21 Cheap or Free Fall Activities for the Whole Family to Enjoy

There's so much about this season that's just totally free and fun. Enjoy autumn and connect with your family with these wallet-friendly ideas.

Published September 13, 2023
Multi-generational family enjoying a fall walk in nature

You don't need to blow your budget to have a great fall with the family. In fact, there are tons of free fall activities and cheap outings that will make this a super fun and memorable autumn for everyone, kids included.

We're arranging these ideas in order of when you should do them, since fall gets progressively cooler. Start with the warmer autumn things first and move down the list as the weeks pass. The exact timing will depend on where you live.

Early Fall Activities to Do for Free

As soon as the heat starts to fade and the autumn winds begin to blow, it's time for these free fall activities. Everyone in your family will have a blast.

Have a Fall Picnic

Grab your favorite food and a couple of cozy blankets and head to a nearby park for a fall picnic. We recommend a Thermos of soup or cider to keep everyone toasty.

Roll Beeswax Candles

Candles are great for fall when the nights get longer. Kids of all ages can get in on the fun if you buy wicks and sheets of beeswax from the craft store. Just lay a beeswax sheet on your table and put a wick on one end. Roll the sheet around the wick tightly until you've made a candle.

Bake an Apple Pie

Apples are great all fall, but some of the best ones come out in late September. Score a deal at the grocery store, farm stand, or even visit an apple orchard and then turn the apples into a pie. Kids can help stir the filling and decorate the top crust.

Mom and teen daughter making apple pie

Make a Pinecone and Peanut Butter Bird Feeder

Making your own bird feeder is actually super easy, and it's really fun for kids to do (though we're not gonna lie — it's a little messy). Grab a pinecone and smear peanut butter into the open areas of it. Roll the pinecone in birdseed and hang it from a tree in your yard. The birds will love the free food before their big migration.

Start a Fall Family Journal

One way to make your fall even more memorable is to write down the best parts of what you do. You can find free fall activities near you and record your experiences as a family in the journal. Kids will love looking back later and remembering the fun.

Quick Tip

My family does a simple gratitude journal which is kind of perfect for fall (Thanksgiving time, after all). We just use a blank book and have each family member share what they're grateful for. When my kids were super little, I let them dictate and just wrote down what they said.

Cook Up Some Chili

Even if chili isn't your kids' favorite food, we guarantee they will love making it (and be way more into eating it if they helped). That's because chili involves a lot of dumping and stirring but not a ton of hands-on time. Use your favorite recipe and get the kids involved in making this delicious fall dinner. You can even try adding some innovative toppings or unique sides to your chili.  

Cheap Fall Activities for Later in the Season

Later fall is when the fun really begins, and there are tons of great things to do as September turns into October. We love hitting up fall farm activities like the corn maze and the apple orchard, of course, but they can get a little expensive. These budget alternatives are just as much fun.

Plant a Sapling

Fall is a good time to transplant many types of trees, and it can be make such a great bonding activity to put one in your yard. A small sapling will take a while to grow, but they aren't very expensive. You can even get them free sometimes, and most nurseries have serious sales this time of year.

Quick Tip

If you can get an apple tree sapling, you might be in for a real treat. My kids and I planted one a few years ago, and now it gives apples every year. It's a great reminder of how we can nurture things as a family.

Go for a Leaf Drive

Take the family out to look at the fall leaves. Look for the best fall colors near you and pick a weekend to see them. You can even look locally to keep the gas costs down.

Have a Bonfire

If you have a fire pit, find some wood and have a fall bonfire. It gets dark earlier, so you won't even have to keep the kids up super late to enjoy this simple autumn activity.

Adorable family having bonfire at camp

Collect and Paint Acorns

Take a fall walk in the woods and bring along a bag or bucket to collect acorns. When you get home, wash them off and paint them pretty colors with craft paint. There's no need for perfection here, and you get bonus points for adding glitter. When the acorns are dry, display them in a glass bowl.

