Fall in Oregon might just be the coolest season of all, a time when it’s invigorating to get outside and enjoy the turning leaves, crisp evening air and fields of bounty — with harvests of corn, apples, pumpkins and more. And, for the kid in all of us, we can’t forget the magic of Halloween — Oregon is full of delightfully spooky legends and and surprises around every turn. Here are five ways to celebrate the magical harvest and Halloween season this year:
Celebrate festivals in the Willamette Valley
There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned fall festival, heavy on the art, food, music and community. Halfway between Salem and Wilsonville, stop into the French Prairie Gardens & Family Farm (Oct. 6-31) in St. Paul to let the kids run hog-wild on the hayrides and slides and race through the 2-acre corn maze and 2,500-bale hay maze — and don’t forget the caramel corn, apple cider and pumpkins. Heel toe it to the Barn Dance at the Oregon Garden (Oct. 20) in Silverton for line-dancing lessons, a pig roast and great craft beer. The Mt. Pisgah Arboretum Mushroom Festival (Oct. 28) in Eugene spotlights the richness of Oregon mushrooms with cooking demonstrations, guided nature walks and local vendors; kids will love the hayrides, apple-pressing and arts and crafts.
Take a haunted tour on the Coast
Yes, the Oregon Coast has views to die for, but come Halloween, Lincoln City — on the Central Coast — hosts A Tour to Die For, one of a handful of quirky Halloween festivities in October. Join your guide, Mr. Bones, on a guided van tour of the town and hear the Native American legend about the creature that lives in Devils Lake. Visit the historic Taft Pioneer Ceremony on a scenic hilltop, meet some of its residents and hear their tales. A special Haunted Taft (Oct. 19-20, 26-27) tour showcases tales of the mysterious Ghost Schooner of Siletz Bay, spooky happenings at the Oregon Coast’s oldest pub, Bigfoot sightings and more. Also don’t miss another reason to take long walks on the beach with the return of Lincoln City’s popular Finders Keepers program. Starting Oct. 13, and now year-round, secret “float fairies” will place 3,000 glass floats along the shore for visitors to find and keep.
Paddle a pumpkin near Portland
Where can you go to float down the river in a giant pumpkin? You’ll feel a bit like Cinderella (minus the glass slippers) at the annual West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta in Tualatin, a wacky festival that draws thousands of visitors from near and far. Cheer on the costumed paddlers as they race across the Lake at Tualatin Commons, and make sure to stick around for the giant pumpkin weigh-off, kids’ costume contest, pumpkin golf, pumpkin bowling, magic shows, arts vendors and more. After the regatta, head north to rent a kayak from Scappoose Bay Paddling Center for a fun, fall colors-themed paddle down the river (no pumpkins required).
Bike the Fruit Loop in Hood River
With epic views of Mt. Hood and beyond, the Hood River Fruit Loop beckons road bikers with low-traffic back roads and 36 stops to sip, taste, explore and pick up a souvenir. Visit hoodriverfruitloop.com to download a free road map to chart your course, and set off for a blissful day of adventure. Make sure to call ahead if you have a specific stop in mind since not every fruit stand, winery or flower field is open year-round. If you’d rather take a guided tour, check out MountNbarreL Bike Tours and cruise along the uncrowded back roads for a worry-free, curated tasting room experience.
Wander corn mazes in Central Oregon
Yes you can rock climb at Smith Rock Ranch in Terrebonne (just outside of Bend), but every fall, this spot is pumpkin central. The Pumpkin Patch Maize opens for the season Sept. 29, 2017 and offers a Pac Man corn maize, pumpkin cannons and a pumpkin patch, an animal house, pony and wagon rides, archery, barnyard golf, food vendors and of course rock wall climbing. Nearby DD Ranch, also in Terrebonne, will have its own pumpkin patch to peruse, plus other U-picks, hayrides and archery games galore. Breathe in that fresh country air and savor the season while it lasts.