A covered bridge framed by mountainsides awash in brilliant crimsons, oranges and yellows, bushel baskets of apples, fields of plump pumpkins and corn mazes carved into the hillsides. ... Many of the most iconic images of autumn in America seem to have come straight out of New York state.
Autumn in the Empire State is more than a visual treat. It is also a season of celebration. The Old English words for harvest (hærfest) and autumn were the same, and anyone traveling through New York during the season quickly understands the connection. Roadside farm stands, a plethora of farmer's markets, wine trails and festivals celebrating the harvesting of products from apples to zucchini make this a fun and delicious time to explore the state.
It makes sense that harvest season would be cause for celebration in New York. Nearly one fourth of the state's total land area is used as farmland and ranks among the nation's biggest producers of agricultural products, including dairy, fruits, berries, maple syrup and a variety of vegetables such as sweet corn and pumpkins. New York also ranks third in grape and wine production. Best of all, New York food is about quality, not just quantity. The Empire State ranks among the top states for fine wines and organic farming, and a growing number of highly skilled cheese makers are creating quality, artisanal cheeses here.
What follows is a sampling of the iconic autumn experiences that beckon across the state.
Follow the Foliage. I Love New York's weekly foliage reports begin Sept. 11 and are updated weekly through early November at iloveny.com/fall. The site provides a detailed update of foliage conditions across New York, including a map charting fall color progress, vantage points for viewing foliage, suggested autumn getaways and event listings. One may also hear highlights of the foliage report by dialing 1-800-CALL-NYS.
Some of the best vantage points are from the chairlifts at ski resorts such as Peak 'n Peak in Clymer in the Chautauqua-Allegheny region, especially on Oct. 12-13 and 19-20, when juried crafters and kids' activities add to the fun, and at Hunter Mountain in Palenville in the Catskills, Oct. 5-6 and 12-13 when Oktoberfest brings the region's German heritage to life with old world music and foods.
Get on the Wagon. Nothing says fall fun more than an old-fashioned horse-drawn or tractor-pulled hayride. At Pumpkinville in Great Valley, in the Chautauqua-Allegheny region, hayrides delight kids as they venture across the farm, through the woods and into the horse pasture. The 25th annual Goold Orchards Apple Festival in Castleton, in the Capital-Saratoga region Oct. 12-13, offers horse-drawn wagon rides along with apple and pumpkin picking. There will also be performances by The Hill Country Cloggers as well as wine tastings, a climbing wall and a haunted house.
Pick your Pumpkin. Pumpkins aren't just for carving. Pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin bagels and even pumpkin-spiced cocktails are all the rage, and picking pumpkins has never been so entertaining. At Hanks Pumpkintown on Long Island, kids can pluck pumpkins from the vine, apples from the trees, and enjoy a six-acre maze park, wagon rides and face painting. The Pick'n Patch in Stanley, located in the Finger Lakes region, thrills kids with its huge corn maze, farm animals and kiddie train rides. The Great Pumpkin Farm located in Clarence, in the Greater Niagara region, comes alive with pumpkin decorating, scarecrow making and pie-eating contests, as well as kids' crafts, jesters and a plethora of entertainment on fall weekends. And at the Great Pumpkin Festival in Oswego, on Oct. 5-6, the Thousand Islands-Seaway region celebrates its role as an international weigh-in site with music, scarecrow building, pumpkin carving lessons, ghost stories and other farm-related fun.
Shoot that Apple. Apple growers have also gotten into the entertainment business. In the Hudson Valley, at the centuries-old Hurds Family Farm in Modena, apple and pumpkin-picking visitors can launch apples from a cannon, sip hot cider by a bonfire, feed farm pets and explore a four-acre maze, while the popular Warwick Applefest, Oct. 6, features an apple-pie baking contest, farmers market and live music. Want to be an apple expert? In the Finger Lakes, the annual Wayne County Apple Tasting Tour, Oct. 11-14, turns visitors into connoisseurs as they learn to identify apple varieties by taste, texture and scent, while the LaFayette Apple Festival, Oct. 12-13, celebrates the harvest with apple-related games and foods. Central New York's, CiderFest, Oct. 12-13 at the Fly Creek Cider Mill & Orchard (three miles from Cooperstown), invites visitors to taste sweet cider made on the mill's 1889 water-powered cider press.
