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It’s time to say goodbye to summer, and while we leave fun on the beach and frozen cocktails behind (until next year!), we get to usher in falling leaves and the flavors of fall—these seasonal activities offer some great ways to start!

RELATED: 5 brilliant fall leaf-peeping itineraries

Flickr CC: PunkToad

1. Imbibe Great Smoky Mountain moonshine: Tennessee

Whiskey distillery Ole Smoky Moonshine (located in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, right outside the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park) offers tastings, a great way to keep warm during fall’s chill.  The Holler—home to Ole Smoky’s main distillery, has live music every day, and moonshine tastings of more than 10 flavors, most of which are not available in your local liquor store, so enjoy it there (responsibly, of course).

2. See wild elk in action: Estes Park, CO

Estes Park is home to one of the country’s largest wild elk concentrations and every autumn, this town of 5,000 experiences a population boom unlike any other when its 3,000 elk “residents” partake in mating season. “The Rut,” as it’s called, has inspired the town to officially rename October (the peak of season and time when guests have the best chance of seeing elk) to Elktober and host an annual Elk Festival, among other elk-themed activities. Warm up each evening at family-friendly Estes Park Resort, located right next to the Lake Estes Marina and featuring a spa and indoor pool.

3. Earn a bucket-list brag at Oktoberfest in Munich

Munich’s Oktoberfest serves as one of the few good excuses you’ll ever have to wear knee-high socks, leather pants and suspenders.  Every year, about 6 million enthusiasts descend on the fest to imbibe, and take in the parties, pork, and playgrounds of amusement rides. By day, explorers will marvel at the sights of Munich, and by night, tent hop while tasting different beers and living it up. Just be sure to book your Munich hotel early!

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4. Rock out at one last music fest: Reno, NV

Be a part of something special at the 3rd annual Off Beat Arts & Music Festival. It’s a citywide, multi-venue festival that’s all about discovering the amazing new music, food, art and more being created in Reno and nearby Tahoe. Performances happen at a mix of venues from small bars to large theaters, art galleries and restaurants and even shops, creating a “festival crawl” where you can see a number of bands at different venues around the core of the city. Go off the beaten path for even further discoveries.

5. See some of America’s earliest photography: New Orleans

The New Orleans Museum of Art has an incredible upcoming exhibition opening entitled “East of the Mississippi: Nineteenth-Century American Landscape Photography,” on view from October 6 through January 7, 2018. The Big Easy‘s landmark exhibition, co-organized by the National Gallery of Art in DC, is the first to exclusively explore a vivid chapter of America’s photographic history—19th-century American landscape photography made east of the Mississippi River. What’s especially exciting about this show is that many of the photographs have never been on display before (and never will be again, due to their sensitivity to light), making this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for photography enthusiasts. The exhibition features some of the earliest examples of photography in America, including the first photo ever taken of Canada, from Niagara Falls.

6. Binge on Carolina shrimp: Beaufort, SC

The Shrimp Festival is a two-day October event celebrating everyone’s favorite Lowcountry seafood: Carolina shrimp. Stroll the historic downtown waterfront park, taking in views from the marina and sampling shrimp dishes from 15 local restaurants. If you’re looking for something a little more evergreen, blue crab hunting season peaks in the fall and is the perfect way to get the family out on the beach and exploring nature. Hunting Island State Park, recently re-opened after renovations from Hurricane Matthew, is a great spot to look for blue crabs.

7. Drink beer (and bourbon): Bowling Green, KY

Bowling Green, Kentucky, hosts the annual Bourbon and Brewfest, a one day festival featuring hundreds of craft brews from the region, hand-picked Kentucky bourbons, live entertainment, delicious food vendors, free rides and much more. The annual beer fest takes place October 21 at the Bowling Green Ballpark and guests have the option of purchasing a general admission ticket or a top shelf VIP ticket. Bowling Green’s very own microbrewery and pub grub, White Squirrel Brewery, will be one of the several shops serving local in-house brewed beers.

