The leaves are turning, there's a chill in the air (or, at least, there should be) and the Orioles are done for the season.
Must be fall, that harbinger of winter that offers a welcome respite between the heat of summer and the snow we're going to be plowing off our streets come the new year. Fall, when the days get shorter, the apples are ripe and tasty, and the ghouls get ready for their big holiday.
Of course, if there were any real justice, we'd be getting ready for a World Series here in Baltimore. But that hasn't happened since 1983, and happily, there are plenty of other ways we can enjoy ourselves, even as the thermometers continue falling.
Here's just a sampling of autumn outings in the Baltimore area, suitable for young and old, nature lovers and fright seekers, and everything in between.
Take the kids
Corn mazes: There's something about intricate patterns cut into corn fields that kids (and often kids' parents, too) find irresistible. Certainly, it's hard to think of anywhere else, outside of perhaps a hall of mirrors, where it can be so much fun getting lost.
The Baltimore area enjoys its fair share of corn mazes, many so elaborate and spread-out that they need to be seen from the air to be properly appreciated. Some of the highlights include Maryland Sunrise Farm, 381 Gambrills Road in Gambrills, Anne Arundel County, where this year's maze pays tribute to 75 years of Curious George (mdsunrisefarm.com); Rodgers' Farms, 1818 Greenspring Valley Road in Stevenson, which is fashioned in the shape of a bald eagle (northrunfarm.com); and Winterbrook Farms, with four mazes and 6.3 miles of trails, 13001 Creagerstown Rd. in Thurmont, Frederick County (winterbrookfarmsmd.com).
Clark's Elioak Farm: If it's fun and doable on a farm, chances are you can do it at Clark's, which can trace its Howard County origins to 1797. There's a petting zoo for animal lovers. For maze lovers, there's the Enchanted Pine Tree Maze and the Spookley Hay Bale Maze. There are hay rides, pony rides, even a Cow Train ride. There's a pumpkin patch, for those into picking their own jack-o'-lantern.
But best of all, the farm is now home to scores of fairy tale attractions rescued from what used to be the Enchanted Forest, a theme park devoted to Mother Goose and her nursery rhymes that operated off Route 40 in Ellicott City for nearly 40 years. The structures have been lovingly moved to their new home and restored, making this part of Clark's an old-school delight guaranteed to make all generations smile.
10500 Charksville Pike in Ellicott City. Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday, until 5:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Nov. 5. $7.50 (free for kids under 1 year old), rides are $2-$4. clarklandfarm.com.
FazaFam Family Jam: Take advantage of Free Fall Baltimore, the monthlong promotion offering free arts events throughout the city. An opportunity for families to dance, hop, skip, jump, scoot — well, let's just say the idea is to move a lot and bond like crazy with each other. To help the process along, FazaFam offers games, music and help with all sorts of dance moves.
The free 45-minute family jams are set for 4 p.m. on Sundays through October. At the Movement Lab, 301 W. 29th St. freefallbaltimore.org.
A little romance
Millstone Cellars: Millstone bills itself as being all about "the handmade, the rustic, the refined, the traditional and the tasty," and that sounds pretty romantic to our ears. Housed in a restored Baltimore County grist mill since 2011, it focuses on making traditional, preservative-free, lovingly brewed ciders, cysers (a fermented blend of honey and apple juice) and meads. We can practically taste the fall flavors already.
Millstone's tasting room, an experience in itself, is open through October from 2 p.m.-9 p.m. Fridays, noon-6 p.m. Saturdays and noon-5 p.m. Sundays. In addition, Sundays include live music. (Millstone is also open 2 p.m.-6 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays for sales and limited tastings.) 2029 Monkton Road in Monkton. millstonecellars.com.
Oyster festivals: You know the old saying, "Eat fish, live longer; eat oysters, love longer"? Well, if your emphasis is on loving, here are two chances where there should be plenty of oysters available to help the process along.
The free Great Baltimore Oyster Festival is set for 1 p.m.-5 p.m. Saturday at West Shore Park, 401 Light St. Expect some emphasis on education and extolling the oyster's importance as both food and aquatic filter, but oysters will be available for purchase, raw, steamed or grilled. (baltimorewaterfront.com)
St. Mary's County's U.S. National Oyster Festival, running 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Oct. 21, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Oct. 22, features music, kids' activities and the U.S. National Oyster Shucking Contest, which should be heated. $10, free for kids under 12. Again, you pay for your oysters as you go. At the St. Mary's County fairgrounds, 42455 Fairgrounds Road in Leonardtown. (usoysterfest.com)
Spend the night: What's a more romantic way of topping off a day of fall fun than spending the night at one of our area's finer, more elegant and more atmospheric hotels? In Baltimore, the Hotel Monaco, 2 N. Charles St., offers rooms in the restored Beaux-Arts headquarters of the B&O Railroad, built in 1906 and featuring a marble-bedecked entrance lobby and staircase that's so bright, you may have to shield your eyes (rooms start under $140 per night; monaco-baltimore.com). Or you could try Fells Point's Admiral Fell Inn, an 80-room hotel housed in a turn-of-the-19th-century building that was once a Christian boarding house. (rooms start under $140 per night; admiralfell.com)
In our state capital, Historic Inns of Annapolis (historicinnsofannapolis.com) offers accommodations in three Revolutionary-era buildings: the Maryland Inn, Governor Calvert House and Robert Johnson House, starting at $110 a night. On the Eastern Shore, Berlin's charming Atlantic Hotel (from $120 per night, atlantichotel.com) has been welcoming visitors since 1895. And in Western Maryland, Frostburg's Gunter Hotel (gunterhotel.net), with its 19th-century jail in the basement (not romantic, but interesting), offers rooms that start below $90 a night.
