When it comes to fun times of the year, Christmas and New Year's usually take top billing.
But for easy, old-fashioned neighborhood fun, it's awfully hard to beat autumn.
It's the season for football, of course. But it's also a time when nearly every weekend has some kind of family-friendly activity.
Church bazaars, featuring cakewalks, take-away barbecue plates and crafts.
Community and school festivals, some with harvest-season themes.
Pumpkin patches, haunted houses and Halloween-themed story times at local libraries.
And, best of all, these activities are set against a brilliant backdrop of color - reds, yellows, oranges, browns - that literally turn our neighborhood yards and streets into works of art.
Fall kicked in last month, but many of the best activities are still in store. We've put together a sampling of activities to get you out of the house and enjoying the season's pleasures.
Check out our Almanac section in Neighbors each week, too, for more fall activities.
- Dawn Kujawa, Neighbors editor
AT THE PARKS
HALLOWEEN CARNIVAL: North Springs Park, 1320 Clemson Road, hosts a family Halloween carnival from 6-8 p.m. Friday. All ages are invited to join in a fun-filled night of games, con-tests, crafts, face painting, balloons and concessions. Wear costumes and bring a bag for goodies. Cost is $1; free for parents and children under 2 years old. Call (803) 736-6070.
AUTUMN COSTUME FESTIVAL: Hopkins Park, at 150 Hopkins Park Road, hosts a festival 6-9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29 for those 4 to 16 years old. Anyone in a costume gets candy at this free event. Call (803) 783-9374.
TERROR IN THE PARK: The annual haunted house at North Springs Park gets your blood pumping and has you running for the door. For ages 11 to adult - not recommended for small children or those with serious medical conditions. The event is 7-11 p.m. Oct. 29, 30 and 31. Cost is $8. The park is at 1320 Clemson Road. Call (803) 736-6070.
HALLOWEEN CARNIVAL: Polo Road Park hosts a carnival 6:15-7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 30 at 730 Polo Road. Children ages 3-11 are invited to bring a goodie bag and join in the fun, candy and games. Call (803) 736-1657.
CHILDREN'S CARNIVAL: Meadowlake Park hosts a Halloween carnival 7-9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 30 at 600 Beckman Road. Children ages 6-12 years old are invited for games and activities. Wear a costume and bring a bag to fill with goodies. The event is free. Call (803) 754-4463.
SPOOKTACULAR FESTIVAL: Blythewood Park invites children, ages 3-12 years old, to a festival 6-9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 30 featuring games, prizes, a costume contest, pumpkin contest, pinata, storytelling and a "mummy wrapping." The park is at 126 Boney Road. Free. All kids will get a Halloween gift bag full of goodies. Call (803) 691-9786.
TRICK-OR-TREAT TRAIL: Bring your little ghosts and goblins trick-or-treating on the outdoor trail throughout Crooked Creek Park, 1098 Old Lexington Highway in Chapin from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 30. Until 8:30 p.m., there will be carnival games and prizes, a costume contest, a moonwalk, an inflatable slide, a spooky haunted house and concessions. Carnival game tickets are 25 cents each. Participate in the SCREAM contest. Call (803) 345-6181.
PUMPKIN PATCH PARTY: A pumpkin carving party for special-needs individuals of all ages and their siblings will be held 6-7:30 p.m. Monday at Seven Oaks Park. Each participant will use safe equipment for carving. The party includes traditional Halloween games, snacks and prizes. Wear your favorite, not-too-scary Halloween costume. Ages 6 to adult. The park is at 200 Leisure Lane. Call (803) 772-3336.
BLYTHEWOOD CHRISTMAS TREE LIGHTING: Celebrate the 130th birthday of the town 5-6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 22 at the Historic Hoffman House. Music provided by community church choirs and USC's New Horizons band. Enjoy cookies and hot chocolate.
SPOOKY SLEEPOVER: Friday and Saturday, there's frightful fun at the State Museum. Wear your scariest costume and spend the night with the museum's ghosts and goblins. Cost is $25 for children, $20 for adults. Call (803) 898-4952.
