With summer vacation over and winter vacation months away, it might seem like the family fun has been put on pause. But the weather outside is cool and crisp and New York fall foliage is simply spectacular—so don’t sit this season out! An affordable weekender is all you need to enjoy the weather, nature, and each other. Read on for 10 amazing trips that each can fit into a weekend and won’t break the bank!
Live It Up at Lake George
Lake George offers up some prime leaf-peeping beginning the last weekend of September. Consider booking rooms at the Heritage of Lake George Motel where the rooms are cozy and comfortable and only a short walking distance from a bunch of nearby things to do in town. Another option is the gorgeous Courtyard Lake George where you can book rooms with stunning views of the Lake. Pop over into the village where you can explore the reconstructed 263-year-old Fort William Henry Museum and Restoration (adults $17, kids 5–15 $8). Actors will bring to life the local military history from the French and Indian War, including interactions with Native Americans and the role women played in supporting the army. With all that history comes a rich collection of ghost stories, which is why, until the end of October, every Wednesday through Sunday night at 7:30, 8, 9, and 9:30 you can sign up to take a ghost tour of the old fort (adults $18, kids 5–15 $8), illuminated only by candlelight!
There’s also a ton of great hiking nearby, with plenty of options to choose from. Try the Shelving Rock Falls trail, an hour-long hike easy enough for kiddos that will lead you to epic views of Lake George, or the Lakeshore Trail, which takes you down to the lake to find picnic areas and a little waterfall. Balance out all the nature with a stop at the Adventure Family Fun Center, where the whole family can get competitive with laser tag, indoor go-karts, bumper cars, and more. Heritage of Lake George Motel double bed unit rates $89–109, Courtyard Lake George double-bed units starting at $145. Adventure Family Fun Center Go-carts Single Rider $7.50, Passenger $2, Laser Tag $8.50, Drop Tower $5, Bumper Cars $5, Paint Ball $5 (50 Shots) or $10 (110 Shots)
Fly the Coop and Head to Cooperstown
With baseball season coming, the very fun, baseball-centric Cooperstown starts to get less crowded, so you have more space to enjoy it. It also means more rooms are available to book at places like the Best Western Cooperstown Inn & Suites, just four and a half miles from the National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum (adults $23, kids 7–12 $12). While the HoF is sheer heaven for baseball fans, it does a great job of making the significance and history of the sport interesting and accessible even for non-fans, and they offer scavenger hunts for little kids!
Be sure to take the four-minute drive from downtown to check out the Farmer’s Museum (adults $12, kids 7–12 $6), one of the oldest rural life museums in the country. We’re willing to bet that anyone who thinks history is boring has never experienced it come to life like it does here, thanks to the recreated village, costumed period actors, livestock, craft demonstrations, and workshops. A bunch of the exhibits are interactive, so you can get hands-on with setting type in the print shop, hammering out a nail ring in the blacksmith’s shop, making rope, or clapping and stomping your feet along to live music in the tavern. And since some of the best perks of autumn are fresh, crispy apples, perfectly tart apple cider, and piping hot apple cider donuts—find all of them at Fly Creek Cider Mill. This 160-year-old water-powered cider mill offers tours that let you see how the cider is pressed. Follow that with a stop in the Snack Barn & Bakery where you can sample specialty foods and dig into fresh apple pie. Best Western Cooperstown Inn & Suites double bed units starting at $118.
Check Out New Experiences in Chautauqua
Credit: Rob Frank; George Kilbert
Not all resorts cost an arm and a leg! The Peek n’ Peak Resort in Chautauqua offers family packages that including a stay in its lodge-style inn, pool passes for four people plus a large pizza, soft drinks, ice cream, and a family s’mores kit (aka, all the ingredients of an amazing time), all for around $150/night. Plus, the resort has a ton of fun activities right on site, including its luxury pool complex, play zone center, and its Mountain Adventures ropes course. The Explorer Pass grants you access to the ropes, giant dual ziplines, a soaring eagle zipline, mini golf, frisbee golf and more for $49–59—or pay by individual activity, a ride on the soaring eagle zipline, for example, is only $10 a pop. Step outside the resort and there are a ton of amazing and affordable attractions nearby.
You must stop by the National Comedy Center (ticket prices range from $12.50–23.50), less than an hour away in Jamestown, where you can laugh until it hurts at more than 50 interactive exhibits dedicated to the art of comedy. It’s totally interactive, as you can create your own cartoons and try something called stand-up karaoke—performing classic routines from some of the greatest comics in history. Only a 20-minute drive will bring you to Panama Rocks Scenic Park (adults $7.50, kids 6–12 $5, kids 5 and under free), where the gang can explore 60-foot-high crevices, hidden caves, and passageways. It’s incredibly gorgeous, and will bring out the explorer in you!
