MEA is back, officially.

Did I say MEA?

In case you missed it, earlier this year the Minnesota Education Association renamed its annual professional development conference scheduled the third Thursday and Friday in October. It will once again be known as the Minnesota Education Academy, or MEA.

No matter what you call it, it means two days off from school for students. In Hutchinson, the break starts today because students aren’t in session due to K through 12 conferences.

Do your plans call for travel? Some years, people head out of town for the MEA break. According to Sheila Elder, manager at Bursch Travel in Hutchinson, not so much this year.

“We’ve only had a few people inquire about MEA travel,” she said. “We are swamped with holiday inquiries. Everyone wants to travel those last two weeks of December.”

Where are people going? Mexico, Hawaii and Florida.

While bookings are still available, Bursch cautioned that by waiting until now to book a holiday trip, prices are higher and options are limited.

“Early booking is always advised for holiday travel,” Elder said. “Prices are available by mid-June.”

STAYING IN TOWN?

If your plans call for a staycation, here are 10 things to do:

1. Pick a peck of apples. It’s the season for making homemade apple pies, dipping caramel apples and cooking up all those good things that can be made from apples. Local orchards offer a range of apple varieties as well as activities including picking apples, pumpkins, live music, hayrides and more. To find a list of local orchards, visit minnesotagrown.com.

2. Bike the Luce Line State Trail. Enjoy the outdoors on this smooth asphalt ribbon as it meanders through Hutchinson, Silver Lake and Winsted. The trail is 63 miles and runs from Plymouth to Cedar Mills.

3. Discover a new ethnic culture. Make it a family activity to research a new culture online or through books. Explore it by dining at one of Hutchinson’s ethnic restaurants. Mexican, Japanese and Chinese cuisine is available locally.

4. Create a costume for Halloween. Ideas can be found in a multitude of places including local stores, online and in books and magazines. You can create your own or buy it. Costume trends for this year include Star Wars characters, superheroes and Minions.

5. Learn about country schools. The McLeod County Historical Society’s theme for this year is “History of the Country Schools of McLeod County.” Learn about country schools at the museum, 380 School Road N.W., Hutchinson. On display are country school artifacts, photographs and documents. View them from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday, Thursday and Friday, and from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturdays.

6. Visit Miller Woods. This 21-acre city park is one of the few remaining oak savanna transition zones in Minnesota. The park is north of the McLeod County Historical Museum along School Road Northwest in Hutchinson.

7. Experience Minnesota’s original prairie. A remnant can be found at Schaefer Prairie Preserve, a 160-acre Nature Conservancy site of the tallgrass prairie that once covered millions of acres in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa. The site is estimated to showcase about 275 plant species. From Hutchinson follow State Highway 15 South. Turn left on U.S. Highway 212 and follow to 7314 Nature Ave., Brownton.

8. Quack, quack. Watch the antics of waterfowl including ducks, geese and swans at the 25-acre Gopher Campfire Wildlife Sanctuary along the north bank of the Crow River between Riverside Jaycee Park and Masonic West River Park. Stop by to watch, feed or photograph the birds.

9. Take a Sculpture Stroll. Walk, bike or drive around town to enjoy Hutchinson’s growing collection of public art. For more information and to download a map, visit hutchinsonpublicarts.com/sculpture-stroll.

10. Who knew clothes could be called wearable art? Find out more at the South Central Artisans’ “Fall into Fashion” Wearable Art and Costume Show at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 17, at the Hutchinson Center for the Arts. Tickets are $12. For availability, call Betty Brandt at 320-587-9655.

For more events, see the A&E Calendar in the Leader print and online editions. What are your plans for MEA? Post them on the Leader Facebook page.