This fall weather? It’s the best. Warm, but not too hot. Cool, yet not overly cold. There’s such freedom in enjoying the sun without feeling punished by its heat, getting to wear jeans, and rolling down one’s sleeves for some easy protection against the cool breezes.
It’s clear that now’s the time to enjoy the outdoors, to head out for those hikes, walks and trips that got postponed during the brutal heat of the summer, but before the rains start to fall.
And so, we’ve gathered an array of outdoor activities and sites to visit over the next few weeks — and certainly doable during the warmer winter days as well — when you’re looking for some outdoor fun, and want to enjoy the fall sunshine.
1) It’s always great to hang out in Tel Aviv during the fall, when the humid heat has finally ended, and you can walk around without feeling profusely sweaty. There’s always something to see in the Big Orange: A lovely exhibit, which opened at the Eretz Israel Museum Thursday, called “Vision of Flight — The Early Years of Aviation, 1913-1948,” portrays the stories of aviation during the pre-statehood years (open through March 30, 2014).
And if you want to just toss a Frisbee around, head to Begin Park, also known as Park Darom (or South Park, like the TV show), located in south Tel Aviv. This almost-1,000-dunam park is the green lung of the southern end of the city, and features a petting zoo, sports fields, well-kept lawns, and a creek. In addition, there’s a lake where visitors can rent paddleboats and rowboats, as well as practice their skiing skills using the cable skis.
2) The autumn is high season for birds, and Yoav Perlman of the Israel Ornithology Center (IOC), part of the SPNI, or Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (BirdLife partner in Israel), has been out looking for the red-breasted flycatcher in a small grove in the Negev, a favorite site for the bird. He reported that there’s a “nice wave of them” going through the Negev right now; he loves their “classic silhouette with the tail pumped up and wings pointing down.”
For more tutored birdwatching, sign up for the Third Hula Bird Festival at Kfar Blum, where the full-week program includes exploring in the Hula Valley and tours of Agamon Park, the full-fledged birding site in the Galilee. Or just take a day off and head up to the national park; it’s for the birds.
3) If it’s fall, it must be hatzav — sea quill — season, when these towering white flowers bloom, often along highways and primarily in drier, more arid areas of the country. The term hatzav is translated as “carved,” possibly for the flower’s tendency to carve its way deep into the soil. It also has a stem that blossoms from bottom to top, with a different group of flowers blossoming each day, until the entire flower blooms from head to toe. The SPNI is reporting hatzav sightings on its website, seen on a running ticker, and you can add your own sighting or follow the ones previously reported (only in Hebrew).
Forget hunting for an annual fall flower, and plant some autumnal vegetables while the soil’s still open to growing. Late October is the perfect time to plant winter vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli. And lettuce, radishes, carrots and kohlrabi will grow nicely in the next few months. According to agronomist Tzipi Sloaner, it’s relatively easy to grow a full array of vegetables in a small garden or planters; the veggies just need to be in a spot that receives light at least six hours daily. Make sure to water the plants, even during the rainy winter period.
4) Fall is the time to head down to the Negev, when the natural beauty of the desert region is much easier to appreciate, now that it’s not 100+°F (approximately 38+°C) during the day. There’s a host of options for appreciating this still wide-open region, but one idea I’m pondering is bike-riding — after strapping the bikes onto the car and heading south with the family for some easy bike rides.
Yeruham Lake, a man-made lake in the hills of the northern Negev, has two, easy 4-kilometer trails for families: The red trail heads through the forest and then passes along the northern shores of the lake; the blue trail starts in the southern part of the forest and then loops over to the Yeruham Fortress, a Nabataean structure that was once used to protect the ancient road from Avdat.
5) Finally, you can stick closer to home and enjoy the weather on the curl-up-and-get-cozy level. Wait for night to fall, grab a blanket and curl up outside, whether on a balcony, in the yard or on the windowsill. Appreciate the crisp coolness of an autumn night; it’s even better if you have a warming drink in hand. Try this Pumpkin Old Fashioned, courtesy of Saveur Magazine; it’s perfect drinking for now through Thanksgivukkuh.
Pumpkin Old Fashioned (makes one cocktail)
- 2 tbsp. pumpkin puree
- 1½ oz. bourbon
- 1 oz. maple syrup
- ½ oz. Grand Marnier
- Dash orange bitters
- Orange peel twist, for garnish
Combine pumpkin puree, bourbon, syrup, Grand Marnier and bitters in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well and strain through a fine mesh strainer into a chilled, old-fashioned glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with orange twist.