HISTORICAL HAUNTINGS: Enjoy a tour of the Robert Mills Mansion by lantern light while learning of mysterious occurrences at the house and at other historic sites in Columbia. Participants then take a bus to Elmwood Cemetery for a moonlight tour as a costumed guide leads groups on "a path full of surprises" and tells stories of 19th- and 20th-century Columbia families, soldiers and leaders buried at the site. Tours are 5:30-9:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday. Tickets are $15, $7 for children of non-members, $10 for members, and $5 for children of members. Reservations required by calling (803) 252-1770, ext. 24, or emailing email@example.com.
BLACK AND WHITE BALL: Celebrate Halloween and experience an eerily enchanting evening with the Contemporaries at the Columbia Museum of Art's Masquerade de Macabre 8 p.m. to midnight Friday, Oct. 30. Cost $50 per person. Call (803) 799-2810.
SPOOKY DRIVE: See the creatures come alive at 2443 Carroll Drive, between Harrison and Covenant roads in Columbia. Nightly shows, 7:30-9:30. Ride by slowly and see the band "play," while others are spookily staged.
FALL FARMERS MARKET: Celebrate the season at the Sandhill Farmers Market, 900 Clemson Road, every Tuesday from 2:30 p.m. to dusk, with a special Halloween event Tuesday. Kids can trick or treat the vendors and pet baby lambs; at 3:30 p.m. paint a gourd or pumpkin; at 4:30 p.m. costume contests for babies to 11-year-olds. Live music, pumpkins and fall items for sale. The market is open Tuesdays through Nov. 24, with fresh local produce that includes fall crops, along with baked goods, meats and dairy products, grits, plants, trees and organics. Master gardeners available to answer questions.
PSYCHO CHEF: The haunted kitchen returns. Dress in your favorite Halloween costume and visit the Young Chefs Academy - if you dare! Psycho Chef will be back to create some of his spookiest recipes. The event is 6:30-8:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 30, and space is limited. Cost is $20 per child. Call (803) 749-0670.
HALLOWEEN ROLLER DERBY: Columbia Quad Squad vs. Carolina Bootleggers, 6:30 p.m. Sunday, at the Jamil Temple. A special Halloween costume bout at 5 p.m., plus a kids costume contest. Cost: $10 in advance or $12 at the door, with kids 10 and younger free.
FALL FESTIVAL COSTUME PARTY: 6:30-10 p.m. Friday at Carolina Gymnastics, 437 Rabon Road. Cost: $17 per child; two for $20. Call (803) 788-2808.
TRAIL OF TREATS: Employees of the Lexington County Sheriff's Department will decorate 25 patrol cars and other equipment for a Trunk or Treat competition. Treats for children of all ages will be given out between noon and 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31 at the youth baseball park on Duffie Drive, off Gibson Road in Lexington. Free hot dogs and beverages. Law enforcement demonstrations at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. For a small fee, children also will be able to play games. Parents and guardians are asked to accompany their children.
SCARECROWS GALORE: Visitors can stroll through the gardens on the grounds of the historic Robert Mills House, 1616 Blanding St., to see scarecrows created by local schools, businesses, families and organizations. The free exhibit, which includes a scavenger hunt, continues through Saturday, Oct. 31. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays; 1-5 p.m. on Sundays.
HALLOWEEN CARNIVAL: Palmetto Activity Center will hold its fall carnival 2-4:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31. Admission is free for parents and kids 10 and younger. Carnival-style games (tickets are six for $1), face painting, bounce house, magician, clowns and balloon artist. Wear a costume and bring a bag for goodies and prizes. Food will be available for sale. The activity center is at 105 Summit Centre Circle, across from Summit Middle School. Call (803) 865-6516.
BUBBA'S BIRTHDAY BASH: This family event 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31, at the State Museum features a Haunted Starlab show and a Halloween party with games, crafts, balloon art and face painting. Wear a costume and receive $1 off regular museum admission for the day. Call (803) 898-4921.
HALLOWONKA: Calling all pint-sized fairies, firemen and mermaids. Edventure Children's Museum hosts an indoor Halloween celebration with games 5:30-8 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, Oct. 30. Tickets are $6.50 and may be purchased in advance or at the door. Call (803) 779-3100.
