Autumn in Texas -- You know it has arrived at the first smell of maple syrup, perhaps a few miles into the pretty drive through Lost Maples State Natural Area in the Hill Country. When October gets going and as the music fades from Austin City Limits Music Festival in Zilker Park - and flip flops are put away for the year - the fall season is upon the Lone Star State.
Here are seven experiences you should reserve for the fall season.
1. Take a Deep Breath in Lost Maples State Park
The sweet, sweet smell of syrup will be inside your nasal passage for days after you leave and no one is complaining. Traverse the Lost Maples State Natural Area for a picnic or choose a cozy café for some brunch (pancakes, always pancakes). The Lost Maple Cabins have garnered such reviews as this one:
"Staying here was a true inspiration to live a simpler life out in the Hill Country of Texas. We felt right at home and finally had a chance to just be and enjoy our natural beauty that surrounds us."
There's nothing like the beauty of the Texas Hill Country and in the state park you can soak it in to last you through December. Try these activities: picnicking, camping, backpacking, sightseeing, hiking, photography, bird-watching, fishing, swimming and nature study. The park has several Uvalde big tooth maples, and they're fall foliage can be spectacular. Generally, the foliage changes the last two weeks of October through the first two weeks of November. The park is extremely popular during the fall and is often crowded.
2. Drink Wine and Walk Fredricksburg
The Fredericksburg Food & Wine Fest is celebrating 25 years in the quaint town of Fredricksburg, a short drive from Austin. The historic downtown is cute as a button with many German influences, including breweries that you can try and bring with you on a walking tour of Main Street. Yes, strolling and drinking are just fine with Fredricksburg. If you're not into that scene, there's plenty of food, because everyone is into food. It's a full-course celebration of Texas food, wine, beer, music, specialty booths, food court and fun including a Patron Party on Saturday to culminate the weekend.
3. Listen at the Bloomin' Bluegrass
A warm bowl of chili. Your favorite hat. And bluegrass. What's more to life? "Bluegrass has brought more people together and made more friends than any music in the world. You meet people at festivals and renew acquaintances year after year," that's coming from the father of bluegrass Bill Monroe and even though he hails from Kentucky. The sentiment still rings true. The Bloomin' Bluegrass on Oct. 14-15 in Dallas is calling your name. There will be music (Jerry Douglas and The Earls of Leicester, Tim O'Brien, Del McCoury, Rhonda Vincent & the Rage, among others) a chili cook-off and free admission!
4. Discover McKittrick Canyon
Thousands of visitors come to Guadalupe Mountains National Park to visit McKittrick Canyon, especially during late October and early November for the sensational reds, yellows and browns of the foliage, nestled deep in West Texas. The National Park Service calls the Guadalupe Mountains an "Island in the Desert". Wear your hiking gear, pack a picnic and play: It's an outdoorsmen's jungle gym.
5. Indulge in Apple Pie in Medina
The story goes that when Baxter and Carol Adams started growing apples, they needed a place to sell their apples in town.They purchased a little rock house in the middle of Medina (a tiny town northwest of San Antonio) and put their apples on a table in the front room. Folks from everywhere heard about the "sweet" apples grown in Texas and they flocked to the little rock house to buy them. The Food Network even featured The Apple Store, and that's really when orders from across the nation started pouring in for the now-famous "Five pounds of Apples in Every Pie" delight. Take a tour of the "Apple Capital of Texas," given the distinction by the Texas Department of Agriculture because of its abundance of apple orchards. An International Apple Festival used to be hosted there, but not anymore. Don't let that spoil your fun though and head to Medina for the orchard tour and an afternoon at the pumpkin patch
Every Texan must attend the Texas State Fair in their lifetime. It has been around 130 years and is steeped in everything Texas: From the livestock shows to the country music, to the cornucopia of fair food in which to divulge: There's nothing like walking the fairgrounds on a fall afternoon. New this year is the exhibit "Big Texas Music", honoring Texas artists through memorabilia and audiovisual displays.
7. Friday Night Lights
Unless you've existed beneath a rock, you understand one thing is for certain in Texas: Texans love their football. Sometimes the fanfare of high school football games rises above the college scene (sometimes). Friday Night Lights, in film and on TV, brought the world up to speed on how much a high school football program can mean to a town; and, without a doubt, the real-life experience matches the movie magic. Roaring crowds, old-timers yelling in their letterman jackets, marching bands by the hundreds, pom-poms waving from kickoff to game over: There's no better place to be on a Friday night in Texas. If you can only see one game, reserve it for homecoming in whichever city in which you're residing. Don't forget your mum.