Fall is here. Leaves are changing, the temperature is falling, and your best clothes are finally back in rotation. Autumn is a time of year when Mother Nature puts on her richest display of beauty. The cooler temperatures, the vibrant colors in the trees—fall is full of romance if you know where to look.
What follows are some romantic ideas for dates and day trips to help you and your squeeze get the most out of the extraordinary sensory experience that is fall.
Drink in the Fall at an Arboretum
There is perhaps no better place to take in the ephemeral beauty of the season than surrounded by trees exploding with fall colors. You can virtually ensconce yourself with autumn at an arboretum. Get up early to beat the crowds, pick up a couple of teas or coffees (bonus points for anything “pumpkin spice”) and enjoy a leisurely morning stroll, stopping occasionally to gaze into the eyes of your beloved as brittle leaves bursting with color gently drop to the ground all around you. An arboretum is ideal for this, with its paved, well-manicured trails, but a dense wooded area with blazed trails will suffice. You might even consider a small breakfast picnic for two; just make sure the arboretum allows food (or bring something small enough to tuck into pockets.)
Shoot for the Stars
Another romantic way to show your sweetheart you think she’s out of this world is to spend an evening together gazing at the stars. The fall season has plenty of celestial events that make for a perfect romantic evening. Bundle up and grab a blanket, lie on a sloped hill of a park at night and keep each other warm while you watch the universe put on a show. For those looking to get up-close and personal with the heavens, search online for observatories or astronomy clubs in the area, many of which have free public gatherings to view meteor showers or other phenomena. This is probably best suited to night owl couples, as peak viewing times for meteor showers are usually in the middle of the night.
Farmers’ Market to Table
Fall is a playground for the taste buds. From sweet-cinnamony apples to spiced pumpkin to beef stew and potatoes, autumn is a wonderful time of year to get your eat on. Farmers’ markets are a great way for local produce growers and retailers to make their products available direct to the public. You will find all kinds of things, from fresh fruits and vegetables to pre-made items like pies and cakes to honey to coffee and everything in between. Find a market in your area, and set out together with the goal of finding ingredients to turn into a delicious meal you’ll cook together for dinner that night. Some fall-inspired meal ideas can be found here.
Get creative with your shopping. When you get home, put on some music, open a bottle of wine and get cooking. When you’re done, enjoy a candle-lit dinner together with the meal you created. It’s a great day-long date that doesn’t have to break the bank.
Hit the Road
A long drive on a scenic highway is an old fashioned American tradition. Unfortunately, as the never-ending march of human progress continues, unspoiled wooded areas continually lose ground to urban sprawl, and so they’re becoming harder to find. But there are still plenty of eye-popping drives out there to enjoy.
Take your time—this is about the journey, not the destination. Bring a picnic lunch or plan to stop at a local restaurant or café, and bring your camera—you’re going to want to take pictures. Most scenic drives have places to pull off and explore the woods. Don’t miss this rare chance to frolic in the woods like a kid.
For the more adventurous couple, a perfect way to experience the beauty of changing leaves is zooming past them at 20 miles per hour from above. Zip lining has gotten a lot more popular in recent years, and it’s one of those things on a lot of people’s bucket list. There may be no better time of year to do it, so this could be a great excuse to cross it off that list. Most states have at least a few places you can zip line, and you’ll get hours of high-adrenaline fun steeped in the oranges, yellows and reds of the foliage for about $40 each. Check out reviews before deciding on a place to go. You wouldn’t want to trust a shoddily run business with your life when you’re dangling 200 feet off the ground from a thin steel cable.
A River Runs Through It
If you live anywhere near a river, another autumn adventure date within easy reach is whitewater rafting. Rafting is an activity that, like zip lining, is best done with some advance preparation. You’ll want to know how reputable the companies are, but also be sure the rapids’ difficulty level matches your experience and fitness level.
A rafting trip can take up most of a morning or afternoon, and you’ll want to make sure you can choose between a vigorous workout or an hours long lazy float down the river surrounded by fall’s splendor. Some places require a guided tour or groups, so make sure the place you choose allows individual groups to traverse the river unsupervised if you want more of a quiet, romantic ride. Pack a soft cooler with some drinks and sandwiches if it’s a multi-hour trip, and get a perfect view of raw nature in the most beautiful time of year. Bring along a waterproof camera to preserve the soggy memories. And make sure you have plenty of Ben-Gay at home for your shoulder muscles, which are bound to be sore after a day of rowing a raft.
Become Two With Nature
For couples who don’t mind getting their hands (and just about everything else) dirty, a night camping out in the wilderness in early fall is a wonderful experience to share with someone special. Sitting by a campfire in the dark holding each other for extra warmth is a bonding experience that’s tough to match. You’ll want the proper equipment—at least a tent, a couple of sleeping bags (or maybe just one big one, if you catch my drift), a flashlight *BUG SPRAY*, water and food. As for meals, you can go as simple as ramen and a few energy bars, or with a little more time and effort, make ridiculously awesome meals and treats. Campfire burritos, anyone? As anyone who’s camped overnight will tell you, food just plain tastes better when you make it yourself out in the wilderness.
Be sure to check local regulations regarding campfires, as well as for any reports about bears or other dangerous wildlife recently spotted in the area before traipsing out into the wide blue yonder. Some additional camping safety information can be found here.
When fall rolls around, don’t lament the end of summer. Seize the opportunity as a couple to get an eyeful of some of the most fleeting and beautiful sights nature has to offer. So grab a cinnamon donut, drink some cider, and be glad it’s still a month or two until you have to start your holiday shopping.