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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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mom and daughter playing in fall leavesgradyreese/Getty Images

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.

To inspire your slide into fall, browse these fall quotes and fall memes.

Autumn outdoor travelnycshooter/Getty Images

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.

Husband Taking Photos of Wife Outdoorssdominick/Getty Images

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!

girl at a glow partyanon-tae/Getty Images

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.

thank you card Synergee/Getty Images

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.

boy playing live clue with magnifying glassHeide Benser/Getty Images

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.

Misty haunted cemeteryRandomerophotos/Getty Images

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.

During the Toss Your Turkey and 5K Turkey Trot at Montgomery County Community College Thursday morning November 22, 2018. Before and after the race, participants could throw a frozen turkey to compete for prizes. Photo by Ben HastyMediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images/Getty Images

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.

Pumpkin soup in shell served with bread and roasted pumpkin seedsMalcolm P Chapman/Getty Images

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!

Womans hands crochetingJustin Paget/Getty Images

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!

Beer at Oktoberfest in Munich, GermanyNikada/Getty Images

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.

Black man hiking in canyon areaMichael DeYoung/Getty Images

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.

Child Getting School Supplies BSIP/Getty Images

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.

People participate in line dancing at CJ Hummels Restaurant, Bar and Gathering Place in Lenhartsville on Thursday, May 24, 2018. Photo by Natalie KolbMediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images/Getty Images

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!

Raw Organic Purple and White Turnipsbhofack2/Getty Images

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.

Woman hiking in an autumnal forest, Salzburg, Austriacoberschneider/Getty Images

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.

Homemade Sugared Apple Cider Donutsbhofack2/Getty Images

Eat an apple cider doughnut

Doughnuts are always a delicious treat, but apple cider doughnuts are extra special during this season. They’re warm, taste like fall and are only around for a limited time. Find them fresh at your local farmers market or bakery.

organizing closetJulien McRoberts/Getty Images

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.

Stack of knitted blanketsJamie Grill/Getty Images

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.

Boy with down syndrome having fun in pumpkin patch, smilingkali9/Getty Images

Pick your own produce

Head over to an apple orchard or pumpkin patch to bring home produce you literally handpick. Not only can you enjoy your tasty takings, but it’s also a great bonding activity for kids and grown-ups alike.

Fruits For Sale At Market StallGen Corte/Getty Images

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.

Caramel apples with pecansRyan Benyi/Getty Images

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.

Children two cute toddler girls having fun with yellow leaves on sunny warm day in autumn, kids throw leaves, young friends play activity fall concept outdoors.Tgordievskaya/Getty Images

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.

cozy houseRonTech2000/iStock

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.

Beautiful yellow and red autumn leaves background textureR.Tsubin/Getty Images

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.

Friends watching scary movieSouth_agency/Getty Images

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.

Assortment of candyMitch Diamond/Getty Images

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.

carving a pumpkinJane1e/iStock

Carve a pumpkin

Get your creative juices flowing by decorating a pumpkin. Stick with the traditional jack-o’-lantern, or carve a unique picture into your squash with pumpkin carving stencils.

Pumpkin seeds creating a background texture patternStefan Tomic/Getty Images

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.

Father photographing child dressed as ghostEugenio Marongiu/Getty Images

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.

bonfireVBaleha/iStock

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.

haunted houseshaunl/iStock

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.

Woman Writes in JournalGrace Cary/Getty Images

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.

Mature man preparing healthy meal on kitchen counter10'000 Hours/Getty Images

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.

Chili With Beansrudisill/Getty Images

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.

Father and children volunteering togetherHill Street Studios/Getty Images

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.

stew ingredients in slow cookercorners74/iStock

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.

pumpkin spice coffee drinkbhofack2/iStock

Enjoy pumpkin spice

Love it or hate it, ’tis the season for pumpkin spice. Enjoy yours in latte form, or head to the grocery store for cookies, yogurts, ice cream, cereals and more products that have jumped on the trend.

New York Rangers v Carolina Hurricanes - Game SevenJared C. Tilton/Getty Images

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.

kids enjoying hayride David Winters/iStock

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.

fall potpurri EricFerguson/iStock

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.

scenic drive in oregonWestend61/Getty Images

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.

touch footballRobert Ingelhart/iStock

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.

corn mazeemholk/iStock

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.

warm apple ciderpilipphoto/iStock

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.

fall wreathGJS/iStock

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.

Charlotte Hilton Andersen
Charlotte Hilton Andersen, BS, MS, has been covering health, fitness, parenting, and culture for many major outlets, both in print and online, for 15 years. She's the author of two books, co-host of the Self Help Obsession podcast, and also does freelance editing and ghostwriting. She has appeared in television news segments for CBS, FOX, and NBC.