Fall Bucket List for Richmond Families: 21 Ways to Make the Most of Fall

Fall Bucket List 2019When you ask people from Virginia what their favorite season is, it’s not unlikely that the answer will be fall. Fall in Virginia is something special. Fall is filled with the excitement of back-to-school, Friday night football games, cooler temperatures, and fall festivals everywhere you turn – not to mention the amazing explosion of colors that take over the trees every year at this time. Needless to say, it’s not hard to find things to do during the fall. However, if you want to make sure you’re making the most of the season, we’ve put together a fall bucket list that is packed with ideas and inspiration.

Our fall bucket list will provide you with everything from specific activities, ideas for new places to explore, and other, simpler activities that you can easily do at home. Take a look at our list and let us know if you have special fall bucket list items that you do with your family. If you’d like to share some of them with us, we’d love to hear them! You can reach us anytime at cs@richmondmom.com.

Take a drive to see the fall foliage

At the top of our fall bucket list? Fall foliage, of course. Whether you choose to stay local or make a day trip of it, the fall foliage in Virginia is not to be missed. The Virginia Department of Forestry tracks the fall foliage by geographic region every year and the month of October is peak season for most areas. Take a look at our Virginia Fall Foliage Guide for places throughout Virginia or visit our Best Places to See Fall Foliage in Richmond for ideas closer to home.

Visit a pumpkin patch

Halloween is just around the corner, so if you haven’t gotten some pumpkins to carve, now is the time to do it! Of course, pumpkins make great fall decorations even after Halloween, so be sure to grab some extras while you’re out. And, don’t forget, many of the pumpkin patches in the Richmond area, as well as the surrounding counties, have special fall activities and festivals now through the end of the month – and some even into November. Find ideas on where to go with our 2019 Pumpkin Patch Guide for Greater Richmond.

Hit the fall festival scene

As soon as the calendar hits September, fall festivals start popping up everywhere. Make sure your fall bucket list includes at least a few of the festivals throughout Richmond that celebrate all things fall. From food festivals to harvest carnivals to musical celebrations, there’s truly something for everyone on Richmond’s fall festival circuit. Here are a few coming up in the next week or two:

Harvest Stew and Stout Festival
Virginia Thanksgiving Festival
Richmond Cider Celebration

Be sure to visit Richmond Mom’s Fall Festival Guide or our event calendar for even more festival fun!

Go apple picking

Few things say fall quite like a day at the orchards. And fortunately, we have a number of great apple orchards nearby that allow you to pick your own juicy fruit straight from the tree. Grab your baskets and some comfortable walking shoes and check out some of the amazing places in and around Richmond with our Virginia Apple Picking Guide.

Have an apple cider taste test

Speaking of apples, while you’re visiting some of the local orchards, be sure to pick up some apple cider and add a cider taste test to your fall bucket list. Many orchards and farms in the area press their own cider, ensuring incredibly fresh, deliciously sweet results. It you can’t make it to the orchards, make a point to check your local shops and grocery stores for Virginia-made cider and conduct a taste test at home to find your favorite. And remember, warm apple cider can be a treat, not just in the fall, but all winter long.

For the grown-ups, fall is also a perfect time to get in on the hard cider craze that’s sweeping Virginia. We are fortunate enough to have several fantastic cider breweries right here in Richmond and many of them offer a fun, family-friendly environment along with an array of special events. Be sure to check out the following for some ideas:

Blue Bee Cider
1320 Summit Avenue
Richmond, VA 23230
(804) 231-0280

Bryant’s Small Batch Cider 
308 North Adams Street
Richmond, VA 23220

Buskey Cider 
2910 W. Leigh Street
Richmond, VA 23230
(804) 355-0100

Courthouse Creek Cider 
1581 Maidens Road
Maidens, VA 23102
(804) 556-0726

Take a nature walk or hike through your favorite park…

Richmond is packed with beautiful parks, many with walking paths and hiking trails. So while a family hike isn’t just a fall bucket list item, be sure to take advantage of the crisp fall days by going on a nature walk with the whole family. If your family is into hiking, be sure to check out some of our favorite hiking trails here in Richmond with our list of Best Hiking Trails in Richmond. Or if you want to venture out of the city limits, try our Best Hiking Trails in and Around Richmond.

You can also try some of our favorite parks, many with walking trails, found here:
Best Parks for Families in Richmond
Best Parks for Strollers in Richmond 

Before head out, plan some fun activities for your walk or hike to help keep everyone engaged. Check out our helpful guide to Hiking With Kids for some ideas. Or do a search for free printable nature scavenger hunt lists, like this one from Inspiration Made Simple.

…Then warm up with hot chocolate or a locally brewed coffee.

