We asked mom and blogger at Donuts at the Disco, Marissa Millman to give us her favorite Fall Activities for Families. Here are her must-dos.
At some point in our marriage, my husband’s near constant insistence that fall was the best time of year finally got through to me. The crisp, cool air, the changing leaves, the apple spice and pumpkin flavored everything – fall really is a wonderful time of year. And now that we’re parents to two young girls, fall has taken on new meanings, like Back to School, apple picking and Halloween costume shopping.
There’s just a small window of time in the northeast between the humidity of summer and the gloominess of winter, and fall really packs a lot of punch during its short stay with us.
Here are some of my family’s favorite ways to celebrate fall! How many of these has your family done?
Harbes Family Farm, Mattituck, New York: The North Fork of Long Island is one of my favorite areas in the Tri-State Area. It’s long stretches of road with one picturesque farm and winery after another. A SUPER fun way to experience the area as a family is to include a visit to Harbes Family Farm and their children’s mecca, Barnyard Adventure. Activities at Barnyard Adventure include pig racing, “Jumbo Jumper” bounce pillows, a sing along hayride and a gnome hedge maze. There is a Sports Zone for your little athletes and a Lil’ Farmers Playland for your even littler ones. There are so many hidden games and attractions (including a wooden cow to milk!) to keep kids busy that even after 3 hours there, our girls did not want to leave. Even if Barnyard Adventure is not your speed, Harbes Family Farm is a 40 year old family owned farm that is worth a visit in fall. The farm will host its annual Pumpkin Festival on September 29 and 30th, and adults, be sure to stop by their Wine Barn!
Apple Picking, Various Locations: Is there anything more “fall” than apples? (Ok, maybe Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Lattes.) Pick ‘em and then make a pie or apple butter, dip ‘em in chocolate or just eat ‘em as is. Kids love “pick your own” activities and it’s a pretty awesome time as an adult, too. Blue Jay Orchard in Bethel, CT basically specializes in apple picking. Our family also really likes Averill Farm in Washington, CT. As mentioned above, Harbes Family Farm is always a great time – their Riverhead, LI, Orchard is now open for apple picking. I’ve never done apple picking in Westchester or Dutchess Counties, but both Harvest Moon Farm and Orchard in North Salem and Fishkill Farms in Hopewell Junction are very much on my “to do” list for this fall.
The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze, Croton on Hudson, NY: From September 28 to November 24 in Croton on Hudson, Van Cortlandt Manor in the Lower Hudson Valley is transformed into a stunning Jack O’Lantern wonderland called the Blaze. It’s all so pretty and magical that everyone from the youngest to the oldest in your group will enjoy. Guests purchase a timed evening ticket in advance and walk along a path (for those with babies, best not to bring strollers and use a baby carrier instead, as the path can be narrow and crowded) to view thousands of hand-carved, lit up pumpkins in all kinds of gorgeous shapes and arrangements. The event is very popular and early times sell out fast, so buy your tickets as soon as possible! Not far from the Blaze at nearby Philipsburg Manor, Washington Irving’s the Legend of Sleepy Hollow comes alive at the Horseman’s Hollow, a haunted house recommended for ages 10 and up.
Sesame Place, Langhorne, PA: Less than 2 hours from NYC and far shorter from most NJ suburbs, Sesame Place is an adorable theme park for younger children. It’s clean and well organized and it operates on a level close to Disney, but it’s much closer to your home. The past two years we’ve left our house in Greenwich, CT around 8am and made it there for “the park’s opening at 10am. It’s a long day but oh so worth it. You’ll find the park’s dry rides clustered in the back right-hand side of the park, plus the park’s two fairly scary roller coasters, Vapor Trail and the brand new Oscar’s Wacky Taxi, flanking both sides of the park. There’s also a cute little toddler area called Mini Monster Clubhouse for babies and younger kids to crawl around in and don’t miss the adorable live character shows. If those character shows aren’t enough for your little ones, various Sesame Street characters are stationed throughout the park all day, and the lines to meet these characters usually aren’t brutally long. Beginning on September 22, the park will feature it’s adorable Count’s Halloween Spooktacular events and themed parade to celebrate the fall season.
New York Botanical Garden, Bronx NY: The New York Botanical Garden is gorgeous to stroll through and it’s really not a long drive from most of Westchester and Fairfield Counties. The garden has an impressive and large children’s area called the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden. Its offerings change with the seasons and in the fall, the entire Children’s Adventure Garden becomes the “Spooky Pumpkin Garden” and is filled with carved pumpkin statutes, scarecrows and record breaking large pumpkins from around the country. There’s also an indoor play area where kids can interact with plant and gardened themed toys and puzzles, and take turns watering indoor tropical plants via spray bottle. On fall weekends, there will be pumpkin carving demonstrations and Halloween themed art projects and live shows. And on the evenings of October 26 and 27, don’t miss the Spooky Pumpkin Nights, where kids can come by dressed in costume at night for even more fun, including a trip down the Trick-or-Treat Trail for tasty treats. While you’re at NYBG, also check out the brand new for summer 2018 Edible Academy – a three acre area dedicated to teaching the garden’s littlest patrons about edible fruit and vegetable gardening. The highlight of the Edible Academy is the Ruth Rea Howell Vegetable Garden, where children of all ages (including adult ages) can roll up their sleeves and get down and dirty with the gardening process. Interactive family programing will be going on all fall in the Edible Academy.
Sam Bridge Nursery, Greenwich, CT: This pick is partly my town bias, but this beautiful garden and nursery mere minutes from my house really does do the fall very well. On Friday afternoons and all day on Saturdays from September 29 through the end of October, Sam Bridge offers complimentary hayrides from its greenhouse down to its large pumpkin patch. Once down in the pumpkin patch, your kids will have a blast jumping from one large haystack to another or taking a “spin” in the parked tractor down there. On Saturdays in September and October, kids can also paint a pumpkin for $10 any time between 10am – 2pm and older kids can compete in a scarecrow building competition during the same hours ($39 per scarecrow). Plan your visit for October 27th, and you can also swing by the nursery’s complimentary Touch a Truck Event going on that day.
Storm King Art Center, Cornwell, New York: The Storm King Art Center is an enormous outdoor sculpture garden in Cornwall, New York open from April through early December. The grounds of Storm King are vast (500 acres!) and completely outdoors. While there are trams, a visit to Storm King includes a lot of walking, some of it up hills. So it’s great to save a visit for when the temperatures dip a bit in the fall. Even a casual fan of art will be blown away by the sheer size and grandness of the sculptures at Storm King. Kids will love running around and spotting new art on top of hills and in the distance. Many pieces are part of Storm King’s permanent collection, but others come and go. Before you visit, spend some time with the grounds map found on Storm King’s website to figure out what sculptures you most want to see – among other things, the map indicates which sculptures are interactive or able to be touched!!
I hope you enjoyed my list. May your fall be filled with great family memories and lots of delicious apple cinnamon doughnuts!
A corporate lawyer by day and blogger at Donuts at the Disco by night, Marissa Millman is so excited to finally let her more creative side shine as a blogger. Marissa was born on Long Island and spent her entire life in New York before meeting her CT born husband, Michael, in 2006 and eventually moving with him to Greenwich, CT in 2011. Together, they have two CT-born little ladies, and over time, their passion for exploring and experiencing all that’s around them has become a family affair. Marissa started her blog in the summer of 2018 to share what her family is up to in hopes that it may inspire other families to do some of those same things.
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