Fall is the perfect season for exploring New York. The sunny days, cool nights, and gorgeous scenery make for fantastic outdoor adventures. Orchards and Oktoberfests showcase some of New York's most flavorful assets - and of course there's Halloween, which is perhaps the New Yorkiest holiday of all. Use our bucket list to help build yourself a perfect season, from Labor Day to Thanksgiving. Time to get going: Before you know it winter will be here.
1. Go above the trees on the Scenic Northwoods Gondola
Fall foliage in New York is stunning from any angle, but you haven't really seen it until you've seen it from above. The Scenic Northwoods Gondola at the iconic Gore Mountain gives you a bird's eye view of the stunning nature show in the Adirondacks.
2. Drink up at Oktoberfest Weekends at Hunter Mountain
Hunter Mountain in the Catskills offers year-round fun, including its world-famous zip line, which is great for watching the fall colors fly by. And every fall it hosts a wildly popular Oktoberfest, featuring delicious food, live entertainment, activities for kids, and, of course, lots and lots of beer. Weekends, September 23 - October 15
3. Meet a Halloween icon at Horseman's Hollow
Photograph: Jennifer Mitchell
Washington Irving's 1820 short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" introduced readers to the Headless Horseman - and to the village of Sleepy Hollow, which is anything but sleepy during Halloween. For maximum scariness, head (!) to Horseman's Hollow, which transforms Philipsburg Manor into a sprawling immersive nightmare, complete with an appearance from the Horseman himself. Enter if you dare! (And buy tickets in advance; most nights sell out.) Various evenings, October 6 - 31
4. Get a taste of the ocean at Oyster Festival
Every October, more than 200,000 seafood lovers head to Long Island's Oyster Festival, the nation's largest waterfront fest. In addition to delicious oysters (and other food, for those who don't dig bivalves), the free family-friendly event features live music, midway rides, eating contests, pirate shows and much more! October 14 and 15
5. Take in the seasonal splendor from the Walkway Over the Hudson
The Hudson Valley is gorgeous any time of year, but you really have to see it in the fall, when nature puts on a wildly colorful show. Take in the breathtaking sight from the world's longest pedestrian bridge, which stretches 1.28 miles across and 212 feet above the Hudson River.
6. Fly through the air at Peek'n Peak's Mountain Adventures
Photograph: Ethan LaCroix
Western New York ski resort Peek'n Peak offers much more than just winter sports. In the warmer months, visitors can climb, hang and glide through the treetops in the Mountain Adventures course and zip lines. For those looking for slightly more passive thrills, the new Soaring Eagle ride hauls comfortably seated riders 130 feet in the air, then lets gravity carry them down the 1,400 foot line.
7. Indulge in some sweet treats at Beak & Skiff Apple Farms
Named the best apple orchard in the nation by USA Today readers, this Finger Lakes classic offers apple picking through late October, as well as kid-friendly activities like hay rides, a play area, and, weather permitting, a chance to hang out with some ponies. Mom and dad will enjoy the Café and 1911 Tasting Room, serving light fare as well as hard ciders and wines. And don't forget to stop by the Apple Hill Country Store & Bake Shop to stock up on delicious treats.
8. Go glamping in the Catskills
Photograph: Beautiful Destinations
It's getting a bit chilly for proper camping - though there are plenty of hearty souls out there doing it well into the fall! For those who prefer slightly more cushy accommodations when communing with nature, there are plenty of glamping (glamour camping) options in New York. Try a weekend in one of the cozy yurts at Harmony Hill. It's a perfect natural escape - with no risk of cold toes or finding twigs in your hair in the morning. Yurts available through October 31
9. Sip world-class vino in the North Fork Wine Trail
While it's bustling in the summer, the east end of Long Island is (somewhat) more serene in the cooler months. Wineries here produce nearly every style of wine, and the Instagram-worthy water and vineyard views are tough to beat.
