August in the Finger Lakes region of Western New York is the ultimate Fall preview. The days are still sunny and hot but dry and breezy and the nights are crisp and cool. This is the closest we get to Napa on the East coast and it’s just a few hours away by car. I took the time away to reconnect with good friends over a long weekend and it was well worth it! While I stayed at the home of one of my friends I saw there were many Bed and Breakfasts housed in old Victorian homes (Like the Sutherland House in Canandaiga or Belhurst Castle in Geneva or the Quinta Rosa Estate just outside Ithaca) that just had me envious for a four-poster bed weekend! The Fall is a very busy season for the vineyards and a favorite of foliage hunters so book early!
I have been trying for years to get to Watkins Glen State Park. The cabins are forever booked and the photos I have seen made me determined that I would not miss this opportunity on my visit. I have to say it was worth the wait. Within two miles, the glen’s stream descends 400 feet past 200-foot cliffs, with 19 waterfalls along its course! The gorge path winds over and under waterfalls and through the spray of Cavern Cascade. Every moment was simply breathtaking (literally- the trails in some areas are no joke!)
Being someone who loves to cook I was drawn by the allure of the Ithaca Farmer’s Market. While the market operates year-round it is an absolute delight at the height of summer. In addition to soaps, candles and local crafts there was a bounty of produce so fresh the dirt from the fields still clung to their roots. My favorite summer treat- garlic scapes- were available in abundance. I spied a beautiful display of greens from Oxbow Farm in Erin, NY which turned out to be Callaloo- a mineral-rich dark green similar to mustard or collard greens. I learned from the farm owners Noelia and Tim how to cook them and did so that evening. I found a similar recipe here and highly recommend it as a change of pace from spinach!
It wouldn’t be a girl’s weekend without alcohol. We visited the Dr. Konstantin Frank vineyard in the beautiful town of Hammondsport. Dr. Frank was responsible for a revolution in the Finger Lakes wine industry using European grape rootstock to create wines that rivalled the ones from overseas. The vineyard, situated on a steep bluff at the edge of Keuka Lake, houses The Terrace at 1886 which offers the experience of tasting four wines from the vineyard with an assortment of seasonal cheeses. It was a glorious way to speand an afternoon.
I know there is so much more to discover in this part of the world but, for that moment, it was better to savor it one sip at a time.
Not all local vineyards and wineries permit children on the premises, but raise your glass to these six that do! And be sure to check the policies on children in the tasting areas before you visit.
Alba Vineyard & Winery – Milford
Fantastic food is on the menu at Alba Vineyard, a scenic hillside estate located in New Jersey’s upland valleys. Check the events calendar, and bring your appetite to a night of barbecue and farm-to-fork dinner held during the summer. Alba also welcomes families to its annual Mother’s Day and Father’s Day events but requests that children remain under adult supervision at all times. The tasting room at Alba’s winery is open daily and boasts a vast selection of red, white, and dessert wines produced on the premises.
Four Sisters Winery – Belvidere
This family-owned vineyard and winery is known to be family-welcoming, offering fun events for all ages. Family events throughout the year include family fun days, including a Father’s Day Pig Roast, and fall harvest days, with pick-your-own pumpkins and apples. While visiting, pick up treats at Aunt Sadie’s Bakery and Cafe.
Hopewell Valley Vineyard — Pennington
Brick-oven pizza, prepared on Friday and Saturday evenings, is a big hit at this 70-acre vineyard. Enjoy live music Thursday through Saturday, along with award-winning wines, a light fare menu, and old-world hospitality. Children are welcome but parents are cautioned that the vineyard is a festive environment so keep a close watch on kids while there. Well-behaved pets are also permitted as long as they stay outdoors.
Laurita Winery – New Egypt
Food truck festivals, outdoor movies, singing competitions—you’ll find all these festivities and more at Laurita throughout the year. The festivals offer free admission to anyone 12 and under, and feature a variety of delicious eats, vineyard tours, wine for the grownups and bounce houses for the kiddos. Don’t miss out on the fun of Cornhole Tournaments and car shows held in spring and summer. With all this, plus wine tastings and a gourmet food market, Laurita has something for everyone.
Terhune Orchards Vineyard and Winery – Princeton
With so much activity for all ages, Terhune is a can’t-miss day trip destination. Throughout the year, the orchards offer a wealth of pick-your-own goodies, from berries to apples and pumpkins. Kids will have a blast visiting farm animals, participating in the Read & Pick storytimes, and taking part in various events, including the popular Firefly Festival in June. And parents will enjoy sampling the 14 varieties of wine produced in Terhune’s own nine-acre orchards. The family-owned winery allows children in the tasting room, and it hosts events and wine trails throughout the year.
Working Dog Winery – East Windsor
Bring the kids, and even your dog, to this bountiful Mercer County vineyard and winery. On a beautiful day, grab a table at the outdoor patio, or pack a picnic lunch, and enjoy homegrown red, white, or sweet wine while listening to live music. Children are free to bring Frisbees or Wiffle balls and run around the fields.
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As the temperature cools and the leaves start to change, there’s no better way to embrace the season than to get outside and explore the nature around you. New Jersey is home to miles upon miles of beautiful hiking trails, many of which offer the stunning New York City skyline views unique to our state.
Below are a few of the best trails, within an hour or less drive from Hoboken and Jersey City, where you can immerse yourself in all of the reds, oranges, and golds that you can handle. Grab your water bottle, hiking boots — and maybe even your furry best friend — and get going!
