Imagine fall day-trips, and you picture golden leaves, crisp apples, shady hikes… We could tell you where to go for all that, but we’ll leave it to someone else. Instead, we’re sending you out for something more than foliage and fresh fall air. Just a stone’s throw from Brooklyn are some free and cheap day-trips well worth the train or bus ride for a dose of off-beat, rural autumnal charm. You’ll be tossin’ the pickles, spinnin’ the wool and Oktoberfesting like you’re in Deutschland itself.
Everything’s accessible by public transportation or private bus line. Transport’s going to be your biggest expense for most of these, but you can’t really do this stuff at home. To cut the cost, consider ridesharing with like-minded day-trippers.
Hunter Mountain Oktoberfest, Oct. 10 and 11
You may have skied this mountain before, but have you ever camped out there, drowsy from beer, serenaded to sleep by the straight-from-Munich Allgäu-Wind? This Oktoberfest offers zip-lining, crafts, pumpkin painting, musical guests and, ja, you guessed it…bier! Three kinds of Spaaten are on tap including Oktoberfest beer and Franziskaner Weisbeer. Tap beers are $6 but from 4-6 p.m., they’re half off. Camping is $15 for a night on the grounds (in case you’re in no state to make it home). Nestled in the Catskills, Hunter Mountain has waterfalls, hiking trails and everything else outdoorsy you want in the fall.
Price: Admission is free
Transportation: There are myriad ways to get to Hunter Mountain. Amtrak runs to nearby Hudson (2 hrs.), and there’s a list of bus options on Hunter Mountain’s site. Call for exact prices but you won’t likely find anything cheaper than $40 roundtrip.
The Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival, Oct. 16 and 17
This festival is more than a glorified petting zoo (although they do have llamas!), with events like a chopstick knitting and spinning contest, a bred-ewe sale show, cooking demonstrations, wine tastings, sheep sheering demonstrations, music, magic, mad science and a lot of dogs playing frisbee. Now if that doesn’t sound like an authentic upstate festival, we don’t know what does.
Price: $9 in advance, $12 day-of and $17 for two days.
Transportation: Amtrak to Rhinecliff is the most convenient, but it’s $48 roundtrip (1 hr. 30 min.). Metro-North to Poughkeepsie is a little farther away but you can get there off-peak for $29 roundtrip.
The Oyster Bay Oyster Festival, Oct. 16 and 17
Oyster Bay hosts this festival every year with a local cheffing competition, oyster eating contest, pirate shows, ship viewings in the harbor, stews, gumbos and general cuteness. For you oyster lovers, you were probably hooked at oy-.
Price: Free Admission
Transportation: LIRR has a package deal that’s $19 roundtrip plus three free oysters on the half shell.
Richmond Town Complex, all October
Sometimes our urge to get away takes us to… Staten Island. Richmond Town Complex is New York City’s very own living history village and museum. The town sits on 100 acres and houses one of the oldest homes in the country (from the 1690s!). This month, head to Richmond on any weekend or Columbus Day for punkin’ pickin’ or to visit the corn maze on New York’s oldest operating farm.
Price: $5 per person or $16 for a family of four (includes shuttle from Richmond Town Center to the farm) + price of a pumpkin.
Transportation: Public transportation all the way: either the free ferry and a bus (S74), or buses straight from Brooklyn (S79 to S74). It’s all on their website.
The Rosendale Picklefest, Nov. 21
Celebrating its 12th anniversary this year, Picklefest was started by Bill and Cathy Brooks when they threw a “pickle party” for their Japanese friend Eri Yamaguchi. That first year, 1,000 people showed up and learned about Japanese pickled vegetables and spices. German pickling tradition was the theme the next year, and the fest has done nothing but grow over the last decade. There are contests for pickle tossin’, pickle juice drinking and, of course, pickle eating. And the Japanese tea ceremony has continued, along with German dancing.
Price: $3 for individuals, $5 for families
Transportation: Adirondack Trailways Bus to Rosendale is $44 roundtrip (1hr. 50 min.). But with over 5,000 in attendance these days, and considering the popularity of all things pickled, explore a rideshare.