The Best Fall Activities in Every State
From the spookiest ghost tours to the most scenic hikes, here are the best ways to spend the fall months in each of the 50 states.
Alabama: Attend the National Shrimp Festival
Let’s just say Bubba from Forrest Gump would definitely approve of this annual Alabama event. Whether you take your shrimp fried, boiled, Cajun-style, or even in a taco, you’ll find it all at the National Shrimp Festival, where some of the nation’s top chefs compete for king (or queen) of the crustaceans. After you’ve had your fill, enjoy live music as you wander through the art fair or stop by the sand sculpture contest on the beach. These 15 other American food festivals are worth a pit stop.
Alaska: Ride the Alaska Railroad
All aboard! Winding through the mountains, a train ride on the Alaska Railroad is a unique way to experience the natural beauty of the state. There are special events in the fall, too, like the Kid’s Halloween Train, featuring a magic show and coloring contest. And for the adults, hop on the Great Alaska Beer Train, where you’ll sip assorted microbrews and dig into a multi-course meal courtesy of the Glacier BrewHouse. Want to plan another train-themed trip? Check out the 15 most luxurious rides around the world.
Arizona: Experience the Wild West
Arizona takes the whole “No-Shave November” very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that one of the highlights of the western-themed Helldorado Days is the beard contest. If major mustaches aren’t your thing, there are plenty of other frontier town festivities to partake in, like gunfight reenactments, line dancing, and a parade. Stay late one night for Tombstone at Twilight if you want a spooky ghost tour of the historic Birdcage Theater.
Arkansas: Do a trunk or treat
Trick or treating is so last year. This year, in Arkansas, cities and neighborhoods are opting for the much safer (yet equally as fun) trunk or treating. Often held in the parking lots of schools, malls or other public places (the one in Conway is held at the Chamber of Commerce, for example), trunk or treats involve loading up the back of your car with candy and gathering with friends and neighbors who do the same. Then the kids go from car to car, instead of from house to house. As long as there’s chocolate involved, we’re in.
California: Stomp grapes
Making the perfect bottle of wine isn’t about getting your hands dirty—it’s about getting your feet dirty. During prime harvest season in the wine valleys of California including Napa and Sonoma, many vineyards allow you to stomp your own grapes in barrels with your bare feet. Plus, some even throw in dinner and a T-shirt for staining. Find out the 28 activities to add to your fall bucket list.
Colorado: Listen to elk bugling
Rocky Mountain National Park is stunning any time of the year, but in the fall, it offers something extra special: elk bugling. It’s the loud, somewhat spooky sounds that bulls make during the mating season, which runs through September and October. Hear (and see!) the majestic beasts in person, then head over to neighboring Estes Park for the annual Elk Fest. There are elk-inspired arts and crafts for the little ones, Native American dancing, and yes, even a bugling contest.
Connecticut: Go antiquing
One person’s trash is another’s treasure, as the saying goes. And it definitely holds true along the Connecticut Antique Trail, featuring everything from backyard flea markets to major auction houses to charming antique shops. It’ll be hard to hit all 60-plus dealers in a day, so book a room at one of the state’s cozy bed and breakfasts to rest up before you hit the shops the following day. Not sure where to start? Steal one of the expert secrets to scoring the best deal.
Delaware: Take a ghost tour
Encounter the ghosts of prisoners past on a paranormal investigation of historic Fort Delaware, one of the state’s most haunted spots. This isn’t your average ghost tour, either—this is full out Ghostbusters, complete with temperature sensors and data recorders. You’ll spend three hours roaming the abandoned hallways and tunnels, searching for any paranormal activity. Not getting chills yet? This list of the 12 creepiest things ever caught on camera will definitely give you the heebie-jeebies.
Florida: Meet a manatee
Fun fact: The best time to see (or should we say, “sea”) these magnificent marine mammals is in the fall and winter when the Florida waters have cooled off a bit and the manatees come out of hiding. Three Sisters Springs on the Crystal River is one of the most popular spots for a sea cow sighting. Paddle out on the water in a kayak or take a guided “swim with the manatees” tour.
Georgia: Visit a haunted house
Enter at your own risk. Frighteningly real monsters and seriously spooky special effects have made Georgie’s Netherworld attraction one of the world’s premiere Halloween haunts. While the actors aren’t allowed to touch you (Phew!), the hour-long house tour definitely isn’t for the faint of heart, so come prepared to scream. Love being scared? You won’t want to miss this list of the best haunted houses in the United States.
