Spring may be the season that people associate with new life, but in New York State, fall is when the world seems to really come alive. From colorful foliage (which has been the backdrop of countless movies, television shows, paintings, and post cards, not to mention a classic Frank Sinatra song) to apple orchards and family-friendly festivals, there are so many ways to experience the changing of the seasons that don’t have anything do to with Manhattan and Brooklyn’s bustling social scene.
First Things First: How To Leave The City
Of course, you can just load your family into your car and drive upstate, but for families who rely on subways and Lyft drivers to get them around town, you’ll need to get creative about transportation. You could rent a car, and you would be rewarded with beautiful views from scenic drives on byways like Mohawk Towpath Byway and Lakes to Locks Passage, it may be your most expensive option for getting out of the city. An easier way to get upstate is by taking an Amtrak train, because you don’t have to worry about rental car fees and downloading directions to your phone. Plus, if you book early enough, you can usually get a pretty good rate for a round trip ticket. Amtrack also offers special travel packages that double as historical trips, like their Women of Influence package which takes riders on a journey through the story of New York State’s pioneer feminists and includes guided tours of Harriet Tubman’s home and Susan B. Anthony’s home, or their Legendary Erie Canal package, which includes visits to National Historic Parks and guided tours up the canal. For more information on Amtrak’s special offers in New York, visit newyorkbyrail.com.
Apple Orchards And Pumpkin Patches
New York is known as the Big Apple for a reason—it’s the second largest apple growing state in the country, and harvests over 30 million bushels of apples per year! There are 55,000 acres of orchard to explore in New York State, each with their own distinct flare and local influence. Kids will love roaming the apple orchards and picking their own apples, and there are plenty of activities for families besides apple picking, including farm markets, pumpkin patches, harvest festivals, and deliciously fresh autumn treats like apple cider and apple cider donuts. Pro tip: call ahead and make sure that your apple orchard of choice is open. Sometimes weather or other factors can cause an orchard to close or open later, which may be important to know if you are making a day trip. Orchards and farms are fun to visit all throughout fall, but they are especially enjoyable around Halloween, where some farmers fully embrace the holiday by hosting events, hay rides, corn mazes, and other fun activities for families.
Traveling Through Time
New York prides itself on its rich, cultural history, and you can experience it all upstate. The state’s well known Path Through History campaign (known by NYC dwellers thanks to its abundance of television commercials and subway ads) provides various resources to families looking to learn a little bit more about their home state. On their website, you can choose what attractions your family should visit based on theme, like sports history, Native American history, women’s rights history, and more, which is an easy and convenient travel planning tool. They also will be hosting a Path Through History Weekend on October 7-8, where families can enjoy visiting any of the hundreds of events happening at cultural destinations throughout the state, including Laser Tag: FBI vs. Mobsters at Pine Plains, Stone Fort Days at The Old Stone Fort Museum (where families can see Revolutionary War reenactments), and a guided tour of Mill Neck Manor during their popular Apple Festival. Visiting any of the state’s countless museums, forts, military landmarks, famous homes, and historical sites is a great way to slip some education into your trip in a way that is fun and exciting for kids.
Get In Touch With Nature
Getting outside is one of the best ways to appreciate autumn, and there is no place to stretch your legs and take in some fall foliage quite like New York State. Once you break out of the concrete jungle, there are miles and miles of multicolored trees and timeless charm. For a more quintessential autumn in New York experience, head to the Niagra Falls State Park Observation Tower for unparalleled views of the falls, cruise Lake Erie on the Miss Buffalo, or wander through Chittenango Falls State Park. For some more action-packed, kid-friendly adventures, families can enjoy Hunter Mountain’s Zipline Adventure Tour, North America’s longest and highest zipline tour, visit one of the state’s many farms to pet some animals and experience life on the farm, skim over the treetops on the Scenic Northwoods Gondola, or explore the foliage from the Catskill Mountain Railroad. Whether you opt for a more laid back approach to experiencing New York’s nature scene or a high-energy adventure, there is no wrong way to celebrate fall here.
Fun Family Festivals
New York doesn’t just rely on its natural beauty to celebrate the season—there are also family-friendly festivals happening all over the state throughout the fall. Mill Neck Manor’s ever popular Fall Harvest Festival (October 12-13) draws tens of thousands of visitors and is a great place for families to enjoy ripe apples, handmade country crafts, children’s activities, a Cheese House, face painting, and a pumpkin patch. Lake George’s Oktoberfest has something for everyone, including nonstop German and polka music, traditional dancers, an Adirondack Brewery Beer Garden, keg tossing, local wine, dancing chickens, carnival rides, pony rides, and more. Another fall festival of note is the Warwick Applefest, an autumnal apple festival where visiting families can enjoy over 200 craft vendors, music and entertainment all day, a children’s carnival, a farmers’ market, an apple pie baking contest, and more. But New York’s fall festivals don’t have to just revolve around apples and beer. The New York State Sheep & Wool Festival may not technically be a harvest festival, but your kids will love spending the fall snuggling up to some friendly sheep! Located in Rhinebeck, there are countless things for families to see and do, including book signings, art shows, sheep, goat, and llama shows, demonstrations, fleece sales, and activities for kids including a leaping llama contest, a mad science show, a canine frisbee demonstration, a llama parade, and more.
Fun For Adults
Now that we’ve covered every aspect of family fun, it’s about time we talked about “adults only” fun. There are plenty of ways for parents to enjoy some time away from their kids this fall, from romantic wine trails in Central New York to group brewery tours and Oktoberfests throughout the state. Stop by Saranac Brewery in Utica for tours and tastings of some of their delicious seasonal brews, or visit the Adirondack Distilling Company for a first hand look at how vodka, bourbon, and gin are made. The over 21 set can also indulge in local wines at any of Seneca Lake’s 35 wineries. For an even more scenic wine crawl, visit the Cayuga Wine Trails, a stretch of wineries in the heart of the Finger Lakes that offer award-wining wines, scenic waterfalls and autumnal views, and countless local restaurants, attractions, museums, and other activities to keep you busy all weekend long. Festival-lovers will love spending the day at Adirondack Brewery’s 12th Annual Oktoberfest, a 21 and over German-style beer festival on Lake George that boasts such attractions as nonstop Polka music, an Adirondack Brewery Beer Garden, keg tossing, stein hoisting, costume contests, endless beer sampling, local wines and craft ciders, and more.