Wake Up to Gorgeous Nature in Watkins Glen
Credit: Beautiful Destinations
New York’s natural beauty becomes even more magical in the fall, and Watkins Glen offers the perfect vantage point. Stay at one of the rustic and charming motel rooms, cabins, or A-frame chalets at Seneca Lodge which serves up dinner and breakfast seven days a week. With the Lodge as your home base, you are right at the edge of the incredible Watkins Glen State Park. The park’s trails will guide you past cliffs and a total of 19 individual waterfalls, sometimes even having you walk underneath them! Picnic tables and pavilions are available for a lunch break.
Just a 25-minute drive away is the Corning Museum of Glass (adults $19.50, kids 18 and under free) where you’ll find incredible sculptures, live glassmaking demonstrations, and even the chance to try glassmaking yourself. From September 4 through November 30, you can make your very own glass pumpkin, as well as check out the all-glass Thanksgiving feast display while the museum cafe serves hot cider, pumpkin pie, caramel apples, and more. Drive one hour northeast to Bristol Mountain for the most jaw-dropping views of Finger Lakes foliage from their Sky Rides, a 15–20 minute ski-lift trip (adults $10, kids 3–12 $7). Seneca Lodge cabins range from $60–$110 per night, 3-bedroom A-frames range from $160–$180 per night, motel rooms range from $80–$105 per night.
Celebrate Fall at Niagara Falls
There really is no bad season to take the family out to see one of the country’s greatest natural wonders but there are a bunch of reasons why fall is so great at Niagara Falls. First of all, it’s not as crowded as it is during summer, nor is it too cold to get close to the action. Take a Maid of the Mist boat tour (adults $19.25, kids 6–12 $11.20), running until November 4, which takes you right up to the falls—don’t worry, they provide the ponchos! Cave of the Winds tours (adults $12, kids $9) run until October 21, and bring you down 175 feet by elevator to a “Hurricane Deck” within spraying distance of the Bridal Veil Falls.
An amazing rainy day plan—or just a terrific can’t-miss stop—is the Aquarium of Niagara (adults $14.95, kids 3–12 $10.95), where the price of general admission includes penguin-feedings, Sea Lion Shows, and talks with experts throughout the day. Settle in for the night at the Holiday Inn Niagara Falls-Scenic Downtown for affordable room rates in the heart of the city. From there, Becker Farms is less than an hour drive away. Besides an out-of-this-world farm bakery, they’ve got fantastic U-pick selections of more than 10 different kinds of apples. Double bed units starting at $167.68 at Holiday Inn Niagara Falls-Scenic Downtown. Becker Farms U-Pick $5.50, includes access to the apple orchard and a 4-quart bag of apples.
Camp Out Under the Stars in the Catskills
In the Venn diagram of affordable + fun getaways, outdoor camping is smack dab in the middle, so don’t let the cool autumn weather slip away without one memorable weekend in the great outdoors. North-South Lake Campground is an ideal spot to pitch the family tent, with two lakes with beaches, two picnic areas with pavilions for rent, plenty of tables, fireplaces, and charcoal grills, a playground for the kids, as well as flush toilets, hot showers(!), kayak and paddle boat rentals, and a trailer dump station. Plus, you’re perfectly located right at the entrance to great and easy hiking trails that lead to some beautiful vistas, like the two-tiered 260-foot Kaaterskill Falls.
Only fifteen minutes in the car will get you to the Hunter Mountain ski resort where you can ride its famous Scenic Skyride (adults $12, kids 7–12 $8), a six-seater open-air chairlift ride over the Catskill Mountains, 3,200-feet up to the peak of Hunter Mountain. There’s also some great fishing at the campground which requires that you book a permit in advance online or over the phone (1-day permit for residents $5, non-residents $10). However, if you drive about 90 minutes east you’ll reach Beaverkill River, an area famous for its fly fishing, particularly during the fall, where the DEC annually stocks more than 18,000 brown trout. Rainfall picks up in early September and spurs a high activity season before the season ends November 30—plus the foliage adds the perfect background. Check out the New York State DEC’s guide to parking spots all along the river. Campground $22 per night (out-of-state residents surcharge additional $5 per night)
Have a Fun-Filled Farm Weekend in the Hudson Valley
Take a break from your hectic day-to-day and slow things down at a bed and breakfast in the country. Country and Farm B&B in the Hudson Valley lets you experience farm life along with clean, cozy rooms and a breakfast of fresh fruit, croissants, muffins, yogurt, and juice delivered right to your door. They have their own horses who will be very pleased to meet you and your little ones, along with a few dogs (feel free to bring your pup for an overnight stay for only $10 extra a night!), chickens, bunnies, and more. It’s also right next to the lovely Minnewaska State Park which has plenty of hiking trails for all levels.
