Even though money may be tight these days, we can still have fun and enjoy the Fall season with our families with some free and low-cost Fall activities. The nice thing about Fall is that most of the beauty of Fall is in nature, which is free to look at and partake in. Think long drives to peep the Fall foliage, long walks in the park and a visit to your local pumpkin patch.
The availability of the activities on this list are location-dependent, and because I’m originally from the Miami area, I know that you can’t just go outside and see beautiful Fall foliage in every part of the country. But don’t fret, there are also several things on this list that families can do together no matter where you’re located. The cost calculations included for the farm activities are all based on a family of four, comprising two adults and two children. Be sure to check out the fees at your local farms and orchards to make your final cost calculation. Enjoy these recommendations for free and low-cost Fall activities!
1. Visit a Local Farm to Pick Sunflowers
Picking sunflowers is a fun activity for late Summer/early Fall, and they are generally still in bloom at the end of September. It is fun just to go and look at these vast fields of flowers and take some pictures, which depending on where you go, can be free. We live in the Chicago area, so we went to the Johnson’s Farm Produce in Hobart, Indiana at the end of August to take part in the sunflower action.
I had never gone to a sunflower field, and the last time we went out and did Fall activities, we went so late in the season that all of the sunflowers were dead and rotting. This time around, it was a lot of fun. At Johnson’s Farm Produce, admission was $8 per person, only because we went on a Festival weekend. On festival weekends, the $8 also includes access to Fall festival activities, but we did not partake in those.
On weekdays, admission is only $3 per person to access the U-Pick fields, plus the cost of your picks. Sunflowers were $3 for one or $6 for three.There was also a large variety of veggies to pick from, including peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, kale and tomatoes for $1.69 per pound. If you only went to pick some sunflowers on a weekday, a family of four can expect to pay $12 admission plus $3 for a sunflower, for a total of $15. I would advise bringing your own scissors to cut the stalks as they are pretty thick. It was a struggle to pick our flowers by hand.
2. Go Apple Picking
Apple picking is a fun experience for the whole family and you get to bring home some bulk apples to cook with. It’s also nice for the kids to see where their food comes from, and it might make it more likely that they will eat their fruits and veggies if they pick them out themselves. We went to Countyline Orchard, also located in Hobart, Indiana. The last time we went here was two years ago, because mine and my husband’s work schedule was so hectic last year that by the time we had a free weekend, apple picking season was over. I am so glad we got to go this year. We went early in the season, and it was crowded. Expect to wait in line to get on the hayride tractor that takes you out to the orchards.
Admission at Countyline Orchard is $1 per person, which includes a heavy duty bag that holds 30 pounds of apples. Then you pay for what you pick. Apples are $1.79/lb regardless of variety, and you can stand in line for an hour to buy their apple or pumpkin donuts for $10/dozen or one for $1.00. If you want the donut experience on a budget, just get one donut and split it. This way, you still get to taste the donut without spending a ton of money. Plus, it keeps you from loading up on empty calories. A family of four can expect to pay $4 admission, plus about $9 if you pick around 5 pounds worth of apples for a total of $13, or $14 with a donut.
3. Admire the Fall Foliage
This one is location-dependent, but it’s free! Go on a nice long scenic drive with the kids, and find a nice area to stop at to stretch your legs and interact with nature. This is a great opportunity to take Fall family photos. Bring your tripod and your nice camera and pose for a picture that you can easily use for Christmas Cards later this year. Bring some snacks and have a small picnic out in the fresh, crisp air, and leave with some souvenirs from nature, like some fallen leaves or pine cones to help the kids remember their special day.
Being in nature helps us to de-stress, reconnect with one another and get away from the hectic repetition of daily life. This is still a great idea, even if the leaves don’t turn in your area.Take advantage of some cooler temperatures to spend some time outdoors. Go camping, have a cookout, or just go on a family walk. The main point is to get outside and enjoy all the free benefits that nature has to offer us.
4. Visit a Pumpkin Patch
We are going to wait until October to do this one, just so that our pumpkins don’t go bad before Halloween. Anyway, it is kind of nice to spread out the Fall fun over the course of the whole season. We are planning on going to Kregel’s Pumpkin Patch in Northwest Indiana. Unfortunately, they don’t have standard U-Pick wristbands, so in order to ride over to the pumpkin patch, you have to buy the full access admission wristband. The wristband includes unlimited hayrides to the pumpkin patch, pumpkin slide, barrel train ride, pedal cars, petting zoo, rat rollers and the corn maze. You can pick out your pumpkin at the cost of $0.39 per pound, if you want to take one home.
