by Hannah Waters
As the November chill sets in, it’s tempting to turn on the heat, lock the doors and curl up under a blanket for the long winter ahead. The reasons to go into an early hibernation practically invent themselves: it’s too cold; bundling up is too burdensome; the couch cushions are too alluring.
But the last days before winter truly sets in present some of life’s great pleasures. Cheeks chill, but deep cold never sets in. Hot cider warms hands as readily as it does the gullet. Freshly fallen leaves delight the senses. And deep breaths of cool air fortify the soul.
This year, don’t give in to your animal impulse to hibernate. Instead, spend some time outdoors with our picks for final fall trips—a last taste of glory before you give in to the couch until spring.
1. Explore the Pine Barrens Nature and History
Just an hour’s drive from Philadelphia, you can walk through woods straight out of a fairytale. White sand covers the forest floor; pitch pines and white cedars tower above; and the rivers run red with iron. There may not be a big bad wolf (or even a Jersey Devil), but the Pine Barrens feel imbued with magic regardless.
However, few Philadelphians know the Pine Barrens exists even though it’s in our own backyard. Get to know this unique place with a series of guided tours offered by Pinelands Adventures throughout November. Nature lovers can join ecologist John Volpa on a four-mile hike between the Mullica and Batsto Rivers to learn about local ecology and wildlife (November 5, 6 and 14; 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.). On November 7, tour the Indian Mills Cranberry Company, one of many cranberry farms in the Pinelands, and learn about the industry’s history. And pick one of two five-hour bus tours—one through Pine Barrens’ ghost towns (November 21), and the other through areas of geologic and environmental history (November 7).
No matter which tour you attend, you’ll get a feel for the rich natural and cultural history of the Pine Barrens. “Hopefully those things help people fall in love with the Pine Barrens,” says Volpa. As a bonus, any profits from the trips fund educational field trips for local schools. See pinelandsadventures.org for full schedule and costs ($15 – $60 per trip).
2. Walk for the Birds with BirdPhilly
By November, bird migration season is over for the East Coast, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing left to see. In fact, BirdPhilly co-organizer Tony Croasdale says that he likes birding this time of year because there are no leaves to obscure his view. Throughout the month, he’ll host a series of bird walks within city limits—and all accessible by public transit.
Every Thursday morning at 7:30 a.m., let the crisp air wake you for a morning bird walk at Wissahickon Environmental Center. Sip your coffee while keeping an eye out for pileated woodpeckers, bluebirds and LBBs—little brown birds, in birder parlance—taking wing across the meadow. Also behind the center are lines of crabapple trees, which bear ample fruit to attract a crowd of fruit-eating birds.
The month’s big birding event is at Cobbs Creek and Morris Park in West Philly (Saturday, November 7, 9 a.m.). Tony Croasdale will lead you through woods, meadow and wetland, and point out birds along the way. It’s the best time of year to spot tapping woodpeckers, small brown creepers that run like mice along tree trunks, and tiny elusive kinglets with their yellow and red crowns.
No matter how common or rare your finds, BirdPhilly walks let you see the city and its wildlife with fresh eyes while exploring local parks. First-time birders welcome. Binoculars available; bring your own coffee. No cost. Thursday morning walks meet at Wissahickon Environmental Center (300 W. Northwestern Ave.) at 7:30 a.m.; November 7 event meets at Morris Park (6839 Landsdowne Ave.).
3. Apples Galore at Terhune Orchards
Fall is the time for apples in abundance, enough to sate your seasonal appetite for crisps and pies. Whether you want to sneak in a final harvest or enjoy apples more leisurely, you can do both at Terhune Orchards in Princeton, NJ. Until the season’s first frost, you can pick your own apples, including late-season varieties like Granny Smith, Pink Lady and Braeburn, on the 200-acre family-owned farm. Taste their 35 apple varieties, including the brand new Crimson Crisp and Topaz Crisp. Sip hot cider and scarf down sugary cider donuts by the bag.
Some of us, however, prefer to taste apples in the form of adult liquids—and the Terhune Orchards Winery has us covered. The 12 varieties of grapes grown on nine acres are made into 14 varieties of wine, including reds, whites and fruit wines. Among their most popular wines is their apple wine, a dry white wine that is a few steps up from your typical hard cider, says owner Pam Mount, with a smooth finish.
The winery’s tasting room is open every weekend, and over Thanksgiving weekend (November 27 to 29), you can stop in for their special Holiday Wine Trail Weekend. In addition to their normal tasting menu ($5 for five wines), they will serve hot mulled wine made with their Chambourcin wine and fresh apples, and offer samples of local delicacies like mustard and chocolate.
