While we’re huge advocates of leisurely strolls around Prospect Park and Central Park during peak foliage season, sometimes we’re aching to escape the city for an up-close-and-personal perspective of autumn’s offerings. When our staff has had their fill of farmers’ market doughnuts and football-viewing parties, we throw on our flannels and flee upstate. For days filled with apple picking, wandering through outlandish gourd displays, getting lost in maize mazes, and admiring gigantic works of art, read on!
Jess Bender’s Quintessential Beacon Day
If you thought Central Park was the best place to walk about during peak foliage season, you haven’t experienced the fiery reds and yellows that take over the quaint Hudson Valley town of Beacon.
Start your day the way most New Yorkers would: with carbs. Beacon Bread Company specializes in all kinds of baked masterpieces—brioche! sticky buns! caraway rye loaves!—made to nibble on the go. If you prefer a more leisurely start to your day, go for the challah French toast with a side of Cheddar-y grits.
Once you’re nice and full, drive 20 minutes to Storm King Art Center, where you can burn off breakfast roaming through the lush 500-plus acres. The dramatic landscape here is a stark contrast to the urban parks we know and love, so you’ll spend more time than predicted admiring the rolling meadows, native grasses, and stunning Schunnemunk Mountain ahead. You didn’t come here strictly for nature, though; this is a sculpture park, after all. Along with large-scale permanent installations, two pop-up exhibitions from artists Heather Hart and David Smith will be around for the exploring.
After a long afternoon quadrupling your step count for the day, rest your weary legs at Dogwood. The low-key watering hole has a robust draft list (16 at any given time), which makes for a perfect pairing for its reiteration of the classic Canadian poutine and chicken pot pie. Live music and open-mike nights are also prime opportunities to befriend some of the locals before you hop back in the car (or Metro-North).
Jess is What Should We Do?!’s food expert and editor.
Kristen Cavalieri’s Hudson Valley Romp
My favorite part of fall is heading up the Hudson and partaking in the natural beauty of New York State that doesn’t really exist in the Big Apple. I first fell in love with the area eight years ago when I came up with my (now) fiancé to pay a visit to the historic Lyndhurst Mansion. The sprawling lawn there is the perfect place to gaze at the blazing foliage.
From there, drive just 20 minutes up the Hudson River to Van Cortlandt Manor. In the summer, the manor is filled with visitors looking to learn more about the 18th-century riverside estate, but after dusk from the last weekend in September through Thanksgiving, it transforms into the most spectacular Halloween attraction of all: the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze. More than 7,000 intricately carved pumpkins tell a story as you meander through the dimly lit pathways. Setting the scene with a soundtrack of bubbles, one section submerges you in an underwater escape, where the pumpkins are carved into fish and larger sea creatures. As you stroll deeper through the grounds, you’ll find classic All Hallows’ Eve ’scapes with spiders and witches, animals, planets, and many other settings that change from year to year. I’m most excited for the newest attraction: a fully functioning Pumpkin Carousel.
After the Jack O’ Lantern extravaganza, we usually mosey over to Umami Cafe. It offers an eclectic menu featuring plates from Mexico and Japan, and many places in between. I love to indulge a little bit with the truffled mac and cheese, then continue the noodle feast with a yaki udon bowl.
Kristen is one of What Should We Do?!’s experience advisers.
Patty Onderko’s North Salem Excursion
My family and I head to Outhouse Orchards every year for our apple- and berry-picking fix. Though my wife and I always question the unappetizing name choice for this gorgeous farm and orchard, our twin boys seem to think the logo (of, sure enough, an outdoor latrine) is worth the hour-long drive alone. You can get all your fall staples here: fruit picking, hay-stack climbing, leaf peeping, pumpkin patching, and more. The best part for us, though, is the corn maze, the most difficult one we’ve tried in the tristate area. We send our kids in, sit in the sun eating apples, and wait for them to emerge. It’s probably the single best hour of the entire season for all of us: Kids have a crazy good time getting lost and finding clues while the parents get to relax. Win-win!
If we’re there on a Saturday, we drive less than 10 minutes to the Hammond Museum and Japanese Stroll Garden for some Eastern art and a divine little walk through the peaceful landscape. On select Saturdays, it hosts traditional tea ceremony workshops. Our boys don’t have the patience yet for these two-hour sessions, but I’d love to go back on my own to try it out.
Depending on our timing, we always go to Purdy’s Farmer & the Fish for lunch or dinner. The restaurant grows all its fruits and veggies on its own farm, so everything is seasonal and fresh and served in a beautifully rustic 18th-century farmhouse. One of the co-owners, Edward Taylor, also owns Down East Seafood, so the raw bar here is both expansive and excellent. My wife and I usually order a dozen oysters and the fish tacos; our sons get the clam chowder and the fish-and-chips. On the drive home, we dig into the candied apples and honey sticks we picked up at the Outhouse shop.
Patty is What Should We Do?!’s executive editor.
Stephanie Ogozalek’s Seasonal Sojourn
Fall doesn’t officially start until I pack up the brood and head to the orchard. Our first stop is always Apple Hill Farm in New Paltz. There are lots of orchards to choose from in the area, but this remains our favorite because it doesn’t partake in agritainment; you won’t find bouncy castles, pig races, or massive crowds anywhere on the premises. Instead, you’re simply surrounded by dozens of apple varieties (and sometimes a pear or two) to pick straight from the trees. While you can walk up the hilltop, a hayride pulled by a vintage fire truck is the way to go, especially if you have kids. The Catskill Mountains in the distance make for gorgeous vistas (and photos). Before you leave, stop by the farm market to stock up on local cider, farm-made apple butter, pies, and cider doughnuts (which usually don’t last the car trip back to the city). Be sure to bring your camera to pose for photos on yet another vintage fire truck; this one is permanently parked at the foot of the hill and decorated for the season with bales of hay and bright orange pumpkins.
We usually pack a picnic lunch to enjoy at the farm (with the aforementioned cider and doughnuts). When we don’t, though, we head to downtown New Paltz for lunch at Gilded Otter. My 12-year-old loves the chicken “paws,” while I’m a big fan of the sweet and savory pear and Gorgonzola pizza.
After lunch, we take a walk through downtown New Paltz or stroll along historic Hugenot Street. For a more adventurous outing, hike one of the 75 miles of trails and groomed carriage roads at the Mohonk Preserve, take in some of the cliffside trails at the rugged Minnewaska State Park (stop to watch the rock climbers as they scramble up the cliffs of the Shawangunks), or stroll across the elevated “Walkway Over the Hudson” for some breathtaking views. All three walks are a short trip from downtown.
We cap off the day with a visit to Sprout Creek Farm for one-on-one time with its adorable goats and a chance to sample some of the farm’s award-winning cow’s milk cheeses and limited-edition chevres.
Stephanie is What Should We Do?!’s director of content and planning.