I don’t know about y’all, but I’m ready for some cooler, dryer weather. Some fall foliage would be nice too, but I won’t get greedy. Growing up in the north, the start of school and the beginning of fall were synonymous. You could almost feel the crisp air settling in as you stepped on the school bus that first morning. Florida, on the other hand, misses the memo every year on seasonal change.
My five-year-old walked outside the other morning and stopped. “It’s the first day of Fall, but it’s not chilly out!” Without going too far in-depth about the almanac, hemispheres, and the earth’s orbit, the best answer I could give her was, “Because we live in Florida.” Now, I’m not hating on Florida. I just wish Fall felt a little bit more like… well, Fall. If you’re struggling to get in the autumn mood like I am, here’s a list of must-do fall activities and events around the Tampa Bay area that are sure to get you in the spirit of the season.
Pick Your Own Flowers (U-Pick Flowers)
A Land of Delight Natural Farm and Nursery Farmers Market
One of the beauties of Florida is having u-pick seasons year round. Thanks to the warmer climate, you can pick your own flowers in the spring AND in the fall! A Land of Delight Natural Farm and Nursery hosts a Farmers Market every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visit the farm in the fall to pick your own flowers, visit with farm animals, and purchase fresh produce, raw honey, herbs & spices, beef, chicken and more! Want to know what produce will be available before you go? Be sure to check out A Land of Delight Natural Farm’s website to see “This Week’s Bounty of Organic Fresh Produce”.
Snorkel with Manatees
I know, I know. Snorkeling sounds much more like a summer activity, but swimming in the springs of Crystal River is actually the perfect fall activity and here is why: Manatees prefer warm water. As the weather and water temperatures slowly cool (think mid-November!) manatees seek refuge in the warm springs. More manatees make for a greater chance of an up close encounter with these gentle giants!
November in Crystal River is also known for having fewer rainy days, which means you can get out and explore all that the area has to offer including an abundance of parks and preserves–all without worrying a rainy day may get in your way! And, as an added benefit, Citrus County happens to be just about as far north as you need to drive to find fall foliage reminiscent of the autumn leaves most of us associate with the fall season. Visit Discover Crystal River for more information on snorkeling, boat tours, parks & preserves, local seafood hotspots and more!
A Nightmare on Franklin Street
Tampa Theatre’s Halloween-themed line-up isn’t just for adults! This year, the historic theatre plans to host two “Mummy and Me” screenings on Mondays at 3 p.m. The screenings include Hocus Pocus on October 18th and The Nightmare Before Christmas on October 25th. Admission is free for children under 12 and $10 for adults.
For the slightly older kids looking to get in the Halloween spirit with a bit more “spookiness”, Tampa Theatre is hosting an evening of Campfire Stories with The Storytellers of Old Tampa Bay on Wednesday, October 27th at 7PM. This event is open to all ages, however it is probably most suitable for kids in upper elementary school grades and above.
On Friday, October 29th, Tampa Theatre will host Phantasmagoria–a Victorian/gothic troupe of dancers, performers, storytellers, fire-dancers, etc. who do an amazing stage show full of creative retellings of classic horror stories (think Poe, Robert Louis Stevenson, etc.). If you or your highschooler are interested in literature, poetry, dance, steampunk, etc, this is the show for you!
And of course, it wouldn’t be Halloween at Tampa Theatre without Tampa Theatre’s classic Ghost Tours. Take a “balcony to backstage” tour of one of the most haunted buildings in the Tampa area October 16th through the 31st.
Take a Nature Hike
Alderman’s Ford Park
County and city parks are abundant in the Tampa area, but unless you enjoy a good sweat fest, Florida’s heat makes it almost unbearable to enjoy these amenities for the majority of the year. Not to mention, the summer rainy season often makes the conditions of parks and trails as unpredictable as a midday thunderstorm. Thankfully, fall brings about drier weather and a bit of relief from the heat–though I’ll be the first to admit it’s not as much relief as I would like! Regardless, October and November are the perfect time of year to take advantage of all the nature Florida has to offer.
Where is the best place for a fall nature hike in Tampa? Alderman’s Ford Park is by far my #1 recommendation.The park offers a stroller and bike-friendly 1.9 mile paved loop that weaves around the Alafia River and through lush foliage. As an added bonus, the loop is mostly shaded, making for a much more pleasant stroll or bike ride. For those who prefer a more “off the beaten path” experience, Alderman’s Ford Park also has several trails that wind through picturesque views of Florida nature you won’t find in your own backyard. Not up for a hike? Grab a seat on one of the many park benches and let the kids loose on the playground while you enjoy the peace and quiet of all the green space the park has to offer!
Get Lost in a Corn Maze
With the kids back in school and all of the extracurricular activities to boot, Fall can seem like an exceptionally busy and crazy time. What better way to relax and unwind than to take a trip out to a farm! Harvest Holler isn’t just any ol’ farm, though. Every year, Harvest Holler plows their cornfield into a maze fit for even the most novice navigationalist. Nothing screams family bonding more than getting lost together in a corn maze, am I right?!.
While the corn maze is the main attraction at Harvest Holler for most families, the farm also offers a plethora of activities including a hayride with up close views of farm animals, a playground centered around a retired farm tractor, a miniature golf course featuring farm equipment obstacles, a tractor-pulled barrel ride around the farm, a hay mountain for climbing, a pumpkin patch of course–and more!! Harvest Holler is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from now through November 14th. Check out Harvest Holler’s website to see all of the available on-site activities, as well as their daily hours.
What is your family’s favorite way to spend the fall season? Share with us in the comments below!