13 Great Fall Day Trip Ideas for Philly Families
With the start of fall, Philly families have a great opportunity to get out and enjoy the surroundings in what is clearly the most colorful season of the year.
All across the region, scarecrow competitions, autumnal exhibits, and outdoor adventures allow visitors to embrace the season. Whether by way of garden, train, river, or mountainous vista, catch that red, orange, and yellow leaf landscape, and so much more.
We've rounded up more than a dozen of our favorite autumn day trips from Philly, some a few minutes and some a couple of hours from Center City. Either way, they are sure to be great additions to our guide to fall fun in Philly.
Be sure to see our post on kid-friendly Philly arboretums and gardens for additional garden visits or 20 family road trips under 10 hours from Philly if your family wants to hit the open road for more than a day trip this fall.
13 Fall Day Trip Ideas for Philly Families in 2021
1. Say Hello to a Scarecrow
From September 6 to October 30, the brick pathways of Peddler's Village in Lahaska are filled with scarecrows in seven categories for the Scarecrows in the Village competition. Visit the scarecrows, grab some food, and let the kids play. The onsite Giggleberry Fair entertainment center features a maze, carousel, arcade, and toddler play area. Check the website for even more special events, such as scarecrow-making workshops, OctoberFeast, and Apple Weekend.
2. Harvest and Heroes
Morris Arboretum in Philly welcomes “Harvest Trains,” from September 6 to October 11 with miniature trains carrying bountiful food supplies from the season’s harvest. The Scarecrow Design Contest & Walk is on display from October 2 to 31 with the theme of “heroes”; visitors can vote online for their favorite. Feeling crafty? Register by September 23 to participate in the contest (arboretum supplies a scarecrow frame, straw, burlap, and twine for registrants). All of this autumnal fun is in addition to Morris Arboretum’s staple tree adventures, stickwork exhibit, and more.
See how many of the 270 sculptures you can spot during a fall visit to Grounds for Sculpture. Photo by David Howarth
3. Grounds for Sculpture
Relish the changing season at this “museum, sculpture garden, and arboretum, where art and nature are always at play.” Vibrant leaves make the perfect backdrop for more than 270 sculptures that reside on the grounds. At 42 acres in Hamilton, NJ, Grounds for Sculpture makes the perfect day trip. Open Thursdays through Mondays; children 5 and younger are FREE and discounted tickets are available for students.
4. "Christmas City" in the Fall
Named one of the 10 most beautiful U.S. towns to visit in the all by the Huffington Post and one of country’s most idyllic by USA Today, Bethlehem is so much more than just “Christmas City.” Walk downtown, and you’ll immediately feel the history while viewing historic sites and architecture. About a mile away, on the other side of the Lehigh River, sit the SteelStacks and the National Museum of Industrial History. River tours run through October: kayak down the Lehigh from Sand Island and swap your kayak for a bike to return along the historic D&L Trail.
5. Catch a Train
Appropriate for all ages, the fall excursion steam locomotive travels for a two-hour trip from New Hope to Buckingham, PA and back. Travel times are 11am, 2pm, and 5pm on weekends beginning October 2 and running through November 7. Just 5 miles northwest of New Hope Railroad is Solebury Orchards, with U-pick flowers running through September and apples running into early November.
6. Pumpkins and Chrysanthemums
Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square debuts “Autumn’s Colors” on October 2. The Garden Railway, almost 500 feet of railroad track for miniature trains and dressed for the season (including Thomas the Tank Engine), will be on view as well. The Pumpkin Playground opens October 9, and the Chrysanthemum Festival is open for viewing from October 16 to November 14. Afterward, travel a short 4 miles down the road to visit The Creamery for ice cream, live music, a meal, and outdoor games. The facility is kid- and dog-friendly.
Find the perfect pumpkin at Fall Fest at Shady Brook Farm. Photo courtesy of the farm
7. Fall Festivals
Philly-area families have a numbers of seasonal celebrations to choose from. At Shady Brook Farm's Fall Fest, visitors can choose to go for a wagon ride, find their way through a five-acre corn maze, enjoy live music on weekends, toast s’mores over a bonfire, meet the barnyard animals, participate in a sports challenge, or ride the tryke track. Fall Fest truly offers enough for a full-day visit. Open Wednesdays-Sundays from September 11 to October 31. See our rundown of all Philly fall festivals here.
8. Go Leaf Peeping
Families can experience fall's changing colors in Lancaster County. At Refreshing Mountain in Stevens, kids can fly on the zip lines, complete the obstacle courses, or walk the sky bridges. A climbing tower, giant swing, escape rooms, pony rides, and animal experiences are also available. Bundled packages are an option for families looking to experience multiple adventures. Recommended escape room age is 10 and older while most other options welcome guests as young as 5. See our rundown of Philly-area fall foliage destinations here.
9. Check out Fall Migration
Get a bird’s-eye view of raptors migrating past Hawk Mountain mid-August through mid-December. September is the peak month, and staff and volunteers are on-site to help viewers spot the birds of prey. The sanctuary boasts 8 miles of trails and picturesque vistas from the mountain ridge. The Fall Photo Contest, meant to foster an appreciation of the sanctuary, begins in September. Hawk Mountain, in Kempton, is open 8am-5pm, and admission for kids younger than 6 is FREE.
Take in fall's majestic colors at Nockamixon State Park. Photo courtesy of the park
10. Visit a State Park
Pennsylvania state parks are in full bloom in the fall. Nockamixon State Park in nearby Quakertown is open 365 days a year from sunrise to sunset. Boat, horse ride, mountain bike, and hike with amazing lake views. Hiking difficulty levels meet every need. Pack a lunch and enjoy the available picnic tables and charcoal grills. On your way home, stop for a treat at Owowcow Creamery. Our complete list of kid-friendly state parks can be found here.
11. Take in Some History
Got a budding historian in the family? At Washington Crossing State Historic Park, families can see the spot from which Gen. George Washington led his troops across the Delaware River. Educational programs and reenactments are held throughout the year. More ambitious historians might want to consider the three-hour trip to Gettysburg to see the Civil War battlefield, which features plenty of fall programming and events. See out our list of Philly-area history-based day trips here.
12. Hit a Winery
Wine-making is flourishing in the suburbs of Philly. Our list of 13 family-friendly wineries in the area includes one right near Washington Crossing park. So you can pair a little history with some vino during harvest season as the kids play on the expansive grounds. Prefer a beer? The Philly area has a number of kid- and dog-friendly breweries as well.
13. Head Out of Town
Much as we love Philly, fall is an ideal time to visit some nearby destinations. Broadway reopens Sept. 14, so what better reason to visit the Big Apple? Midtown Manhattan is less than two hours by train or car. To the south, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. are also reachable in less than three hours, and the U.S. Naval Academy in charming Annapolis, MD is even closer.
Places featured in this article:
Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania
Historic Bethlehem Welcome Center
New Hope Railroad
Shady Brook Farm
Nockamixon State Park