Fall family fun doesn’t need to be expensive! Let the Kids Trail gang show you some free (or nearly free) fall family fun ideas. Bucket knows the best places for day hikes, picnicking and biking. Fungi takes you to a PYO orchard then shares a baked apple recipe. Shenny has come up with some fun fall crafts that make beautiful holiday gifts. And Ridge shows us how to celebrate our natural heritage by gathering a future forest.
Free Fall Family Fun Ideas
Some would argue that there’s no better season than fall in the Blue Ridge and Shenandoah Valley. Sunny days, cooler temperatures, and beautiful scenery await. What a great time to be outside! Even when the weather turns cold and wet, there’s something about the smell of baking apples that makes for cozy family memories. Mother Nature is also giving us some wonderful crafting materials. And while you’re taking those walks and collecting for crafts, help build future woodlands by gathering acorns for the Virginia Forestry Department.
Outdoor Fall Family Fun
Bucket loves outdoor adventure. She’s a snail on the move. Some of her favorite free places to explore on the VA Kids Trail include Bears Den in Bluemont and the Abram’s Creek Wetlands Preserve in Winchester.
At 1350 feet, the rocks of Bears Den are believed to be a directional landmark for the indigenous people who hunted and fished here 12,000 years ago. It’s said the outcropping and the sun were used to mark the changing of the seasons on the Paleo-Indian celestial calendar. Bucket and her Kids Trail friends often enjoy a picnic at Bears Den. Learn more about these seven popular picnic spots on the VA Kids Trail.
Whenever Bucket is in Winchester, she likes to explore the Abram’s Creek Wetlands Preserve. As part of the city’s Green Circle Trail, the preserve is home to over 180 kinds of birds and 300 plant species. In fact, no other limestone-floored wetland in Virginia has as many rare plants.
Bucket is also big on biking. Sometimes she takes her bike to Abram’s Creek, but she also enjoys other two-wheeled adventures. The gang bikes the C&O Canal in Shepherdstown, WV and the W&OD “rails to trails” path in Purcellville, VA. You can find more of Bucket’s favorite bike rides here.
Cozy Fall Family Memories
The Shenandoah Valley is known for its apples. What better way to spend a fall day than at a pick your own orchard. Kids Trail Mascot Fungi enjoys picking at West Oak Farm Market in Winchester and Mackintosh Fruit Farm in Berryville. After picking, Fungi and his family stop by the farm community stores for other fresh local produce and food products.
Kids love to cook, so take some of those apples and try this family recipe for baked treats from Chef Jeremiah Brooks of Hamilton’s Tavern 1840 in Harpers Ferry, WV. It’s just one of the great apple recipes you’ll find on Taste of Blue Ridge.
Baked Apples * Serves 4
Honeycrisp apples x 4; 4 sheets of pie crust; 1 cup dark brown sugar; 1 tbsp. cinnamon; 2 tsp. kosher salt; 2 tsp. nutmeg; 1/2 tsp. allspice: 1/4 tsp. cayenne: 8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter: 1/2 cup crushed walnuts: 1/2 cup caramel sauce (store-bought works for the home cook)
Instructions: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Using an apple corer, core each apple. Mix dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl with a whisk or fork. Layout pie crust. Coat apples thoroughly in the dry mixture, and use remaining to fill the empty core. Dice the butter and distribute 2 tbsp. per apple and place inside the core. Add crushed walnuts and caramel sauce. Wrap apples in pie dough, ensuring that it is firmly sealed – trim any excess dough and place the apple onto a greased baking sheet. Continue with remaining apples. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the apple is easily pierced with a fork. Remove from the oven and cool for 3-5 minutes before serving with ice cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce.
Family Time with Fall Crafts
Kids Trail Mascot Shenny loves arts and crafts. And while she doesn’t like to get dirty, she likes to forage for fall craft materials. Shenny always gets a few extra apples from the PYO patch for stamping. Her mom cuts the apples in half, then they dip them in red paint and stamp them on cardboard.
With some fall leaves, mod podge, and a few white bathroom tiles, Shenny makes one of-a-kind coaster sets for affordable holiday gifts. And those fall leaves can also be made into beautiful bowls with the help of oven bake clay and paint.
From Little Acorns Big Trees Grow!
While Shenny’s gathering craft supplies, Kids Trail Mascot Ridge is on the hunt for acorns. Ridge loves his history and heritage, but he also wants to make history. That’s why he’s collecting acorns for the Virginia Department of Forestry.
VDOF grows more than a dozen species of hardwood seedlings at the Augusta Forestry Center. The seedlings produced are sold to Virginia landowners, typically to reforest open lands. Turn your acorns in at your nearest Forestry office or mail them in to the August Forestry Center by October 16.
More Ways to Spend Fall Family Time
Sometimes the best memories are made in your own backyard. Roast s’mores then sing some silly campfire songs. Set up a tent and gaze at the stars. Rake a giant pile of leaves and jump in! Laugh and laugh – then top it off with some of that baked apple.