5 ways to experience New England fall at Yale

Yale loves fall. Certain images and traditions come to mind when we think about fall—leaves and hot drinks, apple picking and pumpkin carving, Halloween and Thanksgiving—and throughout October and November, the Yale community truly indulges in all the greatest fall hits. Growing up in the South, I didn’t really dedicate much time to thinking about fall until I got here, but after three years, Yale has me transformed: I am now an absolute sucker for the autumnal aesthetic. Here’s a few ways it touches campus each year. 

1. Foliage on campus

You know and love Yale’s Gothic architecture™, but in the fall, the beauty is dialed up to a whole nother level. It starts showing up in early October, pops of color breaking up the green of summer as the temperatures start to drop. Within a few weeks, it’s stereotypical New England, the leaves brilliant oranges and reds and yellows, tie-dying the trees and decorating the sidewalks like confetti. There are a few places you absolutely have to visit if you’re looking to site-see the foliage: your residential college courtyard, Hillhouse Avenue, Old Campus, and College Street right outside Phelps Gate, to name a few.

2. Apple picking with your residential college

If you see a school bus parked in downtown New Haven on a brisk weekend in New Haven, you might just be observing one of the most anticipated fall traditions at Yale: apple picking outings to Bishops Orchards, coordinated and paid for by our residential colleges. First year, my suitemates and I dressed in our cutest fall outfits and boarded those buses, excited to take part in one of the most quintessential fall activities. I don’t even think we ended up buying any actual apples, but we did get some nice apple cider and, more importantly, had an amazing time bonding with each other and relishing in the “fall”-ness of it all.

3. Fall fest

One of the main symbols of fall is a cornucopia, filled to the brim with food. At their annual Fall Fest, Yale Dining demonstrates that they understand this, intimately. On a special weekend morning in October, Yale Dining sets up stations upon stations of food on Old Campus. Fall favorites such as caramel apples and spiced hot chocolate sit alongside more season-neutral delights that can range from poke to bolognese to grilled cheese. The food is amazing, but what really adds to the atmosphere is the decoration: hay bales, pumpkins, baskets of apples. Last year, they even set up a display tractor for those who prefer a more farm-friendly fall aesthetic.

One of the special stations at Fall Fest: teas and juices!

4. Halloween

Among college students, Halloween might be most famous for its parties (Pierson Inferno, the ultimate Halloween party hosted by Pierson College, is an absolute staple). But I’d argue that at Yale, the parties are only one part of the picture. Stella, a fellow admissions blogger, has already written about the absolutely incredible YSO Halloween Show tradition. Residential colleges also like to put on their own Halloween celebrations. In a typical year, Silliman College runs a haunted house. My college, Jonathan Edwards, has a costume contest and a special Halloween-themed dinner. This year, even with social distancing, JE has helped its students celebrate through scary movie watch nights, pumpkin carving events, and desserts available for pickup throughout the week leading up to October 31st.

Even with COVID-19 restrictions, JE managed to put on some amazing Halloween events this year. 

5. Thanksgiving dinner

I guess Yale Dining really loves fall, because beyond Fall Fest, each year in the week before Thanksgiving break in November, they host an indulgent Thanksgiving dinner at each residential college dining hall. Think turkey, sides, pie, everything else you could possibly want. The warmth and buzz in the dining hall is truly unparalleled as you sit around tables to dive in with your college family, a massive warm-fuzzy Friendsgiving send-off before break.