Fall, with all of its pumpkin latte fanatics and throngs of apple pickers, can be a polarizing time of year. I would never touch one of those Starbucks lattes, but I do love pumpkin ale, a flavor that makes many a beer drinker shiver in horror. I also like apple picking in theory, but never enjoy it in practice, as I reminded myself this weekend when I saw the lines at Wilkens Fruit and Fir Farm and flat out aborted my mission. (The SNL skit mocking the phenomenon got it right: “Maybe just stay home!”)
But between the leaf-peeping, cider drinking and Halloween-y fun, there is still a lot to love about these fleeting weeks of fall, and to help you celebrate the things you enjoy most about the season, here are 18 peak fall experiences, whether you want to stay local or brave the children of the corn mazes, apple orchards and pumpkin patches.
1. Read the odes to the season, out loud.
No matter how many times you’ve read Colin Nissan’s famous odes to fall, ‘It’s Decorative Gourd Season’ and ‘Corn Maze F.A.Q,’ I promise you will laugh just as hard as you did the first time if you recite these aloud with loved ones to mark the season.
2. See a scary movie.
There is no shortage of horror films to scare the bejesus out of you this month, between the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival Oct. 17-24, and BAM’s NYC Horror series that kicks off on Halloween, featuring scary movies set in New York City. Syndicated is cycling through recent horror flicks like Midsommar all the way back to cult classics like Halloween throughout October, and if you prefer to scare yourself silly at home, you could binge the Netflix series Marianne or finally work up the courage to see Us.
3. Celebrate 200 years of the Headless Horseman.
A 200th anniversary celebration of Washington Irving’s most famous tales, including “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” is underway this year and next, and you can bet that Sleepy Hollow, NY and Irving’s nearby hometown of Irvington are having a field day with Headless Horseman commemorations. In addition to a regular slate of Halloween programming like The Great Jack ‘o’ Lantern Blaze, whose tickets for choice dates sell out in August, there are Ichabod Crane-inspired readings, films and immersive experiences running throughout the month. See them all on the Historic Hudson Valley site.
4. Go apple picking. (If you must.)
Westchester Magazine has rounded up some of the best orchards for apple picking. Just be prepared to wait on line and pay through the nose for apples you can find at the farmer’s market.
5. Or just drink cider.
Why bother going apple picking upstate when you can go cider tasting instead? Both Bad Seed Cider in Crown Heights and Brooklyn Cider House in Bushwick have upstate farm bars; Bad Seed’s outdoor cidery in Highland, NY is open through October, while Brooklyn Cider House keeps its orchard bar in New Paltz—complete with apple picking and wood-fired pizzas—open through November.
6. Tap a Pumpkin Keg.
Despite the fact that I don’t really like Southern Tier’s Pumpking ale (I like a less perfumed, less potent pumpkin ale, like Montauk’s), tapping a pumpkin just screams ‘Instagram photo opp,’ and you can do it at Loreley Beer Garden all month long. Just RSVP on Resy to guarantee space inside, and with any luck, you’ll get a seat outdoors in their heated beer garden.
7. Take a hike upstate.
Though it’s easy to take the train to Peekskill and head to Blue Mountain Reservation or Cold Spring and call a car (845-797-8713) to the popular, true-to-its-name Breakneck Ridge, Harriman State Park offers a lot of beautiful hikes a relatively short drive away from New York (and unlike Minnewaska, which charges a $15 day use fee, you don’t have to pay to park here). I recently did a version of the Silver Mine Lake loop, a three-hour, 4.5 mile hike, with two families with kids ranging from 7 to 11. It’s a rolling, up and down hike through the woods, only instead of turning left on Silver Mine Road as this trailguide directs you to do, our group first took a detour up the rock face ahead of us, where stone steps lead you to a vista of the lake and trees, as well as a sunny spot for lunch, before continuing back down to the mine road. For most of the way we also had the trail all to ourselves, a feat on a weekend.
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8. Take a walk in a city park.
Or course, you don’t need to leave New York to enjoy the foliage or get lost in the woods. Take this secrets of Prospect Park walk or explore Central Park and its 18,000 techicolor trees.
9. Skip the haunted house. Try an immersive horror experience instead.
Contributor Regina Bresler took a tour through I Can’t See, a theatrical horror experience that leaves you with just your inner thoughts as you navigate a series of scary scenes, while blindfolded and and wearing headphones. Sort of like a silent, blind, psycho disco.
10. Go paddling in Piermont, through the end of October.
This is the last month to enjoy canoeing and kayaking in a 1,000-acre salt marsh along the Hudson River, before Paradise Canoe and Kayak in Piermont, NY closes for the season. Its motto is “If you fall in, nothing will bite you,” but the most reassuring part of the ride is that you have 8 miles of creeks to explore without ever entering the Hudson River itself. A roughly hour-long bus to Piermont leaves from Port Authority or the GW Bridge (this rudimentary page lets you calculate departure and arrival times), and it’s a short walk from the nearest stop, the Macedonia Baptist Church. It operates weekends and holidays only, and rates start at $20 an hour.
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11. Experience peak foliage at Opus 40, Oct. 12.
Near Woodstock, the open-air, land art project called Opus 40, is hosting a peak foliage soiree on Oct. 12, where you can enjoy live music and local food and drink on the quarry-like property.
12. Get your mystical goods at the World of Witches vendor market, Oct. 12.
Explore intuitive writing, learn about medicinal herbs and purchase potions and mystical goods from a coven of vendors at the Great Hall of Mayday Space in Bushwick.
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13. Head north for home goods at two flea markets, Oct. 12 and 13.
If you’ve just Marie Kondo-ed your home and closets like I have, you probably have some room for new furniture and decor. Score some affordable antiques at the Stormville Airport Antique Show and Flea Market or go a little more upscale at Field & Supply in Kingston.
14. Show off your pumpkin-carving skills at Crest Hardware, Oct. 19.
Kids and adults can compete in Crest’s pumpkin carving contest, where you can admire their handiwork and enjoy food, drinks and tarot readings.
15. Gather round a campfire, Oct. 19.
Campfire, a storytelling series that invites comedians and performers to tell stories near a real campfire (and invites the audience to roast s’mores afterward) is closing out its season at North Brooklyn Farms, which itself is closing at the end of this year. If you haven’t yet enjoyed a night here under the lights of the Williamsburg bridge, it’s a magical, only in New York experience, and tickets are just $5.
16. Go to a Harvest Festival in Brooklyn, Oct. 20
Brooklyn Botanic Garden is debuting its first-ever Harvest Homecoming this year, with cider garden curated by Brooklyn Cider House, bands, and a “Family Fairground” with hay rides and other kiddie fun, as well as a farmer’s market filled with heritage apples from local orchards, so no upstate apple picking needed!
17. Explore Green-Wood at night, Oct. 25 and 26.
Nightfall, an immersive film/music/food/performance festival at Green-Wood Cemetery, is a breathtaking way to explore one of the country’s oldest cemeteries after hours during the height of Halloween season. Tickets are $85 and worth every penny.
18. Go to an upstate beer fest, Oct. 26.
Cold Spring is hosting its bi-annual Hops on the Hudson in Cold Spring, NY, with nearly 40 breweries. Take Metro North from Grand Central and walk to it, and skip the drunk driving completely.
19. Dress up and dance on Halloween.
There are a gazillion parties to choose from on Halloween, but if you like to dance, and like the idea of guest appearances from punk and rock legends like The Make-Up and Quintron and Miss Pussycat, then the Halloween Haunted Hop with Jonathan Toubin of New York Night Train is your ticket.