Stay regional yet get out of town with these nearby autumn escapes
By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
Enjoy the crisp autumn air of harvest time with a long weekend within a couple hours’ drive of CNY
It still feels like a getaway without the time and expense of traveling for days. Plus, Upstate has plenty of venues with incredible views and autumn experiences.
The “Grand Canyon of the East” offers gorgeous views in any season and autumn provides no exception. Letchworth State Park in Castile in Wyoming County was voted by USA Today readers as the “Best Attraction in the State” for good reason. Its 66 miles of hiking trails, towering cliffs, waterfalls up to 600 feet, and lush foliage provide splendid views. But don’t forget its performing arts programs, Humphrey Nature Center and hot air balloon tours. Stay at the Glen Iris Inn (https://www.glenirisinn.com), which offers guest suites, cottages and apartments—accommodations for any taste. Dining is available on-site at Caroline’s, which serves all three meals in an upscale yet relaxed ambiance. Caroline’s also packs picnic lunches—perfect to take along on a hike.
Old Forge in the Adirondacks offers spectacular views of foliage and plenty to do outdoors. Hike the trails at Bald Mountain or take a scenic chair lift ride on McCauley Mountain to enjoy the scenery. Get to know the friendly llamas at Moose River Farm and book a llama trek. Among the eateries in Old Forge, don’t miss Mountainside Smokehouse & Grill for authentic barbecue flavor. Stay at Great Pines Resort to keep that Adirondack vibe going. The resort offers rooms with jetted tubs and pet friendly accommodations.
In the Thousand Islands, explore the architecture and awe of two of the region’s most notable structures: Boldt Castle on Heart Island and Singer Castle on Dark Island. The boat tours share the fascinating history behind the castles, along with spectacular views of fall foliage and the St. Lawrence Seaway. Autumn is the best time to enjoy these tours.
Take some time to poke around the mom-and-pop restaurants and shops in Alexandria Bay, full of hometown vibes and artisan treasures. While in the area, stop by Old McDonald’s Farm in Sackets Harbor for a day of young-at-heart farm fun picking pumpkins, winding through the corn mazes and lunch at the Lazy Cow Café. Don’t miss the apple cider and be sure to take home a few apple cider doughnuts—if they last that long!
If wine is your beverage of choice, visit Coyote Moon Vineyards in Clayton or Thousand Islands Winery in Alexandria Bay for tastings.
The 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel in Clayton offers the best views of the St. Lawrence River and is close to downtown’s best attractions. Cozy up around the firepits, soak in the indoor whirlpool tub and mingle at the on-site Seaway Grille or 1000 Islands Bar.
In the Adirondacks, there’s no end to the leaf-peeping opportunities. But the Lake George area offers both water and foliage views, along with plenty of things to do. Lake George Steamboat Company (https://lakegeorgesteamboat.com) offers foliage cruises through the end of October. Or hike the 3.2-mile trail on Prospect Mountain to enjoy amazing views from the summit. You could also drive the 5.5-mile Prospect Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway if you’re not up for a moderate to challenging hike. As another hike, the Adirondack High Peaks Wilderness Area includes Mt. Marcy (5,344 feet) and Algonquin Peak (5,115 feet), two of the state’s highest peaks. The trail includes several lovely burbling streams.
Enjoy a few sips at Adirondack Winery in Lake George. It’s better to book a tasting to ensure a space at this popular winery. Reservations are accepted for parties of two or more. Check the website to see what vino awaits your palate.
History buffs should visit Battlefield Park and Fort William Henry, key venues of the French and India War era.
Ride through the foliage at Circle B Ranch in Chestertown. The stable offers one- to two-hour trail rides for beginners and experienced equestrians.
Not far away, Friends Lake Inn offers cozy mountain accommodations with amenities including fireplaces, soaking tubs, steam showers, firepits, on-site dining and excellent views, all close to hiking trails. It’s perfect for a couple’s getaway or a chance for single solitude.