Make the Most of Autumn: 14 Transit-Friendly Fall Activities
It’s that time of year again, and we don’t just mean Pumpkin Spice Season. It’s the start of autumn! Okay, technically it doesn’t start until September 23rd this year, but we’ve hit that perfect transition period where we’re past the heat waves and the weather is giving us a mix of rainy and sunny days. Not to mention, we need all the time we can get to cross everything off our autumn bucket lists!
To make the most of your time before it gets too cold and rainy out (or before stores put out the Christmas decorations, whichever comes first), we’ve compiled a list of fun, transit-accessible things to do with your friends and family.
Don’t forget! Kids under seven always ride free on transit. And with a Hop card, you’ll never pay more than you have to, as you’ll earn a Day Pass after two paid rides in a day.
Food & Drink
🍎 Apple tasting
Sure, you might have a favorite apple now, but will it still be #1 after comparing 60 different varieties? Portland Nursery’s Apple Tasting weekends let you put it to the test! If you finish the apple tasting with time to spare, they also boast pear tasting, live music, a tent of kids’ activities and a scarecrow contest, in a convenient location right by Mt. Tabor.
🍺 Widmer Brothers
The Widmer Brothers are bringing their Oktoberfest back to the brewery after having spent the last few years down at Pioneer Courthouse Square — the longest-running Oktoberfest in Portland at 15 years. There will be live music, face painting and balloon animal crafting for the kids and a GrowlerWerks uKeg holding competition (a variation on the Steinholding/Masskrugstemmen tradition) that you won’t want to miss out on!
Sept. 28 — Plan your trip to Widmer Brothers Brewing
🍺 Prost! & Stammtisch
Looking to be immersed in the German experience? Look no further than sibling bars Prost! and Stammtisch. They’ll each be holding an entire weekend of Oktoberfest festivities, with authentic food, drink and music (doesn’t get more German than a seven-piece brass ensemble, does it?).
Think alcohol and science don’t mix? OMSI disagrees! That’s exactly what their After Dark series does by serving beer and wine among the exhibits, with a different theme every month. OMSI’s Oktoberfest leans into the experience by setting up beer-themed exhibits around the museum (beer goggle obstacle course, anyone?).
If you want more fall-themed After Dark events, October is their “Spirits” After Dark about liquor — yes, you can wear your Halloween costume — and November is their “Uncorked” After Dark about wine.
Sept. 25 — Plan your trip to OMSI
🍺 Oregon Zoo
The Oregon Zoo is also putting their own spin on Oktoberfest. As if beer and cider tasting wasn’t enough, they’re also hosting a live band, lawn games and meet & greets with their ambassador animals (if you thought the vultures were funny from afar, wait until you see them up close!).
In true McMenamins fashion, they’re giving you an eclectic array of events for Oktoberfest. The star of the show is the Brewfest, where you can sample two dozen beers and vote on your favorite, but they’ve also set up a Golf Tournament and food specials and live music at their other locations.
🐦 Swift Watch
Think a lot of birds hover around Downtown in the evening? Wait till you see the thousands of birds that gather over Chapman Elementary School every September. Up to 7,500 Vaux’s swifts flock this NW school, before roosting in their chimney for the night. Don’t delay visiting; by October, they will have moved on for the year.
🌽 Corn mazes & pumpkin patches
As far as essential autumn activities go, a day spent navigating a corn maze and picking your own pumpkin should top every list. The only corn maze in Portland city limits, Fazio Farms offers a 6.5 acre corn maze and other fun activities like pumpkin ring toss and a bouncy slide. If you bring a new, unwrapped toy for their toy drive, you can get a discount on their wristbands, which provides unlimited access to the corn maze and hayrides.
Hankering for more hay? Sauvie Island also has a great selection of corn mazes. From Rosie the Riveter to Bigfoot, Bella Organic, Kruger’s Farm and the MAiZE at the Pumpkin Patch each have their own yearly design, plus food and entertainment to fill the rest of your time. You’re going to want a car to get to these, though — they’re about a mile and a half from our nearest bus stop.
🍂 Hiking & autumn leaf viewing
Autumn wouldn’t be complete without the chance to soak up the changing leaves up close and personal, and you don’t even have to leave the city to do it! Forest Park, Washington Park’s Hoyt Arboretum and Mt Tabor Park all offer gorgeous, easy-to-access hikes (getting your blood pumping will help keep away the chill, too).
If you’re looking for something with a little less elevation change, Cathedral Park and the South Park Blocks are great — and convenient — spots to view the leaves from the comfort of a picnic blanket. Find other favorite outdoor spaces (and your closest transit trip) using our Transit to Trails map.
🚣 West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta
Go by pumpkin? Yes, those are costumed paddlers racing across a lake in giant pumpkins — you won’t want to miss it. Beyond the race, there will be other activities to participate in, such as a costume and pie-eating contests and both pumpkin golf and pumpkin bowling.
🎃 Squishing of the Squash and Howloween
Fun for all ages and species, Howloween at the Oregon Zoo is a chance to see everyone get into the spooky holiday spirit. Children can dress in costumes and go on scavenger hunts, and animals will be getting pumpkins and other themed treats. If you’ve never seen a sun bear with a candy corn–colored block of ice, you haven’t lived.
The event kicks off with the Squishing of the Squash, where they give the elephants pumpkins to smash. Bonus: if you ride transit to the zoo, you get $1.50 off admission.
Howloween Oct. 19–20 & 26–27
Plan your trip to the Oregon Zoo
🎨 Fall Festival of the Arts
The changing leaves are they the only thing to look at in scenic Troutdale. Fall Festival of the Arts features judged art, art demonstrations and a kids’ art zone, plus live music and tasty food and drinks. If you can’t bear to leave the beauty, there’s even a silent auction for some of the art pieces.
🐺 Wild Arts Festival
Portland’s rainy season gives you the perfect excuse to visit the Wild Arts Festival and bring the outside in. A combination art and book fair, it brings regional artists and authors together to show off their love of nature. Browse the art, see one of the Portland Audubon’s ambassador birds or grab a glass of beer or wine at their Saturday Happy Hour.
📚 Portland Book Festival (aka Wordstock)
For all you bookish types, come celebrate the literary arts at the Portland Book Festival, which you might remember as Wordstock. Authors of all different genres and from across the country come to Portland for the event — Tom Hanks headlined last year. They’ve got panels and workshops and readings (oh my!), plus a huge book fair smack dab in the middle of it all.
To make a weekend out of it, hit up some of the various Lit Crawl events — everything book-related from readings to trivia to literary cabaret — around Downtown Portland the night before. We’re a community partner for the Portland Book Festival, and pretty soon, we’re going to do a giveaway for free VIP tickets, so make sure you keep an eye on our social media!
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