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While we often think of a place synonymous with the Big Apple, upstate New York, with its wide-open spaces and pastoral landscape --couldn't be any different than its largest city.
Packed with beautiful mountains, scenic lakes and rivers, and festivals, it's a fantastic place to bring the whole family-- especially in the fall. Mid-September through late October are the peak fall foliage seasons in upstate New York, depending on the elevation. But New York State isn't just about leaf-peeping. From farm tours, to great kids museums there are a host of family-friendly attractions that will keep everyone happy. Here's a look at some of the best:
Aside from their fall foliage, which has the longest season in the northeast, their 30,000 miles of rivers and streams, and their six million acres of land, the Adirondack region boasts great activities for all ages each fall.
Take your family to the 40th Annual Balloon Festival, and marvel the almost 100 hot air balloons as they are launched over Lake George. There are family activities, entertainment, food vendors, and more, according to Rebecca Steffan, senior public relations manager at Inphorm Inc., who works on behalf of the Adirondack Regional Tourism Council.
Nostalgic for the 2012 Summer Olympics? Check out the Olympic Sports Complex & Museum, located in Lake Placid. Ride the summer bobsled or take a chairlift to the ski jump tower. Take the family for a hike to the top of Whiteface Mountain for a phenomenal view.
For those who are looking for some treasure hunts and adventure with the kids, visit two great corn mazes in the Adirondack region. The Great Adirondack Corn Maze, in Gabriels, and the Heroic Corn Maze in Fort Ticonderoga, both are open to the middle or end of October, says Steffan.
On Sept. 29, take your family to the Annual Harvest Festival & Civil War Encampment at the Almanzo Wilder Homestead in Malone. Enjoy self- guided tours of the homestead grounds, the boyhood home of the famed American author Laura Ingalls Wilder’s husband, and the inspiration for her book “Farmer Boy.” Not interested in history? You can still paint pumpkins and make scarecrows.
For more: visit http://visitadirondacks.com
Finger Lakes Region
This region of 14 counties and 11 lakes located in the heart of New York state has a world renowned children’s museum, and some other great activities for weekend getaways in the fall.
The National Museum of Play at the Strong Museum in Rochester is not to miss. According to Anna Tabakh, head of public relations for the Finger Lakes region, this amazing place is “home to the National Toy Hall of Fame, the International Center for the History of Electronic Games, and the world’s largest collection of toys, dolls, games and other items that celebrate play.”
She added that “families will want to play all day at the dynamic hands on exhibits.” Some of them: the famous Sesame Street steps, a giant helicopter you can pilot, a giant kaleidoscope you can walk through, and Reading Adventureland (only accessible from the yellow brick road)—where favorite children’s stories come to life. An added bonus? In the colder fall months, enjoy the year-round tropical weather in the Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden, populated by hundreds of free flying butterflies.
Grapes are also renowned in the Finger Lakes region, making it a premier spot for wine making. But the grapes grown here go into more than wine glasses. Check out the Naples Grape Festival in Naples, N.Y. this Sept. 29 to 30. This one-of-a-kind festival includes everything from grape pie contests, to arts, crafts, grape food, wine tastings [for the parents!] and music. Even get up close and personal with grapes during grape stomping.
For lovers of the outdoors, check out Let’s Go Hike & Bike Trails. This activity can be planned any way you want! There are 72 trails that offer outstanding views of the 11 different lakes. You simply go to the website, click on one of the trails, and can pick whichever one you are interested in. These trail guides will tell you exactly how difficult they are (scale of 1-3), and the distance of them. You can also order the entire guide, should you want to.
For more: visit www.fingerlakestravelny.com
Hudson Valley Region
A mere stone’s throw away from Manhattan, Hudson Valley boasts some of the best apple picking in the region, as well as some of the richest history. Visit these areas for some great fun for the kids.
Rated one of “World’s Best Hotels for Families,” Mohonk Mountain House, located in New Paltz, provides a safe and enjoyable time for kids of all ages. They emphasize letting kids be kids, with plenty of play time to explore the natural wonders that the grounds have to offer. They have fantastic Kids’ Club, a Teen Program [13-17 years old], and a Junior Naturalist program, which includes animal tracking and tree identification. When the kids are not out on their own, take a hike to the top of the mountain, or enjoy the lake in a paddle boat together. But make sure to find sometime when you are alone to visit one of Mohonk’s renowned spas.
If you love books and history, Hudson Valley is your place to be. Home of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Home National Historic Site, and the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site, Hyde Park is a great place to get your fair share of American history. Washington Irving wrote his classic "Legend of Sleepy Hollow" here, and you can also visit his quaint cottage in Tarrytown , where Kykuit, the Rockefeller estate also resides.
The Hudson Valley Apple Trail, which is a 25-mile scenic loop through apple country in Ulster County, provides fun for fall lovers of all ages. Hurd’s Family Farm in Modena is one of the seven that you will visit, or you can go to this place all by itself! It is packed with fun activities including hay rides, pumpkin picking, apple picking, a 4-acre corn maze, a Cow Train, and an Apple Launcher. Hungry? Their Dutch Barn Market has mulled apple cider, pumpkin chocolate chip muffins, hot dogs, and garden fresh produce you can take home. Hurd’s Family Farm is open from August 27 to October 31.
For more: visit www.travelhudsonvalley.com
So this fall, why not put the memories of summer behind you and enjoy all New York state has to offer.