The 18 Coolest Frugal Fall Adventures

Fall is certainly in the air. But there's not a whole lot of time left to enjoy this magical and fleeting season, so here are some ideas to help create your ultimate autumn bucket list. (And we'd love to hear what's on your list in the comments!)

1. Get Lost in a Corn Maze

Gather a group of friends and spend time together navigating a corn maze. You can find corn mazes near you on sites like Corn Mazes America. Most mazes vary in difficulty. Some even have different instructions to cater the experience for different ages and skill levels.

2. Make Applesauce

Go apple-picking and simmer together homemade applesauce. It's as easy and chopping apples into small chunks. (You can leave the peels on or take them off.) Place them in the pot of your slow cooker, sprinkle on a couple teaspoons of cinnamon and a couple tablespoons of sugar, and cook on high for three hours. When the apples have softened, mash them with a potato masher or blend with a food processor.

3. Paint Pretty Pumpkins

Pick up a few pumpkins from the farmers market and decorate. You can go with classic carving, but for a safer project — try paint. I've seen anything from faces to letters to doughnuts painted on pumpkins. Use glitter, glow-in-the-dark paint, and all sorts of other crafting supplies to make yours unique.

4. Drink Cider

Drink hot cider. Enough said. All it takes is a few minutes to warm on the stove or in the microwave. As the weather gets colder, you can transition to hot cocoa or even add some mulling spices to the mix.

5. Take a Hike

Even if you're not into the great outdoors, now's the time to get out there before the cold weather hits. Hike a local trail or simply bask in the glow of the turning leaves in your neighborhood. This year I gave my daughter a "nature box," which is just a shoebox we fill with acorns, leaves, pine cones, and anything else that makes her think of fall.

6. Decorate Your Place

Bring some of the outdoors inside by decorating your place. Even a modest wreath can bring you joy and spiff up your entryway. Here are seven frugal fall decorating tips that will transform your space in no time. My favorite? Making a "stained-glass" window from fallen leaves and contact paper.

7. Light a Bonfire

We look forward to chilly nights and lighting backyard bonfires in our fire pit. Check with your city or town for different rules and regulations — not all areas permit open flames. Once you've been given the all clear, you can pick one up at your local hardware store or build a fire pit for year-round enjoyment. You'll need pavers, lava rocks, a shovel, a level, and about an hour of time.

8. Brew Something New

Host an outdoor brewing party. Make it all about fall by brewing pumpkin beer. You'll want to start with a recipe that isn't terribly hoppy. From there, add canned pumpkin (about one pound per five gallons of beer) with no added preservatives and a variety of warm spices like nutmeg, allspice, and ginger. Let it all ferment like usual before enjoying.

9. Get Dressed

If you're in need of some new cold-weather clothing, head to the thrift shop or sale rack before buying new. A puffy vest or fleece jacket is a solid addition to your fall wardrobe and will get good use throughout winter as well. While you're at it, make the big transition from your summer wardrobe to your fall clothes.

10. Go Camping

Camping is a blast this time of year. Yes, it's chilly. Yes, it requires a bit more preparation. But there's something amazing about waking up in the crisp air with the crunchy leaves beneath my feet. Don't have much time (or vacation days) to set aside an adventure? Try camping in your backyard, cooking out, and unplugging for a single night. The kids will love it.

11. Clean Up

Before the weather gets frightful, try sprucing up your place by cleaning out junk drawers, donating unused clothes and other items, and taking care of some basic home maintenance. Get your chimney cleaned before you start burning new fires. Reorganize your pantry to make mealtime a breeze. And flip your mattress. (See also: Fall Cleaning 101)

12. Roast Everything

Fall is the season for squash and lots of other hearty produce items. If you don't know exactly what to do with them, try roasting. To roast butternut squash, start by preheating your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Then cut the squash lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, peel, and cut into cubes. Place chunks on a rimmed baking sheet, toss in olive oil, salt, and pepper, and bake for 30 minutes.

13. Volunteer Somewhere

Give back to your community. Work in a soup kitchen. Donate to a food bank. Help someone learn to read. And get the whole family involved if you can. Use a site like to find opportunities in your area.

14. Enjoy a Hayride

While you're out at the farm picking apples or working your way through a maze, don't forget to take a hayride. You might even catch some spooky ones around Halloween. Some tips: If you're allergic to grass or hay, consider taking allergy medicine beforehand. And don't wear your fanciest clothing — you will likely get a bit dirty!

15. Eat a Doughnut

I'm addicted to apple cider doughnuts. I started making them at home to save a bit of cash. These baked apple cider doughnuts are even a bit healthier than the fried variety. Combine all the ingredients, including a hefty 1/3 cup of apple cider and spices. Bake in a doughnut pan. Then eat them plain or top with cinnamon and sugar.

16. Attend a Festival

Browse your local paper or bulletin boards for fall festivals taking place in your hometown. My area boasts three apple festivals, a chili festival, a jazz music festival, and more fun things to do. The best part? A lot of the entertainment is free.

17. DIY a Blanket

Make yourself a no-sew fleece blanket for some extra warmth. This project is so simple and would make a fun gift. You need four yards of fleece, scissors, and your hands (for knotting). To save a few dollars, shop around online for your fleece or check your store's clearance bins for discounted prints and colors.

18. Create a Thankful Tree

Thinking ahead to Thanksgiving, I adore this thankful tree. Gather some twigs and assemble them in a vase. Then write things you and your family are thankful for on tags and tie them to the tree. You can display it in a prominent area of your home and keep the good vibes flowing all season long.

What memories are you making this fall?

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