It’s fall y’all! Time for bonfires, snuggly blankets, candy corn, football and pumpkin spice everything. You’ve gotten the carpool routine down, you’re googling soup recipes, you’re decorating with gourds and most of all, you’re ready for excursions and activities that celebrate the season. Read on for 12 places to go and things to do in Bergen County and beyond to get you in the mood to rake leaves, trick-or-treat and make this the best fall ever!
Get Lost. Harvest time means corn mazes, and if there’s anything we here in the Garden State like, it’s a corn maze. Lose your way in Heaven Hill Farm’s Wizard of Oz Maze Adventure, located in Vernon, NJ, and you might just wish you could click your heels three times to get out. Or make a day of it and visit Stony Hill Farm Maze Fun Park in Chester to try your hand at the 10-acre, sea turtle-themed corn maze. Then stick around for the fence maze, the tile maze, the rope maze and more. At Wightman Farms in Morristown, pick the Farm Sampler or Ultimate Experience package for access to their corn maze and their Mazeland mazes. Or stick close to home and visit the mazes at Secor Farms in Mahwah for a hay maze for your little ones and a corn maze for the rest of you.
Pick. Start or continue your family apple picking tradition with our Top Apple Picking Spots in New Jersey. Or pick your own pumpkin. Offer up a challenge and tell your kids you’ll buy the biggest pumpkin they can lift.
Roll. Hop aboard the 90-minute Great Pumpkin Train and ride the rails to visit the Ol’ Susquehanna Mine and pick out a pumpkin on the way home. Or take a ride on the Pumpkinliner at the official Whippany Railway Museum and enjoy the museum, seasonal arts and crafts and, of course, a trip to the pumpkin patch. But if a trip to the Island of Sodor is in order, chug on over to Liberty Science Center to visit with Thomas and Friends at the new Explore the Rails exhibit.
Dive In. So, you’ve swum with the dolphins, and you dream of someday diving into a tank at an aquarium to help them feed the fish. Until that day arrives, satisfy your yearning for the sea with the new National Geographic Encounter Ocean Odyssey, opening October 6 in Times Square. This 90-minute walk-through exhibit uses cutting-edge technology, photo-real animation, projection screens and interactive technology to enable visitors to have face-to-face virtual encounters with a variety of sea life, all without ever getting even the slightest bit damp.
Enter the Wizarding World. Hop on your broomstick and head to Pitman in Gloucester County the weekend of October 21 and 22 for the first-ever Pitman Potter Festival. The entire town is getting in on the fun with showings of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Quidditch lessons, a sorting hat demonstration, a Defense Against the Dark Arts class and a wand workshop. Dumbledore would approve!
Get Lit. For most of us, carving pumpkins means hacking away with those little saws we get in the blister pack of carving tools at the grocery store. But in a few places, pumpkin carving has become an art form. Debuting this year, Night of 1,000 Jack O’Lanterns will be lighting up Governor’s Island in New York City for one weekend only (October 26-29). A short ferry ride from South Street will get you to the Jack O’Lantern trail where you’ll see dozens of 100+ lb. carved pumpkins, sculpted pumpkins, 1,000 fresh pumpkins, and carving demonstrations, all with the city as your backdrop. Or head to the Hudson Valley for perennial favorite The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze. This granddaddy of carved pumpkin events will again feature thousands of pumpkins carved and sculpted into, among other things, the Pumpkin Zee bridge, a carousel, brand new jack-in-the-boxes and a spider web all with sound effects and lighting to enhance your experience.
Drink Up. Food (and drink) always tastes better when you make it yourself. So head over to the Tenafly Nature Center for their annual cider making workshops. You’ll learn how to use the apple press to make your own cider. Just don’t forget to BYOA (Bring Your Own Apples). Or if you need something a little harder, make the trip to Unionville Vineyards or the Warwick Valley Winery and Distillery. Make a day of it in Warwick with apple picking for the kids and your choice of wine, cider, brandy or gin from the winery/distillery. Just make sure you have a designated driver for the trip home!
Get Festive. Festivals abound this fall including the Medieval Festival in Manhattan’s Fort Tryon Park, a celebration of the middle ages complete with authentic medieval music, crafts, dance, magic, minstrels, jugglers, jesters and a joust. Or celebrate Oktoberfest with the adults-only Ales & Tails event at the Turtle Back Zoo featuring an Oompah Band, seasonal brews, local craft and food vendors. Or head to historic Smithville for a family-friendly festival where, for a weekend, you’ll swear you might be in Munich rather than in the middle of New Jersey.
Take a Hike. With fall foliage everywhere, there’s nothing better on a crisp day than a fun family hike in New Jersey. Palisades Interstate Park offers over 30 miles of well-marked trails ranging from easy to hard alongside the Hudson River. Or visit dog-friendly Ramapo Valley Reservation with more than 12 great trails, pond views and gorgeous vistas.
Give Yourself a Fright. Or two or three. Got little ones? A little bit of a scaredy cat yourself? Or love to freak yourself out at haunted houses with things that go bump in the night? Either way, our guide to Halloween Events in New Jersey and Beyond will help you plan your trip whether you want to get a little shiver or let out a blood-curdling scream (or two or three).
Take in a Show. Ready to sit back, relax and be entertained? You’re in luck. The AMC DINE-IN movie theater is now open at the Shops at Riverside, just in time for the release of the holiday blockbusters. Or for live entertainment, BergenPAC has an outstanding lineup of shows including the Halloween themed Haunted Illusions, So You Think You Can Dance, Blondie in concert, Denis Leary, Tracy Morgan, a Disney Moana sing-along and more.
Give Back. With Thanksgiving around the corner, make giving back a theme in your house by participating in these family-friendly volunteering events and activities that your kids will love.