Are you ready to take a big bite out of a juicy apple?
Not the Big Apple, necessarily, though NewYork.com has even put together the ultimate Apple-Lovers Guide to the Big Apple. I'm talking about a straight-from-the-orchard apple that you've picked yourself. Sure the kids are busy with school and soccer. But take advantage of the glorious fall weather wherever you live to get them away from electronics -- you too -- for a day or a weekend and head to a fall festival, an apple orchard or a pumpkin patch. If your kids (or grandkids) are younger, there's no better time for a quick getaway when the air is cooler, the crowds are gone and most important and prices drop at many places. Check out the Taking the Kids Guide to Fall Fun for some ideas.
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My partner Family Travel Forum offers a U-Pick-'EM guide to apple-picking around the country, whether in the northeast or New England the Midwest or Washington State. Just think about what you are going to make with all of those apples once you've got them! How about racing the kids through a giant corn maze, like at Richardson Adventure Farm outside of Chicago, or visiting the Family Fun Park at Huber’s Orchard and Winery near Bloomington, Indiana.
Ready to see cider pressed?( Head to Fly Creek Cider Mill in Cooperstown, N.Y., where there's a lot more to do than visit the Baseball Hall of Fame. Pick apples at Middlefield Orchard and pitch in doing farm chores at the wonderful Farmers' Museum here.
If you're thinking of a leaf-peeping weekend, think more of jumping-in-the-leaves instead. Bring along plenty of Ziploc bags to collect leaves and pine cones for art projects. Don't you think grandma would love a pinecone holiday tree ornament this year?
Especially in fall, I'm a fan of interactive museums like the Farmers Museum, Conner Prairie in Indiana (have a giant caramel apple this fall) and Mystic Seaport in Connecticut, because the kids can time-travel back to a different era and maybe get a better sense than of what life might have been like in rural New York state in the 19th century (gotta love the historic carousel) during the Civil War in Indiana or when historic ships were built in coastal Connecticut (go onboard!), among other places. Look for special seasonal and family activities at these museums and other historic sites around the country, including those overseen by the National Park Service. (Remember fourth-graders and their families are free all this school year at all national parks and historic sites!). Hampton, Virginia, for example, is showcasing the Battle of Hampton (the land and sea battle that started the Revolutionary War in Virginia) Oct 24 to 25 with a huge re-enactment and activities at the British and patriots' camps.
Maybe you'd rather party than time-travel this fall, with the kids, of course. All you need to do is head to one of the many family-friendly festivals around the country and beyond. Take part in a festival where you are visiting to introduce kids to local culture. You'll find festivals that celebrate everything from Rattlesnakes (San Antonio, Fla.,) to Gumbo (Chackbay, La.) to Cheese (Atlanta, Ga.), not to mention all of the Oktoberfests you can choose from. Your local parenting website and magazine -- or the one from where you plan to visit -- should have a list of family-friendly festivals. Here are five to choose from:
-- In New Hampshire Waterville Valley Town Square, is hosting a Fall Foliage Celebration October 10 to 12, complete with outdoor concerts, pumpkin painting and kids' games. If you are a snow sports lover, there will be a giant snowboard and ski swap too.
-- In California, Half Moon Bay prides itself on being the pumpkin capital of the world and struts its stuff with its annual Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival Oct 9 to 18 with the World Champion Pumpkin Weigh-Off, pumpkin pie-eating contest (one special one for kids!), Great Pumpkin Parade, family entertainment, costume contest and more.
-- In Colorado, head to Snow Mountain Ranch near Rocky Mountain National Park for Fall Fest weekends all through October with hay rides, square dancing, pumpkin carving and a carnival with face-painting, donut bobbing, fortune teller and more, Let's not forget the scarecrow-building contest and giant campfires complete with s'mores.
-- In Missouri, the Kansas City Renaissance Festival is open weekends through Oct. 18 and has been voted KC's favorite fall attraction with more than 50 family activities plus armored jousts, tea with the queen and her ladies (meet Cinderella's fairy godmother!), all kinds of music and food, especially bacon!
-- In Pennsylvania, there's Gettysburg's National Apple Harvest Festival Oct 3 to 4 and Oct 10 to 11 celebrating its 51st year with great eats, antique cars, steam engines, petting zoo and lots more. Incidentally, this festival is in the middle of Pennsylvania's apple country so there are plenty of orchards to visit too.
Have a caramel apple for me!