Fall might be a death knell to outdoor fun in other parts of the country, but in the Pacific Northwest, there's still plenty of time to get outside and play before ski season. Here are some of the region's best seasonal outdoor activities for fall.
The end of summer may have come and gone, but in the Pacific Northwest, there’s still time to get outside before ski season. So before you dig out your sweatpants and resign yourself to getting your outside fix from the National Geographic Channel, put these fun fall activities on your agenda.
You still have time to go hiking
It might not be as sunny and warm as it was a few weeks ago, but a perk of living in the Pacific Northwest is our relatively mild weather. With smart layering you can hike comfortably through October — no need to break out the winter gear and snowshoes.
You should always pack extra layers, but by October you’ll definitely want to pack some rain gear to keep you warm and dry. Be sure to check weather reports and make sure you’re prepared for any sudden changes in weather before you head out. To find the best fall hikes, scour the Washington Trails Association’s online Trip Reports (wta.org/go-outside/trip-reports) for keywords like “fall colors” or “fall foliage” to find hikes that come to colorful life in the fall.
Kick off a soccer game
It’s still warm and dry enough for a pickup soccer game. The professional soccer season may be over, but even as you say goodbye to the Reign and hello to the rain, adult recreational soccer leagues are just beginning their fall season. Or get some friends together and kick around a ball at your local park. Even on the cooler days you’ll stay plenty warm if you’re moving around enough.
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If you’re the only soccer fan among your crew, scope out your local park for pickup soccer games or search Meetup.com, where soccer enthusiasts often post locations for pickup games all over Washington.
Tip off basketball season
As soccer season ends, basketball is right around the corner. At outdoor basketball courts all over the city in public parks, you usually don’t need any kind of reservation — just a ball and some friends, and some basic court etiquette (e.g., use half the court if other folks want to play; don’t be a jerk). Break in the basketball season at your local outdoor court before the cold sends you inside to squeakier, less-fresh-smelling courts.
Go to (fake) battle
LARPing is real. Well, the opposite actually. LARP stands for “live-action role playing.” It’s fake fighting. You dress up as an elf warlock or half-orc paladin. You fight with fake armor and weapons according to certain rules. This usually happens in a natural setting away from the city to make it feel more authentically like real-life Dungeons & Dragons.
The costumes or fake armor ought to be enough to keep you warm in the cooler fall months unless you’ve decided to dress up like one of those hilariously under-armored women heavily featured in video games (how on earth is a boob window and scale skirt supposed to protect them!?). Either way, you’ll burn some calories and stay warm swinging a foam battle-ax at your best friend/mortal enemy goblin. Check out Alliance Seattle for a good place to launch your LARPing geekery.
Pumpkin patches, apple-picking and urban farms
U-pick apple orchards start opening up again throughout the region as early as August, so you can already get out and get your apple fix. Pumpkin season comes a little later. Serres Farm in Redmond and Remlinger Farms in Carnation’s pumpkin patches are both open through October and within an hour’s drive of downtown Seattle. It’s always best to call ahead to make sure the pumpkin patch is open.
If your apples tend to languish in the crisper and you prefer your pumpkin spice in latte form, you can always get your hands dirty picking other ready-to-eat fruits and veggies. There are plenty of farms around the state that allow U-pick visits or memberships that allow you to pick your own share of produce.
If you’re serious about getting your hands dirty (and your boots muddied), Jubilee Farm in Carnation has a work-share program that allows you to exchange four hours of harvest or market preparation work for a share of the harvest. And if getting out of the city is difficult, check out urban farms like Rainier Beach Urban Farm for volunteer opportunities that will let you get your hands in the dirt and food in your belly.
Go birding — or send off migratory birds in style
Seattle Audubon offers guided birding walks every weekend of fall. Other Audubon chapters throughout the state also offer nature-themed field trips and nature walks. It’s a great way to get outside, learn a thing or two about the natural world, and show off your favorite fall sweater.
Many migratory birds head south for the colder months, and by cleaning out your seed feeders you can send them on their way with full, mold-free bellies. Fill your nectar feeder for hummingbirds and other birds that stay behind. You can also entice the hangers-on by cleaning out your birdhouses or building new ones. If you want regular visitors over the winter months, stock up on seed and nectar and they’ll show up for the feast.
Corn mazes and hayrides
This is a terrible idea for anyone with a bad sense of direction (I don’t have childhood corn-maze trauma, YOU do!), but if you generally have a good idea of where you’re going, a visit to a corn maze can be a fun way to get outside and potentially get lost for several hours in a labyrinth made out of very tall stalks, all while doing your best to remember you’re not in a bad ’90s horror film.
Many local farms host festivals that feature hayrides and corn mazes along with other family-friendly outdoor activities. Spooner Farms’ Puyallup location hosts its annual Harvest Festival from Sept. 29 to Oct. 31, with a corn maze, a pumpkin patch, farm animals and even pony rides. Mosby Farms in Auburn will host its own festival this year from Sept. 29 to Oct. 30, with a corn maze, hayrides and a pumpkin patch.
Plant tulips, daffodils or garlic
The wet, cool days of November are ideal for planting tulip and daffodil bulbs. Or you can get your spring cooking plans started by planting some garlic bulbs which will be ready to give you garlic breath by spring. Get creative! There are hundreds of varieties of garlic.
You can order a variety of garlic seeds online from one of Washington’s own garlic farms like Filaree Garlic Farm or Great Northern Garlic. By spring you’ll have a variety of garlic ready to dig up and throw into the sauté pan.
Huddle around the barbecue
The cooler days of early fall might actually be perfect for tending to steaks (and/or seitan) without sweating through your favorite apron. Say goodbye to summer and welcome the autumn leaves (and rain) with a cookout with your friends. If it’s too rainy to cook outside, exchange the grill for a stovetop skillet and your Sunday clothes for your old soccer shorts to unleash your inner Megan Rapinoe in the rain.