After you hike, walk, or spend a day of fun in the great outdoors, reward everyone with a hot chocolate or locally brewed coffee. Make it your goal to discover a new, local favorite spot. Not only will you feel good about supporting local businesses, but you’ll have a go-to spot to keep you warm in the upcoming winter months. You can find some of personal favorites with our list of the Best Hot Chocolate in Richmond or get the low-down on family-friendly coffee shops with the Best Coffee Shops for You AND the Kids.

Get plenty of use out of those Halloween costumes you worked so hard on – or paid so much for! 

Kids love to dress up, no matter what day of the year. And who says Halloween costumes should only be for Halloween, anyway? Let the kids wear them out and about…just for fun. Or host a neighborhood costume party even after the holiday is over. You can even hold on to costumes and keep them in a special “dress-up” chest for imaginative fun throughout the year.

If you’ve got gently used costumes that your kids have outgrown, consider donating them. Talk to you kids’ school, a local library, or other community organization that might be able to use them for their own play areas, theater programs, or other creative uses.

Make a family outing to a local food pantry

As the holidays approach, it’s important to remember that not everyone experiences the same bounty that many of us enjoy. Providing food to local food banks and food pantries is an easy way to teach our kids the importance of giving, as well as allowing them to experience the joy of knowing that they can make a difference in the lives of others. On your next grocery shopping trip, bring your kids along with a separate shopping list just for donations. Let them help choose the items, then find a time to drop off your donations together. To help you know where to go, visit our guide to Food Pantries in Greater Richmond. HINT: This is a great thing to do all year round, not just when you’re checking off your fall bucket list.

Go on a ghost tour! 

If you’ve got daredevils in your house, consider visiting one of Richmond many “haunted” sites. Fall is a great time to experience the spookier side of the city, thanks to the fact that it gets dark earlier. Here are a few of our favorites: Best Ghost Tours in Richmond.

Check out a new museum

If haunted hallways aren’t your thing, there’s still plenty to explore in Richmond – from history to fine art. In fact, Richmond is packed with amazing museums, many of them free! Make finding a new favorite museum part of your fall bucket list and you’ll have a great place to go back to on a rainy day or when the weather gets too cold for outdoor play this winter. Try a few of the following:

Meadow Farm Museum at Crump Park (free): a living history museum that shows what life was like on a real 19th century farm in Henrico County. With special events, live animals, and costumed interpreters, you’ll get a chance to see history up close and personal.

Virginia Museum of History and Culture ($): with everything from permanent hands-on exhibits exploring 400 years of Virginia history, to special events and exhibitions, this is a fun museum for the whole family.

Children’s Museum ($): let the kids run free at this amazing fully hands-on, fully interactive museum designed just for kids. From imaginative play, to educational activities, to creative arts, this museum has it all.

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (free): with one of the largest fine arts displays anywhere, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is truly a Richmond treasure.

Science Museum of Virginia ($): for fun that lasts all day, the Science Museum of Virginia is ideal for families with kids of any age. Packed with hands-on displays and experiments for everyone from little kids to big kids, the museum makes learning fun.

Virginia Holocaust Museum (free): this museum provides a powerful history lesson by documenting the Holocaust through the experiences and stories of its survivors. While the museum provides a timely history lesson for all, due to the subject content, it might be best for older kids.

The Richmond Railroad Museum ($): set in the historic Southern Railway Station in Richmond, the Richmond Railroad Museum is perfect for busy kids who love to explore. Learn the history of the railroads in Richmond through artifacts, actual railroad cars, and historical memorabilia.

Rake the leaves…then check on a neighbor

Get the whole family out for leaf raking and you’ll be amazed at how much fun a “chore” can be. Of course, you’ll want to stop to let the kids jump in a pile or two, so be sure to have your camera handy. Once you’re done with your yard, think about who else in your neighborhood might need some help. Perhaps you have a single parent down the street or an elderly person next door. If you know someone who could use some extra help, head out as a family and make their day a little brighter by taking care of their leaves, too.

Catch the last of the fall harvest at a farmer’s market

Farmer’s markets aren’t just a great place to buy local fruits and vegetables, they often serve as a fun, community gathering space and offer a great place for family outing. Even with colder weather on the horizon, many farmer’s markets are still offering fresh local produce, homemade foods, and handcrafted household items well into the fall months – and some are open year-round! Be sure to see which farmer’s markets are open near you with our 2019 Guide to Farmers Markets in Richmond.

Find a cause that matters to you and volunteer together as a family

This fall, there are tons of organizations in the Greater Richmond area that need your help – however you can give it. With so many important causes out there, it can be a little overwhelming at times to know where, when, and how to give back. Consider sitting down as a family and discussing what issues matter most to you as a group. Then choose a charity or organization that you can contribute to as a family. Here’s a great way to get started: Family Volunteer Opportunities in Richmond.

Ride the rails 

Richmond boasts a long and proud railroad history dating back to the 1830s. Today, a number of historic railroad stations have been restored, both in downtown Richmond (Main Street Station), and throughout the Greater Richmond area. But with the introduction of automobiles and planes, trains have become a less common mode of transport. However, a train ride can be a fun, relaxing way to see the many beautiful sites that Virginia offers.