Hawaii: Tour a coffee farm
You won’t find a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow in the aptly-named Rainbow State. Instead, you’ll find a pot of Kona coffee, especially if you visit in November when the state hosts the ten-day Kona Coffee Cultural Festival. While you can tour one of the 650 farms year-round, during the festival, you’ll also be treated to coffee tastings, a lei contest, and the colorful lantern parade that winds through Kailua village.
Just one trip to central Idaho will have you seeing stars. We’re not kidding—the stretch of land from Sun Valley to Stanley was recently named one of 12 “dark sky reserves,” the first in the United States and the third largest in the entire world. The best spot to peep the planets is the Craters of the Moon National Monument, where you can camp out, go on a ranger-led hike, or attend a Star Party hosted by the local astronomical society. Here are other National Parks that are equally impressive at night as they are during the day.
Illinois: Shop farmers’ markets
Just because summer’s over doesn’t mean your weekend trips to the farmers’ market have to end, too. In Chicago, shop the stalls at vibrant Green City Market all year long, where you can find seasonal produce like butternut squash, crisp apples, and sweet potatoes in the fall months. And since it’s the city’s only real “green” market selling sustainably-grown food, you can feel good about the fruits and veggies you’re eating.
Indiana: Eat pie
Pumpkin, sweet potato, pecan… you’ll find it all at Lisa’s Pie Shop, a literal slice of heaven located just outside of Indianapolis. While all of the flavors are melt-in-your-mouth delicious, leave room for a piece or two of sugar cream pie (which is also the official state pie!), filled with creamy custard and dusted with nutmeg. And if you want your dessert on the go, snag one of Lisa’s famous pies-in-a-jar.
Iowa: Hunt zombies
Help! You’re living in a post-apocalyptic world, and it’s up to you to save what’s left of the human race from the zombies. Your only weapon? A paintball gun and a handful of neon bullets. Have a blast (literally) at this themed paintball attraction, where you’ll ward off creepy zombies as you race through the park. Fans of the Walking Dead will love this one! Here are the best bucket list ideas for each state.
Kansas: Stay at a speakeasy
What’s the secret password? You’ll need to know it to get into the Underground Saloon—but fear not, it’s listed on its Facebook page. Step back in time with a drink at the hidden Prohibition-era bar, then book a room upstairs at the historic Wolf Hotel. Rumors are it’s haunted, so if you’re brave, participate in a paranormal tour of the tunnels that run underneath the hotel or simply book a spot at one of their murder mystery dinners. Don’t miss this list of the most haunted hotels in America.
Kentucky: Watch a horse race
Louisville may be best known for the Kentucky Derby, but Churchill Downs also hosts numerous races throughout the fall. Put on your Sunday best (over-the-top hats definitely encouraged) and start your day with their weekly “Stakes and Eggs” event, where you can cheer on your favorite horse and jockey pairs while chowing down on a Southern-style brunch complete with crispy bacon and buttermilk biscuits and gravy.
Louisiana: Check out Boo at the Zoo
As if lions, tigers, and bears weren’t scary enough (oh my!), for four nights in October, tiny ghouls and goblins will be running around the Audobon Zoo in New Orleans. There’s something for all ages at the annual Boo at the Zoo, where kids can trick or treat for candy, ride the zombie-themed ghost train or navigate their way through the monster maze. And, in addition to a classic costume contest, the zoo also puts on a stroller decorating contest for the mamas.
Maine: Hike Acadia National Park
Let’s be honest: There’s really never a bad time to visit Acadia National Park. But in September and October, the Maine must-visit lights up in a blaze of fiery reds, burnt oranges, and bright yellows. It’s a sight you’ll want to add to your fall bucket list ASAP, and one of the best ways to experience the stunning scenery is by via of the many trails criss-crossing through the park. Beginners can hike the easier Jesup Trail, while more advanced outdoors enthusiasts can trek up the Cadillac Mountain South Ridge Trail. Find out 20 more of the best places to spot fall foliage across America.
