BY ROSS D. LEVI| It’s hard not to feel a bit of a letdown over the end of summer, the season traditionally associated with vacationing and relaxation. In New York State, we are fortunate to have one of the most beautiful seasons of the year as a kind of coda to summer. Painters, poets, and songwriters have all tried to capture the magic of autumn in New York, and the cooling temperatures beckon travelers to experience the wonders of the state for themselves.
The first thing that comes to mind in connection with fall is foliage. New York not only has some of the most magnificent color anywhere in the world, but one of the nation’s longest foliage seasons. Nearly any weekend from mid-September through early November, somewhere in New York is experiencing peak color. Dedicated leaf peepers contribute to weekly foliage reports at iloveny.com to bring you the latest conditions.
To best appreciate the changing leaves, you can travel the traditional route of driving along country roads, while antiquing in charming towns and staying at cozy B&Bs or luxurious resorts. You might also consider checking out the foliage in a wholly new way this season by enjoying the spectacular color aboard a historic railroad in Central New York, zip-lining through the Catskills, strolling across the Walkway Over the Hudson, whooshing down a mountain coaster in the Chautauqua-Allegheny region, taking a glass-bottom boat tour in the Thousand Islands, or experiencing the whirlpools and churning whitewater of the Niagara gorge on a jet boat. Brilliant reds, golds, and oranges can be appreciated while sipping wine lakeside in the Finger Lakes or ocean- side on Long Island. A mountain gondola in the Adirondacks offers a bird’s eye view, and the Adirondack Balloon Festival has been rising against a dazzling mountain backdrop for 45 years.
The blazing color also gives a breathtaking backdrop to any outdoor activity. You can walk garden paths at grand historic homes like Olana, Lyndhurst Castle, and the Vanderbilt Mansion in the Hudson Valley. Some make a pilgrimage to visit the covered bridges of the Capital-Saratoga region. Others take to the water, whether cruising on the Erie Canal, joining a steamboat tour on Lake George, or kayaking on the Delaware or Battenkill Rivers. Residents and visitors enjoy walking among waterfalls at places like Ausable Chasm, Watkins Glen State Park, and Letchworth, known as the “Grand Canyon of the East.” Expansive sculpture gardens are extra beautiful, like the 425-acre Griffis Sculpture Park in Cattaraugus County. Nature walks on Long Island feature clouds of delicate monarch butterflies fluttering above the dunes.
Fall also means harvest time, and friendly family farms and harvest festivals bring a bounty of produce — much of which you can pick yourself — including apples and pumpkins. Orchards in places like the Capital-Saratoga region often feature special events… and don’t forget to pick up a bag of fresh, warm cider doughnuts! Central New York offers scenic craft breweries and cideries, like Brewery Ommegang and Fly Creek Cider Mill in the Cooperstown area. The Purple Foot Fest at Casa Larga Vineyard in the Finger Lakes is one of the largest grape-stomping festivals in the US, and the Garlic Festival in Saugerties has been rated a Top 10 American food event by USA Today.
For Halloween lovers, fall is like Christmas, so to speak. New York State is the only place to celebrate Halloween in the birthplace of the Headless Horseman. Adventures in the Sleepy Hollow area range from the awesome display of 7,000 glowing pumpkins of the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze to the scary Horseman’s Hallow walkthrough at Philipsburg Manor. Nearby, the Headless Horseman Haunted Hayride in Ulster is rated one of the best Halloween attractions in in the nation, and across the state, spectral sites can be found along New York’s Haunted History Trail.
So don’t let the wonders of autumn pass you by. Whether experiencing a romantic escape for two, weekend adventures with the family or a fun-filled friends getaway, this fall, fall in love with New York State.
Ross D. Levi is New York State’s executive director of tourism and coordinator of I LOVE NEW YORK LGBT. More information on planning a New York State getaway is available at iloveny.com/fall or iloveny.com/lgbt.