Lost Maples Natural State Area in the Texas Hill Country. Photo by Kevin B. Stillman.

Each year, as Texans desperately long for a respite from triple-digit temperatures, the nights begin to cool off and the days eventually simmer down, too. That’s when we know our far-too-brief fall season has arrived! And this year, with outdoor activities proven to be the most COVID-safe, it couldn’t come soon enough.

This is certainly a year like no other, as people are seeking safe outlets for entertainment to enjoy on their own, with their families, or in small social bubbles.” And, though limiting public interaction is still recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more options for socially distanced, COVID-safe activities are emerging as we learn to adapt to this new normal.” So put on your mask, pack your hand sanitizer, and check out these options for fall fun.

If trick-or-treating is out of the question this year, head to the beach for Halloween instead. Kemah’s Boo on the Boardwalk event has been running through October, and Halloween weekend is filled with socially distanced activities for your little ones to safely strut their stuff. In addition to costume contests, there are spooky craft activities, balloon artists, open-air trick or treating, a vampire stilt walker, the Creepy Creatures Texas snakes show, a screening of The Addams Family, and spooky tunes from the Boogie Man Band.

Celebrate Dia De Los Muertos in San Antonio

San Antonio’s annual Dia de los Muertos Festival has gone virtual this year, but the festival has created a beautiful community ofrenda at Hemisfair Park through Nov. 2. The Pearl cultural and entertainment district’s annual community altar is on view at the Pearl Shade Structure Nov. 1-8; the theme of the altar is Amor y Esperanza (Love and Hope) and is dedicated to those who have lost their lives to COVID-19. Additionally, Pearl’s social media pages are streaming videos of two off-site altars. The first one was created by the Mexican Cultural Institute and the Consulate of Mexico in San Antonio, in partnership with the San Antonio-Mexico Friendship Council (SAMFCO), in honor of Manuel Felguérez, one of the earliest and most prominent proponents of abstract art in Mexico, who passed away this summer from COVID-19. The second one, created at the Carver Community Cultural Center by local artist Kaldric Dow, is dedicated to those who have lost their lives to social injustice. The Hotel Emma and La Gloria also have altars on display and pan de muerto for sale.

Tailgate on the rooftop of Canvas Hotel

COVID-19 certainly stunted this year’s tailgating season, but Dallas’ Canvas Hotel has found a way to offer a safe alternative for Cowboys fans. For a $10 admission fee (or free for guests), enjoy food and drink specials while watching the game poolside on a big screen TV on the rooftop of this boutique South Side hotel boasting views of downtown.

Go pumpkin-picking at Barton Hill Farms’ Fall Festival

For the last eight years, Bastrop’s Barton Hill Farms has been drawing fall fanatics from all across the state, and they’ve gone to great lengths to ensure that the show safely goes on. The 118-acre farm has gone cashless this year, reduced their capacity to 50 percent, and requires online reservations before you arrive. They’ve also extended the season into mid-November for visitors to enjoy the spacious pumpkin patch, 3.5-acre corn maze, hayrides, apple cannons, and farm animals. Each weekend brings live music, and a new biergarten overlooking the Colorado River offers an array of beer and cider from local producers. And groups (of up to 10 people) who want to ensure a little more social distance can even reserve a covered cabana or uncovered fire pit area for a half-day.

Help live music live on with Love and Lightstream

Live music feels like a distant memory, but Love and Lightstream is rekindling the fire with a drive-in concert series on 77 acres in Cedar Park. A festival stage, LED walls, and a video crew ensure there are no bad seats in the house, and only 200 cars are admitted to each socially distanced, open-air show. Tickets are sold per vehicle (with up to four people allowed in each one). Proceeds go to Health Alliance for Austin Musicians and Black Fret, as well as directly to the performing artists and their production crews. Upcoming headliners include Grupo Fantasma, Mt. Joy, Shakey Graves, Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, Charley Crockett, and Golden Dawn Arkestra.

See things from a different perspective at Hopscotch

Earlier this month, a new immersive, experiential art experience called Hopscotch launched in downtown San Antonio, where it will live permanently. Started by tech startup-event management duo Hunter Inman and Nicole Jensen, the 14-exhibit show features works of art by more than 40 different artists, and many call for viewer participation in the form of movement and interaction. Hopscotch is well-staffed by a diligent team who keeps space between masked groups and continuously sanitizes anything that is touched. Before or after your experience, relax with a cocktail in their lounge and enjoy a sandwich from the award-winning Smack’s Chicken Shack food trailer.

Marvel at the fall spectrum at Lost Maples

Lost Maples is beautiful all year-round, but this time of year, the Central Texas state natural area is splashed with the kinds of reds, yellows, and oranges you typically only see north of Texas. Campsites book up quickly as nature lovers plan ahead to make the annual pilgrimage to see the protected Uvalde bigtooth maples, but day passes and primitive camping remain an option to explore the parks’ 10 miles of trails, including one along the top of a 2,200-foot cliff.

Take a self-guided tour of Landmarks

Two women point at a gray metal sculpture from below

Visitors to Landmarks can still see the art outside. Photo courtesy Christina S. Murrey.

Started with the idea that great art should be free and accessible for all, Landmarks is an award-winning public art program on the University of Texas at Austin’s campus. While faculty-led tours are available for outdoor works only, Landmarks is also offering a virtual tour of the collection as well as a self-guided audio guide to safely explore the collection on your own. Scan a QR code with your smartphone to access information on each work as well as artist videos, Spotify playlists, and more. 

Experience a drive-through like no other at “Area 3

Aurora, a Dallas-based public arts organization at the intersection of art, technology, and community, recently transformed over 100,000 square feet of a downtown Dallas parking garage into an immersive drive-through art exhibit entitled “Area 3.” Featuring works by 16 regional artists, the exhibit includes light, video, and sound installations plus performances, all viewable from the safety of viewers’ cars. Entrance is $30 a car and profits from the show, which runs through the end of the year, support the income of those affected in the wake of COVID-19.

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