It’s pretty late in the game to be writing one of our annual seasonal bucket lists, but as I was scrolling through Facebook earlier this week, I realized that some people just don’t know what type of activities to do as the years go on. One mom even said she “dropped the ball for Halloween…” and that her and her family were “… losing the magic of holiday seasons”. I understand this. One hundred percent. Because there are times when I think crap – the season flew by and we didn’t do anything! However, I feel like over the past couple of years I’ve created a fool-proof plan that forces us to get out there and just experience. The whole idea behind this is that I create a bucket list of 10 activities to do during the season (including the holiday season). Some activities are repeats: like our annual corn maze and pumpkin patch visits, but I do like to include some new experiences to get us out there and explore. Plus, I figured this is better late than never, and you can pair this bucket list with last year’s to create your own epic list for next year.
Also, while this is geared more towards the state of Pennsylvania (our current location), I’m sure you can find similar activities in your own home state.
1. Visit a corn maze
We absolutely love corn mazes! And luckily, there are a ton in this area. We enjoyed the corn maze at Paulus Mt Airy Orchards this year, but in previous years we’ve gone through the Wine(d) Down at Sunday corn maze at Ards Market, Butcher’s Family Fun Farm, and Kohl’s Stony Hill Tree Farm. Each one of these locations creates a new corn maze theme each year, and Audrey loves being the navigator – which means we spend quite a while circling around the corn maze before I pull out the map and try to find our way out. Such a great way to spend a couple hours on a crisp autumn weekend.
Now, while I would love to say I flew to Munich, Germany for Oktoberfest where I consumed copious amounts of pretzels, bratwurst, and beer – I needed to settle for something a little more local. According to some historians, by the time of the Revolutionary War, about one-third of Pennsylvania’s white population was German. So, it’s not a surprise that there are a plethora of Oktoberfest events to attend in this state – including the Reading Liederkranz Oktoberfest which is rated among the top ten in the world. However, due to some family issues that have occurred over the past few months, we opted to stay a little closer to home, and actually drove up to my hometown of Mifflinburg to attend their Oktoberfest. It’s definitely a unique experience and a must-do if you’ve never had the opportunity to attend the festival before.
3. Head to an amusement park decorated for Halloween
Pennsylvania has an incredible list of amusement parks: Kennywood, Hersheypark, Dorney Park, Dutch Wonderland, Delgrosso’s, Sesame Place, and my absolute favorite – Knoebles. And that’s just to name a few. While we visited a new-to-us park this year during our summer bucket list, I knew that we had to go back to Knoebles for their autumn Hallo-Fun days. Each weekend in the month of October, Knoebles is transformed into a spooktacular place for ghosts and goblins of all ages. Not only does the Pioneer Train get a seasonal upgrade to the Halloween Express and the antique cars become a haunted experience, but you get to munch on seasonal treats that are unavailable any other time of the year: apple pie funnel cakes and frozen apple cider slushies to name just a few. This year they also hosted a Scavenger Hunt for the kiddos where you hunt down the park’s characters and find out what they are eating, matching each one on a sheet of paper. We’ve been going to Knoebles each October for the past 4 years and typically go on a Friday night when its less busy, but if you opt to go on a weekend morning, the park also has morning activities such as cookie decorating, pumpkin painting, character visits and more. This is definitely a yearly must-do for my family.
Also note: This park is extremely dog friendly. You’ll see man’s best friend everywhere – including sharing seats on some of the rides.
While most of these items are autumn activities, I feel like a lot of them need to be completed prior to Halloween (hence the reason I came up with a holiday bucket list to do in November-December in preparation for Christmas). This is also where I start to feel the rush of needing to finish everything and instead of spending our weekends exploring, we’re running out of the house after I finish work to see what we can get done before locations close for the evening. That’s what happened here. We needed a pumpkin. And there was Paulus Farm Market. Little did I know that this farm has SO much to offer. I mean – much more than just pumpkins! There are children play areas, and children’s gardens, and animal areas with so many stinkin’ cute animals that you get to feed. One hour is definitely not enough, so I’m glad their Fall Fun runs until Thanksgiving, because we will definitely be going back!
