Finding the Fun in Fall


These are photos of our favorite fall moments in Michigan and Illinois over the years.

SYs warned us about the difficult months of October and November during the first year of B-school. The combination of a rigorous class load, competitive recruiting and a busy social calendar does not leave much time for anything else.

However, the fall season has also been synonymous with outdoor adventures, yummy treats and celebrations for me and Michal.

Michal and I started our relationship seven years ago this October back when we were in undergrad at Michigan State University, so we have marked each anniversary with our favorite fall activities such as tail gating, apple picking, hiking, finding our way through corn mazes and carving pumpkins.

So in the midst of keeping up with the all-nighters, networking dinners and theme parties, Michal and I have tried to reserve some time each week for a good, old-fashioned date. Below are photos and reviews of our favorite fall-themed outings in and around Charlottesville.

Old Rag Mountain

While we scaled the mountainside, we paused several times for photos because of the vibrant, freshly fallen leaves and panoramic views. Not to mention, we were forced to stop when lines began to form to accommodate the incredible crowd of people who scrambled across rocky points.

If possible, do the hike very early in the morning or during the week because the Saturday afternoon rush was a bit much for us. (Who’s ever seen lines as long as the ones waiting for roller coaster rides while hiking?) Also, if you want to do a hike that is shorter both in the duration and the drive there, try out another local favorite, Humpback Mountain.

This was one of the most intense yet scenic hikes we’ve ever done.

Liberty Mills Farm – corn maze

Deemed “the largest corn maze in Virginia,” this was a unique experience for corn maze aficionados such as Michal and me. We were surprised to get a map (never happened in the Illinois and Michigan corn mazes we’ve visited), but it helped to have five different options ranging from elementary level to master’s. Of course, we went for the option of the map-less “Mystery Maze” because we wanted to test our sense of direction. Thank goodness Michal doesn’t depend on a GPS as much as I do because we found our way out in record time!

Also I loved how there was a definite incline to the maze ground, as opposed to all the ones we’ve visited in the Midwest where it’s flat land. It made for a bit more of a workout! Check online or in the mail for coupons before you go to save a little cash.

Liberty Mills Farm – pumpkin patch

A fellow Darden couple had a pumpkin carving party that night so we wanted to find the perfect pumpkin for the event. I had always just bought pumpkins at a stand or while grocery shopping, so I was happy to take advantage of an actual pumpkin patch. Set behind the maze, we took a free hay ride over to the hill.

The patch was a bit picked over because Michal and I had gone later in the season, so I recommend going in early October instead of late in the month. After some searching, we found a beauty for a decent deal of 50 cents per lb. which totaled about $5 for our pumpkin.

We saved some more money that night by printing a template off of Google images and using thumb tacks to hold it in place. Using our teamwork efforts of him carving with kitchen knives and me emptying out the pumpkin with a serving spoon, we were able to create a spooky owl.

Highlights of the corn maze and pumpkin patch day and night activities.

Carter Mountain – apple orchard and wine tasting

Despite our late summer visit to Carter Mountain, I thought it was worth mentioning the experience here because it fits with the theme. Michal and I actually picked apples much earlier than most during a Darden Partner’s Association event in August. We had the intention of picking peaches, but it was actually too cold for the fruit so we got apples instead so pay attention to temperatures before you go.

The tradition of apple picking is ingrained in us because of our childhoods in Michigan. I used to go every fall with my family, and Michal even had his first date as freshman in high school at an apple orchard. Again, this experience differed from our times in the Midwest because of  the mountain setting.

Because it was a sponsored event, Michal and I were able to each get $7 worth of apples or other produce and food paid for by the DPA. This went a long way because we ended up taking home a huge bag of apples and a bag of already picked peaches from earlier in the summer, along with some froyo.

If possible, we recommend doing the wine tasting, which conveniently offers a set of sweet vs. dry choices. After the tasting, our group picked out a favorite from the bunch and bought a bottle to share on the adjoining deck outside to enjoy another spectacular view.

Enjoying the apples and the views.