Autumn fun for Long Island familiesPinThis



It’s time to break out the sweaters. Part time, of course, until the temperature decides to fail you during the daytime too. Then, inevitably, the sandals will all disappear, the bathing suits will be taken out of regular rotation one by one, pumpkins will begin appearing on every house’s doorsteps, and eventually even the sprinklers will get a long hiatus. Autumn has made her gradual entrance as always. There is simply no rushing her. She knows she will never be hurried.


Autumn fun for Long Island familiesPinThis


This last point is, of course, due to the fact that rushing is optional when you hold such a lofty and indisputable position among the very best the seasons have to offer. Fall’s near-universal adoration is all but assured year after year as her crowning glories can never be usurped or even imitated. Not even close. Apple picking and fall festivals? Yes. Fall classes at Benner’s Farm and the autumn play area at Pantaleons Farms? Why yes and yes! Also, pumpkin carving, cozy boots and sweaters, hot apple cider, hats, scarves, the smell of firewood burning in the air, and that’s just naming a few.

I take comfort in knowing that I am not alone in this [near obsession]. A scroll through memory lane in iPhoto recently led me to realize that I’ve cultivated the same adoration of all things autumn in my cubs too! That same love that made me binge watch Hocus Pocus and listen to The Monster Mash on repeat as a kid is now percolating through their veins as well. So, in an effort to help foster this same level of fervor among other little Long Islanders, I’ve rounded up some of the choicest options for fall fun around this wonderful island of ours. Some invite you to stay and play, others to just drop by for a quick visit, but all are worth their salt as far as autumn fun for Long Island families is concerned!


Autumn fun for Long Island familiesPinThis


Fall Family Festival Weekend at Planting Fields Arboretum
October 8th and 9th

Enjoy a family-friendly day on the beautiful grounds of the arboretum featuring a Halloween trick-or-treat and costume parade, live musical entertainmet, jumbo garden games, pumpkins for sale, pony rides, potato sack races, watercolor demonstrations, a bounce house, food and beer tastings, and much more!

Fall Family Freshwater Fishing Festival in Hempstead Lake State Park
October 15th

This annual fishing festival includes fall activities for good measure! The event features a casting for pumpkins contest in addition to fly fishing instruction, demonstrations, and outdoor exhibits. Children can also enjoy pumpkin decorating, an exotic animal show, face painting, and a magic show.

Village Day Fall Festival at Sands Point Preserve
October 16th

Enjoy the grounds of this lovely estate for the day to enjoy plenty of outdoor fall activities including a petting zoo, hayrides around the beautiful Great Lawn to take in the surrounding fall foliage, pony rides overlooking the beautiful Long Island sound, pumpkin painting, artisanal foods and vendors, honey from the Guggenheim Estate’s very own hives, a variety of refreshments, and entertainment from students of Bach to Rock throughout the day.


Autumn fun for Long Island familiesPinThis


33rd Annual Oyster Festival in Oyster Bay
October 15th and 16th

This iconic annual event is held rain or shine in the quaint village of Oyster Bay. Naturally, the festival features plenty of fresh seafood delicacies prepared fresh in dozens of different interpretations by professional and volunteer chefs alike. Other highlights include the annual oyster shucking and eating contest, pirate shows, artisans, midway rides, and live music, all with the backdrop of tall ships on the water.

Rise of the Jack O’Lanterns at the Old Westbury Gardens
through October

Definitely among the more unique events of the fall season, the Rise consists of a walk along a well-lit 1/3 mile scenic trail, set to a musical score created just for the event, as you make your way through the gardens to see the more than 5,000 hand-carved jack o’lanterns on display around you. New and exciting creations await you every year, but in years past we’ve seen recreations of popular television and movie stars, sports teams, animals, and city skylines. A live carving station allows you to watch the artists work their magic up close.

Halloween Boat Burning at The Long Island Maritime Museum
October 28th

This annual tradition in the idyllic town of Sayville is based loosely on the Norse tradition of a funeral pyre, one in which you will see only the fire department setting ablaze to a large donated wooden ship instead of vikings! This event also holds a raffle where one lucky winner wins a one of a kind handcrafted boat by LI Maritime Museum volunteers, light refreshments, live entertainment for the families and halloween costumes are encouraged!