For a family of four, if you go on a Monday-Thursday, expect to shell out about $28 (two adults, two children) for a whole afternoon of fun, and an additional $3.90 for a ten-pound pumpkin, for a total of $32. The price isn’t so bad if you can pack your own snacks and resist purchasing the donuts and other things they sell at the store. And as a reminder, the price is higher on this activity because of all of the extra things that are included that you can’t opt-out of, for better or for worse.
5. Carve Jack-O-Lanterns for Halloween
This activity is so much fun. Save money on Halloween decorations and put out some Jack-O-Lanterns on your front porch. Once you buy the pumpkins, this activity is completely free! It just requires some imagination and some planning. Head outside and lay out some newspapers. Cut the tops of the pumpkins off for the kids and hand them a giant spoon so that they can scoop the seeds out and hollow-out the pumpkin. As a bonus, you can save the seeds, roast them and have a healthy snack! In terms of the design, for very little kids, it is probably easier and safer to have them paint the pumpkins. But for older kids, help them carve out a design with supervision.
Some people are talented enough to free-hand their design and have it come out great. I am not one of those people. Print out a pattern that you like and trace it onto the face of the pumpkin, then carve. This method takes the guesswork out of having it come out right. The point is to have some cut-outs on the side of the pumpkin so that it can be illuminated from the inside. I prefer to use LED flameless candles to illuminate the Jack-O-Lantern to avoid any chance of accidental fires. Above all, get messy and have some fun. The experience of doing this activity with the family is just as important as the outcome.
6. Visit your Local Coffee Shop, or Enjoy Coffee at Home
Go out for a treat and enjoy the quintessential Pumpkin Spice Latte, or some hot chocolate at your local coffee shop. This one is not necessarily low-cost, although local shops tend to be cheaper than chains. However, if you’re going to spend money on a coffee, you might as well support local small businesses, most of which have been struggling lately. Two lattes and a pastry for the kids to share could run you around $13. Alternatively, you can make your own coffee shop Pumpkin Spice coffee at home for a lot less by starting with a homemade Pumpkin Spice blend, and adding in your favorite creamer. Check out my recipe for at-home Pumpkin Spice coffee here.
In terms of whether or not anyone actually needs to buy a coffee to enjoy the Fall season, I think the point is to drink something warm on days that begin to feel a bit chilly. It’s the feeling of being cozy and warm and spending time with family that makes people love Fall so much, and the coffee part of it is just an extension of those cozy and warm feelings.
7. Stay at Home and Bake Some Fall Treats
The best part of Fall is all of the delicious, warm baked goods that we are able to make with what is in season, namely apples and pumpkins, combined with the trifecta of butter, brown sugar and vanilla extract. This season is perfect for cinnamon rolls, french toast, apple cobbler, apple pie, pumpkin pie, the list goes on. Fall baking is even more special when you get to put to good use all of the apples and vegetables that you were able to harvest yourself from the visits to the farms and the orchards. Not only do these treats taste good, they also make the house smell like a home.
When there is a chill in the air outside, walking into a cozy, warm home that smells like warm pie just makes you feel like getting into your comfy clothes and hanging out with the family. Baking together creates memories, but so does the atmosphere you create when you’ve got something delicious in the oven. Yes, you can replicate the coziness and the delicious smells with a whole lot of Bath & Body Works candles, but the memories you make with your kids when you get to bake together are priceless.
8. DIY your Fall Decorations Together as a Family
- Bring some birds to the yard with a pine cone bird feeder. Gather those pine cones that you got from your visit to the park, paint them with peanut butter and dip them in birdseed. Hang them up in the yard and watch the birds come around to feed. Check this tutorial out from Happiness is Homemade.
- Die cut or print and cut some leaves and paint with Fall colored watercolor paints. Then, paste the leaves onto a paper plate with the center cut out to make a very cute wreath worthy of any home display. View this tutorial here.
- Use the same leaf cutouts from above, decorate with paint or glitter and punch holes in the leaves. String the leaves together with twine or yarn to create a garland that you can hang up around the house.
- Make apple stamp pumpkins! Cut apples in half, dip in orange paint and stamp on a piece of craft paper. You can paint a face on the pumpkins to make them look like Jack-O-Lanterns or just let the kids decorate the stamped pumpkins however they want. View the tutorial here.
Enjoy the Season with Free and Low-Cost Fall Activities
Enjoying the Fall season is definitely possible on a budget, and I am sure you can find several more free or low-cost Fall activities beyond the ones I have listed above. Let this be a source of inspiration for you, to take advantage of all the season has to offer without worrying so much about overspending. This article is part of the Save in September Challenge, in which I challenge all of us to spend a little bit less this month so that we can save more money to put towards our financial goals. Use the hashtag #saveinseptemberchallenge to share what you’re doing to save this month.
What do you think of these free and low-cost Fall activities? Let me know in the comments!