CSC'S 5TH FALL FESTIVAL: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Capital Senior Center, 1650 Park Circle. Features a pumpkin patch, live music, face painting, pumpkin decorating and jewelry making for all ages. Also featuring a senior services fair to provide older adults and families with information from more than 15 professional services as well as offering health screenings and flu shots. Admission is free, but the chili buffet lunch is $5.
FALL AT THE CREEK: Mill Creek Greenhouses kicks off the fall season Saturday at 2324 Leesburg Road with hayrides, balloon art, breakfast by Perkin Beans, handmade birdhouses and decorated pumpkins. Admission is free.
FAMILY FALL FESTIVAL: Games, activities, inflatables, a hayride, a display of decorated pumpkins and treats are included at this free event, 6-8 p.m. Sunday at St. Andrews Baptist Church, 230 Bush River Road in Columbia.
COMMUNITY FALL FESTIVAL: Free games and prizes, hot dog supper, haunted trail, "trunk or treat," and a hayride for children 12 and younger will be held from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 30 at Bethel United Methodist Church, 811 Peachtree Rock Road. Children are encouraged to dress in not-too-scary costumes to join in the fun and fellowship. Call (803) 315-9451.
FALL FESTIVAL: Come and join in the fun with Flutter and Friends at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 28 at Rosewood Baptist Church, 2901 Rosewood Drive. Hot dogs and more. Call (803) 799-0514.
TRUNK OR TREAT: First Baptist Church of Lexington, 415 Barr Road, hosts a fall festival on Wednesday, Oct. 28. All ages are welcome for hayrides, games, a bounce house and lots of treats. Call (803) 957-0686.
FALL FESTIVAL: A mini-hayride, jump castle, slide and corn dogs will be available 4-6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31, at State Street Baptist Church, 1420 State St. in Cayce. Everyone is welcome at this free festival. Call (803) 796-6123.
HARVEST HOOPLA: Historic Columbia Foundation hosts a family day Saturday, Oct. 31, noon to 2 p.m., at the Robert Mills House, 1616 Blanding St. Visitors can view a scarecrows in the garden exhibit, participate in a variety of autumn activities and learn about Halloween customs and the history of harvesting gardens. Hands-on activities include making masks and cornhusk dolls. There will be a costume contest. Admission is $6 per child, $3 for each additional child, free for one accompanying adult. Free for members and contest participants. For reservations, call (803) 252-1770, ext. 24, or visit www.HistoricColumbia.org.
FUN FALL FEST: The Right Connection Center at 5175 Sunset Blvd., Suite G, in Lexington, hosts a festival for ages 3 to 12 with prizes, face painting, a cake walk and a costume contest - nothing scary please - from 4-6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31. Free. Call (803) 753-8926.
FALL FESTIVAL: The First Church of God hosts its annual Fall Festival 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Enjoy food, games and entertainment for the whole family, plus a yard sale fundraiser to benefit the church's youth. 2665 Covenant Road in Columbia. Call (803) 256-6858.
HARVEST FESTIVAL: Starting at 2 p.m. Sunday in the parking lot at Living Water Christian Outreach, 2229 Decker Blvd. Features games for all ages, including a treasure hunt, duck race, putt-putt golf, Go Fish, Bible trivia and a water balloon throw. Also featuring a performance of the Double Dutch Championship Team and the Good News Puppets. Call (803) 699-9346.
HALLELUJAH HOEDOWN: A fun-filled family event is planned by Lexington Baptist Church, 308 East Main St. in Lexington, 6-8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31. Admission is $1. Hudson's Barbecue will be available for purchase. Rides include Jurassic Adventure, Tubs of Fun, a ferris wheel, Barrel 'O Monkeys, an inflatable slide, a moon walk - for children of all ages. A "trunk or treat" and dunking booth, too. Costumes are optional, but children should bring a bag for treats. Call (803) 996-8802.
HAYRIDE, CAKE WALK: Harvest Festival 5:30-7 p.m. Sunday at Hope Lutheran Church, 1400 Kennerly Road. Games, bounce house, face painting and "trunk or treat" for the young ones. Costume contest for all ages. Food, a cake walk and a hayride. Call (803) 781-8673.
