Autumn is officially here according to the calendar, and whether you're feeling a slight chill in the air where you live or not, it's now the time of the year to stuff in as much fall fun and Halloween hilarity as you can before the weather turns to winter (a perfectly respectable season in its own right).
Want to have a blast and stay under budget? We've got your mega list of fun and free (or very affordable) ideas to keep you and your family having a good time all season long.
1. Visit a pumpkin patch
Find a local pumpkin patch to spend an afternoon reveling in nature's pumpkin-flavored bounty. If the price is right, you can take a few home with you for other fall-themed activities (listed below) but you can also have a fun time for free. If you're with kiddos, you can have contests to see who can find the biggest, smallest or funniest looking pumpkin in the patch, and folks of any age can get their fall fun going by taking photos of friends surrounded by pumpkins.
2. Carve or decorate pumpkins
Yes, you knew this would be on here. If you do have room in your budget to grab a few pumpkins to take home with you, use leftover art supplies now to decorate and display them to make your home feel festive. Then, when it's closer to Halloween (say about a week before the holiday) you can carve those same pumpkins to save money and enjoy both decorated and carved pumpkins this year
3. Hay rides
Churches and local farms often have this family-friendly fall activity on the roster this time of year. Call around to find the best deal.
4. Leaf collect
Do the leaves change beautiful colors where you live? Collect your favorite hues to sprinkle around your house in fall-themed vignettes or press and preserve to create wall art you can keep as a memory to fall all year long.
Read more: 12 DIY Projects Using Fall Leaves
5. Leaf peep and photograph
You don't have to take the actual leaves with you to create fun fall memories with your family and loved ones; take drives around where you live to find some truly colorful displays you can make into art or send to friends.
6. Make and jump into a pile of leaves
At the very least, if you make a pile of leaves after raking your yard this year, take a moment to make a mess of your work by diving into a pile!
7. Trace your genealogy
Speaking of trees and leaves, why not spend some fall time filling in some leaves on your family tree?
8. Spot hot air balloons
Hot air balloon rides can be pretty pricey, but it's free to look at them! Do research to find any area organizations or businesses that offer hot air balloon rides and then go find a spot where you can watch them. They create beautiful photos and are quite a serene spectacle, even from a ground view!
9. Watch some football
For many, fall means Football with a capital "F." And though cable packages, game tickets and fantasy football leagues can be pricey, you can enjoy one of the best parts of football season for free: the team spirit! Find a local bar, restaurant or friend who hosts viewing parties to be surrounded by cheers for your favorite team. Or consider getting tickets to local middle school and high school games if you want live action.
10. Go hiking/camping
For many, summer is the high season for camping and hiking trips. But for savvy seasonal outdoors people, fall is the time when the lower temperatures make sleeping in a tent pleasant and the bug population a little more tolerable. You don't have to go far (you can even go into your backyard.)
11. Plant bulbs for spring
Flowers are a spring-feeling activity, but planting bulbs in your garden now won't just give you a floral spring season, it'll be a fun fall time enjoying the cooler weather outside now.
12. Bird watch
Some bird species do their migrating in fall; research your area to find what birds might be coming through and on the move. Then grab your binoculars and ornithology loving friends and go spot some flying creatures.
13. Make bird feeders
Or bring the birds to your yard by making bird feeders and homes that will allow you to enjoy watching birds from your home.
Read more: Easy-Peasy DIY Natural Bird Feeders
14. Bake something pumpkin-y
Forget splurging on pumpkin lattes; save money by making your own yummy pumpkin smells by baking recipes in your home.
15. Start working on a creative Halloween costume
Halloween costumes can get expensive the more elaborate you get, so get started now with creative collecting of materials so you can slowly (and more affordably source) your costume this year.
16. Make and take your own spooky, historic or ghost tour of your city
You might be lucky to have a ghost tour in your own city that you can take, but it might be pricey. So do a little research for your town's most haunted businesses and see if you can find any spooks on your own tour.
