3Rivers Blog

25 Budget-Friendly Activities to Add to Your Family’s Fall Bucket List

Posted on Wednesday, September 4, 2019

This post is a part of a series we contribute to 97.3 WMEE's Mom Squad monthly e-newsletter!

Learn more.  Read past articles.

Fall is right around the corner, and this time of year is always full of fun, free activities for families in our area! Need some inspiration for your fall bucket list? Read on for some budget-friendly ideas the whole family will love!

Image source: Shutterstock.com / Photographer: Hrecheniuk Oleksii

  1. Visit a local pumpkin patch or apple orchard. Most of the time, you won’t be charged just to walk around and take in the sights, scents, and fun. But take a few dollars in case you decide to pick a pumpkin, harvest apples, sip some cider or cocoa, or purchase some local produce! | Pumpkin Patches + Apple Orchards in NE Indiana
  2. Capture memories in an Autumn photo shoot. You don’t need any fancy equipment to get great shots. The colors and the lighting during this season make it even easier to take stunning photos, even on a mobile phone! Try an early evening session, when the sun is about to set, and scout out vibrant, colorful locations – like a park. | 12 Fantastic Fall Photo Tips10 Tips for Taking Better Photos with Your Smartphone
  3. Have a picnic. Whether you hang out in your own backyard or find a more quiet and remote setting, changing up where you enjoy your lunch or dinner this time of year can do wonders for the soul. New colors, scents, and sounds start to crop up during the fall – take some time to witness it all. | Pack the Perfect Fall Picnic
  4. Go for a hike. Winter is just around the corner, and while hiking is still a possibility then, it can prove a lot more tricky – and cold. Find your nearest hiking or biking trails and make an afternoon of it late in the season. You’ll be glad you did. | Indiana TrailsOhio Trails
  5. Read a book. Cozy up with a warm blanket and a hot cup of tea on the front porch and finally dive into that novel you’ve been meaning to start (or finish.) As for the kids, check out this list of autumn-inspired books they'll love!
  6. Take in a football game. Whether you head back to your high school’s football stadium or cheer on a local university’s team, you don’t have to purchase tickets from the NFL to experience the spirit of a great game!
  7. Sip and savor seasonal flavors. ‘Tis the season for pumpkin spice lattes and apple pie, but you don’t have to go broke buying these special treats from the coffeeshop or bakery every time. Making your own will leave you feeling accomplished and your home smelling sweet — plus, spending time together in the kitchen is good for the whole family! | 160 Perfect-for-Fall Dessert Recipes
  8. Get crafty. For many, fall is a time of new inspiration and new hobbies – a time to create. Whether you just want to cozy up your home for the season or you want to get a head start on DIY holiday projects, now is the time! | 10 Budget-Friendly Fall Craft Ideas, Easy Fall Crafts for Kids20 DIY Holiday Gift Ideas Under $20
  9. Get clean and organized. We’re about to be spending much more of our time inside with the winter months just around the corner. Prepare your home by getting organized and doing a deep clean. | Fall Cleaning Checklist, 15 Secrets to Cleaning with KidsImprove Your Home Without Buying Anything NewHow to Prepare Your Home for Fall + Winter
  10. Cook something savory. In-season produce costs half – or less – of what it is typically marked at. Fall fruits and veggies are some of the tastiest – sweet potatoes, broccoli, pumpkin, squash, apples, pears – so get cooking! | Fall Recipe IdeasMake-Ahead Freezer Meals
  11. Bake something sweet. We can’t forget all things pumpkin and spice! Now is the cheapest time to bake with pumpkin, apples, pears, and cranberries, so go a little crazy. | Cook, Bake + Save with Fall Produce
  12. Let loose and join the kids. Maybe it’s the nostalgia of fall being back-to-school season that makes us feel just a little more young and lively this time of year. We suggest you give into it. Join your kids and jump in puddles after an autumn afternoon rain, fall into a pile of leaves after raking them up, savor the last s’mores of the season, fly a kite, go for a hayride, get lost in a corn maze, and dress up and host a Halloween party. Have fun!
  13. Learn something. Many colleges, community centers, and local businesses offer short courses and programs in the fall – for individuals, for children, and for families – that are typically very affordable, or even free. If you’ve been wanting to master your DSLR camera, tap into your creativity, dive into the world of poetry, encourage your kids to join a team, take in the arts, or jumpstart your fitness regimen, now’s the time! | PFW Division of Continuing Studies, Programs at Science Central, Arts United Calendar of Events
  14. Get scared. Don’t get us wrong, we love Hocus Pocus, but if you’re looking for something a little more spine-tingling, partake in some spooky area events and activities. Haunted bus tours and city walks, haunted houses, screenings of scary movies – there’s plenty to choose from this season, and much of it is child-friendly! | Fort Wayne Fright Night, Haunted Castle & Black Forest
  15. Pretty-up a pumpkin. Go all in and gut and carve a masterpiece or take a less-messy approach to crafting a work of art out of fall’s biggest staple. | 37 Easy DIY No-Carve Pumpkin Ideas
  16. Create with nature. Go for a walk through the woods and collect colorful leaves and other unique objects like twigs, feathers, pebbles, and pinecones. Take them back home and get crafty. Create garlands, centerpieces, shadowboxes, and more. | 32 Awesome Things to Make with Nature
  17. Give thanks. Dedicate a small notebook and challenge yourself to jot down one thing, no matter how big or small, per day for 100 days, that you’re thankful for. Challenge your kiddos to do the same, and plan to share a few with each other on Thanksgiving Day.
  18. Volunteer. Help with a community clean up, work the line at a soup kitchen, take part in a mentoring group – choose something you’re passionate about and lend a hand.
  19. Practice random acts of kindness. Whether it’s donating clothes and toys, sending someone flowers, or simply opening the door for someone, really focusing on random acts of kindness during this season will help get you, your kids, and others into a more cheerful holiday spirit. | 100 Acts of Kindness for Kids
  20. Visit the library. Encourage learning outside of the classroom by scheduling some library time into your weekends! The whole family can access not only books, but articles, journals and magazines, historic records and photographs, games, movies, music, and more. | Allen County Public Library
  21. Hang out on campus. Fall is prime time for universities to host athletic games, plays and musicals, guest speakers, concerts, organization meetings, tours, special presentations and exhibits, and more – most of which you can visit for free (or incredibly cheap), even as a non-student!
  22. Have a bonfire. If you don’t have the space for one, get in touch with a family member or friend who does and offer to help host a get-together. Make it a pot-luck and give everyone a price limit of $10-20.
  23. Check out area festivals and activities. From Johnny Appleseed in Fort Wayne, to Amazing Fall Fun in Waterloo, to the Kendallville Apple Festival, to Bluffton's Street Fair and Huntington's Forks of the Wabash Pioneer Festival, there are plenty of opportunities to take in and enjoy music, culture, food, art, and more in our area in September and October. Get out there! | Indiana's 2019 Fall Festivals
  24. Stargaze. Fall presents us with some of the most perfect weather and clearest skies for stargazing. Get away from the city for an hour or two. Pitch a blanket, break out the hot cocoa, and look up. Don't miss the full moons in September, October, and November!
  25. Create a Fall Bucket List. Ensure that by the time winter rolls around, you feel totally fulfilled with your fall. Round up the kids and make a list of the top 10 things you want to accomplish together this season... then go get started!

What are your family's favorite fall activities to do on a budget? We'd love if you shared your ideas with us and our readers in the comments below!