Pumpkin beer has hit the shelves and pumpkin lattes are on the menu at your favorite local coffee shop, which means that – ready or not – fall is unofficially here to stay. Make plans now so your family is ready to celebrate the season and explore all the harvest fun that St. Louis has to offer.
1. Go apple picking. Taking your kids apple picking at Eckert’s is practically a rite of passage for St. Louis parents. You can pick your own apples at the Millstadt, Belleville and Grafton locations.
2. Teach your kids how to make caramel apples. This is part craft project, part cooking class – and the perfect way to use up all the apples you have picked.
3. And caramel apple nachos. Once you make these caramel apple nachos, you will never look at apples the same way again.
4. Enjoy the Great Forest Park Balloon Race. Children’s entertainment and fireworks, in addition to a Balloon Glow and Launch, are all part of this local fall tradition, which takes place in Forest Park on September 19 and 20.
5. Pick out your pumpkins. From Rombach’s Farm in Chesterfield to the Thies Farm Pumpkinland, St. Louis is home to some amazing pumpkin patches. Plan to enjoy a full day – or at least a few hours – of playgrounds, petting zoos, hayrides and more.
6. Make Mr. and Mrs. Pumpkin Heads. Think Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, but with a fun fall twist. You only need a few supplies – glue, Velcro, scissors and felt – to turn your pumpkin patch picks into a favorite fall toy that little ones will play with for hours.
7. Create a fall sensory bin. Sensory bins are perfect for entertaining toddlers and preschoolers, and even better, they’re easy to make. Get directions and ideas for creating your own here.
8. Take a hike. Little legs will enjoy the short, paved trails at Powder Valley, where they can collect leaves, sticks and other outdoor objects -- all perfect to add to those sensory bins. Prefer a hike led by an expert naturalist? Check out Hey, There’s Nature in My Woods! At the World Bird Sanctuary.
9. Visit the Apple Butter Festival in Kimmswick. On October 26-27, hundreds of vendors will fill the streets in the quaint town of Kimmswick for the annual Apple Butter Festival.
10. Celebrate Fall at the Foundry Art Centre. The Foundry Art Centre is hosting a Fall Festival at its Family Fun Day on Sunday, October 5. Kids can enjoy story times and art projects, and the first 100 children will receive a free mini-pumpkin to decorate.
11. Use your Six Flags passes one last time at Fright Fest. But only take kids who aren’t scared easily.
12. Indulge in a pumpkin concrete. Local institutions like Ted Drewes and Fritz’s Frozen Custard both have them on the menu.
13. In fact, just go ahead and add pumpkin to everything. ‘Tis the season for pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin oatmeal, pumpkin chili … nothing is off limits. Added bonus: this is a great way to sneak some Vitamin A into growing bodies.
14. Gather around a campfire and tell ghost stories. Jellystone Park in Eureka and Klondike Park in Augusta are both popular area campgrounds (and both offer cabin camping for those of us who don’t particularly enjoy roughing it).
15. Build a backyard bonfire. If you have a fire pit, this one is easy. Let the kids stay up late roasting marshmallows and making s’mores.
16. Teach your kids to rake leaves. And then jump in the leaf piles of course.
17. Escape to Trout Lodge for The Great Pumpkin Jamboree. Spend the weekend celebrating fall with pumpkin carving, square dancing, carnival games and breathtaking fall foliage – all just a little over an hour outside of St. Louis.
18. Head to Ottertoberfest at the St. Louis Zoo. Learn all about North American River Otters; listen to live music and enjoy classic German biergarten fare at this free fall event, which takes place October 4, 5, 11 and 12.
19. Go on a History Hayride at Faust Park. On October 10-11, take a hayride after dark to Faust Park’s historic candlelit village, where you will hear spooky stories and warm up by a bonfire.
20. Take a scenic drive up the Great River Road. Stop at Pere Marquette State Park in Grafton for spectacular views of the fall colors.
21. Stuff your own scarecrow. Gather some hay and old clothes, and let your kids get creative. Not sure where to start? Click here for a simple tutorial.
22. Throw a harvest party. Invite friends over to bob for apples, play with pumpkin pie play dough and enjoy treats like popcorn balls and crockpot apple cider (complete with cinnamon sticks for the kids and a splash of dark rum for the adults).
23. Shop the Best of Missouri Market at MOBOT. More than 120 food producers and crafters will be at the Missouri Botanical Garden for the Best of Missouri Market October 3-5.
24. Cheer for the Cardinals. St. Louis is a baseball town, so we’re all ready to see our beloved Cardinals make it back to (and this time win!!!) the World Series. Take advantage of fall’s cooler temperatures and take in a game at Busch Stadium if you can.
25. And the Rams too. They may not be the greatest show on turf anymore, but fall is still all about football. Spend a lazy Sunday cheering for our hometown team and teaching your kids about the game. Then challenge them to a game of flag football in the backyard.
26. Find your way through a corn maze. The Brookdale Farms Corn Maze in Eureka claims to be the largest one in St. Louis, while the 2014 Great Godfrey Maze in Illinois boasts a 7-acre adventure into Harry Potter’s Wizarding World.
27. Play outside. Winter weather is on its way, so enjoy the fresh air and sunshine while you still can. Before you know it, we’ll be back to those dreaded snow days.
28. Get ready for Halloween. Ghosts and goblins are soon to appear, so the time has arrived to start planning your scariest (or not-so-scary if your kids are still little) Halloween costumes. Get started now and you will even have time to make your own.
What are your family’s favorite fall traditions? Any great local events or attractions that you would add to this list?
Alyssa Chirco is a freelance writer, mother and margarita lover, not necessarily in that order. In addition to writing for STL Parent, she is Contributing Editor at Parenting Squad, and covers parenting, health and lifestyle topics for publications across the country. She recently moved from the suburbs of St. Louis to a small town in rural Jefferson County, where she is learning to survive with no Target or Starbucks in sight. Follow her on Twitter @AlyssaChirco
Explore the St. Louis Zoo after dark at Boo at the Zoo. Bring your little ghouls and goblins to this non-scary celebration designed just for kids. Though this is not a trick-or-treating experience, costumes are encouraged, and each child 12 and under will receive a treat bag when they leave.
Engage your young scientist in science-related learning at the Saint Louis Science Center's Preschool Science Series. Through interactive stories and hands-on exploration, children learn about science, as well as language, problem-solving and social skills.