Palisades Interstate Park (20 minutes from Hoboken/JC)
Standout Trail: Take the Long Path, which starts at the stunning State Line Lookout, and moves through the park, hitting many other places of interest along the way.
Location: Bergen County Trail Time: 4 hours Hours: Sunrise to Sunset Why It’s Great: State Line Lookout features a breathtaking panoramic view of the Hudson River. The park also boasts Greenbrook Sanctuary (a secluded woodland preserve), three historic sites (including the Kearney House, a nineteenth century tavern), four picnic areas, and three boat basins. More info: Visit http://www.njpalisades.org/index.html.
Cheesequake State Park (40 minutes from Hoboken/JC)
Standout Trail: A 4.5-mile hike explores Hooks Creeks Lake, Perrine Pond, and terrain ranging from forests to salt marshes. For this hike, take the Yellow Trail to the Blue Trail until you reach the Green Trail, which will complete the loop.
Location: Middlesex County Trail Time: 3 hours Hours: 8:00 am to 8:00 pm Why It’s Great: This park boasts a rare combination of vegetation, from salt marshes to wetlands to forests, all of which are easily accessible to hikers through various trails. More info: Visit http://www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/parks/cheesequake.html.
Pyramid Mountain Natural Historic Area (40 mins from Hoboken/JC)
Standout Trail: Pyramid Mountain staff members recommend a 3.5-mile, moderately challenging trail that begins in the parking area, passes through a scenic overlook, and culminates at Tripod Rock. Plus, the return loop has a stretch along the Taylortown Reservoir.
Location: Montville Township Trail Time: 2.5 hours Hours: Sunrise to Sunset Why It’s Great: The trail boasts stunning views of the New York City skyline, waterfalls, wetlands — and an up-close look at Tripod Rock. It’s a glacial erratic — aka, a rock not native to the area — and, as a 160-ton boulder balanced on three smaller stones, it’s a striking feat of nature. More info: Visit http://www.morrisparks.net/aspparks/pyrmtnmain.asp.
Ramapo Mountain State Forest (60 minutes from Hoboken/JC)
Standout Trail: The trails are adaptable, but we like the five-mile route that takes hikers along Ramapo Lake and passes through the ruins of Van Slyke Castle. Take the MacEvoy Trail for about 1.5 miles, turn off onto Castle Point Trail, and use the Todd Trail to loop back around to the MacEvoy Trail.
Location: Bergen and Passaic counties Trail Time: 3.5 hours Hours: 8:00 am – 8:00 pm until November 1, when the trails will close at 6:00 pm Why It’s Great: The trails are flexible, so hikers can mix-and-match routes based on their interests and ability. And Ramapo boasts New York City skyline views — as well as the ruins of Van Slyke Castle. More info: Visit http://www.nynjtc.org/park/ramapo-mountain-state-forest.
Delaware Water Gap Recreational Area (60 minutes from Hoboken/JC)
Standout Trail: A scenic 7.5-mile hike covers Buttermilk Falls, Crater Lake, and Hemlock Pond. Begin at Buttermilk Falls, head onto the Appalachian Trail until you reach the Crater Lake Trail, you’ll then use the Blue Mountain Lakes Trail to link back up with the Buttermilk Falls Trails and return using that route.
Location: Layton, Sussex County Trail Time: 6 hours Hours: Sunrise to Sunset Why It’s Great: Buttermilk Falls is NJ’s highest waterfall and a favorite destination of visitors to the park. Be sure to plan your hike after a period of rain to get the best views of the waterfall. More info: Visit http://www.nps.gov/dewa/planyourvisit/trails.htm.
Hacklebarney State Park (60 minutes from Hoboken/JC)
Standout Trail: Take the Main Trail to the Upper Trail, and then use the Lower Trail to hike along the Black River before looping back.
Location: Morris County Trail Time: 2 hours Hours: Sunrise to Sunset Why It’s Great: This trail takes hikers along many streams as well as the Black River, which is a plus as proximity to water causes leaves to change color earlier in the season. More info: Visit http://www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/parks/hackle.html.
Norvin Green State Forest (60 minutes from Hoboken/JC)Standout Trail: This four-mile trail will take you to one of the best views in New Jersey, Wyanokie High Point. Begin on the Otter Hole Trail, until you come to the Hewitt-Butler Trail, and follow this trail to the Wyanokie Circular Trail. Continue on the Wyanokie Circular Trail until it splits from the Mine Trail, at which point you should follow the Mine Trail to the Roomy Mine Trail. Stick to this trail until you once again reach the Mine Trail. From here, follow the Hewitt-Butler Trail to the Otter Hole Trail until you come back to your starting point.
Location: Passaic County Trail Time: 3 hours Hours: Sunrise to Sunset Why It’s Great: Wyanokie High Point features breathtaking skyline views, and also overlooks the Wanaque Reservoir. You’ll also see an old copper mine, as well as many streams and unique rock formations. More info: Visit http://www.nynjtc.org/hike/wyanokie-high-point-loop-weis-ecology-center.
Worthington State Forest (90 mins from Hoboken/JC)
Standout Trail: A 7.8-mile trek follows the park’s Dunnfield Creek trail from the parking area for the first 3.5 miles, reaches Sunfish Pond, and returns on the Appalachian Trail.
Location: Hardwick Township, Warren County Trail Time: 5.5 hours Hours: Sunrise to Sunset Why It’s Great: You can enjoy breathtaking views of Delaware Water Gap and Sunfish Pond, a stunning glacial lake. Warning: This terrain is rocky, so hiking boots are a must! More info: Visit http://www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/parks/worthington.html.