Autumn fun for Long Island familiesPinThis


Bats, Barnacles & Broomsticks at Long Island Aquarium
October 29th

The aquarium joins in on the Halloween fun with an adorable penguin costume parade, games and crafts, haunted house, trick or treating, raffles, giveaways, author reading and signing, and so much more! Who doesn’t love a trip to the aquarium? Don’t forget to dress up your little ones in costume, they will get half off admission with a paying adult!

Great Jack ‘o Lantern Sail at Belmont Lake State Park
October 29th

Pumpkins sailing around a lake is one event you don’t want to miss. The first 50 carved pumpkins from patrons will be set up with candles inside, and set to float around bringing halloween fun to the state park. More fun is to be had at the petting zoo, games, crafts, trick or treat stations, and visiting the “spooky den” is a must!

Owl Prowl 5K at Scully Estate in Islip 
October 30th

Set on the beautiful grounds of Scully Estate, the whole family can get dressed up in costumes and run/walk this 5K race the day before Halloween! We ran it last year, and fell in love with all the family fun that was had! There is even a Monster Mash Dash for the little ones! After the race, stay and enjoy the Spooky Soiree of children’s activities in and throughout the estate.


Autumn fun for Long Island familiesPinThis

The Mama Bears Camping at Lake GeorgePinThis


A summertime family camping trip has happened now for two years in a row. Dare I say a new family tradition might have been born? Our first camping-with-kids expedition began last year with our road trip to Maine’s Acadia National Park. It was a trip so phenomenal, so chock-full of adventures and opportunities for littles of all ages that it took two posts just to cover all this goodness. This year, we kept it a little closer to home with a few days at the foot of the Adirondacks indulging in some family camping in Lake George.

The last time I was here I was a kid myself, albeit a giant kid of the teenage variety, a kid nonetheless. Back then I was content to spend my days at the lakeside beach and enjoy some ice cream in town before sitting around the campfire telling funny stories and talking about our day. Now, however, it’s quite a different story. Now there is only so much sitting a preschooler can take, only so many hours that the same strip of shoreline can serve as fascinating fun. Likewise, we’re overdue for a little more action ourselves. We’re ready to take full advantage of this fun new stage of parenthood blissfully free of bulky diapers and flimsy strollers, and with the kiddos now possessing a nifty little thing called coordination, as well as more stamina and kick-ass gross motor skills- they are ready too.

So this time around, we let ’em have it.


The Mama Bears Camping at Lake GeorgePinThis

The Mama Bears Camping at Lake GeorgePinThis

The Mama Bears Camping at Lake GeorgePinThis


We pitched our nylon home away from home this year at Hearthstone Point State Campground, on a site just steps from its beguiling little strip of sandy shoreline. It is located about two miles north of Lake George Village, close to pretty much any of the amenities you’d want to enjoy during your visit to the area. During the inevitably arduous setup process, a heady combination of sidewalk chalk, a pair of curiously friendly ducks, scooters, and a healthy indulgence in good old-fashioned exploration kept all four kiddos occupied, happy, and out of mischief.

Growing up, my family came to Hearthstone a lot and I was happy to see that everything we’d always loved about it then is still true today. We love that the grounds are conspicuously clean and well-maintained and that the campground’s main bathroom and shower facilities are spacious and private- even more so now that they’ve undergone a complete renovation. Additionally, every site at Hearthstone has its own designated fireplace for evening fires and there are plenty of open places for the littles to ride their bikes and scooters and play lively games of tag- not to mention making sandcastles or swimming at the beach.


The Mama Bears Camping at Lake GeorgePinThisThe Mama Bears Camping at Lake GeorgePinThisThe Mama Bears Camping at Lake GeorgePinThisThe Mama Bears Camping at Lake GeorgePinThis


Ominous clouds notwithstanding, we headed out right on day one for the first activity in our lineup- the summit of one of the regions iconic landmarks- Prospect Mountain. Just outside of town, it offers breathtaking 100-mile panoramic views via either a 5.5-mile drive (for a fee) or a 3-mile hike (free). If you choose to drive, as we did (see clouds above), there are a few scenic overlooks you can stop at along the way. Once you get to the top, you will park and then either board the free shuttle or hike the final short distance to the peak. If you’re hiking all the way, know that the well-marked trail is suitable for experienced and non-experienced hikers alike and that it can be accessed right in town off Smith Street.

