This year has really gotten away from me and I somehow find that it’s the end of September! Fall is my favorite season, in part because it’s the only bearable time of the year weather-wise (this San Francisco girl loves her temperate weather). Having kids now, I have also come to appreciate all the great activities available in the fall. I posted last year about some of our favorite fall activities in DC and some of them are on our bucket list for this year, too! Here’s what’s on the Dolphin family bucket list this season.

Renaissance Festival – We’ve already checked this one off the bucket list and it was a huge hit! We weren’t totally sure if it was worth the 45 minute drive, but it is unlike any other Renaissance Festival I’ve experienced (which, admittedly, is just one other when I was a kid). The grounds are enormous and well-established, with at least seven stages where different shows are taking place at any given time. They had sword fighting, jousting, pony rides, a reptile exhibit, a children’s “knighting” ceremony and more. Many attendees dressed up; Lion chose to wear a Batman cape and mask the entire day which doesn’t exactly go with the theme but a lot of people commented on it. The tickets are a bit pricey, but kids 6 and under are free. The food prices are also much more reasonable than many other events or parks.

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Shooting ping pong balls from the cross-bows.

Truck Touch – We’ve done truck touch twice now and it can be pretty overwhelming. The previous two years, truck touch has been absolutely packed and there are huge lines just to get tickets to go in. There are, predictably, also long lines for certain vehicles, like the fire engine or school bus. That said, the kids have had a phenomenal time, so it’s definitely on our bucket list again this year and well worth the time.

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What child doesn’t love climbing all over giant trucks?


Apple Picking – We have two play dates scheduled to do apple picking this year. I went once a few years ago; it had long been a bucket-list item for me, and we finally went just a few months before I got pregnant. We hadn’t been with the kids until this year, but it is definitely one of those things you have to do. Plus, there’s plenty of interesting things for kids on a farm.

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Um, I’m going to pretend that Panda didn’t eat an entire apple during apple picking. And by “entire apple” I mean the core, as well.

Pumpkin Festival – Last year, we did Last Call for Fall the week after Halloween which was amazing. There were barely any crowds and we were able to take hayride after hayride (the kids’ favorite part) plus bring home an unlimited number of pumpkins. The kids loved it and it was honestly one of my favorite activities of all of last year. Unfortunately, I’ll be out of town the weekend after Halloween this year, but we still plan to go to the Pumpkin Festival. I’ve heard that things get a little busy and chaotic during the Pumpkin Festival, but Butler’s Orchard is just too good to pass up. There are so many activities, animals to see and feed, giant slides, hayrides, apple slingshots and more that the kids love.

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Climbing the spiderwebs at last year’s festival.

Halloween Train – Cabin John Regional Park has an amazing park for small children and a train that runs from spring through the fall. Every year, they do a special “Eye Spy” Halloween Train which is a big hit. Lion loved trying to spot everything on the card as we rode the train last year, and I suspect will be even more eager to engage this year. Wheaton Regional Park also joins in on the Halloween fun, though theirs is a bit spookier and recommended for children over the age of 6, I believe.

Pumpkin carving – We haven’t carved a jack-o-lantern since the kids were born. I’ve actually never been the biggest fan of pumpkin carving because I always found it so difficult to cut into the pumpkin. However, it is a quintessential kids’ activity for the fall, so on to the list it goes this year.

Apple cider – Love love love apple cider. We don’t usually do any beverages other than milk or water, so apple cider is a big treat for the kids. I love all the varieties we get from the Farmer’s Market or the farm, so different from what I got growing up.

Soup – I think one of my favorite things about fall is the return of soup to our meal rotations. There are so many great fall and winter vegetables that make a hearty, healthy and delicious soup. Plus, soup is one of the kids’ favorites foods, which makes mealtime much easier.

Pumpkin muffins – The kids love the healthy coconut pumpkin muffins that I make and I appreciate that they’re very low on sugar. Although I make them year round, there’s something special about being able to make them during the fall. I might even get my act together to make fresh pumpkin puree for the muffins this year!

Football game – We haven’t been to a live football game since before we had Panda. I posted tips on taking a toddler to a football game and am hoping they will be useful if we go to a game this fall. We’d really like to take Panda to his first game and the kids are just adorable when they’re wearing their jerseys. Go Irish!

Thanksgiving with family – Most years, Mr. Dolphin and I have been on our own for Thanksgiving. This will be our 13th Thanksgiving together and I can count on one hand the number of them that we’ve spent with family. Whenever we actually get to see family for Thanksgiving — my favorite holiday — it is really a special treat. Mr. Dolphin’s family is coming this year and we’re already planning out our dinner and weekend trip that we’ll take.

Hiking – As I note above, the weather is one of the biggest perks of fall and is perfect for hiking. We’ve gone a few times with the kids during the summer, but even when we go early in the morning, it gets pretty hot very quickly. During the fall, we can enjoy the autumn colors, playing in the leaves and won’t have to take extra bottles of water to compensate for the heat.

Fossil hunting at the beach – We went fossil hunting for shark teeth and ray plates at the beginning of summer, but I’m looking forward to going back during a season where we’re not worried about the heat. We met a couple of locals the last time we went and they raved about fall fossil hunting. The kids enjoyed the beach which was littered with beautiful shells and rocks, so there’s something interesting for everyone.

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Hunting for treasures.