Young boy playing in a pile of fall leaves
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10 Traditions to FALL For!

Ah, fall! Hopefully it means a break from oppressive summer heat, and it definitely means good times are ahead. Fall might find us heading to a local pumpkin patch. Another weekend we might be sampling banana-flavored milk at our nearby dairy farm. Below are 10 ideas for fall traditions to start with your own family. Pick and choose a few each year … or try to sneak them all in! And the best thing about fall traditions in the time of COVID-19 is that they are all outside. So, grab your mask and head out for some fun!

1. Go natural. A nature center is a great way to spend a cool fall day or evening. Many have walking or hiking trails nearby, so along with learning and making memories, you can also exercise. Some have night hikes and other fun programs for the kids where they can see animals like owls, snakes and bats up close. To find a nature center in your state, check out bit.ly/2Dya5Ce.

2. Animal instinct. Fall is the perfect time to head to the zoo (nationalzoo.si.edu; marylandzoo.org) because the animals are more likely to be outside due to the break from the heat. Pack your lunch and a camera and make it a day!

3. Go to market. Many cities have outdoor markets with fresh fruit, veggies, flowers and other fun items (pumpkins and gourds!) which local farmers bring in to sell. A farmer’s market is a cool way to spend a Saturday morning before heading out to another fall activity. A great source for finding local farmer’s markets is localharvest.org/farmers-markets/.

4. An apple a day. Head to a local apple orchard for some picking and then make simple cobbler, pie, applesauce, cinnamon apples and more. PickYourOwn.org has state-by-state listings for just about every U-Pick orchard fruit you can think of! Then fire up your computer and go to allrecipes.com to find unique and traditional recipes for any fruit dish you can think of.

5. Go milk a cow. My kids still talk about the time we went to a local dairy farm for a fall field trip. They got to see how cows are milked by machines, how they are cleaned, how milk is processed and – the best part – they got to sample different flavors of milk. Google “dairy farms” near your home, then find out from there if they are currently giving tours or when they might be doing so again.

6. Go find it … the old-fashioned way. Have some of your kid’s friends over for an outside-only, socially distanced scavenger hunt. Assign them to teams and give them a list of things you want them to go find. The team that comes back with all the items on the list first is the winner.

7. Go find it … using technology. According to the website Geocaching.com, “geocaching is a real-world outdoor treasure hunting game. Players try to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, using GPS-enabled devices, and then share their experiences online.” On this site, parents and kids can search for caches in their area and then go hunt them down. When you find the cache, you sign a logbook and sometimes there’s a small prize for you to take (but you must also leave something behind!). Don’t forget the hand sanitizer!

8. Leaf it to the kids. Rake up the leaves and jump in them. Take lots of pictures and video! When you’re done, hunt down some favorite leaves in different colors and make a leaf collage. Glue leaves to a piece of construction paper and paint designs on them.

9. Light up the night. Get a bunch of families together from school, church or the neighborhood for a game of socially distanced flashlight tag in a park. Check out wikihow.com/Play-Flashlight-Tag for the rules.

10. Patch things up. Meet up with some friends at a pumpkin patch to hunt for pumpkins and funky gourds in colors like salmon and white. Visit PumpkinPatchesAndMore.org to find a patch near you.