17. Throw a scary movie marathon
Thanks to online on-demand streaming, there's an endless list of available contemporary and classic scary movies...
Read more: The Scariest Movies on Netflix
18. Or host a silly Halloween movie marathon
...As there are silly movies, too! (Hocus Pocus, when we say "silly," we mean awesome of course.)
19. Re-watch Halloween episodes from classic TV shows
Or are you more of television fan? There are plenty of great Halloween-themed episodes of classic shows; compile a few for a fun viewing night with some of your favorite TV characters of all time. You can find a pretty comprehensive list of Halloween specials on Wikipedia.
20. Have a Halloween music dance party
If you love dancing, throw a little Halloween music dance party. Spotify and other streaming music services have compiled lots of Halloween-themed playlists you can jam to.
21. Learn to knit or crochet
The supplies to learn to knit or crochet aren't terribly expensive to buy (or dig out of your craft closet from when you bought them and forgot to learn). And there are a wealth of free resources online to teach you how to start this cozy craft.
Read more: How To Crochet a Foundation Chain
22. Go antiquing/thrifting
Fall is also a great time for big antique shows and flea markets! Look for big ones in your area or just have your own fun day of looking through local area thrift stores. No purchase required to look!
23. Build a bonfire
Only for folks who have the room, the know-how (and local ordinances that allow it) but a fun activity to do when the weather gets a little cooler.
23. Find fall festivals
From Oktoberfests and more, look to find those festivals in your area that will feel like fall to you, and attend the ones that have free admission or admission you can afford.
24. Make hot apple cider
This easy and affordable to make drink will instantly transport you to a feeling of fall.
Read more: 5 Fun Ways to Spice Up Apple Cider
25. Adopt a gourd (or 20)
Pumpkins aren't the only things that say "Fall!" This season is made for gourds and other creative things you can carve.
Read more: 8 Things To Carve Instead Of Pumpkins
26. Volunteer on a farm
Find a farm that is harvesting a yummy fall vegetable and see if there are volunteer opportunities to be a part of a real fall harvest.
27. Stew it up
Stews are pretty hard to get wrong and can often to be made with less-expensive cuts of meat. They also make your home smell amazing.
Read more: How To Make the Best Beef Stew from Scratch
28. Fall soup swap
Coordinate with your friends to create a fall soup swap so you can taste and share fall flavors all seasons long without spending a lot of dough.
Read more: Soup Swap 101: How To Throw a Soup Swap
29. Make Halloween or fall decorations for your home
Half the fun of being in fall is feeling like it's fall in your home! So get creative to decorate your home without spending a lot of money.
30. Work on your sweater collection
Make your own sweaters if you know how, or go sifting through thrift and second hand stores to add to a killer sweater collection.
31. Plan a "friendsgiving" get-together
Even if your core group of friends is traveling for the actual Thanksgiving holiday, you can plan a second day to celebrate your warm friendships over some warm, festive dishes.
Read more: The 10 Commandments of Friendsgiving
32. Roast pumpkin seeds
Whether you scoop them out of your own pumpkins, or stock them from the store, roasted pumpkin seeds are a unique and delicious part of this time of year, and can be added to all sorts of dishes.
Read more: How to Roast Pumpkin and Squash Seeds
33. Borrow a book from the library
You could go for something classic, or just totally indulge in fall vibes with a seasonal title.
34. Bake an apple pie from scratch
Who says pumpkin gets to have a monopoly on fall flavors? Apple pies are a classic and super seasonal themselves. Bonus points if you bake with apples that you picked yourself.
Read more: Essential Recipe: Double-Crust Apple Pie
35. Make pretzel necklaces and cheers to Oktoberfest
You don't have to head to Germany to celebrate the Oktoberfest festival. Pop open a beer from the fridge (or learn to brew it yourself!), and get crafty by making pretzel necklaces to snack on while you enjoy the crisp fall weather headed your way.
What would you add to this list?!