Maryland: Take pictures in sunflower fields
The color-changing leaves might get all the attention in the fall, but there’s another show of natural beauty that deserves the spotlight, too: sunflowers. And Maryland has one of the prettiest sunflower fields in the country at Rocky Point Creamery. Some of the flowers bloom in July, but others hit their peak in late September, so you can enjoy them all autumn long. Arrange a photoshoot with a local photographer or follow these tips for taking the best iPhone pictures.
Massachusetts: Tour a cranberry farm
Ever wondered where that cranberry sauce on your Thanksgiving table came from? Chances are it’s from the berries grown on one of the many farms in Massachusetts, the country’s largest producer of the fiery red fruit. Stone Bridge Farm offers daily tours (called “Picture Yourself at a Cranberry Harvest”) where you’ll learn about the harvesting process, walk the grounds, and even get to wade out into the middle of a floating cranberry bog.
Michigan: Experience an authentic Oktoberfest
You don’t have to book a ticket to Germany to attend a Munich-approved Oktoberfest celebration. Literally—the festival in Frankemnuth, a town known as Michigan’s Little Bavaria, was the first in the United States to be sanctioned by the German city back in 1996. Chow down on traditional German fare like brats, beer, and massive soft pretzels, and don’t miss the ever-popular wiener dog races, where 100 Dachsunds storm the streets. Here are other small town Oktoberfests across America that you’ll want to hit.
Minnesota: Take a cooking class
The name of this Minnesota must-visit says it all: Way Cool Cooking School is, well, way cool. It offers classes throughout the entire year, but the fall-themed ones are particularly drool-worthy. For a romantic date night, sign up for the “Oktoberfest: Cooking with Beer” course. Or, if you want to take the kids along, opt for “Halloween Cupcake Wars,” where parent and child teams compete against one another for the title of “Most Delicious Dessert.”
Mississippi: Visit the Sweet Potato Capital of the World
Yes, that exists, and yes, it’s in the middle of Mississippi. And from November 3 to 10, you can celebrate the tasty tater at the Vardaman Sweet Potato Festival. Watch (or participate in!) the pie eating contest, browse booths filled with local art and vote on who will be crowned this year’s Sweet Potato King and Queen. Of course, you’ll have to take a bushel home with you, too.
Missouri: Make apple butter
If you could put fall in a jar, it would taste like apple butter. The sweet spread (which contains no butter, by the way) is essentially like super-concentrated applesauce that’s flavored with cinnamon, cloves, or nutmeg. At the annual Apple Butter Makin’ Days in Mt. Vernon, Mo., almost 100,000 people gather to help stir the giant copper vats of apple butter that cook for 12 hours. While you wait for your jar of jam, check out the husband calling contest (seriously!) or the pet parade. Find out the best-kept secret in each state.
Montana: Try glamping
You’ve heard of the African safari, but what about the American safari? It’s a title proudly claimed by the Resort at Paws Up, a gorgeous glamping destination for travelers who love the outdoors but also appreciate a little bit (or a lot) of luxury. With heated floors and a private butler for each tent, it’s an A-lister experience—in fact, past guests have even included Leonardo Dicaprio and Gwyneth Paltrow. If you can’t make it to Montana, book one of these 13 glamping vacations instead.
Nebraska: Pick apples
Come for the apples, stay for the fried apple pie. That’s how it goes at Ditmar’s Orchard, where you can pick your own fruits in all different varieties, like Gala, Fuji, and Golden Delicious, just to name a few. After you work up an appetite in the orchard, head to the farm’s cafe and order a slice of the famous fried apple pie. Top it with a dollop of homemade vanilla ice cream to make it the best fall day ever. Find out the best places to pick apples in every state.
Nevada: Paddle board on Lake Tahoe
Who said paddle boarding is a summer-only activity? The watersport is actually best done in the fall months, when the wind is calmer, making it easier to balance on the board. Rent one for a couple of hours or even the whole day, and paddle through the crystal clear lake water, with the snow-capped mountains in the background. Don’t forget to pack a picnic to enjoy on the shore after you return your boards.
New Hampshire: Set a pumpkin world record
Meet the small town doing big things… like setting the world record for the most lit jack-o’-lanterns in one place multiple years in a row. At the Keene Pumpkin Festival, the 5,000+ glowing gourds are carved by local schoolchildren. And while the tower of lights is the main event of the night, there are plenty of family-friendly activities to partake in beforehand including a kids’ costume parade and pumpkin bowling where you roll sugar pumpkins instead of balls.