8. Celebrate Mexican Independence Day: Mexico

Forget Cinco de Mayo, Mexican Independence Day is when Mexico really celebrates, commemorating the momentous day in 1820 when priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla called on Mexicans to rise up against the colonial government of Spain. It’s a time when Mexicans show their national pride, but it’s also a great time to make a trip to Mexico and participate in an unforgettable Mexican cultural event (that’s far more authentic than Cinco de Mayo, a primarily “made for America” holiday). Traditions and celebrations vary throughout the country but if you’re feeling beachy, head to Riviera Maya, where there’s easy access to celebrations in Playa del Carmen. The town’s famed Fifth Avenue overflows with revelers, with the focus of activities taking  place in front of City Hall. Resorts like Barceló Maya Grand Resort pull out all the stops for the holiday, with colorful parades, mariachi bands and more.

9. Watch a record (maybe) be broken: Highwood, IL

Every autumn this small town just outside of Chicago once again tries to beat the Guinness World Record of 30,581 for most jack-o’-lanterns carved and lit at the same time (they’ve never made it!), but it’s always an amazing event and a sight to behold. All proceeds go to Make-A-Wish Illinois and each night, a Make-A-Wish family lights the grand walls and represents the organization. Last year they raised $60,000 and hope to double it for more wishes this year.

10. View fall colors (not in New England): Mammoth Lakes, CA

Located high in the Eastern Sierras just outside Yosemite’s Eastern Gate, Mammoth Lakes offers fall colors that should make any leaf peeper’s bucket list. Within easy driving distance of both San Francisco and Los Angeles, this year’s colors (following record snowfall totals in the winter of 2016-17) should yield a particularly brilliant display of fall foliage in and around Mammoth. That display will likely last several months in the area, with colors starting to turn at higher elevations in September and gradually rolling down the mountainsides as temps start to drop. Some great activities and adventures for getting the best views are hiking, mountain biking, camping, horseback riding and fishing.

11. Sip hot chocolate: Chicago, IL

Nothing says chilly weather like a great big hot cocoa. XO Marshmallow recently opened Chicago‘s first and only marshmallow cafe and will have a plethora of seasonal offerings for the fall including pumpkin spice marshmallows and caramel sauce. The September and October marshmallows of the month are also seasonal flavors and will be announced on the first Tuesday of each respective month.

12. Get to know your brain: Miami, FL

The Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science in Miami has a fascinating new exhibit, Brain: The Inside Story, happening October 7 through April 2018. This traveling exhibition explores how this remarkable organ has evolved, how it works and how it makes us human. Guests will explore how neurons communicate and how the brain processes sensory information, emotions and behavior and get to answer many questions including: How does your brain grow and change over time, how do we study the brain and how does it work?

13. Watch tacos take over NYC: Brooklyn

In Brooklyn, food and drink fest Taco Takeover is coming to The Well in Brooklyn September 23 and 24. Sip unlimited cocktails, beer, and tequila samples while trying original tacos from favorite local chefs and restaurants. Bob for churros, take a swing at the piñata, dance to a live Mariachi band, and more. The event is from the same producers (Cannonball Productions) behind the perennially popular Bacon and Beer Classic which tours professional sports stadiums across the United States.

14. Attend summer camp, in autumn: Kent, CT

Check out some of the country’s best fall foliage and celebrate Halloween early beginning Friday, October 13 at Club Getaway in Kent for the annual Fall Finale weekend. Guests travel from across the country to this weekend summer camp for adults to partake in everything from zip lining and mountain biking, to trapeze lessons and pub hikes. The 310-acre resort in the Berkshire Mountains has been around for 41 years serving as a day camp for kids during the week and an adult playground on the weekend.



Tagged: Family time, Feature, Top 10 Lists

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Aly Walansky
Aly Walansky is a NY-based lifestyles writer.

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