5. Spend a day in a small town
When we lived in North Carolina, we used to love our day trips and trying to see what all we could fit into one day in small towns that may have otherwise been overlooked (check out the travel section to see some inspiration). I wanted to start doing that again making sure we do something historical, going on a tour of some sort, and then obviously find good food in each of these towns. So, to check it off our bucket list, our first small town we visited was the “Coolest Small Town” (est. by Budget Travel) in the United States: Lititz, Pennsylvania. We visited the first pretzel bakery in America, took a tour of the Wolf Sanctuary, and stuffed our faces with some English fare.
6. Go leaf-peeping in New England
Last year we took a scenic riverboat tour down the Susquehanna to view the foliage change colors to bright oranges, reds, russets, and yellows because traveling anywhere further than across the river wasn’t entirely possible. This year, however, we’re venturing out a bit further and heading up to New England – specifically to Rhode Island – to enjoy the outdoors and some good food. I’m actually surprised by all the food that Rhode Island is famous for and cannot wait to write about our experience!
7. Explore Pennsylvania’s vast apple regions
Did you know that Pennsylvania is ranked fourth in apple growing in the United States? Neither did I until Pennsylvania brought out their newest trail – an apple trail. Last autumn, we went on the Cumberland Valley beer trail and then in the summer we made an attempt to eat at every ice cream shop on their Cumberland Valley ice cream trail. So, it’s no surprise that as soon as I saw their apple trail I thought: challenge accepted. The great thing about these trails, though, is that there are four different regions (so depending on where you may be located) and you can make it a weekend road trip to hit every stop – unlike trying to hit up 16 ice cream shops in a weekend. So fill up your tank, pick a region, and explore!
8. Go apple picking
And in the event that U-pick apple-picking is not part of your apple trail itinerary, make sure you head out to a local orchard and grab some on your own. We went to Paulus Mt Airy Orchard last year and had such a good time that we headed there again this year. I just love being able to grab a variety of apples at such a reasonable price. Plus, you can make a day of it by heading over to their “Fall Fun on the Farm” for a corn maze, mega slide, and pedal karts (and that’s just naming a few things). Then head over to Karen’s Kitchen for a scrumptious lunch – their pulled pork is delicious!
9. Make a spooky platter
It honestly wouldn’t be Halloween without our annual spooky platter. Each year, I take a couple hours prepping some “spooky” treats (honestly, if it has googly eyes, I’m calling it spooky) to throw on a platter while we start watching some of our favorite Halloween movies: Hocus Pocus, the Witches, The Nightmare Before Christmas, etc. This year I made some fudgy cookies topped with a marshmallow and chocolate icing (kind of hot cocoa-esque) and topped them with Halloween sprinkles and googly eyes. I called them my toxic waste cookies. Yum. I also made mummy strawberries, apple monsters, hot dog spiders, chicken tender fingers, dirty cotton swabs, and a cheese ball made into a pumpkin. Then I threw some of our favorite holiday candies and candied nuts on there and called it a day. It’s always a huge hit.
Every year our autumn bucket list ends with trick-or-treating before we jump into the holiday preparation. However, this year is a little different since some of our autumn events are taking place in November, but we’ll make it work! Our theme this year is a mother-daughter duo: Mal and Maleficent! Audrey fell in love with the Descendant movies on Disney+ after finally sitting down and watching one and immediately decided that’s what she’ll be for Halloween this year (since this was prior to Halloween last year and we had already fixed up our Wizard of Oz costumes) – what can I say – I have a dedicated daughter. Trick-or-treating this year is on Halloween night, so it’s a perfect way to end the month of October!
What are your seasonal plans? Do you do anything special that I haven’t mentioned?