Those hot and humid days are behind us. Welcome the crisp autumn weather by grabbing a sweater and enjoying time with your family outside. In addition to bonding, these mood-boosting outings are a great way to get some gentle exercise in before the busy holiday season is upon us. Here are 10 fall activities that will help your family have fun:
1. Go Leaf Peeping
The rich reds, orange, and yellows interspersed with green make for a dramatic setting. "When you're walking and focusing on the changing leaves, you're no longer signaling your brain to run or fight," said Michelle Harris, professor of psychology at William James College in Massachusetts. "Instead, you're signaling your brain to pay attention to something beautiful. Leaf peeping is a fun fall activity."
2. Take a Hike
Walking lifts your mood. A 2016 study published in Emotion, a peer-reviewed scientific journal, shows walking has a positive effect on the body.
3. Go Apple- and Pumpkin-Picking
"Our kids try to find the biggest pumpkin in the patch, which we take home and carve," says Jodi Hoang, a mother of two in Columbus, Ohio. "Every fall we spend time at local farms picking apples. We also make applesauce at home; it's a family tradition that's healthy, too."
4. Attend a Fall Harvest Festival
"If we're traveling around the country, we look for local fall festivals," says Monica Giordano, a mom of twins in Dallas. "Throughout the months of October and November, the Dallas Arboretum has an amazing pumpkin festival with many events. We do a lot of walking and come home feeling energized."
5. Navigate a Corn Maze
Here, you'll rely on everyone's brain power, and walk out with a sense of accomplishment. Depending on the size and twists and turns, mazes can be tricky. Make sure it's age appropriate—some Halloween mazes can be scary for young children.
6. Enjoy a Hayride
Most pick-your-own farms have hayrides that take you to pumpkin patches and apple orchards. There are several stops along the way, so you can hop on when you get tired of strolling.
7. Fly a Kite
"Last year, my wife and kids made their own kites out of paper, string, and yarn," says Matt Arnold, a dad of three boys in New York City. "We were the only family in our local park flying kites and it attracted a small crowd of kids who wanted a turn."
8. Bundle Up and Walk on the Beach
The weather is still mild and you can pack a picnic lunch. "It's one of our favorite fall activities," says Sam Lee, a dad of two in Montclair, New Jersey, "because the crowds are gone."
9. Cheer for the Local Team
Most communities have evening football games. Try your local high school for some Friday Night Lights IRL.
10. Go Birding
Researchers at the University of Exeter in the UK found that people living in neighborhoods with more birds are less likely to suffer from stress, depression, and anxiety. Check out Audobon.org to familiarize yourself with the most common birds in your region, then bring binoculars to your local park and see if you can spot the real deal.