Autumn is a riot of color. From fall leaves to fields bursting with produce, the harvest season is not subtle.
Where to make the most of fall's flamboyance? You might start down on the farm.
"Everybody wants to go with their family to pick their favorite
pumpkin and have some fall experiences, and agritourism and corn mazes
have really helped to fill that niche," says Kamille Combs, marketing
director for The Maize, the world's largest corn-maze company.
But not everyone has easy access to agriculture-centric family fun. Read on for ideas on how to make the most of fall, whether it's in the field or the kitchen.
Get lost in a maze
Step inside any corn maze this fall, and there's a good chance it was designed by The Maize.
Corn mazes cater to all ages.
"We currently work with just over 250 corn mazes here in the U.S. and also in Canada and Europe," says Combs.
Though corn mazes may seem a quintessentially North American endeavor, they likely originated in Europe, inspired by hedge mazes from centuries past.
An Englishman named Adrian Fisher built the first significant U.S. corn maze in Pennsylvania in 1993. The Maize, inspired by an article about Fisher, created its first maze three years later. In 1999, The Maize set the Guinness record for largest cornfield maze, and has since built labyrinths as large as 50 acres.
"Corn mazes have become a tradition, much like haunted houses have always been," says Combs. "The nice thing about mazes and these fall festivals is that they cater to all ages of the family, so little children all the way up to grandparents can come together and have a great experience as a family at a corn maze."
Hay is for horses
No one knows for certain where the first hayride took place. It could be a farm tradition that simply grew into a popular harvest happening.
It's no wonder. There isn't a simpler — or a more memorable — celebration of the season. Climb into a wagon filled with hay and bump around a country road or grassy field, bordered by trees dressed in fall colors.
This pumpkin tree has a corn husk trunk and is one of the longest-running displays of the Great Pumpkin Patch located in Illinois.
Years later, your children will still remember the smell of the hay and the cold fall air.
Check with your local farms for hayrides.
The Great Pumpkin Patch
Not much thrills kids more than the chance to pick their own Halloween pumpkin. Throughout the fall, U-pick options abound in most areas.
One of the grandest pumpkin patches is located in the U.S. Midwest. The Great Pumpkin Patch is on an Illinois farm called The 200 Acres and features hundreds of pumpkins, ripe for the picking.
Pumpkins don't sit in the field here, however. There's also a pumpkin tree, an ark stuffed with squash rather than animals, and pumpkin art of every stripe.
Whatever patch you pick your pumpkins in, pumpkin pie is also in order for fall (see the recipe below).
Apple of your eye
Pumpkins are the de facto produce mascots of fall.
But even if apples don't inspire the same fervor as the iconic orange gourd, 'tis the season for apple cider and apple-themed festivals.
Caramel apples: The National Harvest Apple Festival is king of the fruit festivals.
The National Apple Harvest Festival combines them all — and then some. Arguably king among fruit-themed festivals, it's been held annually in Pennsylvania apple country since 1965.
During the first two weekends of October, find more than 300 arts and crafts vendors, apple memorabilia and plenty of edible apple goods, including pies, pancakes and caramel apples.
Enjoy the (pumpkin) show
The Circleville Pumpkin Show is Ohio's oldest and largest festival. Created in 1903, it begins on the 3rd Wednesday of October, drawing more than 400,000 visitors annually to Circleville, a town of just 12,000.
Dr. Bob Liggett grew this record-setting pumpkin which he displayed at Ohio's Pumpkin Show. It weighed in at 1635 lbs.
What's the big draw? Besides the 30 amusement rides, parades and more than 300 food vendors, there are pumpkins — and these aren't your average gourds.
The Circleville Pumpkin Show features incredibly large squash, all grown within 21 miles of town. There must be something in that soil; the largest pumpkin so far weighed just more than 1,635 pounds.
Pumpkin on the Rock
Weekends through October 28th, pumpkins take over Stone Mountain Park outside of Atlanta, GA. The park's Pumpkin Festival Weekends are all about non-spooky fun, from pumpkin scavenger hunts to pie-eating contests.
Children can decorate scarecrows or visit the Storytelling Stage. Bolder kids may want to don costumes and dance onstage to the "Pumpkin Mash," while the most adventurous may dig "Pumpkinpalooza," a family game show with consequences that involve getting "splurfed" with a slimy substance.
Leaf it be
One of fall's best memories may be its cheapest. The feeling of jumping into a crackling, earthy pile of just-raked leaves is a memory kids will recall every year as the days grow shorter.
You'll never have so much fun letting someone make a mess of your hard work.
Light my fire
The world's largest bonfire is built yearly in Alesund, Norway for Midsummer--an annual church festival. Made from recycled shipping palettes, it stands at 131 feet — until it's burned, that is.
This fall, there's no need to get so extreme. Still, there's nothing that pulls a family together quite like sitting around a fire.
No room to build a bonfire in your backyard? Check your local hardware store for small, self-contained fire pits, some of which can be placed right on your patio.
Get the spits ready for hot dogs and marshmallows and get the home fires burning.
Snack on s'mores
No place to build a fire? Try toaster-oven s'mores. Here's how:
- Graham crackers
- Milk chocolate bar
- Large marshmallows
Preheat the toaster oven to broil.
- Put graham cracker squares on
toaster oven-sized baking sheet, and top each cracker with a square or
two of chocolate.
- Place one marshmallow on each cracker and broil until
browned on top.
- Top with Graham cracker squares to make a sandwich and enjoy.
Perfect a pie
Nothing says fall loving like a pumpkin pie in the oven. Here a pumpkin pie easy enough for anyone in the family to make, courtesy of The Great Pumpkin Patch.
Pumpkin Chiffon Pie
- 1 envelope plain gelatin
- 2/3 cup brown sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- ½ cup milk
- ½ tsp ginger
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- 1¼ cups cooked and mashed pumpkin
- 3 egg yolks
Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until it boils.
from heat and cool.
- Carefully fold in meringue of 3 egg whites and ½
cup of sugar.
- Pour into baked pie crust.
- Chill until set (2 hours).
- Garnish with whipped cream.