There is plenty to do at Terhune Orchards that doesn’t involve alchohol and is fun for the whole family. Explore the farm and orchards on a half-mile trail. Enjoy wagon rides through the orchard from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and meet sheep, chickens and other farm animals at the barnyard. You can also watch the kids scramble over old-fashioned stationary tractors. And while you’re there, pick up a pie or two to take home. All activities (except food and drink) are free. Open Mon through Fri (9 a.m. to 7 p.m.) and Sat-Sun (9 a.m. to 6p.m.). 330 Cold Soil Rd., Princeton, NJ.
4. Longwood Gardens
You may think you know mums—the red and yellow potted flowers that adorn many a Philadelphia doorstep. But their simple looks deceive. In the right hands, chrysanthemums can be coaxed into delightful living sculptures, an art form pioneered by the Japanese. Every fall, Japan hosts chrysanthemum festivals called kiku matsuri—and until November 22, you can attend one nearby at Longwood Gardens.
More than 80,000 chrysanthemum blooms will fill Longwood’s four-acre conservatory, forming shapes such as spirals, cascades and clouds, during its Chrysanthemum Festival. The festival features a single mum plant that puts forth as many as 1,500 flowers, known as a thousand-bloom mum. You’ll also see a chrysanthemum fountain—a 12-foot-tall sculpture of 17 different plants, with 2,000 blooms cascading down to look like water.
The Chrysanthemum Festival is a great excuse to explore Longwood Gardens. Fall colors will be on full display at the Meadow Garden, and the grounds will be open for autumnal strolls during the entire month. And if you have kids in tow, they will go wild for the model train, which winds down 450 feet of track through a miniature landscape. Festival and train free with garden entry. Adults $20, seniors (62+) $17, students (5 to 18) $10, children (0 to 4) free. Open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Purchase tickets online. 1001 Longwood Rd., Kennett Square, Pa
5. Yoga and Rock-Climbing Workshop
Rock-climbing and yoga are an unlikely pairing. But on November 19, you can take part in a one-of-a-kind workshop including both activities, as well as hiking, at Bucks County’s Ralph Stover State Park with Doylestown Rock Gym.
The day will start with a short walk into
the woods for a warm-up yoga session, followed by a half-mile hike to the climbing site. There, you’ll brush the leaves aside to roll out your yoga mat for a 30 to 40 minute yoga session to stretch, take in the fall smells and breathe in that crisp air.
The instructors will teach the fundamentals of rock-climbing and then give everyone an opportunity to make their way up a rock face in the park. The session closes with a yoga and meditation session by the creek so you can wind down after the climb.
The trip is a great opportunity to try out new activities in a friendly environment—or combine hobbies as you’ve never considered before. All three parts of the day—the yoga, the hike and the climbing—will let you enjoy the colorful leaves and fresh air in different ways, while keeping you moving and comfortably warm.
You don’t need to have experience with either yoga or rock-climbing to attend, according to the organizers. They note that it’s helpful if you’ve tried one of them before, but if you haven’t, enthusiasm for learning both is enough of a prerequisite. Climbing gear is provided. Bring your own water and snacks. Location: Ralph Stover State Park High Rocks (150 Tory Rd., Pipersville, PA). $90 for non-members; register today at doylestownrockgym.com.
6. Fall Festivities at Linvilla Orchards
By the time Halloween comes around, many of us are through with pumpkins and haystacks. But kids (and some adults) can never get enough. Luckily for them, the Linvilla Orchards Pumpkinland festival continues for a week after Halloween, allowing you to indulge in your favorite falltime festivities until November 8.
And Linvilla has everything you could want. Get lost in your maze of choice—a straw bale maze for beginners, and a three-mile corn maze for the adventurous. Throw unsellable apples at targets in the Apple Sling game. Ride a steam-powered train, a hayride or a pony—or all three. Get the makeover you’ve always wanted at the face-painting station.
Starting on November 22, move onto the next winter holiday by chopping down your own Christmas tree. Then Linvilla staff will do the rest—haul it back, shake it out, wrap it up and stick it on your car—while you roast marshmallows around a bonfire.
And as always, the barnyard animals always appreciate a visit and a feeding. Along with the standard menagerie, Linvilla has white-tailed deer, emus, peacocks and a pot-bellied pig. Entry to farm is free; other activities cost extra. Christmas tree package is $59.99. 598 Linvill Rd., Media, Pa
Bartram’s Garden is great for Fall exploring in the city. It was 45 acres of paths, woodlands, and gardens along the Schuylkill River. 54th & Lindbergh in Southwest Philly.