Make a Scarecrow

Grab some old clothes and some hay or leaves and make a scarecrow for your yard. Kids will love painting the face and posing your scarecrow, and it will be an instant seasonal decoration for your porch.

Rake and Jump in Leaves

When the leaves start to fall, the fun really begins. Grab some rakes and put those kids to work. Even little ones can help by piling up the leaves or getting rid of sticks and branches. Then have fun jumping in the piles together.

Climb a Beautiful Tree

Scout out the local parks for climbing trees with pretty leaves. When the time is right and the leaves are perfect, have a tree climbing expedition with the family. This free fall activity is right in your own neighborhood, and it's one of those things the kids will remember for years to come.

Hold a Fall Photoshoot With Your Family

Grab your camera or your phone and have your own fall photoshoot with the family. It's easy to set up pictures with so many gorgeous leaves for the background, and you can't go wrong if you take photos in the hour before the sun sets.

Quick Tip

As a photographer, I take family photos every fall for my own family and several others. It's super easy to get great photos of kids if you shoot a lot of pictures and just let them enjoy the outdoors. Throwing leaves makes the photo experience fun for them and guarantees some great smiles.

DIY Some Decorations for Your House

You don't have to spend money to have beautiful decorations in your house this fall. This is the season when nature hands you gorgeous home decor for free. Go out as a family and find branches, leaves, pinecones, acorns, and anything else pretty. Make arrangement for your dining room table and front porch.

Dad and his son working on DIY autumn decor project

Press the Prettiest Leaves

As you walk around your neighborhood or explore at a park, bring home some of the most beautiful leaves you see. Have everyone choose a couple of their favorites and then press the leaves between sheets of waxed paper with an iron. Keep the iron on super low and make sure kids don't handle the waxes paper until it is cool.

Volunteer at a Food Bank

Fall can be a time of food insecurity for some families, and you can give back by donating your time. This is a great activity for elementary and older kids, since it helps them feel like part of a team. It's also perfect for around Thanksgiving, since food is such a big part of that holiday.

Carve Pumpkins and Roast the Seeds

Carving pumpkins is a low-cost and super fun way to celebrate Halloween as a family. You can make them silly or scary, but no matter what you choose, kids will have a blast. When you're done carving them, roast the seeds in the oven for a delicious treat.

Cheap Fall Activities for Anytime in the Season

Some of the best things to do in the fall are fun all season long. Start when the kids head back to school and keep these things up until the snow flies (or don't stop at all).

Cozy Up With a Chapter Book and Blankets

Fall is chilly, which makes it perfect cozy read-aloud weather. Snuggle up on the couch and read a chapter book out loud. Reading one or two chapters a night will leave kids wanting more, and you might even get to enjoy a whole series this way.

Quick Tip

My kids loved the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. They couldn't wait for the next chapter each night, and we were able to read the entire series. This year, we're thinking of trying the Percy Jackson books.

Mom and daughter snuggled up and reading a book in autumn time

Take a Fall Nature Hike

Any time in the fall is the right time for a nature hike. Grab your jackets (and maybe your mittens too) and head out in the woods. In early fall, you'll see signs of things beginning to change, and by peak leaf season, the woods will be gloriously colorful. Kids love being active, and you can expect them to bring home lots of leaves for their collections.

Keep a Count of All the Geese You See

As the geese fly north, they become a major part of the autumn environment in many places. A fun fall activity is to keep a family count of all the geese you see. You can put a chart on the fridge and let kids check off or make marks for the geese. Compete to see who gets the most or just enjoy counting together as a family.

Quick Tip

If you still need more to do this fall, take a look at what's happening in your neighborhood. Some of the best free fall activities near you might include festivals, parades, and 5ks that are just local things.

Enjoy the Season With Those You Love

Fall is such a beautiful time of year, and it's absolutely magic for kids. Concentrate on having a great time with your people this season, especially since there are so many cheap and free fall activities to try.

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21 Cheap or Free Fall Activities for the Whole Family to Enjoy