Taylor and Brandon Huffman have wanted to host a sunflower festival at their Thurmont-based Winterbrook Farms for several years. Yet they were nervous because you’ve got to time the blooms just right.
In 2020, the pair finally did it. “I personally love sunflowers, and we thought it was another way to get the public out to the farm near our (annual) fall festival,” which features more than 25 activities, including apple cannons, zip lines, jump pillow and a corn maze stretching more than 15 acres with trails totaling 5 miles.
“I think the great thing about our farm is that there really is something for all ages including adults,” Taylor Huffman says. “I think a lot of these (fall festivals), people think are just for kids. But our corn maze is still the largest in Maryland, and it is still pretty challenging to go out there and try to find all the check points. I think (guests) are really just going to have a good time.”
“We’ve seen a huge spike in outdoor recreation” since the COVID-19 pandemic began last year, says Matthew Scales, public relations specialist for the Maryland Department of Commerce Office of Tourism.
Highlighting Maryland’s outdoor collection, Scales notes many have made their way to the many hiking and biking trails in the state, including the Baltimore and Annapolis Trail, the Great Allegheny Passage, Patapsco Valley State Park and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park. Along the canal, families may stay overnight at several lockhouses along the path. “It is cool during the fall because of the foliage,” he says.
Fall road trips remain popular. The state offers 18 themed scenic byways, including the Historic National Road from Baltimore to the Pennsylvania line, the Civil-War themed Journey Through Hallowed Ground in Frederick County, Baltimore’s Historic Charles Street and the War of 1812-focused Star Spangled Banner, running from Solomons to Charm City.
And since October is officially Seafood Month, you can have a true Maryland experience by meandering along the state’s Crab and Oyster Trail, showcasing outstanding spots to get some of the freshest residents of the Chesapeake Bay. Although summer is usually a popular time to get blue crabs, Scales notes fall is actually the best time. “The crabs are so heavy in November,” he says. “They have eaten a lot and built up (more) meat.” Time to teach those kids how to wield a mallet!
Deb and Lou Taylor joined the Baltimore Bird Club after they both retired several years ago. They find the activity fun because they get fresh air and exercise. “You go to places you always meant to go to and go to places you never heard of before,” Deb Taylor says. “You go home tired and dirty, but generally happy and usually able to say, ‘Wow, that was a fun adventure!”
Fall bird migration started in August and runs through late October to early November. Breeds that are commonly spotted in the area during migration include the winter wren, hermit thrush, purple finch and white crowned sparrow.
Since the pandemic began, Deb Taylor has noticed more friends and family asking about bird watching. “Your
excitement rubs off on other people,” she says.
“(Bird watching) is nice because it is something you can do by yourself. You can do with some friends. You can join the group or a group. There are bird clubs in every county. It can be a group activity although now not so much. You can go anywhere and bird watch,” says Lou Taylor.
There is no roughing it at Savage River Lodge. Surrounded by 700 acres of state forest lands in Frostburg, the getaway features two-story luxury cabins and large round tents known as yurts, which are popular in the West Coast region.
“We have been set up for social distancing since we opened in 1999,” says Elizabeth Williams, marketing manager. “The yurts only accommodate two people so it is great for romantic getaways or just get out of town getaways, which is what we have been seeing a lot of this summer. It’s just a blend between having your own space and privacy while not having to trek too far away.”
But be prepared. There is cell service but no Wi-Fi or televisions. “It encourages people to unplug and disconnect from everything that is happening in the world,” Williams says.
With private accommodations including bathrooms with running water, guests don’t have to share elevators, hallways and other common areas like a hotel. “It is definitely proving to be a really great best of both worlds location,” she says.
If adventure is calling, the property hosts 14 miles of trails for hiking. “That is definitely a big plus,” Williams says. “There are recreation opportunities right out your front door.” Reservations are quite popular in the fall with peak foliage ranging from late September to mid-October. “(There are) nice sunny days great for long hikes,” Williams says. “Being in the woods when it is nice and crispy and seeing stars (is fun.) The weather is really conducive for outdoor recreation in the fall.”