Although October in Central Texas may be a far cry from the falling leaves and ember hues of an autumn in New England, there are plenty of area activities — from mulled wine to corn mazes and apple picking — that are sure to get almost anyone into the spirit of the season.
Here are the top 10 picks for what to do in Central Texas this month.
Next to apple cider, mulled wine is perhaps the drink of autumn and winter months. Typically made by steeping port with spices such as clove, cinnamon and ginger, mulled wine is served hot or warm with a slice of orange or lemon for garnish. Simpler variations of the recipe substitute port with a simple red wine, adding honey and even apple cider to sweeten the punch. During colder months, House Wine offers a delectable version of this holiday treat.
What is autumn without a trip to a pumpkin patch or, at least, the mound of gourds outside of Whole Foods? Some limited online research will yield a plethora of quick and easy carving tips, as well as simple design ideas.
There aren’t any proper corn mazes — er, maize mazes — within Austin city limits, but the outlying Hill Country holds a bevy of options. Barton Hill Farms, located just outside of Bastrop, offers a 5-acre corn maze in addition to live music, a pumpkin patch and a sunken pirate’s ship on weekends through November 18. For those who don’t mind a bit of a road trip, Rocky Creek Maze in Moulton and the South Texas Maze in Hondo boast far more elaborate and time-honored maze constructions.
Even though a handful of Hill Country orchards are harvesting apples this year, there aren’t necessarily always enough for the public to pick. Of the two apple orchards closest to Austin, Sonlight Apple Orchard in Mason offers apple picking and even a B&B, which you’ll probably need after the two-hour sojourn. Apple Valley Orchard in Llano is only an hour-and-a-half outside of Austin and offers a great variety of apples (and honey, peaches and blackberries, too), but unsupervised picking is not allowed.
There's something about the first hint of autumn that triggers the baker (or the eater) in almost everyone. Online recipes offer a veritable cornucopia of new and traditional takes on apple pies, custards, crumbles and other cold weather fare. Even if the chemistry of baking eludes you, store-bought Halloween-themed cookies come with simple instructions and can be pretty fun to make.
Texas apple cider is known for its natural sweetness, which makes it a perfect accompaniment to the starchy meals of fall. Local cider can even be used as a replacement for sugar or honey, especially in smoothies and breads. Area apple orchards, such as Apple Valley Orchard, make and sell their own.
Believe in ‘em or not, ghosts are synonymous with Halloween, and ghost tours are a great way to conjure the holiday spirit (or scare yourself senseless). Austin Ghost Tours leads the pack in local paranormal research, offering walking tours, investigations and even trolley excursions. “Haunted Halloween” trolley tours run every weekend for the month of October.
If ever there were a time to guzzle German ale and gorge on bratwurst, Oktoberfest is it. Celebrations at Bangers Sausage House and Beer Garden offer a more modern interpretation of the festivities, featuring games, a gravity keg and live polka music. For a more traditional Oktoberfest experience head to Fredericksburg for the town’s annual three-day festival.
For athletic types (or even just the sports enthusiast), take to a big backyard or a local park for a fall field day with family and friends. Touch football is traditionally the preferred sport of the season but could easily be substituted with any other team-oriented game. Fall field days pair wonderfully with cookouts and apple cider, so consider planning ahead.
As Americans, it is our civic duty to put time and careful thought into our Halloween costumes. Sure, purchasing a costume online is easiest, but it won’t gain you any street cred. Building a costume — say, a Rubik’s cube or a gumball — will help to stir a childlike nostalgia and, most importantly, create a truly memorable holiday experience.
You better get to work on this bucket list — we're just 25 days away from All Hallow's Eve.