New Jersey: Play footgolf
First, there was Frisbee golf, now there’s footgolf. Think of it like your regular 18-hole game—but you’ll be kicking soccer balls instead of swinging clubs. There are plenty of places to play in New Jersey (and across the entire country) for all different skill levels and ages, but the course at Crystal Springs Resort is great for kids and adults alike. Anyone over six years old can grab a ball, tee up, and play a two-hour round on a sunny fall afternoon.
New Mexico: Roast chiles
While most places in the United States turn shades of red or orange during the fall, New Mexico turns green… with hatch green chiles, that is. The harvest season for the popular pepper runs from August to late November when the spicy scent of roasted chiles fills the air and you’ll see the metal roasting cages popping up at farmers’ markets around the state. Don’t miss these hidden gems in each state.
New York: Book a pumpkin carving class
Tired of your jack-o’-lantern looking more amateur than artistic? Step up your squash-sculpting skills by signing up for a class hosted by New York’s Maniac Pumpkin Carvers. Their own pumpkins are truly works of art, featuring everything from personalized portraits to recreations of Picasso paintings. During a private pumpkin carving class, they’ll walk you through the process from start to finish. You can also get started at home with one of these 31 free stencils.
North Carolina: Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway
People come from all over the country—and even the world—to admire the fall foliage dotting the breathtaking Blue Ridge Parkway in western North Carolina. The scenic drive winds 469 miles from the Shenandoah Mountains in Virginia all the way down to the Great Smoky Mountains, with plenty of overlooks to stop at for incredible photo ops. Bonus: The speed limit never goes above 45 mph (even dropping to 25 mph in some spots), so you can fully enjoy the colorful crests before you.
North Dakota: Go kayaking
Row, row, row your boat gently down the Missouri River to experience all the fiery fall foliage that North Dakota has to offer. Out in the middle of the river, it’s just you, your kayak, and the sound of the leaves rustling in the fall breeze. Rent your own for the day, or sign up for a guided tour through a local outdoors company to help you navigate the river and cruise through the currents with ease.
Ohio: Make candles
With a motto like “love at first pour,” how can you not feel instantly at home in this cute and cozy candle bar? With the help of a scentologist, you can create your own candle at Petals & Wicks in Hamilton, using your favorite fall fragrances, including mulled cider, autumn leaves, and of course, pumpkin spice. Don’t miss this list of frugal fall activities for family fun.
Oklahoma: Find Magnetic Hill
Drive to the bottom of Magnetic Hill on Pioneer Road and put your car in neutral. It should stay in place, or at the very least, roll down the remaining slope, right? Uh, wrong. Thanks to what locals know as the Magnetic Hill mystery, your car will actually begin to roll up the hill, as if it’s being pulled by a ghost. Some have said you even start to gain speed! Whether it’s a paranormal force or something explained by science, it’s a must-visit around Halloween.
Oregon: Sip your s’mores
Oregon’s beer scene is definitely something to raise a glass to. Especially the bold brews from Base Camp Brewing Company, namely its fall favorite, the S’more Stout. It’s the classic campfire confection in a cup: rich chocolate notes with a hint of smoke. And if you order it in the tap room, it will come topped with a lightly toasted marshmallow.
Pennsylvania: Hit the pumpkin patch
Jump aboard the pumpkin bandwagon (or should we say the tractor-pulled hayride) at Shady Brook Farm, Pennsylvania’s most popular pumpkin patch. And for good reason—not only can you pick your own perfect pumpkin, you can also enjoy a myriad of fun fall festivities for the family, like the petting zoo, corn maze, and even rubber ducky races. Wind down at night around one of the blazing bonfires…roasted marshmallow recommended, but not required. Here is the best pumpkin patch in every state.
Rhode Island: Warm up at WaterFire
Bring on the bonfires… all 100 of them, that is, at this stunning spectacle. Lighting up almost two-thirds of a mile of the Providence River, the floating flames are choreographed to a variety of musical tracks and even boast that nostalgic wood-burning smell and log-crackling sound that remind you of a real campfire. Watch it from shore as you stroll along the riverwalk or float on a gondola for an up-close experience. Check out these 8 cozy inns to book during peak foliage season.
