Updated: Nov 22
Leaves and Apples And Wine, Oh My!
A GUIDE TO PLANNING YOUR AUTUMN LEAF-PEEPING TRIP IN NEW YORK STATE
In Northern USA, autumn is a time for some Northerners to close their summer residences to snowbird in warmer climates. As they're leaving town, they pass by others who are headed north to enjoy the magnificent visual feast the leaves offer. Read on to know what to know before you go (and plan).
1. Where to go in New York State: Frankly, anywhere! Each region peaks at different times, so you can enjoy fall foliage all through September, October and into November, sometimes even December.
New York City (a few suggestions): Alley Pond Park (Queens), Morningside Park (Manhattan), Prospect Park (Brooklyn), Van Cortlandt Park (Bronx) North Mount Loretto State Forest (Staten Island) and of course, Central Park.
Head east to Long Island to the state parks (here are a few): Hempstead Lake, Belmont Lake, Bethpage, Planting Fields Arboretum, Caumsett, Cold Spring Harbor, Heckscher, Hallock Preserve, Montauk Point, Orient Beach.
Upstate New York (these areas are upstate to those who live in New York City and Long Island): Hudson Valley Region, Finger Lakes Region, the Catskills Region and the Thousand Islands Region will get you started leaf peeping as well as exploring the wine trails and picking apples.
2. When to go: Brilliant fall colors are dependent on various climate factors during the summer. Late August and early September give good indicators when foliage will reach peak colors and how vibrant the leaves will be. Cool summer weather might lead to less than fantastic colors. Hot wet summers, a gradual cooling September and later frosts might yield great color. A rainy windy and cold September might knock the leaves off sooner without them giving their full potential of color. Use a weather website and fall foliage maps to help you plan. Leaves change color and reach peak anytime from mid-September to late October.
3. What else to do: After sightseeing, enjoy the areas where the leaves are: farms, orchards, wineries, antique shops. Follow the signs for wine trails and you could stay for entire weekend. Activities at local farms include "u-pick-ur" own produce (pick your own), with hay rides, mazes, pumpkin patches, face painting, booths, homemade jam, cider and baked goods, hot corn and baked potatoes (see below).
In the NYC Metro area:
~Lewin Farms in Calverton, Long Island is a huge operation. With over 1100 acres, it seems to dominate the LI scene but there are other farms. From May to October, you can pick berries, peaches, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, pumpkins and of course, apples. Because of the variety of produce, they have several locations, with the apple orchard in a different location than the farmstand. For the apples, they charge by the pound (whatever you can carry). You can bring your own bags and they sell the old fashioned wooden baskets.
~Nearby is Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard, a fun filled vineyard (check the website for live music) complete with horse rides. Combine Lewin and Baiting Hollow (with the nearby Tanger Outlets in Riverhead) and you have a day trip guaranteed to please all ages in the family.
~Other farms and vineyards in the area (and they will let you know by the homemade signs along the way) are listed on longisland.com.
Instead of east, with NYC as a center point, one can head north. Tourists are surprised to learn that New York is a top agricultural producer, one of the top five states in the country. Just one hour out of NYC and you'll be in farm country (you see the Catskill Mountains looming ahead of you on I-87).
~Masker Orchards, in Warwick, NY, just barely over 100 years old, seems to have perfected the quintessential day in the "country." You can picnic within the orchard. There are "parking lots" but some areas of the orchard are wide enough for cars to park within the rows of the trees themselves. They charge a flat rate per bag picked (they provide the bags). On the bag itself is a map of the orchards (it helps to know your species of apples).
In the Family Fun Area was a full scale "festival:" country store, pony rides, haunted house, apple maze, face painting, pizza, apple pies, pumpkins, and, hallelujah, rest rooms. By the way, be prepared to have your car checked for bootleg apples. They mean what they say about paying on your way out. No honor system here.
~Dubois Farms in Highland, NY (Hudson Valley area) offers more than apple picking. Get ready for juicy grapes, sweet pears, other vegetables and a pumpkin or two to fill your wagon (available for rent). Since you weigh out in the barn, there is no checking of cars as you exit. Just show your receipt at the gate to the parking lot and you will be free to go.
In between, stock up on the usual orchard fare: apple cider donuts, apple cider, barbecue snacks, even hard cider. When the kids get restless, they can romp in the play area of little houses, take a pony ride or simply run around in the field. Picking grapes, the huge variety of apples and the ample parking make this orchard a favorite.
Warwick Winery and Distillery is a fine example of a combo winery, distillery, apple orchard, farm stand, cafe, wine tasting, food truck and garden. Bring a blanket or chair and plan to stay all day. You absolutely will want to: music, places for kids to run around and enough apple orchards to last through the season.
~Further up Route 17 or I-87, depending on how fast you want to get there, are several farms in New Paltz. The benefit of these farms is the proximity to several vineyards, Minnewaska State Park and the charming town of New Paltz itself, with its funky college vibe and historical French Huguenot houses.
NYC Traveler Tip: In every region, be prepared for the traffic. Between the outlets, vineyards, farms and every day life on the week-ends (school football games, etc), my suggestion is to be at the farm by 10AM. When you are ready to leave around 12 noon, you will see the crowd heading in and you'll be glad you got there early.
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