When colorful leaves assert themselves and eventually descend upon us Northeasterners we realize that fall is here. And before we know it, colorful relatives assert themselves and descend upon us, clueing us in that Thanksgiving is here and fall is almost over.
As parents we don’t even have to ask how the season got away from us so quickly. We went from Labor Day to Columbus Day to apoplectic Halloween prep to exponentially more apoplectic Thanksgiving prep without sitting down. Not once.
Don’t even think it’s time to stop the madness. You can’t. Fall wasn’t meant to be relaxing for parents with school-age kids. But if you time it right and poke around in the Northeast you’ll find excellent family travel to shove the fall madness aside. Here are five of my favorites:
Let Pilgrims and Wampanoags fix your dinner in Plymouth
Let’s start with the big turkey in the room. If you’ve got the guts to forgo a traditional Thanksgiving with your extended family, consider a trip that’ll bring your brood back to the ’20s – the 1620s, that is – when you join Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians at Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, Mass. on November 25 for America’s Thanksgiving Dinner. Sounds like the name of a fall network reality show, but it’s a functional set-up with turkey and such regionally appropriate fixings as Harvard beets as well as “music, riddles, stories and even a 17th-century toast.”
A dinner buffet option is available, too, but take the plunge and agree to assigned seating at tables of 8-10; if your party has fewer than eight diners you’ll likely be seated with fellow strangers escaping the holiday. There are three seatings (as of this writing the 2:30 was sold out) but you can also break bread – or ginger bread, in this case – at 11am and 6pm. The fee – $87.95 adult, $64.95 kids under 12 – includes Plimoth Plantation attraction admission (ordinarily $28 adults, $18 kids 6-12). If the fee seems steep, think about how long your kids will be dining out on this experience. And if you really get hooked on the idea of Turkey Day away from home, consider these other Thanksgiving destinations.
Hike Mt. Kearsarge without the mud and bugs
As lamented at the top of this post, autumn streaks by all too franticly, so after you’ve made your Thanksgiving plans for Plymouth, take advantage of the fact that Columbus Day always falls on a Monday and plan a three-day hiking trip to Winslow State Park in Wilmot, NH. The park’s picnic area serves as a manageable jumping off point for a mile-long walk via the Winslow Trail to the top of Mt. Kearsarge.
The trail may be a bit rocky and steep for the under-7 set, in which case you can take the Barlow Trail, three-quarters of a mile longer than Winslow but less hilly. Barlow’s also a bit more scenic, as it affords views of Mt. Cardigan and Ragged Mountain. Either way you’ll reach the summit of 2,937-foot Kearsarge, far too muddy in the spring, far too buggy in summer, but perfect for fall. Bring jackets, because it’s also far cooler at the top than anyone in your brood will expect.
Park facilities are open until Oct. 24; admission is $4 per adult, $2 for children, and free for kids five and under. You can also keep your costs down by scouting some of the fall New Hampshire deals that crop up at Sherman’s regularly.
Photo courtesy of Nancy Solomon
Pick apples and pumpkins with attitude in New Jersey
The Jersey shore gets all the headlines, but remember that they call it the Garden State for a reason, so pick a weekend this fall and take on some apple picking at Riamede Farm in Chester, N.J. Apple season kicked off on September 2 and while there are 34 kinds of apples potentially available throughout the season, you’re encouraged to call the day of your visit to find out what the pickings are. Your kids won’t care, of course, as long as they can get at the fruit, which is low-hanging enough for the shorter members of your party.
If you time your visit to Riamede for September 25 or later you can also pick a pumpkin. More specifically, you can cut one off the vine – you’ll need to bring your own cutting implement or you can borrow a fellow pumpkin patch dweller’s, which is easy enough to do. Or, there may be some choice jack o’ lantern candidates simply sitting on the ground.
Speaking of which, vines and roots may poke out of the ground in odd places, so watch your step. And while the farm prides itself on not having a corn maze or pony rides, there are free hayrides that’ll happily cart you and your brood around the farm. As at most you-pick farms you’re charged by the weight of what you pick, so think about that as well as how much applesauce you can realistically expect everyone to eat over the ensuing weeks.
Get schooled about spooky in Salem
For the sake of argument let’s say you picked and carved your pumpkin but then, inspired by your get-out-of-Thanksgiving plan, you decided you might have to find an alternative to coordinating Halloween costumes and party schedules. If so, consider heading to Salem, Massachusetts for Halloween.
The good news is, even if you don’t make it there for the actual day, Halloween lasts for a month in Salem, from Oct 7 to Nov. 1, with some activities that are decidedly more young-kid friendly than others. Among them is yet another ride back to the 1620s with Salem Kids Tours including age-appropriate stories of Puritans and witches. Cruises, trolley tours, fright nights, and other events with varying degrees of spookiness are scheduled throughout the month-long celebration: consult this handy brochure for details.
Check out these other great Halloween destinations if you’re not yet in a sufficiently spooky mood.
Learn what it means to watch a marathon in New York City
The fall event that’s dearest to my heart is close to home, quite literally – we’re down the street from where thousands of runners are in midst of negotiating the 17th mile of the 26.2 mile course for the ING New York City Marathon, happening this fall on Nov. 7. My kids are among many locals and visitors who have made a ritual of sidling up to the sidelines in an unofficial capacity and cheering on the runners.
If you’ve witnessed a marathon before you know the infectious pull of shrieking encouragement, but you may be surprised at just how much your kids get into the spirit, shouting “Go Bob!” and “Go Irene!” at strangers who respectively have “Go Bob!” and “Go Irene!” written on their shirts.
If you choose to join in on the cheering, book a New York City hotel soon as October through December is the city’s busiest hotel season. And be sure to pack some marathon-sized patience. You’ll be among two million spectators, so you may find yourself jostled as well as hard pressed to cross the path of the race – though it is possible along police-monitored crossings. So, in the spirit of the marathon, equip your family with some energy bars, settle in, and have a New York City experience and a fall experience like no other.
Visit ShermansTravel.com for their latest family travel deals.
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