Five minutes in the car will bring you to another farm, Kelder’s Farm where you and the kids can enjoy hayrides, work your way through the corn maze, milk a cow, meet all the little angels in the petting farm, see the honeybees at work, and play on the enormous bouncy “jumping pillows,” all for $18 a head. They also offer pick-your-own apples and pumpkins! You get to take a hayride to the pumpkin patch for added fun. Weekend rates start at $180/couple including breakfast + $15/additional person
Make Long-Lasting Memories on Long Island
We know it’s sad to say goodbye to beach season but luckily Long Island is still an amazing place to spend the weekend even if it’s too nippy to dip your toes in the ocean. We know that Long Island lodging can get pricey, but don’t panic. The Ramada Plaza by Wyndham Holtsville Long Island has super reasonable rooms and puts you about a 25-minute drive from plenty of fun family spots over on the North Fork. Goodale Farms, for example, lets you stop in and feed their adorable goats, and Harbes Family Orchard lets you ride a tractor-pulled wagon (the Apple Express) to go pick your own bushel of apples, wander their corn maze, or sign up to try their “Spooky Maze” by flashlight on Friday and Saturday nights during the month of October. You can also check out their Barnyard Adventure (prices range from $9.95–$13.95) for their gnome-themed hedge maze, barnyard animal petting zoo, Jumbo Jumpers bounce pillows, motorized tricycle rides, chick observatory, and more.
North Fork isn’t just about the kids either—it’s also one of the richest wine countries! Stop into the tasting room at McCall Wines to sample award-winning wines and pick up a souvenir or two (or however many fit in the car). Double bedrooms starting at $162
Discover New Adventures in New York City
We know, we know, New York City is not known for being super affordable, but we swear it’s doable! First of all, the Howard Johnson by Wyndham Long Island City has lovely rooms at reasonable rates and is centrally located so you can easily reach all boroughs. From there, you can take the F train to 42nd and Bryant Park then walk to 42nd and Times Square to take the 2 train up to the Bronx Zoo (adults $36.95, kids 3–12 $26.95). Every weekend in October, plus Columbus Day, they put on “Boo at the Zoo,” a series of family-friendly Halloween activities, including magic shows, costume parades, a maze, pumpkin carving, live music, a haunted forest, animal encounters, and more.
Also from Times Square, you can take the 3 train down to Wall St. and walk to Pier 11 / Wall St. to take the ferry to Liberty and Ellis Islands (adults $18.50, kids 4–12 $9). Learn all about the 12 million immigrants who passed through on their way to citizenship. You can also take the F train into Queens, transferring to the 7 and get off at 111 St. for the New York Hall of Science (adults $16, kids 2–17 $13). They have literally hundreds of interactive displays about topics like outer space, various ecosystems, and more, that sneak a little learning into all the fun. They also feature daily science demonstrations, so you can watch some cool chemistry in action, understand how planes actually fly, or even, if your stomach can handle it, watch a cow’s eye dissection (Hey, one kid’s “yuck” is another kid’s “Awesome!!”). And in terms of free NYC activities, what beats a colorful autumn stroll through Central Park? Double bedrooms starting at $190
Have All the Fall Fun in Albany
New York’s capital city has got it all: tasty treats, perfect parks, and reasonable rates. Post up at the Hampton Inn & Suites Albany - Downtown for nice rooms at nice prices in the heart of the city. From there, start exploring the city with Dutch Apple Cruise & Tour’s narrated Hudson River Sightseeing Cruise (adults $19.95, kids 3-10 $12) to learn all about the city’s history and points of interest, and enjoy an all-around fun ride. Next up, the Albany Pine Bush Preserve is absolutely gorgeous this time of year. Walk the trails on your own or take a guided tour with a naturalist. Their Discovery Center has tons of hands-on activities, like making your own sand dune and touching snakeskin.
Mountain Ridge Adventure is only a 30-minute drive away and offers a fantastic kids’ ropes course adventure for only $29.99. That’s three hours to climb, leap, balance, and zip line surrounded by the beauty of the forest treetops. Finally, consider Cider Belly a must-stop while you’re in the city because these donuts are famous—we’re talking, “If you could only eat one cider donut, it should be this donut”-good. Double bedroom rates starting at $165.