HALLOWEEN FUN: The Lexington Police Department hosts its fifth annual Fall Festival 6-9 p.m. Tuesday at the Lexington Municipal Complex, 111 Maiden Lane. Rides, haunted house, costume contest, games, pizza, hotdogs, drinks and candy. Admission is $5 each or $15 for a family, which includes all activities and food.
FALL BAZAAR: St. David's Episcopal 10th annual bazaar 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 7 at 605 Polo Road in northeast Columbia. The event features crafts and foods - all handmade by church members and friends. A used book sale, a baked goods sale, a frozen soup shop, a hot dog lunch, a Secret Santa shop and a raffle.
TRUNK OR TREAT FESTIVAL: 6-8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 30, in the Kilbourne Park Baptist Church Family Center. A hot dog supper, inflated fun slides, games, face painting, clown balloonist, baked goods. Corner of Beltline, Kilbourne and Pinemont roads. Call (803) 787-3371.
FALL FESTIVAL: Windsor United Methodist Church is hosting a free Fall Festival 5-7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31. The festival will include "trunk or treat," games, concessions and bounce house. Corner of Alpine and Windsor Lake Boulevard in northeast Columbia. Call (803) 788-1858.
GOBBLEFEST: St. Stephen's Lutheran Church in Lexington hosts a Fall Festival on 3-6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 22, with inflatables, balloon twister, face painting, games, cake walks, bake sale and food. Cost $5.
CELEBRATE THE SEASON: Bethany Lutheran Church is holding its sixth annual fall festival 4-8 p.m. Saturday. Games, prizes, hot dogs, cake walks and fishing booth. Bingo and hayrides start at 6 p.m. Free. The church is on Bethany Church Road, off S.C. 6 at the caution light, between Platt Springs Road and Kent's Korner (S.C. 302).
AT THE LIBRARY
HALLOWEEN FESTIVAL: Celebrate the spookiest season with fun-filled activities, books, face painting and crafts 3:30 p.m. Saturday at the Richland County Public Library's Northeast Regional Branch, 7490 Parklane Rd.. Call (803) 736-6575.
HALLOWEEN HOEDOWN: Old-fashioned harvest hoedown, with square dancing, apple bobbing and stories for ages 6 to 12 at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29 at the Cooper Branch of the Richland County Public Library Call (803) 787-3462.
COSTUME PARADE: A fall festival for all ages, with prizes and treats for best and scariest costumes starts at 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31 at the Richland County Public Library's North Main Branch, 5306 North Main St. Call (803) 754-7734.
HALLOWEEN FUN: Costumes are encourages at this event for children ages 6 to 12 at 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31 at the Wheatley Branch of the Richland County Public Library, 931 Woodrow St. Call (803) 799-5873.
SPOOKY STORIES: Come dressed in your Halloween costume and hear spooky stories at 3:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 30 at the Blythewood library, 218 McNulty Road. Call (803) 691-9806.
CRAFTS AND STORIES: Costumes are encourages for special stories and crafts 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 31, in honor of the ghoulish holiday at the Eastover library, 608 Main St. Call (803) 353-8584.
FALL INTO THE LIBRARY: Celebrate this beautiful time of year with a special storytime at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 11 at the Eastover branch of the Richland County Public Library, 608 Main St. Call (803) 353-8584.
BAZAARS, OTHER FALL EVENTS
FUNDRAISER KARAOKE NIGHT: The youth of Bethel United Methodist Church hosts karaoke night under the picnic shelter at the church, 811 Peachtree Rock Road, 6-9 p.m. Saturday. Come dance and sing. Admission is $5 each or $8 for couples. Hot dogs, chips, drinks and cookies for sale. Call (803) 315-9451.
DESSERT FIRST: Come to the Young Chefs Academy and learn some cool new desserts to make for Thanksgiving. There will be pies, tarts, cakes, and more. Class is 2-3:30 p.m. Nov. 3. Cost is $20 per child, and reservations are required. Call (803) 749-0670.
