Although August still brings high temperatures to Oklahoma, it’s the beginning of the end for the summer season. Once school returns, it’s only a matter of time before the leaves start changing colors and you can take a road trip with the windows down — no need for A/C. Fall break is a great time to hit the road and take in what our part of the country has to offer.
Fall Break weekend is also the time of the annual Fall Festival at Robbers Cave State Park on Oct. 14-16. A classic car cruise and car show brings out several hundred vintage automobiles. Festivities include a carnival, booths featuring hand-crafted items and local food, and live music. Lots of lodging options are available, too, depending on how you want to spend the weekend. Robbers Cave isn’t far from the Talimena National Scenic Byway — a weaving two-lane road that covers nearly 50 miles from Oklahoma to Arkansas. When the fall foliage is in full display, this highway attracts thousands of visitors. Over a dozen vistas offer spectacular views with interpretive signage. Near the eastern end, Queen Wilhelmina State Park in Arkansas is another great place to explore.
Have you been to Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri, recently? Its Harvest Festival, scheduled for Sept. 21-Oct. 29, has expanded this year. In addition to the crafting exhibitions and musical interludes, the park is filled with tens of thousands of pumpkins (both real and crafted) that shine throughout the night. There’s all kinds of pumpkin dishes and other fall foods to sample. Acquire a Tasting Passport to help ensure you don’t miss any of the fall flavors. Little buckaroos will get a kick out of the Cowboy Corral chuck wagon demonstrations and authentic stagecoach.
Mountain View, Arkansas, is known throughout the country for its rich bluegrass heritage. The Stringband Music and Arts Festival takes place on Oct. 14-15 at Ozark Folk Center State Park with two days of authentic Americana. The craft village, yarn spinning storytelling and heritage herb garden are a treat, but the best part about the experience is the music. The unique sounds come from traditional instruments such as the fiddle, mandolin, banjo and dulcimer. The McSpadden Dulcimer Shoppe in town provides an enlightening experience, showing how the Appalachian instruments are made. You can even play one yourself; they’ll teach you in minutes. Downtown Mountain View is an ideal place to wander around the antique shops and stores of local goods. If you’re not in town for the festival, check out PJ’s Rainbow Cafe. Bring cash; the home cooking is worth it.
If you don’t mind a bit of a longer drive for your extended weekend, the trip up to Omaha, Nebraska, will bring you in contact with both the past and the future. From Sept. 24-Jan. 8, the Durham Museum will host “Dressing the Abbey,” an exhibit featuring costumes from the much-loved television show “Downton Abbey.” The clothing and effects represent the transitional time of the early 1900s and how fashion changed to match that increasingly turbulent era. The rest of the museum, housed within the historic Union Station, will transport you through Omaha’s history — from the time of frontier migration to model trains to numerous artifact collections. There’s also an old-time soda fountain on-site for the whole family to enjoy. The museum is in the Old Market district, Omaha’s hub for arts and entertainment. There are dozens of other attractions, shopping destinations and restaurants to see in the historic buildings along the cobblestone streets.
That covers the past, but what about the future? Through Jan. 8, the Omaha Children’s Museum has a “Moon to Mars” exhibit that includes a program about astronaut training developed in partnership with the Johnson Space Center. Visit the museum’s website for more details. The rest of the museum offers scientific, technical and mathematical exhibits and activities. Don’t miss the signature Super Gravitron ball machine.
For animal lovers, Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is worth an entire day. It is nationally known for its work in animal conservation and has been recognized as one of the world’s best. The zoo features the world’s largest geodesic dome, which is home to the world’s largest nocturnal exhibit, the world’s largest desert exhibit and the world’s largest indoor swamp. The zoo also features one of the world’s largest indoor rainforests.