Pick Pumpkins, Pick Apples and Get Out of Town

Good morning. It’s Monday. I am filling in for my colleague James Barron. Today we have an autumn cornucopia of seasonal outings.

Credit…Amy Lombard for The New York Times

Fall technically began a few days ago, but summer always slip-slides through September. Now, it’s official. Welcome to October.

We’re using words like “crisp” and reminding our loved ones to “wear layers.” We’re readying ourselves for spooky, for cozy, for cheer.

And we’re preparing to engage in that fine northeastern tradition: the annual pilgrimage to the area’s farms. That means pumpkin patches and apple picking. Petting zoos and leaf peeping. Corn mazes and, of course, cider. Endless cider.

To prepare you and your children for your full fall fantasia, I spoke with Jody Mercier, the New York regional editor for Mommy Poppins, a parenting website, who had recommendations for autumn day trips in New York and just beyond. “Get away from the city, see some new terrain, some foliage and have a little adventure,” she said.

In general, Mercier said, try to keep your travel time to about 90 minutes. (“Whenever I am getting in the car with my kids, I always tell them that the first thing we pack is patience,” she said.)

Bring layers. Wear the right shoes for a potentially mucky farm day. Also, go now: Pick-your-own orchards can get quickly picked over. (One note: Check websites before you leave, in case of any closures or cancellations.)

Option one: Find nature in the city

These three activities might take you to parts of this enormous city that you’ve never visited. They’re cheaper than other options, too.

The Queens County Farm Museum has a corn maze and offers hayrides, both for a fee. There’s a pumpkin patch and a booth that sells doughnuts and cider.

Transport: It’s a train to a bus. The E gets you close, as do several Long Island Railroad lines.

Tickets: For the maze, book in advance. It’s $16 if you’re over 12; $12 for 4- to 11-year-olds; free for children under 4. Hayrides are $6 each. Buy there.

Governors Island hosts Pump­kin Point, an annual picking extravaganza. Make a day of it: The ferry already feels like an adventure. But it can get busy, so go early and expect a wait.

When: The last two weekends of this month (Oct. 21-22 and 28-29). Daylight hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Cost: It’s free to pick a pumpkin, but there’s a suggested donation. The ferry costs $4, but some people can ride for free, including children under 12.

Decker Farm, on Staten Island, is part of a working colonial village. There’s pumpkin picking, pumpkin painting and even pumpkin chucking, which costs extra. See also: Hayrides and a hay maze.

Getting there: It’s a ferry ride to a half-hour bus, or about a 15-minute drive from the bridges.

Cost: The farm costs $12 for adults; $10 for children ages 6 to 10 and is free for anyone younger. It’s added onto general admission: $10 for adults; $5 for children 6 to 10, free for younger children.

Option two: Go for ‘agritainment’

Think of this as barnyard-as-theme-park, Mercier said: “They’re trying to make the farm the attraction.” She recommended two area farms.

Alstede Farms in Chester, N.J., is full of activities.

There is a corn maze, an evergreen maze and a sunflower trail. There are pony rides and wagon rides, a bouncy castle and a hay pyramid. You can even feed the farm animals.

And there is a wine and cider tasting for adults, too, as well as other events.

Cost: The cheapest ticket, on the weekend, costs $29.99. It’s $17.99 more for a bundle of attractions aimed at children.

Getting there: It’s about an hour and a half on New Jersey Transit. Then, there is a free shuttle. Or, it’s about an hour’s drive from New York City.

Waterdrinker Family Farm & Garden, on Long Island, has many options. Pick your own pumpkins and pay by the pound. Sunflowers for $2 a stem. There is also mini golf, farm animals, a haunted house and stick-your-face-through-corn-cob photo ops, among others.

Tickets: They are $20 each at the main location; free for children under 3.

Getting there: Without traffic, it’s under two hours from the city. Otherwise, it’s about an hour and a half on the train, then a 40-minute cab.

Option three: A more low-key farm experience.

If you’re looking for what Mercier described as “a quiet, mellow, old country experience,” she suggested going to a smaller farm in the Hudson Valley. (The M.T.A. lists farms accessible by train — and maybe a short cab ride.)

Two suggestions: Harvest Moon Farm and Orchard has apple picking, hayrides, live music, a farm store and good food. Right across the road, there’s Outhouse Orchards, which also has a corn maze, pizza, pony rides and a pumpkin patch.

Getting there: It’s an hour and 12 minutes on the Harlem Line, and then a short cab.

Tickets: At Harvest, it’s $15 a person (or free for children under 3), and extra for apple-picking bags. At Outhouse, prepaid, it’s $30 for a small bag. At both, buy ahead.

Or, on Long Island, she suggested Lewin Farms, one of my childhood favorites. There are a lot of pick-your-own options; call ahead to see what’s in season. She likes the corn maze, too, and the roasted corn.

“It’s totally charming and cute,” she said, adding, “That’s somewhere I really like.”

Getting there: Without traffic, it’s about an hour-and-a-half drive. Public transit is difficult. It’s more than two hours, and then a cab.

Cost: The corn maze is $8 for adults, $7 for kids. Pick your own varies by the pound: $2.25 for apples and $2 for vegetables. For pumpkins, it’s $45 for a full bag — or $40 an armload (defined as “all one person can hold”).

We also have some suggestions from Wirecutter, the Times product recommendation service.

  • Good, sturdy gear for foliage hunting.

  • A total road trip packing list.

  • And, for your apple haul, an old-fashioned peeler.


Expect sun and haze, with temps in the high 70s. At night, expect clear skies and a low around 60.


Alternate side parking and meters are in effect.

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Credit…Jefferson Siegel for The New York Times

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Cutting the line

Dear Diary:

My wife and I were about to drive back to Ithaca after spending a weekend seeing shows in Manhattan. Before leaving town, we stopped to get sandwiches to eat in the car.

When we got to the sandwich place, it wasn’t open yet, so we took a place in the growing line. As we waited, a woman approached me and asked whether we would let her share our space in the line while she went to do some other shopping.

I didn’t know if saving a space that way was allowed, but I agreed anyway.

The woman thanked me, and, maybe to emphasize her gratitude, tapped me lightly on my upper arm. Then she raised her other arm and squeezed my bicep with both hands.

“You’ve been working out,” she said.

— Arno Selco

Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.

Glad we could get together here. James Barron returns tomorrow. — A.N.

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.

Hannah Fidelman and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].


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