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As the Leaves Turn: Fun-Filled Fall Adventures

Now that summer is over, it's time to turn your thoughts to the autumn adventures that might be lurking around the next colorful bend in the road. There's no reason to pack in the fun just because the kids have gone back to school--the days are still gloriously warm, the nights are crisp, and the scenery can't be beat. This weekend, load everyone into the family Jeep or used Mercedes Benz E class and get ready to make some memories.

Visit a local farm.

Apple-picking might be the old standby, but there's no reason to stick to the basics. Search online to find out where you might find the nearest corn maze, pumpkin patch, or living history center. If you do come home with seasonal produce, look through recipes and have each family member choose a favorite. Then hold a contest--charades or a Scrabble tournament--to determine whose recipe gets made.

Host a jack o'lantern carving party.

You don't have to leave home to have a good time. Invite friends for an afternoon or evening of pumpkin carving, allowing participants to take the fruits of their labors home afterward. To help get the creative juices flowing, provide a visual gallery of ideas for everyone to look at before the fun commences.

Take a hike.

Now is the perfect time of year to hit the trails--they're less crowded, the weather is cooler, and you won't need nearly as much bug spray (though if you live in a tick-prone area, it's still a good idea to apply some repellent beforehand). Bring along a knapsack so you can collect leaves and other flora along the way, and work the results into an arts and crafts project upon returning home.

Board a train.

Though it's no longer a widely used form of travel, there are still a number of operation railroads crisscrossing the country. Many of them offer "leaf-peeping" journeys, especially on the weekends. Check out this recent list of available excursions to find out if one of them is within driving distance of your home. If not, there's likely something similar nearby that may not be widely advertised--tap your local message boards or social media for ideas.

Make a fall viewing list.

Just about everyone has a favorite autumn movie, even if they don't realize it. The Spiderwick Chronicles, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Beetlejuice, Coraline—these are all family-friendly modern classics that pair perfectly with popcorn and cider. Make a night of it by decorating the house for Halloween first, then settle into your newly spooky digs for an evening of seasonally appropriate entertainment.

Check the local fair schedule.

Most county fairs travel from town to town, beginning in late June and finishing as late as mid-October. Check out a comprehensive website like this one to search for which ones might have yet to pay a visit to your home state.

Go on a graveyard tour.

There are cemeteries and graveyards in just about every town—often more than just one. But have you ever taken the opportunity to just wander around and explore them? In addition to their peaceful and somber settings, they provide great opportunities to learn about the history of the area. Carry along a notepad to take notes on some of the names that crop up most often, and see if anyone recognizes them. Better yet, visit the town's historical society afterward and look them up.

As you can see, autumn is chock-full of opportunities for experiences that just beg to become annual traditions. Shorter days don't have to mean an end to the fun—you just have to learn to pack more of it into less time. So bundle up into your favorite wool sweater or cozy hoodie, and embrace the spirit of the season. 

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