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How to Know It's Autumn in Alabama: Seasonal Signs and Highlights

How to Know It's Autumn in Alabama: Seasonal Signs and Highlights

Posted at Thu, Sep 14, 2023 2:00 PM

How to Know it’s Autumn in Alabama

Well, it’s been quite a summer. But we’re sensing a change. 

It’s not in the temperature – not yet. We can’t expect reliably cooler weather here in Alabama for a few weeks yet. “Cooler” being a relative concept, of course. 

And it’s not by the calendar. Autumn arrives according to celestial cycles that come around at the same time, though not always the same date, every year. This year, fall makes its appearance on September 23 in the northern hemisphere. At 2:50 in the morning, so no, we are not getting up for that.

Maybe it’s when we find ourselves pulling the boxes of holiday decorations out of the garage or storage unit. Or when our favorite restaurants start featuring fall-themed meals. 

We think there’s also something else at work – something subtle but unmistakable. Tradition, maybe, and meaning and a state of mind. Ultimately, it’s about looking toward the future, even as the planet prepares for a rest period.

In some ways, then, it’s already here. In others, it’s still sneaking up on us. Here are some signs that let us know where we are in the grand scheme of things.

Pumpkin Spice

The annual pumpkin spice invasion:

Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latte – PSL, for those in the know – dropped on August 24, so by that measure, it is already autumn. Dunkin’, Krispy Kreme and every other caffeine and breakfast-treat purveyor also happily joins in our national obsession.

But why stop there? Check out these other available pumpkin spice wonders: English muffins, doughnuts, Jell-O, marshmallows, M&Ms, coffee creamer, muffins and muffin mixes, pumpkin spice cheesecake cookies, ice cream, Twinkies, bagels, oatmeal, air fresheners and scented oils, hand soaps, body butter, cookie dough, coffee pods…

<pause for breath>

… cereal, yogurt, jellybeans, cream cheese spread, cocoa mix, empanadas, cold brew coffee, popcorn seasoning, beard oil, lip balm, doggie dental treats, deodorant and beer.

About the beer: it’s not some newfangled fad. English colonists in North America began brewing gourd ale – and pumpkin is a gourd, after all – as soon as they got off the boat. Starches and sugars in pumpkin are perfect for fermentation. The American Philosophical Society published the first pumpkin beer recipe in 1771. Cheers.

One more thing: the smell of pumpkin pie is considered an aphrodisiac. And it’s cheaper than oysters and champagne. You’re welcome. 

Football Season

Are you ready for some football?

Yes! Yes, we are and we’re gonna be glued to it every weekend until February 22, 2024 (that’s the date of the next Super Bowl, folks, but you probably know that and have your party plans in place).

Pre-season games have already started and we are ready for the regular NFL season that begins September 7. Pro games. College games. We don’t care. If it’s on TV – or within driving distance – we’re watching it. Give us some team gear and snacks and we’ll be happy campers.

And remember, if you want to go online and taunt your friends whose gridiron warriors failed miserably over the weekend, it’s lose, not loose – spelling counts when you’re delicately reminding people their team got whomped.

Get in the car – we’re going shopping!

The advent of autumn brings out an array of awesome retail opportunities.

Things that go boo:

That empty strip-mall storefront is now a chain-rattling Halloween retail emporium. It’s scary how much money you could spend in a place like this on the necessary interior and yard décor – don’t forget the animatronics or the zombie flamingos! – plus costumes and accessories for yourself and the kids. Matching outfits – why not! Gotta look good for social media. You can even get Fido into the spirit of things. Fluffy, alas, is less appreciative of the holiday’s dress-up possibilities. 

The big-box stores put the spooky stuff on the shelves as soon as back-to-school is over, so if you shop here, be quick about it. Snooze, you lose.

Get your cold-weather gear:

Speaking of wardrobe changes, you may also need a new coat for Florida’s whole entire week of terrible winter. Why, the temperature is going to dip below 70! The horror. Fido needs a sweater because he’s a Floridian, too. Besides, you made him wear that silly costume for Halloween. You owe him. 

The rest of the time, figure on the weather being cool in the morning, toasty by midday and cool again as the sun heads toward the horizon. The solution to staying comfortable all day is layering – which seems like a great idea until you realize it just creates more laundry.

Jingle... nope!

Who turned on the Christmas music? And how can you shop for holiday presents and decorations when it’s still 90 degrees outside and we’re scouting deals on Halloween candy?

Pace yourself. Resist the urge to pa-rum-pum-pum-pum along with the vile noise emanating from the store’s speaker system. And remember: the Christmas stuff will be half price on December 26, and you won’t have to contend with the tunes.

Hiking Boots

Oh, are those new shoes?

A change of season requires a change of footwear. We Central Floridians hang onto our flip-flops and sandals as long as possible but eventually we put on actual shoes – with closed toes – to go outside. Some holdouts sport socks with sandals or Crocs year-round. Eh, we all have our own way of dealing with things.

When the weather cools a bit and the mosquitos go away, we can lace up our brand-new hiking boots – which our shopping buddy insisted we buy because you just need them! Buy the darn things! – and venture out onto trails that provide sights found nowhere else. Some of our favorites include:

  • Lakepoint State Park Loop: An easy 2.6-mile look that’s family-friendly and offers great views of the Walter F. George Reservoir on the boundary between Alabama and Georgia.
  • Pine Beach Trail: A 3.6-mile out-and-back route on the southern coast near Gulf Shores. The trail is flat but does take you through sand and over dunes.
  • Walls of Jerico Trail: This strenuous 6.6-mile hike is definitely not for beginners, but the payoff is spectacular, including an impressive canyon with a waterfall and an underground cavern.
  • Clarkson Covered Bridge: A charming (restored) covered bridge is the focus of this family-friendly area that’s also a great place to see fall colors.

Let the leaves fall where they may:

How the heck do your neighbor’s leaves always end up in your yard? We find the situation a bit sus, as the kids say. But we have a solution: fire up the leaf blower at 7 on a Saturday morning. Problem solved!

Sure, it’s fun to annoy your neighbors, but you know what’s even more enjoyable? Driving to a place to see – yes – fall foliage in all its wonderful, vivid, multi-hued glory. Don ‘t blame us – it’s tradition.

In Alabama, fall colors usually peak during late October and early November. The highlands of north ‘Bama are ablaze with yellow poplar, scarlet dogwood, orange maples and golden hickories. Enjoy the spectacle on some of these great scenic drives:

  • Appalachian Highlands Scenic Byway: Situated in the state’s northeast, this drive cuts through some of the most scenic areas of the region.
  • Lookout Mountain Parkway: The foliage along this 93-mile byway has to share the spotlight with stunning lakes, rivers, gorges and waterfalls.
  • Natchez Trace Parkway: Maple, hickory, oak and other hardwood start changing color in mid to late October, offering some of the best leaf peeping in the region. Stick with Alabama or head up into Tennessee for views from the many overlooks along the drive.

Hallmark Channel

Those Hallmark Christmas movies are on. Again.

Sure, these flicks all share one highly predictable, highly improbable plot: She’s a princess, figuratively speaking, who slinks back to her hometown for some reason. Prince Charming is either Mr. Meet-Cute or Mr. It’s-No-Surprise-Why-You’re-Still-Single. Everybody is thin and good-looking, and the couple ends up together in the end – surprise, right?

But many people swoon over these celluloid caprices. If you find yourself trapped into watching one, try not to snore too loudly and at least wake up for the ending.

So are we in the midst of autumn or still preparing? Your call. One thing is for sure – dig out a sweater, just in case, and grab a pumpkin spice latte. Summer can’t last forever… can it?

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