BOUNTY OF BLYTHEWOOD: A barbecue cookoff, "Iron Chef" competition, live music and crafts are all part of the Saturday, Nov. 21 event, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Historic Hoffman House. Music is by 2fortheRoad and Michael Hearne.
CHURCH BAZAAR: Bethlehem Lutheran Church hosts its annual crafts bazaar, 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 21 at 10000 Broad River Road in Irmo. All items are handcrafted. Call (803) 781-3900.
BAZAAR AND BAKE SALE: Handmade items, canned goods, baked goodies, handmade clothing, blankets, scarves, mittens, hats and Christmas ornaments will be available at the Saturday, Nov. 7 bazaar and bake sale at St. Timothy's Episcopal Church, 900 Calhoun St. Call (803) 765-1519.
CRAFT BAZAAR: The Swansea First Baptist Mothers of Preschoolers hosts a bazaar 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, Nov. 7 at the fellowship hall, 145 South Church Street (U.S. 321). Among the items for sale are homemade candles, flower arrangements, home scents and ornaments.
ROCKBRIDGE BAZAAR: Event features more than 20 vendors, including personalized stationery, napkins, monogramming and jewelry noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 8, at Rockbridge Club, 4135 Rockbridge Road. Cost is a canned good or $1 donation to Harvest Hope Food Bank. Call (803) 622-8345.
HANDMADE GOODS: Presbyterian Women at Lake Murray Presbyterian Church hold its ninth Holiday Bazaar 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 7. In addition to hundreds of handmade items, a bake shop and frozen casseroles, there will be independent vendors. Lunch available. The church is at 2721 Dutch Fork Road in Chapin. Call (803) 345-5140.
GEM & MINERAL SHOW: The Columbia Gem and Mineral Society presents its annual show at the State Museum Nov. 27, 28 and 29. Retail vendors offer jewelry, beads, loose stones and fossils. Demonstrations and activities for all ages. Ticket price to be determined. Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 1-5 p.m. Sunday.
GIFTS WITH A CONSCIENCE: St. Timothy's Episcopal, 900 Calhoun St., hosts its second alternative gift fair 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31. The event offers books and materials for non-traditional gifts that create work for farmers and artisans in developing countries. Vendors include: Heifer International, Nothing but Nets, KAIROS prison ministry, Harvest Hope, S.C. Wildlife Federation, Oliver Gospel Mission and Doctors Without Borders. Refreshments will be offered. Call (803) 765-1519.
OLD-TIME FARM SHOW: The 14th annual Richland Creek Antique Fall Festival is Nov. 6, 7 and 8 in Saluda. Antique tractor pull, craft booths, wagon rides, antique cars and trucks, swap meet, kids pedal tractor race, syrup cooking, border collie demonstrations. Call (864) 445-2781 or see www.richlandcreekantiques.com
GET READY FOR SNOW: "Snowville", EdVenture's winter exhibit, opens Nov. 21. Experience the magic of winter - inside. The interactive exhibit contains all the fun that snow has to offer: ice skating, snowballs and sliding down snowy hills as well as the science (How cold is snow? How are igloos made? What types of penguins live in the South Pole?). Free with museum admission. Call (803) 779-3100.
DECORATIVE ARTS: This all-day symposium, "The Decorative Arts of the South Carolina Fall Line," at the State Museum on Saturday, Nov. 7 is presented in conjunction with the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts. Reservations required. Cost is $55, which includes lunch. Call (336) 721-7360.
WE GATHER TOGETHER: Children ages 6 to 8 are invited to enjoy Thanksgiving stories and make a turkey centerpiece for their holiday table. The event is at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 23 at Richland County Public Library's Wheatley Branch, 931 Woodrow St. Call (803) 799-5873.
CHRISTUS VICTOR LUTHERAN CHURCH: More than 25 vendors offer an array of items, including a farmers market, casseroles and other baked goods, makeup, jewelry, sculpture, dolls, home decor, monogrammed items, a barbecue dinner, a raffle, a silent auction and more. The sixth annual event is 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31. Santa Claus will make an appearance for photos with the kids. The church is located at 400 Harbison Blvd., across from Lowes. Call (803) 732-2668.