Fun Fall Activities in the Triangle for All Ages


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One of the great things about North Carolina is the fabulous fall season. Gone is the oppressive summer heat and humidity. And although the days are shorter, mild temperatures keep evenings enjoyable. We've pulled together 15 family activities to take advantage of this fall season in the Triangle.

1  Learn your leaves.
If your leaf knowledge is along the lines of, "There's a pretty red one," learn to identify the different leaves as a family. One place to start is the Clemmons Education Forest in Clayton. Its "Talking Tree" trail (less than a mile long) will, at the press of a button, introduce you to local trees so you can identify their leaves. The children's book Autumn Leaves by Ken Robbins is filled with images to help identify leaves and spark discussion about why they change colors.

2  Go hiking.
This is a must-do in autumn to enjoy the leaves and cooler air. If your kids are young, scope out short routes big on kid appeal, like Bass Lake in Holly Springs, where you can spot turtles and stomp on the "troll" bridge, or the Eno River State Park where kids can try skipping rocks at the shallow pool along the river.

3  Get lost.
In a corn maze, that is. Maze owners plant corn that grows 8-9 feet tall in tightly packed rows, then mow an intricate pattern for visitors to wander through. Worried about getting lost? Some local mazes have "spotters" who sit in high scaffolding to watch over you. Your family carries a flag and if you get worried, wave it around to alert spotters you need help. Younger kids might get a kick out of playing in the mini-mazes or climbing on the hay bales at some farms. To find local corn mazes, check our roundup.

4  Ride a spooky train.
Enjoy a Halloween train ride at the New Hope Valley Railroad - always fun for young train enthusiasts. These hour-long rides will run four times each day on Oct. 20 and Oct. 27. Advance ticket purchase is necessary. Visit nhvry.org/schedule.htm for more info. For a scarier adventure a bit farther away, check out the Ghost Train at Tweetsie Railroad in Blowing Rock, Friday and Saturday evenings Sept. 28- Oct. 27 (tweetsie.com).

5  Play disc golf.
If your family's flying disc experience is limited to flinging a Frisbee across the yard, try your hands at disc golf. Similar to regular golf, the goal is to complete the course by hitting each target in as few throws as possible. The targets are usually wire baskets, often in a wooded area. Try the courses at N.C. State's Centennial Campus in Raleigh, Southern Community Park in Chapel Hill or Leigh Farm Park in Durham.

6  Make waves.
Enjoy the fall colors from a different viewpoint: the water. Rent canoes, kayaks or paddleboats at locations around the Triangle and float on the water to take in the scenery. Be sure to put on life jackets and review boat safety, such as staying seated at all times. See the resource box for some suggested boat rental locations. Rent boats at Bond Metro Park in Cary; Lake Michie or Little River Lake in Durham; Bass Lake Park in Holly Springs; Lake Crabtree County Park in Morrisville; University Lake or Cane Creek Reservoir in Orange County; or Lake Johnson in Raleigh.

7  Warm up the kitchen.
Nasty weather keeping you inside? Kitchen scents of pumpkin, apple and cinnamon instantly warm your heart. Keep it simple with caramel apples (after an apple-picking outing, perhaps?), pumpkin muffins or a super-simple homemade applesauce. Try any of Mollie Katzen's cookbooks for kids, like Honest Pretzels or Pretend Soup. For inspiration, websites like Pinterest or Food Gawker offer numerous recipe categories.

8  Attend a mountain festival.
The first weekend in October, take a mini-road trip to North Wilkesboro, just west of Winston-Salem, for The Brushy Mountain Apple Festival, one of the largest one-day arts and crafts festivals in the Southeast. If you get there Friday night (Oct. 5), catch the live pre-entertainment "Apple Jam." On Saturday, enjoy music, dancing, exhibitors, food, apple recipes and stories about the community. It's an apple-fest for everyone. Find out more at applefestival.net. See a full list of North Carolina festivals at ncfestivals.com.

9  Head the other way.
Go against the flow. Instead of heading to the mountains for fall color, drive east to the beach. The water still is warm enough to splash in, and the beaches are relatively empty. Consider heading to Topsail Beach the weekend of Oct. 20-21 for the annual Autumn With Topsail festival, which features food, arts and live music. Learn more at autumnwithtopsail.com.

10  Embrace your community.
Help those around you - even the critters - get ready for the change in seasons. Deliver apple or pumpkin bread mini loaves to elderly neighbors or retirement homes, and then you and your kids can mingle with the different generations. Make easy pinecone bird feeders by frosting open pinecones with peanut butter and rolling them in birdseed. Or take your family to support a local high school's football team.

11  Find simple fun.
A good, old-fashioned scavenger hunt will get younger kids excited to head outdoors. Hide small prizes or treats around your yard (or even the local park if another adult can sneak away ahead of the kids' arrival). Then give the kids a list - either printed or pictorial for pre-readers - and let them explore. Be sure to establish perimeters they know to stay inside. Afterward, pour some cider from a thermos and pass around snacks for a quick "tailgate party."

12  Play with leaves.
Too often leaves are considered a hassle that adults prefer to bundle up and be done with. Take the time to rake them into a big pile and join the kids jumping in. After everyone's played out, stuff a pair of old jeans and a big flannel shirt with leaves to make a scarecrow. Add a stuffed, upside-down paper bag head with a decorated face. Prop him up on the front porch to greet your family's fall visitors.

13  Become knit buddies.
Kids as young as 6 can learn to knit. Pick out a fabulous yarn color and look online or grab a how-to book (like Kids Knit! Simple Steps to Nifty Projects by Sarah Bradberry), and everyone can start working on a winter scarf.

Teach kids this easy rhyme to remember the steps for knitting:

In through the front door,
Once around the back,
Peek through the window,
And off jumps Jack!

14  Play with autumn words.
Teach younger kids some songs and poems about fall when you're driving in the car or are waiting for dinner to finish cooking. Search online for "fall songs and poems" if you're short on ideas. Try dltk-holidays.com/fall/fallpoetry.htm as a jumping-off point. Follow it up with some books about autumn. Most libraries will feature a fall display, or ask the children's librarian for suggestions.

15  Make it official.
Have an official goodbye salute to summer. Create a traditional scrapbook filled with summer photos and mementos or make a digital montage, adding music, video clips and still photos from your summer's adventures. Round out the evening with one last batch of s'mores over a backyard fire pit and talk about everyone's favorite summer memory. (Best part: All those summer mosquitoes should be gone!) Since it gets darker earlier, you'll be able to pick out some autumn constellations, too. Look for Cassiopeia, the vain queen from Greek mythology. She's near the Big Dipper (although she'd be disappointed to know she's just a crooked-looking "W"... not too glamorous). Tell ghost stories if you dare.

Kathleen M. Reilly is a freelance writer and mom in the Triangle.

BOAT RENTAL LOCATIONS

CARY
Fred G. Bond
Metro Park
919-469-4100
Canoes, kayaks, sailboats and
rowboats

DURHAM
Lake Michie 919-477-3906, and Little River Lake, 919-477-7889
Canoes and "flat-bottom boats"

HOLLY SPRINGS
Bass Lake Park 919-557-2496
Canoes and
rowboats

MORRISVILLE
Lake Crabtree County Park 919-460-3390
Canoes, kayaks, sailboats and
rowboats

ORANGE COUNTY
University Lake 919-942-8007
Canoes

Cane Creek
Reservoir 919-942-5790
Canoes

RALEIGH
Lake Johnson 919-233-2121
Canoes and kayaks

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