Fall is right around the corner and we couldn’t be more excited. We’re looking forward to cooler weather, the beautiful sight of changing leaves, warm festive beverages and, of course, pumpkins everywhere!
We’ve been in fall mode since early August, but with the first official day of fall just behind us, we’re just realizing how fast time flies. Winter will be here before you know it, so you should take advantage of the fun autumn opportunities our area has to offer while you can!
From exploring a local apple orchard to scaring yourself silly at a haunted house, we’ve rounded up a list of our favorite fall activities in Council Bluffs. Challenge yourself to try at least one, if not all, of them!
Photo courtesy of Ashley Strange via Ditmars Orchard
There is nothing quite like biting into a fresh, juicy apple in the fall. Get the best of the best at Ditmars! They’ve been around since 1994 and are known for their beautifully maintained property and fun family activities. With nearly 20 apple varieties available, you’re sure to find your favorite fresh off the tree. But they aren’t only popular for their apples—you can also get your fix of apricots, peaches, cherries, strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, pumpkins, hard cider and fresh wine at the orchard.
Since opening in 1965, Shady Lane Ranch has become a treasured tradition for Council Bluffs families. The ranch is just a short 15-minute drive outside of the city and is the perfect place to escape to on a cool fall day. Whether you enjoy your time by taking a hayride around the property; horseback riding through the woods; or sitting by a bonfire on a calm fall evening—you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a great experience!
The Annual Pumpkin Festival at Ditmars Orchard is a fall tradition in the Council Bluffs area! Back again for its 6th year, the popular event will feature face painters, a balloon artist, pumpkin painting, pumpkin-inspired treats, a corn maze, tractor-pulled rides, live music and more—all of the ingredients needed for a perfect fall fest.
Photo courtesy of Pottawattamie County Conservation
The Hitchcock Nature Center is a wonderland of things to do this season! Not only do they offer fun hands-on activities for kids, but they also offer a 45-foot-tall observation tower that gives visitors a unique birds-eye view of the rolling hills—and the stunning fall colors around the region. They have a packed schedule of concert series, classes, workshops and club meetings this season, so check out their calendar before you visit to see what they’ve got going on!
The Mid-America Fall Craft Fair, taking place October 12-13, will showcase handcrafted work from a ton of the area’s finest artists and crafters, specializing in various wares. They range from handmade paper, metal sculptures, home decor, quilts, paintings, wearable art, jewelry, primitive crafts, furniture, folk art, toys, photography, florals and seasonal crafts. And of course, they didn’t forget about the food! Food vendors will also be serving up delicious cakes, dips, jams, cheeses, fudge and more that you can enjoy while you peruse local art.
Photo courtesy of the Squirrel Cage Jail
For some of us, fall means it’s time to head to a corn maze, enjoy some apple cider and deck our homes out with as many pumpkins as possible. For others, it’s an opportunity to get scared! If that’s you, you’re in luck—Council Bluffs just happens to be home to our very own “haunted” attraction: The Historic Squirrel Cage Jail. Throughout the season, groups can book private paranormal investigations at the jail, if they dare. Less committed (and more fearful folks) can tour the jail during daylight hours from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday to Saturday or on Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. until the end of October. After your visit you can decide for yourself, is there really such a thing as ghosts?
If you didn’t get scared enough at the Squirrel Cage Jail, head to a haunted house! The Madness Haunted House is one of only a few haunted houses in the Council Bluffs area and aims each year to be more original and more terrifying.
This haunted house is the main fundraiser for Bellows Community Alliance, an organization that supports Care & Share House of Council Bluffs and strives to promote charity through interactive entertainment. When you purchase your ticket, you’ll get to test your bravery and help your community at the same time!
One of our favorite things to do this season is to get outside and enjoy the sites and cooler weather. And because Council Bluffs is such a gorgeous, natural city, full of fantastic bike trails—why not take a ride? Wabash Trace Trail is a crushed limestone trail, great for cycling and running. It starts in Council Bluffs and takes a scenic route southward through the Loess Hills and tree-lined fields for 63 miles. And, because it’s an old railroad route, the slopes are never steep.
If you’re looking for even more fun things to do this season, head to the trail on a Thursday evening when hundreds of bike riders take the famous Taco Ride from Council Bluffs to Mineola for food and drinks and then ride back! If you decide to try it, make sure your bike lights are working as it gets very dark on the trail.
One thing you absolutely must do this season is to experience the sunset at the Lewis & Clark Monument. This is one of our favorite spots in the city, offering a fantastic view of both Council Bluffs and Omaha. Take a moment to explore the monument, which honors the 1804 expedition of Lewis and Clark and their historic meeting with Otoe and Missouria tribesman, and then watch the sunset over the colorful horizon. Just don’t forget to grab a sweater in case it gets chilly!
We couldn’t create this fall bucket list for Council Bluffs without including at least one pumpkin patch! For a complete fall experience, head to Pioneer Trail Orchard and Pumpkin Patch, where you can pick your own pumpkin and apples, get scared at their Haunted House of Terror and shop for some goodies at their Orchard Store.
Manawa is a Native American term meaning “peace and comfort” and that’s what you’ll find at Lake Manawa State Park. And you’ll be able to exercise your adventurous spirit as well, as the park offers 7 miles of paved trails perfect for biking, hiking or walking, a lake for you to travel by boat and swim in, locations and shelters perfect for picnicking, and a wonderful campground where you can pitch your tent.
While the park is definitely busy in the summer with boaters, fishers and swimmers enjoying the beach—in the fall, you can find a peaceful oasis! Bring your kayak (or rent one from WoggWorks Kayaking) and enjoy a quiet afternoon on the lake. And if you bring the kiddos along, don’t forget to stop by the Dream Land Park, the newly remodeled playground near the lake.
Enjoy the Season!
What’s on the top of your Council Bluffs fall bucket list? Let us know in the comments!