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Each week, KCUR's Adventure! newsletter brings you a new way to explore the Kansas City region.

A guide to the best fall festivals and activities in Kansas City

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Apple cider? Check. Corn mazes? Too many to choose from. Don't miss these delightful autumn events and outings in and around Kansas City.

This story was first published in KCUR's Creative Adventure newsletter. You can sign up to receive stories like this in your inbox every Tuesday.

Though the weather doesn't quite feel like September, autumn officially arrives next week — bringing with it lower temperatures (we hope!) and all our favorite fall activities.

And even if you don’t jive with gourds, you can still pick the perfect carving pumpkin (don’t forget the seeds for roasting), creep yourself out at one of the haunted houses in West Bottoms, buy locally crafted ghost-shaped earrings at a fall festival, or remark on how “cornucopia” is still a weirdly fun word, even now.

Plus, who doesn’t love boots-flannel-beanie weather? And football? Here’s a smattering of stuff to do in Kansas City this fall.

Harvest time

Pumpkins rest scattered in the foreground with people and children standing in the background
Marius Ciocirlan
This year, skip the grocery store pumpkins and head to one of the region's many local farms and pumpkin patches.

You could run to the grocery store for your fall produce, but that trip would pale in comparison to a visit to one of our region's many farms and pumpkin patches.

Opening for the season on Sept. 17, Johnson Farms Plants & Pumpkins in Belton, Missouri, offers 140 acres of u-pick vegetables, including giant squash, vine-ripened tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. You can also pluck a variety of apples from the trees or walk a-mum the farm's 25,000 mums. That’s a lot of mums.

Carolyn's Pumpkin Patch in Liberty, Missouri, is another local farm offering traditional fall activities, Sept. 17-Oct. 31. Your trip to Carolyn's includes pick-’em-yourself pumpkins, a giant bounce pillow, a small animal petting area, and a charming train that takes you through a 100-foot tunnel. Carolyn’s also has a contraption called the “pumpkinator,” which launches pumpkins through the air once every half hour on the weekends.

Every weekend starting Sept. 24, KC Pumpkin Patch is packed with family-friendly activities that will keep your crew busy all day. But families aren't the only ones welcome here: Head to KC Cider Fest (Sept. 17-18) for an adults-only weekend at KC Pumpkin Patch. Tickets start at $25 and include tastings, yard games, a keepsake wine glass and a ramble in the pumpkin patch and nearby fields. You won’t need a filter for the ‘gram this time — trust us.

Starting Sept. 30, you can celebrate fall at Faulkner's Ranch in South Kansas City. Now in its 24th pumpkin season, admission to Faulkner's includes wagon rides, a field maze, hillbilly golf, a goat climb and a cow milking contest

Festival season

KC Pumpkin Patch is packed with family-friendly activities — including this pumpkin slide, enjoyed by children and adults.
KC Pumpkin Patch
KC Pumpkin Patch is packed with family-friendly activities — including this pumpkin slide, enjoyed by children and adults.

By our calculations, you could visit a different fall festival every weekend in September and October, and still not have time to visit them all. Here's where you can get your fill of apple cider, corn mazes or whatever you love most about autumn.

No Kansas City harvest season is complete without a journey to Louisburg Cider Mill in Louisburg, Kansas. The family farm sports a 10-acre corn maze, giant swing set, sunflower slide, orchard, beehive exhibit and more. Louisburg Cider Mill opened for the season Sept. 16, and celebrates its 44th annual Ciderfest on Sept. 24-25 and Oct. 1-2. Other events include the Burning of the Scarecrow on Oct. 22, with live music, wagon rides and nighttime maze walking.

Sure, you can have fun exploring Liberty Corn Maze sans alcohol — but getting Sauced and Lost sounds even better. This one-night-only party on Sept. 23 highlights six specialty craft beers or wines and a chance to navigate the intricate maze. Past maze designs have featured the Chiefs, Lewis and Clark, Sporting KC and the Kansas City Zoo. Don’t get too lost in the sauce — your $38.50 ticket includes tastings at checkpoints within the maze, as well as other surprises.

Power & Light’s ultimate fall fest Cornucopia (there's that word again!) is in full swing Oct. 14-16. If you live around the area, you’ll likely be pulled in by the promise of carnival rides, spiked cider, pumpkin carving and downtown Kansas City's first-ever Ferris wheel. In this case, fall is the scent of funnel cake wafting in through open high-rise windows.

Craft fairs and cultural festivals

The Strawberry Swing is celebrating all things fall with its Strawberry Swing Fall Fest in the West Bottoms on Oct. 1. Expect live muraling by spray paint artists Spray KC, live music, food trucks and rows upon rows of Kansas City makers.

Presented by the Heart of America Japan-America Society and Johnson County Community College, the Greater Kansas City Japan Festival on Oct. 8 is a one-day event showcasing the art and culture of Japan. And that includes pop culture. A Japanese candy artist will be in attendance, and you’ll get the chance to attend workshops on anime and manga or try Japanese snacks.

Spooky season

The Dark Forest at Powell Gardens, in partnership with Quixotic, offers guests a walk in the woods unlike any other.
Powell Gardens
The Dark Forest at Powell Gardens, in partnership with Quixotic, offers guests a walk in the woods unlike any other.

Due to all the haunted houses in its vicinity, fall in the West Bottoms — one of Kansas City’s oldest neighborhoods — can get extra spooky. Which is why spook-seekers nationwide call KC the Haunted House Capital of the World.

You may have a favorite between The Beast — an open-world nightmare that ends with a slide spanning four floors — or Edge of Hell, which has been frightening folks for 47 years. The third act, Macabre Cinema, is a chilling 1930s movie theater. Only the ultra-brave should purchase a Triple Haunt Pass for $80, or a combo of two haunts for $55. All three attractions are within walking distance of one another.

If you're looking for something on the spooky side that won't give you nightmares, head to the Dark Forest at Powell Gardens (Oct. 21-23 and 27-30). Each year, the already-magical green space teams up with Quixotic, Kansas City’s “innovative performance art collective.” The group works with light, rhythm, and acrobatic motion to connect with its audience on an emotional, mystical level, bringing us a walk in the woods like no other. The experience appeals to all the senses — like a highly stylized, uncanny art film brought to life.

And if that's too much for you, there's always Boo at the Zoo — for the kids, of course. On Oct. 29-30, the Kansas City Zoo opens its doors from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. to welcome trick-or-treaters and their families. Bags are provided, costumes are encouraged, and fun fall activities are free with admission. Say hi to the otters!

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Emily Standlee is a freelance writer at KCUR and a national award-winning essayist.
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