These Big Cities Have The Best Fall Activities
It's no surprise that cities with close ties to agriculture shine when it comes to fall festivities.
Where else would you find easy access to apple picking, corn mazes and pumpkin patches?
Here are a few of our favorite cities that celebrate the season in style.
Located in California’s agricultural belt, fall brings an abundant harvest and relief from sweltering summertime temps to the Sacramento Valley. Roadside farms offer up oranges, persimmons, almonds and walnuts while also supplying the real estate for family fun.
Cool Patch Pumpkins in nearby Dixon produces one of the country’s largest corn mazes every year, and a few bewildered wanderers have even had to call 911 to find their way out. However, their mini maze, hayride or corn bath (a grainy kiddie pool of sorts) might be a better fit for those with earlier bedtimes.
Dia de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is an important tradition for Sacramento’s vibrant Mexican community. Food, music, incense, paper flowers and elaborate costumes are all part of the ritual, which honors lost loved ones. A parade-like procession travels through the streets to a cemetery vigil and welcomes respectful outsiders to join in.
Celebrate the change of seasons with an artisanal pint in Minneapolis/St. Paul. Known for a burgeoning microbrewery scene, the Twin Cities are home to tons of indie brewers like Tin Whiskers and Bad Weather Brewery. Check out Sociable Cider Werks, a taproom dedicated entirely to the sweet suds, for a fruit-powered change of pace.
If all those breweries have you paralyzed by the selection (or just fiending for brains), join in on a pub crawl with a mob of undead. With more than 15,000 people in attendance, the Minneapolis Zombie Pub Crawl set a world record back in 2014. The gory night of revelry usually takes place a week or two before Halloween.
Just half an hour out of the metro area, the quaint town of Stillwater holds a harvest festival filled with a little less blood and guts. It’s the site of a giant pumpkin contest, with some weighing in at more than 2,000 pounds. Attractions include kids’ games, craft vendors, a chili cookoff, and perhaps most amusing, a race down the St. Croix River in hollowed out pumpkin “canoes.”
Celebrate Washington’s state fruit at the Greenbluff Apple Festival. Put on by an association of local family farms, the festival offers visitors the chance to pick their own fruit straight from the tree. It has become an annual tradition for many who enjoy supporting small growers while teaching their young ones where food actually comes from.
Vendors at the multi-weekend festival serve the versatile fruit in everything from cider to apple pie. Of course, pumpkins aren’t left out of the mix. You can also pick your own gourd or dig into the pumpkin donuts, a perennial fan favorite.
Spokane Valley is full of excitement in September with a carnival, rodeo and demolition derby at the county fair. It’s followed by Valleyfest a week later where locals ring in the changing seasons with a parade, car show and hot air balloons.
Fitness-oriented folks can get in on the festival’s 5k/10k road race, a family bike ride, or try their hand at both in the duathlon, 11 miles of cycling bookended by two 5k runs.
Break out your lederhosen and start practicing your stein curls, it’s nearly time for Oktoberfest. Cincinnati (or rather Zinzinnati) holds the title of the nation’s top Oktoberfest, and takes the event very seriously. So maybe staging a race of dachshunds wearing hot dog buns or trying to set the world record for simultaneous chicken dancing isn’t serious in the literal sense, but it’s a spectacle nonetheless.
Americanized events like the bratwurst eating contest join more traditional Bavarian games on the entertainment docket. Barrel rolling and beer stein hoisting are just a few of the “goodwill games” that make up the rowdy celebration. Germans and Midwesterners can agree on one thing, nothing goes with a frothy beer like friendly competition.
For those who prefer to keep it low key, take a stroll through Cincinnati’s Eden Park. With Ohio River views that extend into nearby Kentucky, the historic park is the perfect place to check out the changing fall colors. To get a closer look at the famous waterway, hop on a riverboat for a lunch or dinner cruise.
Just across the Ohio River lies the northern tip of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. A scenic drive through the countryside offers leafy vibes on your way to tour one of the many whiskey distilleries.
New York City
No fall cities guide would be complete without a nod to New York City. A favorite time of year for many residents, cooler days bring changing colors to Central Park and the city’s tree-lined streets.
In early November, around 50,000 athletes and their 2 million adoring fans take over the city as part of the New York Marathon. The course starts in Staten Island and covers all five boroughs with runners crossing the Verrazano-Narrows and Queensboro bridges before making their way to the Manhattan finish line.
Due to demand for entries, the NY Marathon has some of the toughest qualifying standards in the country. Those with slower paces, or who are unlucky in the drawing, still have a chance to enter by raising money for one of the race’s charity partners.
In addition to the beauty of the city itself, many make their way out to the Connecticut suburbs for a taste of classic New England in autumn. Charming small towns supply art, food and wine to daytrippers in addition to the colorful scenery.
Whether you’re holding on to the last bit of summer or eager for cooler days ahead, now’s a great time to get outside and join in on the festivities. So what are you waiting for? Plan your next family vacation to a leafy locale and embrace the arrival of fall.