Come fall, there is plenty of vivid leaf-turning to enjoy in the Big Apple—the sugar and red maple trees in Prospect Park, Tupelo Meadow in Central Park—not to mention the variety of other autumnal events: craft pumpkin beer brews at bars and restaurants, fragrant pumpkin lattes at our top coffee bars. But New Yorkers also love a pilgrimage to nearby towns, where more theatrical presentations of the new season abound, in places like central New Jersey, upstate New York and eastern Long Island. Here are some of our favorites.
LOIS ANZELOWITZ LEVINE: I raised my son in Princeton, New Jersey, and nearly every fall, when Max was between 2 and 12 years old, we would head out to one of the nearby farms or parks for events. Starting in late September, we would spend our weekends picking apples and pumpkins at Terhune Orchards, or making our way out of the giant corn maze at Howell Living History Farm.
But our most memorable trips were visits to Washington Crossing State Park in nearby Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Steeped in some of the most iconic history of the American Revolution, the park was named after the crossing of the Delaware River by Gen. George Washington and his troops, on their way to attack Hessian forces in Trenton, New Jersey. We used to walk through Continental Lane, a rough passage in the park’s wilderness, where a plaque reads, “Road over which Washington’s Army began its march to Trenton December 26 1776.” Our most cherished spot in the park, though, was Bowman’s Hill Tower. Rising 125 feet, we loved the regal view of the hilly treetops below, creating a leafy awning of golds and browns. My son was also a fan of the park’s annual Autumn Encampment & Market, where “Colonial townspeople” in costume gather at marketplaces in the historic village of the park to sell their wares, while soliders run drills of Revolutionary War tactics (Oct. 13). An annual Brewfest offers ciders, sours and seasonal beers, along with food trucks and bonfires (this year, Oct. 27).
FRANCIS LEWIS: In autumn, when I point the car north toward the Hudson Valley, are not the changing leaves redder, more golden, a deeper purple the farther away from Manhattan I drive? But upstate New York is not just about color in October.
Only 50 miles separates the city from the United States Military Academy at West Point, where cadets are on parade Oct. 4 and 20; hiking trails and panoramic views abound in the Hudson Highlands (check out Bear Mountain for both); the main streets of Cold Spring and Hudson brim with antiques shops and galleries; and day-trippers can stroll or bike across the Walkway Over the Hudson in Poughkeepsie.
The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park is a must, as is the Culinary Institute of America, just a mile or so from Springwood, FDR’s home, where the 32nd president of the United States served hot dogs to the king and queen of England in 1939. The seasonal classic French cuisine at CIA’s on-campus Bocuse Restaurant is grander than that, as befits the nation’s leading culinary college. Everything is prepped, cooked and served by students, and everything is four-star all the way, including the friendly ambience.
Dia:Beacon, a 300,000-square-foot museum in a converted Nabisco box-printing factory, houses the Dia Art Foundation’s extraordinary collection of works from the 1960s to the present by Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Louise Bourgeois, John Chamberlain and the like. The art inside definitely gives the foliage outside a run for its money.
And if art lovers want to see, feel and breathe what truly inspired a leader of the celebrated mid-19th-century Hudson River School of landscape painters, then Olana—Frederic Edwin Church’s romantic Orientalist villa and 250-acre estate perched atop a hill in Columbia County—holds the key. Nature is at its most sublime here.
DANIEL FRIDMAN: Only 45 years have passed since the Hargrave family planted Long Island’s first vineyard on the North Fork in Cutchogue. Since then, Long Island’s Suffolk County has been transformed into a premier destination for wine lovers in the northeast U.S., and is now home to more than 50 wine producers, some with multiple vineyards and some with vineyards up to 500 acres in size. I love going out here for wine tastings in the fall: I can pick apples, taste a variety of cabernets to take the chill off a brisk autumn day and watch the leaves turn, all at the same time.
Harmony Vineyards is most convenient for wine exploration within relative distance of NYC, a 90-minute nonstop Long Island Rail Road ride from Penn Station to the town of St. James. Their harborside tasting room, in a gorgeous restored house built in 1690, holds Sunday brunch. Start here.
Ten wineries are all within a short distance of each other along Main Road in the neighboring towns of Cutchogue and Peconic. Bedell Cellars, the most award-winning vineyard in New York, offers deep, bold reds that often take up to an hour to aerate to their full potential. Walk a half mile to Raphael Winery, the most commercially successful vineyard on Long Island, known for blends and Cabernet Franc. One mile north, Osprey's Dominion boasts a portfolio of red wines that have filled the shelves in the trophy case since 2010.
And last but not least, a drive north to Kontokosta Winery in Greenport, Long Island, with a breathtaking oceanfront vineyard, offers a relaxed tasting experience.