10. Go back in time at the New York Renaissance Faire
Photograph: Deborah Grosmark
The New York Renaissance Faire - which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year - is a local institution. Every year, Faire goers return for food, brews, music, and ye olde timey performances, including jousters, clowns, acrobats and much more. New features this year include the comedic Cirque du Sewer and the Storybook Stage, with shows aimed at kids. Upcoming special days include Pirates Weekend (September 9 and 10) and Oktoberfest Weekend (September 30 and October 1). Weekends through October 1
11. Root for the Buffalo Bills
Photograph: Courtesy of Buffalo Bills
Time to break out the foam finger! On September 10, the Buffalo Bills start the 2017 regular season at home at New Era Field, facing off against their cross-state rivals, the New York Jets. And you'll have several more chances to cheer on the Nickel City's home team before the end of the year.
12. Celebrate the season at Great Escape Fright Fest
Every fall the Great Escape amusement park in the southern Adirondacks gets super-creepy (and super fun) with its annual Fright Fest. This year, the park will be home to pop-up haunted attractions, "scare zones" and spooky shows like Zombie Blast and Medusa's Survival Test. And of course all of the Great Escape's iconic coasters and rides - like the Comet and the Steamin' Demon - will be extra scary for the occasion. Weekends September 30 through October 29
13. Experience the fall colors on the Catskill Mountain Railroad
Photograph: Beautiful Destinations
Take in the beauty of the Catskills in October aboard the charming Catskill Mountain Railroad, which has open-air cars, allowing you to take in all of the scenery during its Foliage Rides. At the end of the month, the Railroad offers the Pumpkin Patch Express, where kids get to pick their own pumpkin to take home and decorate. Foliage Rides weekends October 7 - 15; Pumpkin Patch Express weekends October 21 - 29
14. Explore Letchworth State Park
The 14,350-acre Grand Canyon of the East is a must-see for any outdoor enthusiast. Letchworth State Park features 600-foot gorges carved by the Genesee River, and it's breathtaking any time of year. And it's easy to make a weekend of it: Cabin rentals are available year-round, or check out the Glen Iris Inn in the park if you're looking for something a little less rustic.
15. Get scared on a Capitol Hauntings Tour
Does a ghost of a night watchman who died in the Capitol fire of 1911 still haunt the halls of the New York Capitol? Have presidents visited here after they died? And is that a demon carved into the wall?!? Get all of those terrifying answers and more on free tours of New York's very spooky Capitol. And for many more haunted happenings from the past, check out the Haunted History Trail. Throughout October
16. Learn how cider is made at Fly Creek Cider Mill
Cider - the hard stuff and the non-alcoholic kind - is one of the sweetest treats of autumn, and you can learn all about it at this historic mill just outside of Cooperstown. You can also stock up on mill-made fudge, sharp cheddar cheese and other treats, and sip a glass of apple wine while you stroll along Millpond Boardwak. Kids will love the interactive exhibits, and the chance to meet the mill's friendly resident ducks and geese.
17. Make some new friends at Animal Adventure Park
Home of the world-famous April the Giraffe and her calf, Tajiri, Animal Adventure Park offers up-close-and-personal encounters with giraffes, camels, turtles, and much more. The critters will be retiring for the season starting in October, so now's your chance to see Tajiri while she's still adorably pint-sized. (But something tells us she'll always be pretty cute.) Friday - Sunday through October 22
18. Get in the fall spirit at Pumpkinville
While there is certainly no shortage of pumpkins at this pop-up gourd community in Great Valley, that's just the start of it. Pumpkinville also offers a six-acre corn maze, a tractor-pulled train ride, games and many more things to keep kids happy for hours. Mom and dad can try fresh-pressed cider, sample pies made from local produce, and shop the "Boo-tique," stocked with goods from local artisans and craftspeople.
19. See the fall splendor from the water with Uncle Sam Boat Tours
On Uncle Sam's "Two Nation" tour (those two nations being the U.S. and Canada), you'll cruise through the "heart" of the Thousand Islands waters, and mother nature should be putting on quite a show up there by late September. The tour also includes a chance to disembark for a self-guided tour of Boldt Castle on Heart Island. Tours through October 29; Hart Island open through October 15
20. Wrap up the season with Santa at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
The leaves may fall, and it may even snow, but the fall fun in New York State isn't over until Santa makes his big entrance in New York City in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The iconic balloons, marching bands, elaborate floats and the world-famous Rockettes make their way from the Upper West Side to Herald Square, spreading joy to the crowds who line the route. It's a perfect cap to a perfect season in New York. Now let's get ready for winter!