flannel!
Try a new fall veggie
Pumpkins get all the love this season, but many delicious and nutritious vegetables are at their peak in the fall months. Think root veggies like turnips, parsnips, celeriac, rutabagas and potatoes. Branch out of your comfort zone—purple potatoes, anyone? Toss them with a little olive oil, salt and fresh herbs, then roast them for a hearty side dish or meal. Here’s a full list of foods that taste better in the fall.
Go for a hike
The crisp, cool air and autumn sunshine are ideal for taking a hike. Check out the changing colors of the leaves, try a new trail, enjoy a beautiful view or just spend some quiet time in nature.
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Organize your closet
Sweaters, scarves, beanies, gloves, boots and fleece-lined everything are fun and functional cold-weather wear—but only if you can find them! Get your closet and mudroom ready for the cold and snow by organizing all your gear. (Don’t forget winter sports equipment like skis and sleds!) This way, when the first cold snap hits, you won’t be scrambling through boxes trying to find that missing left mitten.
Organize a blanket drive
As temps drop, it can become uncomfortable and even dangerous to be outside, so shelters fill up fast. This time of year, they are often in desperate need of warm blankets or clothing. Help out shelters—both of the human and animal variety—by hosting a blanket and/or coat drive at your school or in your neighborhood. Homeless shelters prefer new or gently used items, and animal shelters will often welcome your more well-loved blankets and towels. Call ahead to find out what items they could most use, or check out these things animal shelters desperately need right now.
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Visit a farmers market
Heading to a local farmers market is one of our all-time favorite fall activities. (It sure beats doing the list of things you need to do to get your home ready for fall.) People often consider this a summer outing, but there are still a few months left to enjoy seasonal, locally grown food fresh from the farmers market. Bring your pickings back, and get creative with apples, beets, leeks, parsnips and mushrooms—all of which are best in the fall.
Make caramel apples
Autumn is apple season, making it the perfect time to enjoy some sweet, sticky caramel apples. Invite some friends over and set up a dipping bar with crushed peanuts, granola, white chocolate chips and more. If you prefer dipping slices to whole fruit, use this simple hack to keep apples from browning.
Play in the leaves
Here’s an autumn fact for you: Raking your backyard is much less of a chore when you turn the work into prep for fall activities like barreling full force into a pile of leaves. Even if you don’t have kids, let your inner child out while diving into the soft changing leaves.
Make your home cozy
Get in the mood of the season by making your home decor cozier as the air outside turns brisk. Drape a fuzzy blanket over your sofa and add some mustard yellow or sienna throw pillows.
Make leaf art
Gather the prettiest fallen leaves, then press and varnish them to make them last. Mount your pressed leaves in frames for pretty, autumn-inspired artwork that you’ll want to keep up all year.
Watch a scary movie
Fright night gives you an excuse to turn off all the lights while you huddle under a blanket for a scary movie date. The same goes for Oct. 31, when you can binge-watch the best Halloween movies on Netflix and the spookiest Halloween movies on Hulu. Better yet, Freeform’s “31 Nights of Halloween” plays Halloween movies all night long, every night, for the month of October. We bet your partner won’t mind if you cuddle close during the most suspenseful parts.
Nosh on Halloween candy
You might be too old to trick or treat, but you’re definitely not too old to enjoy sweets. Steal (just a few!) pieces from your kid’s stash, or stock up on the best Halloween candy during the post-holiday markdowns.
Carve a pumpkin
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Roast pumpkin seeds
Don’t throw out the seeds from your jack-o’-lantern—roast them! Clean off the major chunks of pulp, toss the seeds with oil or butter and seasonings, then bake them at 300 degrees for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. You’ll end up with a tasty, fiber-rich snack that you can enjoy alone or throw into soups and salads for a bit of crunch.
Make a creative Halloween costume
Store-bought costumes are stress-free, but making your own lets you get creative. Think up a silly pun (a holy cow, perhaps?), or dress up as a random household object that’s sure to get a few giggles. Get inspired with these punny Halloween costumes.
Enjoy a bonfire
When the weather is chilly but not frigid, a cozy bonfire can give your night a warm glow. Grab a few friends and some s’mores ingredients and share stories while you gather around the flames.
Visit a haunted house
Craving an adrenaline rush? First, read about the haunted house mysteries no one can explain. Once you’re well on your way to scared, spend a frightful night at a haunted house set up by your community. Reward your bravery afterward with a comforting cup of cocoa.
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Start a gratitude journal
Thanksgiving is a natural time to appreciate everything you have to be thankful for, but don’t limit your gratitude to late November. Make a habit of acknowledging something you’re grateful for every day, and record it in a gratitude journal. Flip through whenever you’re feeling down.
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Take a stab at an old family recipe
Do you miss your grandma’s apple pie or biscuits just the way your uncle made them? If you have the recipe written down, try your hand at a secret family recipe during Thanksgiving to keep the tradition alive.
Host a chili cook-off
This is one of the tastier fall activities. Gather your friends and hone your cooking skills for a competition that decides once and for all who can make the best chili. Reward the winner with a home-baked pie, and have another on hand so everyone can satisfy their sweet tooth.
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Volunteer as a family
Instead of (or before) sitting down for your own Thanksgiving feast, lend a hand at a local food pantry. Soup kitchens tend to see more volunteers and donations around the holidays, so make a commitment to volunteer once a week or once a month if you can.
Perfect your stew recipe
Stew is a great comfort food on a chilly fall day, and it couldn’t be easier to make. Throw your ingredients in a slow cooker before work and come home to a hearty dinner. While we’re on the subject, here’s the difference between soup, stew and chili.
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Tailgate with pals
Fall marks the start of football season, which means it’s time for a good tailgate. Even if you don’t go to a game, you can still invite a few friends over and set up in your backyard. Enjoy the countdown to kickoff with a big bowl of chili, some beers and a cornhole game.
Go on a hayride
Pile into the back of a truck or a horse and buggy and get chauffeured around while you watch the changing leaves and feel the crisp fall air.
Make your home smell like autumn
Buy a candle that smells like apple cider or maple, or make your own potpourri. Just break up spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, then combine them with dried orange peels. Display it in a bowl with items from a nature walk, like acorns and pine cones.
Take a nature drive
If you’re lucky enough to live near a forested area, go for a spin one afternoon so you can appreciate the beautiful golden yellows and bright crimsons of the changing leaves. See how your area compares with the most stunning pictures of fall across America.
Play touch football
Don’t let the NFL have all the fun. Gather your family for an impromptu game of touch or flag football, or toss a pigskin around with your kids.
Get lost in a corn maze
Take your kids to a corn maze, and get lost in the stalks while you embrace the fresh fall weather. It’s a life-size brainteaser the whole family will enjoy.
Sip warm apple cider
One of the coziest fall activities? Warming up a steaming cup of apple cider, grabbing a blanket and hunkering down on the porch to read a book. Make your quiet time more enjoyable by picking up one of the best fiction books of the year or one of the best books by Black authors.
Hang a festive wreath
Invite the season in by hanging a fall-inspired wreath on your front door. Buy one with a foliage theme, or make your own with the help of your kids. You can have them collect acorns in the backyard, then make a wreath with the acorns.
Additional reporting by Marissa Laliberte.