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Iced coffee has turned into hot coffee. Jackets are back. And I’ve officially stopped wearing peep toe heels to work. These are all signs that fall is in full swing here in New York. It’s an amazing time to be in the city. And even though yes, New York is a city, and one with a lot of concrete at that—it in no way means there aren’t plenty of places to enjoy all the great stuff that nature has to offer this time of year. You want to leaf peep, for example? Go to Central Park….or Prospect Park. Or take a fall foliage cruise on the Hudson. The possibilities are endless. Or maybe leaf peeping isn’t your thing—you’d rather go fall wine tasting. No problem. Take the Ikea ferry to Red Hook Winery, which offers tastings every day from 11 am-5 pm.
And then there’s pumpkin picking, the classic fall activity. Full disclosure—a year ago I probably would have directed you to Whole Foods, because that’s sadly where I bought my own pumpkin. This year though, I went for the full fall experience at the Union Square Farmer’s Market, and I can tell you, I will never recommend grocery shopping for pumpkins again. First of all, the variety is amazing. Not only are there tons of vendors from which to choose—but so many different pumpkins at your disposal as well. I’m talking, pumpkins I never even knew existed. Is Cheese Pumpkin a thing? Because they’ve got it. And p.s., any pumpkin with “cheese” in the name is A-Okay with me.
Another great thing about buying pumpkins at the market is the other fall treats available to sample. You can get all kind of apples fresh from the upstate orchards; drink some cider while you wander; you can even do a little fall wine tasting and kill two birds with one stone, in the event that you don’t have time to go all the way to Red Hook Winery.
Finally, it just feels so much more like fall to go pumpkin “picking” at the market. And that really is the point, isn’t it?
Of course, for those of you looking to go picking at an actual pumpkin patch, there are plenty of those around the city as well. Here are three to consider, all accessible entirely by public transportation (not even a cab ride required!):
Queens County Farm Museum
Don’t be confused by the name. While it is an actual historic property (dating back to the 1600’s) that New Yorkers can visit year-round, October is Pumpkin Month, which means that visitors can also wander around the farm in search of the perfect pumpkin. Even more than that, they have a maze—an Amazing Maize Maze, actually, according to the name—which makes it a great place to take kids. Both the pumpkin patch and the maze are open weekends from October 1 to October 30. If you’re not renting a car, Queens County Farm Museum is accessible by both subway/bus and the Long Island Railroad.
If the Staten Island Ferry is your favorite mode of public transportation, then Decker Farm is the place for you. While not quite as old as Queens County Farm, the property does date back to the early 1800’s, and is part of the broader Historic Richmond Town. It is also just as kid-friendly. In addition to pumpkin picking, there are farmhouse tours, hayrides, arts and crafts, and….surprise!, a maze. Note that for this one you need to book tickets for a particular day, but you can do so through their website. To get there, you’ll take a combination of the ferry and the S74 bus. It’s about a 90-minute trip from Manhattan.
Luna Park Pumpkin Patch
Yes, that’s right, you can even pick pumpkins in Coney Island! How’s that for variety? The Luna Park Pumpkin Patch is open from September 24th to October 30th as part of a larger Harvest Festival they hold every year. This one is probably the most geared toward kids, with balloon animals, face painting, and spooky karaoke. So if you’re going on a pumpkin patch date or other adult-themed excursion, you’ll probably be better off at one of the above. Without a car? Take the Q/F subway to West 8th Street Station, the D/F/N/Q to Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue Station, the B36 to Surf Avenue and West 8th Street, or the B68 to Neptune Avenue and West 8th Street.
Okay, now that you know where to get a pumpkin but for a fun thing to do in the fall? I do this almost every year, and it never disappoints—meaning, it’s fun for all ages, totally kid-friendly, and really easy to pull together. All you have to do is pick a location and a time, tell everyone to bring a fall-themed dish or drink (bonus points for pumpkin-based grub), and ask a few people to bring carving supplies (tools, newspapers, wipes, and plastic bags).
Pumpkins, of course, are BYO.
Contributed by Reagan Daly