7 fall activities Northwest style (but good anywhere)

The fall season is upon us, but don't head inside yet. It's still mild enough for an outdoor adventure. Gorgeous colors, earthy scents, crunchy leaves and watchable wildlife are all part of the autumn show. Here are a few ideas to get you going.

1. Go day tripping. Spend the day exploring a natural area near your home. Research for nearby wildlife refuges, historical state parks, forests and estuaries. Pick a new place that will give you a sense of getting away, but not take much planning. Fill your canvas bags with snacks and a thermos full of warm beverages for the road. Pack your cooler with a French style picnic (think baguette, cheese, salami and a bottle of red). Throw in some warm jackets, fleece throws and a sense of adventure for a great fall day of discovery. 

2. Go wine tasting. The essence of the earth is in every bottle of wine created. And fall is a great time for tasting. It’s a season where wineries often hold festive events that feature barrel tasting, food and wine pairings, and new releases. If you are new to wine tasting, no worries. It all comes down to what you like. What resonates with your taste buds? Is it spicy? Does it have aromas of dark fruits? Are you smelling hints of grass or vanilla? Does it feel velvety on your tongue? Maybe it’s bitter or tart. Whatever, it’s okay. The more you taste, the more you will learn.

3. Watch birds with the kidsFall migration is a great time to look for birds. Many stop along their route to rest and feed. A wetland is your best bet to see birds and offers a great introduction to nature for kids. You can find wetlands throughout urban and rural areas. Locate one with a perimeter trail. The trees and grasses that border the ponds and marshes offer ample food and refuge to songbirds, owls, woodpeckers, eagles, and waterfowl. Raccoons, minks and weasels make their homes in wetlands, too. To make your birdwatching more enjoyable, bring a field guide to help you identify some of the birds you spot.

4. Add color to your garden. Many people think fall is a good time to clean up the garden. But, any professional at a local nursery will tell you that fall is a fabulous time to plant. Leave the yard and garden clean-up until late November. Instead, use the last of the growing season to tweak your garden. You know what worked and what didn’t. You can get a head start on spring by moving, taking out and adding plants to your heart’s content. The soil is warm, roots still have plenty of time to get established before winter and you can water less. You'll find huge discounts at any nursery and, as a bonus, get a taste of fall as you wander through the aisles of mums, grasses and Japanese maples.

5. Explore your local arboretum. Wander through the paths of your local arboretum and note all of the interesting fall foliage. You’ll be caught up in a seasonal show of bright colors. Arboretums are a wonderful gallery of sorts—displaying huge varieties of plants, flowers and trees. Pebbled paths, water features, natural stone sculptures and footbridges accent the landscape designs. You’ll find it easy to have a deeper presence in the meditative surroundings. Look for secret gardens and benches tucked in unexpected places, perfect for reflection. Try to give yourself at least an hour. You’ll know how much you love it, if you can’t wait to come back.

6. Take some photos. There is nothing more renewing on a Sunday afternoon than a solo photo shoot. Grab your camera and head to the nearest park. Look for interesting fall foliage and gorgeous saturated shades of reds, purples, yellows and oranges. Don’t limit yourself to just the trees and shrubs. Add interest to your photo collection with shots of fallen leave clusters, old rod iron gates covered with withering vines and stone paths littered with leaves. Try to see things from a new perspective. Shoot from the top down or try a quirky composition with a skewed horizon that follows the lines of the foliage. Remember it’s creative fun and no critiquing allowed. At the end of the day, find a special place to sit for a few moments. Then take a picture of the view and post it where you can look at it often during the week for an instant lift to your spirit.

7. Visit a year-round farmer's market. With the trend toward local, natural and whole foods, farmer's markets are sprouting up in many cities across the country. This is a wonderful way to spend a fall day appreciating nature's bounty. You can browse for fresh organic vegetables, orchard fruits, free-range meats, eggs, poultry, wild fish, artisan cheeses, honeys and baked goods. Many markets also feature wild-craftings such as sauces, jams, soaps, herbal lotions and teas. 

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