Officially, fall arrives next week, but the season already feels under way: It’s chilly outside, Oktoberfest is about to kick off and the apple orchards are swollen with fruit ripe for the plucking. Do it all with this list of four ways to celebrate fall.
Go apple picking
It’s a big misconception that the time to pluck apples from the orchard is when there’s a nip in the air; the season for apples actually begins in late August and early September, and wraps up in October. Go in the next couple of weeks with our top spots for apple picking. Alternatively, you could always hit Great Country Farms' Apple Cider Festival this weekend. Someone else does the picking, and you do the sipping at this fest, which features cider tastings; caramel apple slices, apple pies and cider slushies for sale; and a farm play area for kids with such miniature animals as a potbellied pig, ponies and donkeys. Adult admission, $12, includes free wine tasting at nearby Bluemont Vineyard.
In Munich, Oktoberfest begins on Saturday, with the tapping of the first keg precisely at noon. Here in Washington, two local spots will stick with tradition and kick off the celebration in similar fashion. Biergarten Haus opens Saturday at 11 during the H Street Festival, and taps its first keg at noon. Blob’s Park’s fest also starts Saturday and features Bairisch und Steierisch Dancers. Expect plenty of German food, giant beers and live music at both events. (See our cover story in Weekend next Friday for all the Oktoberfest goings-on in our area.)
See the colors
If you’re in love with the reds, oranges and yellows of fall, mark your calendars for mid-October, when the leaves are likely to change in our area. That’s a great time for a getaway to points south, namely to the captivating foodie/wine/beer heaven that is springing up around Charlottesville. We traveled to the restaurants, distilleries, peach orchards, breweries and wineries, many which sit on the edge of Skyline Drive, making them ideal stops as you’re in the area seeing the colors. Check out our guide here, and our photos from the region here. (Take advantage, too, of the next National Parks fee-free days to trek up Skyline Drive without the $15 fare; the next free days fall on Sept. 24, and Nov. 11-13.)
If you want to stay closer to home, plan a trip to the National Arboretum, which has its own spectacular fall colors, or check out our introduction to the outdoors, Outdoors 101, with great hiking trails and camping spots for communing with nature.
Head into the forest at night for a campfire
There’s nothing like a crackling fire to warm you up when you’re out in the cool fall air. If you’re not so great with matches and wood, it’s practically a tradition at area nature centers to host campfire nights. At Riverbend Park in Great Falls, a kid-friendly campfire centered on the fall harvest is slated for Sept. 30, featuring games, s’mores and stories. (Register online here.)
Croydon Creek Nature Center in Rockville hosts two events in October, one aimed at kids and the other specifically for adults. Oct. 15, the kids campfire focuses on seasonal storytelling, while the adult edition Oct. 29 focuses on spooky stories about Rockville. There is a small fee, but it includes treats. (To register, call 240-314-8770.)