Autumn is without a doubt one of the most exciting seasons in Wine Country. For our farmers and winemakers, it is the moment when harvest reveals what delicious treats we can expect to see and taste in the year or two to come. Our roadside stands are often filled with sweet grapes, corn, and other fresh produce, ready to take home and serve at your table. And, though the air may be chillier, the scene starts bursting with colors, welcoming leaf-peepers and photographers who have long recognized our destination as one of the top fall vacations to road trip to each year.
And there are a ton of fun things to do as well! We’ve decided to put together a guide to help you plan your visit and create those fun fall memories.
Visit a Pumpkin Patch
As you road trip through the region, you will notice plenty of pumpkins in many of the farmers' stands. Make sure to stop in to collect your pumpkins for the season, and don’t miss out on the corn mazes and other fun activities many of them have in place! Some considerations are:
Iron Kettle Farms, in Candor, NY - Their Spooktacular Pumpkin display is a hit with the littles and young at heart, and don’t forget to stop into their gift shop for homemade treats.
Bradley Farms, in Elmira, NY - Though their haunted house will be closed this year due to the pandemic, there is still a lot more to look forward to during your visit. Their corn maze is celebrating its 100th anniversary and it’s ready for you to explore. Be ready to shop as they have much to offer, including fresh baked goods.
If in Corning, make sure to stop by the Corning Museum of Glass to make you own glass pumpkin. This popular activity is a favorite keepsake and collectors item. You can make your reservations online.
Apple Picking is a Must
According to the New York Apple Growers Association, New York State is the second-largest apple-producing state in the country. We average a whopping 29.5 million bushels annually on about 41,000 acres in six major production districts around the entire state. And we may be a bit biased in saying this, but our apples are the best around! Some to look out for are McIntosh, Empire, Red Delicious, Cortland, Golden Delicious, Rome, Idared, Crispin, Paula Red, and Gala. And here are some places where you can pick them yourself:
Riesinger’s Apple Country in Watkins Glen, NY - Their website is updated regularly to let you know what apples are available for picking before your visit. We also encourage you to make room for the apple cider donuts, which are always a big hit.
Apple Barrel Orchards in Penn Yan, NY - Check out their U-Pick schedule before your visit, and definitely stop into their farm store for fresh baked goods and other treats like jars of our local maple syrup - another must have.
Grape Picking Made Easy
We often get asked about picking grapes with our farmers during harvest season. The truth is this hard work is unpredictable and often spontaneous depending on the climate and not really one that is opened to the public. But, you can still get a taste of the experience at Fulkerson Winery in Dundee, NY. They also offer vineyard tours, home winemaking lessons, and have other fruits to pick as well.
Explore the Trails
Hiking is one of the best ways to get into nature and enjoy the colorful fall foliage. Luckily, we have tons of trails to explore. The Finger Lakes National Forest alone, which spans between Seneca and Cayuga Lakes in the Finger Lakes region, has 30 miles of interconnecting trails that traverse gorges, ravines, pastures, and woodlands. Other trails to explore are:
Tanglewood Nature Center, in Elmira, NY - Check out their website for trail maps. Please note, dogs are not allowed on trails leading out or into the nature center. The map includes 5 easy, family-friendly trails to explore. All trails walked together make up a 5K loop with diverse views, from mixed forests to meadows. Also great for winter snowshoeing.
Keuka Outlet Trail runs from Penn Yan, NY to Dresden, NY - This 7 mile trail borders the Keuka outlet created nearly 10,000 years ago between Keuka and Seneca Lakes. There is a lot one can do along the trail, from fishing to bike riding, and snowmobiling or cross-country skiing in the winter. To top it all off, there are some great waterfalls along the way too.
Catharine Valley Trail runs from Montour Falls, NY to Horseheads, NY - This 6 mile trail (which is expected to cover 12 miles when construction is completed) follows an abandoned railroad and canal towpath corridors, and passes through a variety of wildlife habitats. Perfect for walking, bicycling, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Two dog maximum allowed per visitor/group.
Lackawana Rail Trail in Elmira, NY - This 8.7 mile trail is an accessible, bike-friendly, walking trail. Much of it follows the meandering Chemung River, meaning “place of the big horn” in the local American Indian language. Originally confined within the city limits of Elmira, the trail now extends along the wooded river shoreline on an additional 5-mile segment completed in 2017.
More Fall Adventures
Looking for something more exciting to do? We’ve got a few ideas for you! Whether you want to take to the water or the skies, make sure you reserve early as these activities often go till the end of October and book up fast.
Harris Hill Soaring Corporation is offering glider rides Saturday and Sunday, from 10am to 5:30pm, depending on the weather through the end of October. Contact them to book your flight as they fill up quickly!
Who said you can’t enjoy the lake during fall? Take to the waters on a kayak! You can do a guided tour or just rent a kayak and explore on your own. We recommend checking out Summit to Stream Adventures or Keuka Watersports for kayak rentals.
Enjoy the trails and vineyards on horseback! Painted Bar Stables in Watkins Glen, NY offers small group rides and beautiful fall trail rides as well as vineyards experiences to make the most of your fall visit. They even offer lessons if you plan for a longer stay and very small group rides for your family and friends.
Savor the robust flavors of fall when you dine at one of our many restaurants and eateries featuring locally-sourced menus. A great option with not only a great view, but a delicious seasonal menu, is Veraisons Restaurant at the Inn at Glenora.