South Carolina: Tailgate a football game
Every Southerner knows that Saturdays in the fall mean one thing: College football. And in South Carolina, what happens before the game is almost as important (and fun) as the game itself. Tailgating is a beloved tradition filled with cornhole, cold brews, and gameday gear. Whether you’re cheering on the Tigers at Clemson, or the Gamecocks at USC, you can’t forget the food, either (hello, pulled pork sliders and nachos!).
South Dakota: Go to a rodeo
Nothing says South Dakota quite like bucking broncos and costumed cowboys. The rodeo is not only the state sport, watching it is also a fun fall activity for the whole family. Sit in the bleachers on a chilly Friday night in October to watch the brave riders compete in events like barrel racing, calf roping, and bull riding. Stay warm with a cup of hot cocoa from the concession stand. Ahh, the taste of fall.
Tennessee: Cook pancakes
Flip a few flapjacks at one of the Pfunky Griddle‘s two locations (Nashville or Murfreesboro), where you’re the customer and the chef. Each table in the restaurant is equipped with its own stovetop, and when you sit down, you’ll be handed a spatula, a pitcher of all-you-can-eat pancake batter, and your choice of 25 different toppings.
Texas: Make Medieval memories
Hear ye, hear ye! The country’s largest Renaissance theme park is back this fall with the Texas Renaissance Festival. Slip on your best 16th-century garb to cheer on knights at a jousting match, learn Medieval dances, and of course, tear into one of those giant turkey legs. On Saturday evenings, anyone 21 and older can attend TRF After Dark, a themed costume ball with live music and specialty cocktails. Don’t miss these fun ideas for a fall weekend getaway.
Utah: Catch a witch
Which witch is which? That’s up to you to decide, at the Gardner Village Witchfest. Running from September 15 to October 31, the annual extravaganza always brews up a ton of fun, from a spooky scavenger hunt to a 5K run (no broomsticks allowed!). For the ladies, there’s also Witches Night Out, an evening of costumes, cauldrons, and cackles that ends with a festive parade.
Vermont: Saddle up
Over the river and through the woods to the Vermont Icelandic Horse Farm you go! Whether you opt for a quick one-hour ride or a full-day experience (complete with a picnic lunch), a trained guide will lead you through the New England countryside on horseback, immersing you in a sea of reds, oranges, and yellows. Book a night at the inn while you’re there, so you can wake up to a hearty country breakfast overlooking the colorful meadow.
Virginia: Slurp oysters
November in the Old Dominion is now also known as Virginia Oyster Month. The state produces many of the farm-raised oysters on the East Coast, fresh from the Chesapeake Bay. Enjoy a shellfish from one of the eight different flavor regions, from the salty to the buttery, and stop by the Urbanna Oyster Festival to watch one of the largest professional shucking competitions.
Washington: Climb a waterfall
Don’t go chasing waterfalls—unless you’re in Washington. In that case, make the trek to Snoqualmie Falls, where you can admire the 268-foot drop from the observation deck below. The breathtaking view isn’t all that Snoqualmie is known for, though. Refuel after your hike at the Salish Lodge, which overlooks the river and famously serves some of the best buttermilk pancakes in the state. Want to find the most gorgeous waterfall near you? Here are the most beautiful ones in each state.
West Virginia: Sample cider
The cider from Hawk Knob is unlike any cider you’ve had before. What makes it so different (yet just as delicious)? They use strictly West Virginia heirloom apples and don’t add any sugar, aging the fruit in bourbon barrels. Essentially, it’s cider that’s made the old-fashioned way, like how they used to make it in the 1700s. Visit the tasting room to sample some of the seasonal sips on the pond-side porch.
Wisconsin: Conquer a corn maze
It doesn’t get much more “fall” than finding your way out of a maze of, well, maize. And for anyone who loves a challenge, you’ll want to spend a Saturday at Treinen Farm, where six miles of pathways wind through the 15-acre course. Not only will you try to make it to the finish line, but you should also aim to be one of the 2 percent of visitors who find the secret locations hidden within the maze. If you want to master more mazes, attempt these craziest corn courses in the United States.
Wyoming: Ride a fat bike
Move over mountain bikes—in Wyoming, they’re all about the fat bikes. Rent one of the big wheels (literally, the tires can be up to 5-inches wide, compared to the standard 2.1), and hit the trails in the Grand Tetons. The thicker wheels let you cruise down even the muddiest, leaf-covered path with ease so you can admire the peaks in any weather conditions. Next, find out the 41 reasons fall is our favorite season ever.