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5 New Ways to Explore Fall Foliage

Leave your car behind: get on a train, balloon or boat

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Adirondack Scenic Railroad.
Adirondack Scenic Railroad.

If you really want to enjoy fall color, it’s easier — and safer — to leave the driving to someone else while you take in the sights. Thankfully, you have several options in the Central New York region for viewing autumn foliage without climbing behind the wheel.

Here are four unique ways to explore:

1 Adirondack Balloon Flights

(www.adkballoonflights.com) could be the highlight of your weekend getaway, soaring above the autumn colors of the Adirondacks for an hour-long flight above Lake George, Saratoga, Wilton and rural Washington County areas. Guests receive commemorative digital photos and, upon landing, refreshments and a champagne toast. Ground transportation to the flight area included. Flights leave and return to Thruway Exit 19, I-87 Queensbury/Glens Falls. Shared space and private group flight is $250.00 per person; groups of 10 may reserve the entire flight. Weight restrictions apply and all flights are weather-dependant. More balloons are available for larger groups.

2 Adirondack Scenic Railroad,

Utica’s Union Station (www.adirondackrr.com), provides a nostalgic ride through the Adirondacks. Riders can enjoy the scenery without a care. Rides begin at 11:30 a.m. Fridays and Sundays Sept. 15 through Oct. 22 and stopping in Thendara at 1:30 p.m. before heading home at 2:15 p.m. Train departs from 321 Main St. in Utica. Adults $39.50; seniors 62+ $37.50; youth (2-12) $29.50.

3 Camillus Erie Canal Park

(www.eriecanalcamillus.com/boat.htm) offers scenic boat tours on its two tour vessels, the turn of the century excursion boat, the Ontario, and a pontoon boat, the Camillus Erie (wheelchair accessible). Both offer music and narration on the two-mile, 45-minute rides. Guests may also join in an optional, brief walk to the historic Nine Mile Creek Aqueduct. Tours sail through mid-October Sundays, leaving on the hour from 1 p.m. through 4 p.m. Adults $3; Ages 5 to 12 $1.50; Under 5 free; maximum for family $10.50.

4 Colonial Belle Erie Canal Boat Tour

(www.colonialbelle.com) is your best bet. Touring downtown Rochester, the four-hour fall foliage tour showcases one of the area’s most scenic routes via the Erie Canal to the Genesee River. The cruise includes a seasonal fall buffet dinner, dessert, beverages and live music by Fred Vine. The cruise leaves at 12:30 p.m. Oct. 8 from Schoen Place in Pittsford. Boarding begins 15 minutes before the tour starts. Reservations required. $85.

5 Amtrak’s Great Dome Car

(www.amtrak.com/fall-travel-on-the-great-dome-car) gives leaf peepers plenty to see with its glass-topped viewing deck. With daily, 10-hour trips running north and south between New York City and Montreal, riders take in some of the state’s most famed sights. But as with the New England Fall Foliage tour, you’ll need to travel to one of the stations served by the line as listed on the website.

For any of the above trips, don’t forget to ask about any discounts that may apply to you, such as AAA, senior, or veteran. If you plan on bringing along the grandchildren, ask about age minimums in advance.