New England may be awash in the bright colors of fall foliage right now, but North Texas families need not head northeast to experience the sights, sounds and fun of autumn.
With cooler weather creeping in, now is the time for hayrides, picking pumpkins and playing outdoors. We set out to find some of the best autumn experiences in the area. Here are nine places to enjoy the season — and a little Halloween, too — all within a short drive of DFW.
Family Pumpkin Days at Mainstay Farm
Mainstay Farm in Cleburne opens its doors to families Saturdays through Nov. 2. In addition to shopping for fall items like pumpkins, corn and hay bales, visitors can participate in a number of activities.
Enjoy hayrides, a giant jumping pillow, a mini-train, a three-story treehouse, a wooden maze and more. This year, the farm has added a flying fox zip line.
On the final weekend, bring back your old jack-o’-lantern for creative recycling during Chunkin’ Pumpkin Day.
Big Orange Pumpkin Farm
The Big Orange Pumpkin Farm gives city kids a chance to experience country life in a small town north of Dallas. Visitors can enjoy a hayride, feed dozens of farm animals, try their hand at roping and wander through the hay maze.
Weekday visitors also get a free pie pumpkin, and on weekends, a hot dog. Bring your camera for lots of photo ops.
Granbury Harvest Moon Festival
The Harvest Moon Festival is an annual two-day event in downtown Granbury with carnival games, live entertainment and contests. Catch the Antique Engine and Tractor Show in Lambert Branch Park, and the Antique Tractor Parade at noon Saturday.
Bring entries from home for the scarecrow and pumpkin decorating contests, and the pumpkin recipe contest. There will also be a pumpkin pie-eating contest with a cash prize. Kids age 12 and younger can enter the costume contest. Sunday’s fun includes a hot dog-eating contest and costumed pooch parade. A full schedule can be found online.
Frontier Fall Fest
Step back in time and experience a fall day on the prairie at Log Cabin Village. Guests can participate in fall harvest activities, which include grinding grain, shucking corn and pressing tortillas. Children can also make a cornhusk doll to take home ($3 fee).
Local artisans such as the Lone Star Leather Crafters, the Fort Worth Chapter of the Embroiderers’ Guild of America, Texas FlintKnappers and the Greater Fort Worth Herb Society will be demonstrating their crafts.
Bring a carved or decorated pumpkin to enter the contest, which will be judged at 3 p.m. Local author Donna Rubin will be at the village 3-5 p.m. to sign copies of Log Cabin Kitty, which is available for purchase in the gift shop.
Clark Gardens Bootanical
On Oct. 31, Clark Gardens hosts a Halloween event that promises to be safe, fun for all ages and packed with nature education. Activities include trick-or-treating, crafts, games, fortune-telling, movies and music. There will be a cupcake walk, haunted train rides and walks through the ghoulish garden.
Take a guided tour through the Enchanted Forest to learn about nocturnal animals, presented by the Mineral Wells High School Drama Department. There also will be a costume contest for children, adults and dogs, so be sure to dress up. Dogs get in free.
The garden is hosting a food drive during Bootanical, and each guest who brings a nonperishable food item or pet food receives free admission.
Autumn at the Arboretum
The Dallas Arboretum has created an elaborate pumpkin village with more than 50,000 pumpkins, gourds and squash. The annual exhibit includes four fairytale cottages, a hay bale maze and an interactive scavenger hunt. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays, children can enjoy face painting, a petting zoo and other special activities.
There will be trick-or-treating all day Oct. 26 and 27.
Fall Festival in the Japanese Garden
The Fort Worth Botanic Garden hosts an annual celebration of Japanese culture set against a backdrop of fall foliage. Listen to koto music and taiko drumming, and watch Sakura Dancers and martial arts demonstrations. Participate in the tea ceremony and see the bonsai and ikebana exhibits.
Kids can play Japanese games, get their faces painted and feed the koi. There will also be a food court and vendors selling art, jewelry and gift items.
Doss Heritage and Culture Center Fall Festival
This museum in Weatherford hosts a fun and educational event in November. Activities will include games, crafts and storytelling, with an emphasis on American Indian culture and history in the area. The craft fee includes admission to the current museum exhibit, “Trail Drivers,” and, coming Nov. 15, the “Mary Martin Centennial Exhibition.”
Stockyards Ghost Tour
Take a walking tour of the Fort Worth Stockyards, hosted by Cowtown Winery staff. Listen to local legends of the paranormal as well as history, as you visit places like the Cadillac Hotel and Miss Molly’s Hotel.
Tours are appropriate for all ages and last 75 minutes. Admission includes a glass of wine for guests at least 21 years old.