15 Fall Traditions for a Meaningful Season

Apple picking, baking, crunching through piles of leaves, sipping warm drinks by the fire—these are just a few of the many simple pleasures autumn has to offer. Traditions like these become rich with meaning when returned to year after year, and sharing them with family and friends only makes them sweeter. Check out these 15 fall traditions to consider adopting, and then we want to hear about your own fall favorites.

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1. Make a trip to the pumpkin patch. Pick up some pumpkins, gourds and fall flowers to decorate with. The more, the merrier. An abundance of pumpkins and gourds in different shapes, sizes and colors makes for a cheerful display that will last through the autumn months. If you have little ones, make it a tradition to take their picture sitting among the pumpkins—over the years, you can see how they grow from pumpkin size themselves to towering over the orange globes!

2. Host a harvest party or attend a harvest festival. Invite friends and family over for a potluck or visit one of the many harvest fairs and festivals happening at this time of year. From biggest-pumpkin contests to live music, there’s something for everyone.

3. Do some “project” cooking. What’s project cooking? Anything you love to make but rarely have time for. Spend a blustery autumn afternoon making a pie from scratch, Grandma’s spaghetti sauce or loaves of pumpkin bread.

4. Host a football party. For football fans, fall means only one thing: game time. Set up comfy seating around the flat-screen, make some tasty snacks and invite friends over to watch the game.

5. Go apple picking. Find an orchard that offers pick-your-own apples (check the listings on Local Harvest to find one near you) and head out for a fun day of picking fruit right from the trees. Picking at an orchard is not only fun (bring a picnic and make a day of it) but also offers a much wider (read: tastier) variety of apples than what you’ll find in the store.

6. Tweak home decor for fall. Layer beds with thicker quilts, drape a cozy throw over your favorite armchair and set out bowls of apples and nuts. It doesn’t take much effort, and your home will instantly feel more fall-like.

7. Savor warm drinks by the fire. Hot cider with a cinnamon stick, cocoa, tea or something stronger—whatever your favorite cold-weather drink is, take the time to savor it. Fireplace optional (but lovely).

8. Jump in a big pile of leaves. You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy the sound of leaves crunching underfoot or the joy of leaping into a giant leaf pile. I say if you want to, just go for it!

9. Gather round an outdoor fire pit. Roast marshmallows for s’mores outside or just pull up a chair and get warmed up around the fire. There is something so comforting about watching a fire, and fall, with its crisp weather, is the perfect time to enjoy it.

10. Go on an autumn camping trip. Summer camping is great, but if you ask me, fall camping is even better. Most of the bugs are gone, and the cooler weather makes hiking (and warming up around the fire later) more pleasant.

11. Take a leaf-peeping drive. If you live near an area with colorful fall foliage, plan a day trip to scope out the colors on a scenic drive.

12. Pack a picnic basket. For a quicker outing, pack a few edibles and a blanket, and head to the nearest park or lake for a picnic. If you love picnicking, try keeping a basket packed (except for the food, of course) by the front door, so you can just grab it and go when inspiration strikes.

13. Visit a vineyard during the grape harvest. If you are lucky enough to live within driving distance of a wine-growing region, early autumn is an ideal time to visit. With the grape harvest coming in, the vineyards are bustling with activity, and many wineries host special events and festivals during this time.

14. Make a “thankful tree.” In preparation for Thanksgiving, set out a bunch of leaves (cut shapes from paper), a pen and tiny clips, with a small sign inviting people to record something they are thankful for. Clip the leaves to real branches in a vase for a meaningful centerpiece.

15. Grateful? Start a journal. Noticing things you are grateful for in your everyday life is a wonderful habit—encourage yourself by dedicating a special journal to this purpose. Aim to write down at least one thing each day that you are grateful for; read back through your list whenever you need a boost.

Tell us: What are your favorite fall traditions? Please share them in the comments.