Fall is the perfect time to venture outdoors and explore our beautiful state with your family, on foot. Walking is not only excellent exercise, when you walk together with your family you’re making memories to treasure forever.
Here are some fun ways you and your family can get walking this fall.
Make it a spooky stride
It wouldn’t be fall without a healthy dose of Halloween fun. This “spirited” holiday offers up plenty of walking opportunities for an entire month. Visit a haunted forest, go costume shopping at the mall, or take a candlelight ghost tour downtown. And of course, there’s the king of all fall family walking activities: Trick-or-treating!
Down on the farm
Find the perfect pumpkin. Sure, there are pumpkins galore at the grocery store. But what fun is that? Instead, make precious memories with your little ones by visiting a pumpkin patch and letting them search for their own. At the same time, everyone benefits from the fresh air and exercise, which includes walking, bending, stooping and lifting. After you’ve carved your jack-o’-lantern, save and roast the pumpkin seeds for a nutritious snack (here’s how).
Pick apples at an orchard. Apple season in the western part of our state runs from August to November. Henderson County is responsible for 65 percent of North Carolina’s entire apple production, according to the Asheville Citizen-Times. There are a number of orchards you can visit. Then at home, together you can make caramel apples, baked apples, applesauce, muffins or a delicious homemade pie.
Hit up the farmer’s market. Enjoy a leisurely stroll — and benefit your family’s nutrition — while you browse the freshest locally grown fruits, vegetables, plants, flowers, and herbs. For a listing of farms and farmer’s markets searchable by county, see NC Farm Fresh.
Find a festival
Fall is festival season here in North Carolina, which provides ample opportunity to walk outdoors. There are events every weekend throughout the state, from small-town harvest celebrations to large events like the state fair or renaissance festival. Even at car shows, arts and crafts fairs and other local events you’re walking around for an hour or two while taking in the sights and sounds.
Looking for ideas? Check out the events calendar from the North Carolina Association of Festivals and Events.
Go out and play
Soak up the sun and crisp fall air while you play outdoors with your family! Get friends and family together for a game of touch football, soccer, golf, frisbee or softball. Kids also love to play active games with you such as hide and seek, make a backyard obstacle course, or go on a scavenger hunt.
Get lost in a corn maze
Visiting a corn maze is a time-honored autumn tradition that the whole family will enjoy. Here you can rack up a ton of steps on your fitness tracker and have a lot of laughs at the same time.
Many farms also offer a pumpkin patch, children’s play area, hayrides and other fun things to do while you’re there.
Take a hike on a trail
One of our greatest resources here in North Carolina is our incredible state park system with its almost endless supply of scenic trails, from the mountains to the seashore. Many counties and towns have wonderful parks, lake trails or arboretums as well.
It just doesn’t get any better than fall in North Carolina to be outdoors, enjoy the changing leaves, and get in a good walk or hike. Most state parks offer trails that cater to a variety of ages and physical abilities. From shorter paved paths to more strenuous terrains, there’s something for everyone.
Explore on a nature walk
Kids are natural adventurers, making a nature walk an ideal activity for the whole family. Besides being great exercise, a nature walk is an interactive opportunity to learn more about science. Help your children learn why leaves change color. Together you could also try to identify the rocks and trees you see. Two free apps that can help are LeafSnap and vTree, which you can use as an electronic field guide.
Bring a bag to collect colorful leaves, pinecones, acorns, stones, small sticks, and other finds so they can make a creative art project out of them. Kids love this!
Research has found that being in the forest is beneficial to physical and mental health and lowers stress levels — which can help children do better in school, too.
Take a stroll back in time
One of the most interesting ways to get walking is to take a historic downtown walking tour. Some are self-paced, using a brochure or map provided. My favorites are the ones led by a knowledgeable local guide. You’ll learn all sorts of fascinating facts about the community and the people who lived there long ago, and you’ll see the area in a way you otherwise never would have.
The state tourism department office’s web site, Visit North Carolina, features a selection of walking tours across the state.
History and science museums also offer an ideal family-friendly option for walking and learning, a good indoor choice on a rainy fall day. My family enjoyed Old Salem Village in Winston-Salem, a walk-through living history museum that covers 100 acres of historic buildings, gardens, homes, and shops. You can easily spend a day meandering through it while learning about life in the 1700s.
Walk a 5K
Fall is a prime season for 5K races, 1-mile fun runs, and turkey trots— but you don’t have to be a racer or even a runner to participate in these popular events. You can walk it, and many do. You’ll likely see moms and dads pushing strollers and families of all ages participating together.
If you’re planning on doing a 5K (3.1 miles) with your family, you and your children should spend time training for this in the weeks leading up to it, so that when the big day comes everyone is accustomed to walking that distance and amount of time.
There’s a real sense of accomplishment that comes from crossing the finish line and receiving the official t-shirt, ribbon or medal as a keepsake. Plus, many events raise money for a good cause, another reason to feel good about doing a 5K.
Interested in learning how to walk for better fitness and health? See “Expert tips for getting started with a walking program.”