For nature lovers
Nature Quest Fest: A highlight of Baltimore County's ongoing challenge to residents to hike 16 nature trails scattered throughout the county (check off at least five of them in your official Nature Quest passport, and you earned free admission to the festival), the event features animal encounters, canoeing, dam tours and other activities. Noon-2 p.m. Oct. 22 at Lake Roland, 1000 Lakeside Dr. $5. lakeroland.org.
Fall foliage: Few outdoor destinations are more reliably beautiful than rural Maryland when the leaves turn (thanks, fall). You could always just jump in your car and start driving, but it's so much easier to let the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad do the work.
Sundays through October, the railroad's Autumn Express trains offer 9 a.m.-11:30 a.m. excursions along the mountainous route between Cumberland and Frostburg for $25-$35. The snack bar will be open; be sure to bring your cameras, as well as plenty of synonyms for the adjective "gorgeous." 13 Canal St., Cumberland. wmsr.com.
Apple picking Few things say autumn tastier than apples, and there's no better way to enjoy them than by picking a peck or two yourself. Maryland has plenty of apple orchards where you get to supply the labor, including: Weber's Cider Mill Farm, 2526 Proctor Lane in Parkville (weberscidermillfarm.com); Lohr's Orchard, 3212 Snake Lane in Churchville, Harford County (lohrsorchard.com); Baugher's Orchard, 1015 Baugher Rd. in Westminster, Carroll County (baughers.com) and Larriland Farm, 2415 Woodbine Rd. in Woodbine, Howard County (pickyourown.com).
If you do head out to pick your own, it's always best to check the farm's website or call ahead, to ensure the apples are, literally, ripe for the picking.
Edgar Allan Poe gravesite and Westminster Catacombs Welcome to Baltimore's eeriest fall tradition: A visit to the grave of Edgar Allan Poe (who lived for a time in our fair city and died here, under circumstances never fully explained, in 1849) and, come Halloween, an evening tour of the burial grounds in which he lies and the adjacent catacombs, resting quite spookily under the 1852 Westminster Church.
The burial ground itself is open daily, 8 a.m.-dusk, and Mr. Poe's grave is easy to find, adjacent to the entrance off of Fayette Street. The annual Halloween burial grounds and catacombs tour, complete with music (on a 135-year-old church organ), readings of Poe's works and cider (sorry, no amontillado), runs from 6 p.m.-9 p.m. Oct. 31. $3-$5. Fayette and Greene streets. law.umaryland.edu/westminster.
Haunted Houses Baltimore and its environs have all sorts of professional haunted houses that will be happy to scare you between now and Halloween, including such traditional crowd-pleasers as Bennett's Curse, at the Eastpoint Mall, 7875 Eastpoint Mall (bennettscurse.com); The Nevermore Haunt, 450 Mott St. (thenevermorehaunt.com); Field of Screams Maryland, 4501 Olney Laytonsville Road in Olney(screams.org), and the Fort Howard Haunted Dungeons, 9500 North Point Road in Sparrows Point (haunteddungeons.com).
New this year is Columbia's CarnEVIL, the haunted vestiges of an amusement park left for dead a century ago (at least that's what they're saying, and it sounds creepy, so we're sticking with it). Opens tonight at Merriweather Woods, 10475 Little Patuxent Parkway, and runs Thursdays-Saturdays through Oct. 29, plus Halloween (Oct. 31) and Nov. 4-5. $21.97-$40.33. carnyfest.com.
Horror on the big screen Movies guaranteed to seriously creep you out are peppering October's schedule at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Parkway, 5 W. North Ave. Offerings include director Stuart Gordon's 1985 H.P. Lovecraft adaptation, "Re-Animator" (Oct. 12-14), Andrzej Żuławski's chilling 1981 "Possession" (Oct. 19-21), Sébastien Laudenbach's animated "The Girl Without Hands" (Oct. 23) and an Oct. 30 double-feature of George Romero's "The Crazies" and Tobe Hooper's "Eaten Alive." Tickets are $8-10.
See these at your own risk. mdfilmfest.com.
Halloween ComicFest Comic stores throughout the area will be handing out special-edition free comic books, holding costume contests and sponsoring other Halloween-themed activities on Oct. 28. May we suggest you drop by dressed as your favorite superhero? Check out halloweencomicfest.com for a list of participating stores.
Creative pumpkin-ing Wanna add some zest to making your jack-o'-lantern? Tired of using the same old knife?
My friends, The Foundery makerspace, 101 W. Dickman St., knows just what you want.
For a technological twist, how about making a smiling pumpkin illuminated with LED lights? Using Arduino microcontrollers and your newfound know-how, you'll definitely end up with the most cutting-edge pumpkin on the block. "LED Pumpkin — Arduino 101" classes are set for 6 p.m.-8 p.m. Oct. 20 and Oct. 27. $75.
Then again, if your heart's set on carving your own pumpkin, why not make things a little more dramatic? A three-hour "Power Tool Pumpkin Carving" class starts at noon on Oct. 22. Simply put, this sounds awesome. $15. foundery.com.
Halloween Freek Show An evening of hard rock from Tubefreeks, metal from 86 Bullets and southern rock from No Tell Motel. Definitely not for the faint of heart. 7 p.m. Oct. 28 at the 8x10, 10 E. Cross St. $14. the8x10.com.