Right now, Amtrak is running their Virginia Anytime Fare, offering a 15% discount when you book tickets anywhere in Virginia or Washington, DC. So if you’ve been thinking about heading to the beach, taking in the sites in DC, or want to see the fall leaves without driving, the train is great way to get there.

Another great train adventure to keep on the radar is the Buckingham Branch Railroad, operated by the Old Dominion Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society. They offer special scenic train rides departing from Dilwyn, Virginia. In the fall, they offer the Autumn Leaf Rambler Tour – a three-hour round-trip train ride through Buckingham County featuring the Tom Mix Rangers Wild West Show and an amazing view of the James River. While these dates are limited, be sure to check out their upcoming Santa Express – a 45-minute excursion featuring jolly ol’ St. Nick himself.

Head to the ski resorts – before the snowfall comes! 

While most of us don’t have Virginia’s ski resorts on our minds before winter, fall is actually one of the best times to visit these scenic spots. In fact, most Virginia ski resorts are home to year-round activities, including festivals, special events, and the chance to explore beautiful scenery. Take chair lift rides to see the fall foliage, enjoy hikes in the crisp fall air, or just relax with great deals on accommodations before the “main” season arrives. Many resorts offer adventure activities like zip lining and mountain biking. You can even enjoy an indoor water park any time of year at Massanutten Resort. Check out the following links to see what’s happening at Virginia’s ski resorts now:

Bryce Resort – Basye, VA
Massanutten Resort – Massanutten, VA
Wintergreen Resort – Wintergreen, VA

Go camping 

Of course, resorts aren’t for everyone. If you’re into a more rugged, DIY adventure, add camping to your fall bucket list. Virginia offers dozens of state parks, many with fantastic camping facilities. Check out a complete list of state parks to find one near you, or try our list of great camping spots for families. If you’re new to camping, you might want to check out our quick guide to Camping with Children for some helpful tips and resources.

Visit the site of the REAL first Thanksgiving

Contrary to popular belief, the first Thanksgiving didn’t take place at Plymouth Rock – and the Pilgrims weren’t there. The first official Thanksgiving celebration actually took place in 1619 at today’s Berkeley Plantation on the banks of the James River – a full two years before the Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts. The Virginia settlers, who had arrived after a treacherous journey, celebrated their arrival, not with a grand meal, but with prayers of thanks and readings from the Book of Common Prayer.

If you can, be sure to catch Berkeley Plantation’s Thanksgiving Festival on November 4 and enjoy a re-enactment of the First English Thanksgiving, performances by the Chickahominy Tribal Dancers, a parade with horse drawn carriages, fife and drum demonstrations, musicians and magicians, colonial period games, dancing, arts & crafts, vendors, a corn maze, storytelling, cornhusk doll making, candle dipping, and a silent auction.

Learn even more about the beginning of our nation in Jamestown and Colonial Williamsburg

Thanks to fewer crowds than in the busy summer months, fall is the perfect time to visit Historic Jamestowne, the first permanent English colony in the New World. Visit Historic Jamestowne to see archaeological and historical exhibits, re-creations of the first colony and fort, special events, and much more. From there, Colonial Williamsburg is only a short distance and offers the world’s largest living history museum. You’ll see firsthand what colonial life was like and how Williamsburg served as one of the most important political and social scenes in our nation’s colonial beginnings. Be sure to visit their event calendar to see the many special events and programs being offered this fall.

Or stick closer to home and watch history come to life at Henricus Historical Park

You don’t have to travel far to see some of our nation’s earliest history. Henricus Historical Park in Chesterfield County is the site of the second oldest English settlement in the New World. Today, you can visit the park to see living history interpreters pay tribute to the experience of both the English settlers and the Native Americans who forged the site’s 400 year history with re-enactments, tours, interactive events, and more.  Learn more about Henricus Historical Park and be sure to see what special events they have planned this fall.

Last but not least, be sure to make gratitude part of your fall bucket list! 

Fall is a special time of year, not just because of the natural beauty and exciting events that are present during the season, but because fall offers us a brief respite before the holidays kick off and a new year begins. It’s during this time that we can stop to reflect on all the things that we have to be thankful for. Gratitude is also a great family activity. Here are a few ways you can express your gratitude this fall:

  • Start a gratitude jar. Each day, have family members write one thing they are grateful for on a small piece of paper. Collect the papers in a jar, then once a week (or as often as you’d like), take the pieces out and read them together.
  • Keep a gratitude journal. Try free, printable gratitude journal pages like these from www.researchparent.com and set aside some time each day to fill them out. You can do this as a family or individually. Make it a goal to keep your journals up to date at least through Thanksgiving.
  • Create a family gratitude list on a poster board and post it in a public space. Leave plenty of room and add to it every time you think of something new. Try to have the space completely filled by Christmas.