When I used to live in the North, fall was my favorite time of year. Apple-picking, pumpkin-carving, starting to wear long sleeves again… and my favorite activity, leaf-peeping! I remember going for long drives through various New England towns, taking in the scenery of quaint churches, town greens and red, orange and yellow autumn leaves. I can almost smell that characteristic “fall” smell now, decades later and 1,500 miles away!
Gas prices and antsy children being what they are, long meandering drives through back roads aren’t realistic… at least not more than once or twice during the season. Still, if you can combine some leaf-peeping with other fun activities and plan them for the peak of color in your area, you can enjoy the gorgeous fall foliage while keeping your kids happy and your gas bill manageable. Here are some ideas:
- Peep leaves on the way to something fun. Fall is a time packed full of fairs and football games… take advantage of these kid-friendly events, and take the scenic route! If there’s nothing scheduled for the day you want to go, try apple- or pumpkin-picking, or find out where in your area kids can go on a hayride.
- Don’t forget to bring a snack. Little tummies get hungry in the car, and while food shouldn’t usually be used to alleviate boredom, a few well-timed goodies can keep little ones happy for a while. Fun fall snacks include popcorn (or kettle corn!), caramel apples, apple cider, maple sugar candy and toasted pumpkin seeds.
- Let them run off some steam. Let’s face it: sitting in the car looking at trees can be boring for children. Find a park along the way or hike an easy trail in the woods. You can soak up the scenery while they run and play.
- Collect some leaves for later. When you stop, give each child a ziplock bag to fill with leaves that they find. When you get home, you can press them between the pages of heavy books, then make fall themed cards for friends and relatives who don’t live in an area where the leaves change.
- Make the drive itself fun. Sing songs and play games to pass the time. You can get your fill of leaf-peeping while simultaneously searching for each state’s license plate or playing car bingo. If need be, just get the kids started and then quietly drop out of the game, letting them continue as long as they want. You can also bring along travel games, window markers, stickers (my daughter covered her carseat in tiny smiley face stickers one day when we were stuck in the car for several hours), coloring books, etc.
- As a last resort, pack a handheld game or a DVD. While family memories can be made in the car doing traditional and seasonal activities, know when to say when. If your kids aren’t having any fun, don’t feel guilty about doling out the DSes or popping a cartoon into the DVD player. If you want to take an hour to enjoy the blaze of color that comes just once per year, it might be a concession you’re willing to make.
Where do you go for leaf-peeping? Any favorite routes to share with Shopaholic Mommy readers?