Get Lost. Mazes can be toddler-simple or so complex they practically require guides. In the Capital-Saratoga region, a "passport" trivia game provides hints to help navigate the twists and turns of the 11-acre maze at Liberty Ridge Farm in Schaghticoke, and the 22-acre Corn Maze at Kettle Farms in Hoosick Falls is among the largest on the East Coast. In the Finger Lakes, the five-acre Amazing Maize Maze at Long Acre Farms in Macedon will feature a rainforest theme this year, with two and a half miles of paths, bridges, and a tower to venture through along with hidden mailboxes and clues. Lastly, the Adirondacks' Tucker Farms in Gabriels has a creative 10-acre maze along with pick-your-own potato, pumpkin, berries and vegetable fields.
Wine and Dine Harvest Celebrations. The grape harvest and release of the new wines is cause for celebration by lovers of great food and wine as well as vintners. Among this year's top celebrations are the Finger Lakes Cork & Fork, Sept. 20-21 at Rodman Lott & Son Farms in Seneca Falls; the Hudson Valley Wine and Food Fest, Sept. 7-8 at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds in Rhinebeck; and the September Saratoga Wine and Food Festival, held Sept. 6-8 at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. On Long Island, all things oyster will be celebrated at the annual waterfront Oyster Festival Oct. 19-20 in Oyster Bay.
Frightful Sightings. Haunted houses, headless horseman re-enactments and zombie sightings are among the frightful ways to celebrate Halloween in New York. In the Hudson Valley, home to Washington Irving's terrifying Headless Horseman, goose bumps are guaranteed during an evening hayride through the woods of the Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted House starting in Ulster Park. And in Long Island, Bayville Scream Park and Gateway's Haunted Playhouse in Bellport offer terrifying encounters for mature thrill seekers with milder options for young kids.
A Toe-Tapping Fall. The brilliant colors of autumn create a beautiful backdrop for music festivals - often flavored with regional foods and drinks. For example, each Sunday from Labor Day to Columbus Day, the Harvest Festival at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts (the site of the original 1969 Woodstock Festival) in the Catskills, is a series of themed events with live music, crafts and a farmers market. Hague Oktoberfest, Sept. 20-22 in Hague, brings polka music, kids' activities and a beer and wine tent to this Adirondack town while the Finger Lakes, celebrates with the 17th annual Jazz & Harvest Festival, Sept. 20 in Corning's Gaffer District, and offers the chance to sample local wines and craft beers while enjoying live jazz and blues performances.
And More. Want to try something new? In the Adirondacks, you can paint a cream cheese mural or compete in a wacky cream cheese toss at the annual Cream Cheese Festival, Sept. 21 in Lowville, home of Kraft Foods' and the world's largest cream cheese manufacturing plant. Gather around for herding and sheep shearing demonstrations at the Southern Adirondack Fiber Festival, Oct. 5-6, in Greenwich, or learn to play Native American and Colonial games at The Crailo State Historic Site Harvest Fair, Sept. 14, in Rensselaer, an old-fashioned agricultural festival harkening back to the colonial era that's part of the Hudson River Ramble series of September weekend events.
About New York State http://fallgetaways.iloveny.com/
New York features 11 beautiful vacation regions. New York's attractions span from landmarks such as Niagara Falls, to the wine trails of Hudson Valley and treasures such as the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Whether it's wide-ranging outdoor activities for the whole family such as fishing, hiking and boating, culinary wonders and farm-to-table fresh foods, or the rich history and culture of one of the 13 original colonies, New York offers diverse activities for all travelers. For more information, visit http://www.iloveny.com.