On a clear day at the peak you can enjoy unobstructed views all around including the Adirondack High Peaks, the Berkshires of Massachusetts, the Green Mountains of Vermont, and the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Closer still, you can peer down at tiny Lake George village. That afternoon, heavy clouds impeded much of our view but we enjoyed what we could see and took our time taking it all in. We saw one of the last paddlewheelers in America, the Minne-Ha-Ha, steam her way around the pristine lake far below, and read about the curious history of the Prospect Mountain House, the resort hotel that was once situated here, and the inclined railway that ferried passengers to and from it. Remnants of both still remain at the summit.


The Mama Bears Camping at Lake GeorgePinThisThe Mama Bears Camping at Lake GeorgePinThis

The Mama Bears Camping at Lake GeorgePinThis

The Mama Bears Camping at Lake GeorgePinThis

The Mama Bears Camping at Lake George-14PinThis


Partaking in some canoeing or kayaking (or any watercraft action for that matter) with toddlers is the very antithesis of a good time. I’m sorry, but it just is. Your ability to look around and take it all in is impeded by the necessity of having to keep certain riders from going overboard. The freedom to just lay back and relax is obliterated by their incessant climbing, moving, and clinging. You see where I’m coming from, right? But that all ended last year. This year, the final little in our troupe finally vacated that 3-year probation period which makes their little group of four much more pleasant waterborne company.

We celebrated this newly unlocked level of maturity by checking out Lake George from a different perspective- right at its surface. We headed up to the picturesque little resort town of Bolton Landing about 20 minutes from our campground to rent a canoe from F.R. Smith & Sons Marina. We paddled out past Green Island and the lovely Sagamore Resort and then turned north to circle around nearby Crown Island at a relaxing, leisurely pace, a stunning heron keeping us company part of the way. The experience was absolutely wonderful and unforgettable- and not only because we successfully avoided capsizing! Without a doubt, it is something every family camping in Lake George should do if they’re looking for a scaled-back and simple way to enjoy one of the best attractions the area has to offer- the beauty of the lake itself.


The Mama Bears Camping at Lake GeorgePinThis

The Mama Bears Camping at Lake GeorgePinThis

The Mama Bears Camping at Lake GeorgePinThisThe Mama Bears Camping at Lake GeorgePinThisThe Mama Bears Camping at Lake GeorgePinThisThe Mama Bears Camping at Lake GeorgePinThis


After our canoeing expedition in Bolton Landing, we decided to stick around and check out a little more of what this charming, quaint little hamlet had to offer. It turns out, quite a lot! The narrow streets bustle with activity as visitors and locals alike fill the tiny village with life. The main thoroughfare is replete with inviting gift and antique shops, boutique stores, and unique restaurants at every turn. It was such a great place that we made sure to come back and visit again before we left.

While there, we lived up to our promise/bribe of ice cream at the local (and awesome) Ben & Jerry’s ice cream shop which features an ample front porch from which customers regularly sit and watch the world go by as they enjoy their sweets. We perused a few antique shops and boutiques and then eventually sat down for what we were really after- food. Our choice that day was the Huddle, where we talked plans and future adventures over glasses of sangria and local craft beer while relishing the crispy calamari and fried shrimp in sweet and spicy Thai sauce on the recently completed outdoor patio. Our next time in town we tried something different. We went for the Guinness cubano and lobster roll at the Lakeside Lodge and Grill. Both places were exceptional! We can’t wait to go back and try something different. Bolton Landing is, without a doubt, a certified foodie town.


The Mama Bears Camping at Lake GeorgePinThisThe Mama Bears Camping at Lake GeorgePinThisThe Mama Bears Camping at Lake GeorgePinThis


There are few things cooler to a kid than riding a horse.

I haven’t figured out exactly why that is yet. Is it a desire to feel close to such a gentle and sage representative of the animal kingdom? Is it to align their reality with the vision of the tough, horse-riding wrangler they see in their mind’s eye? I can’t quite put my finger on the answer. But whatever the case may be, I am happy to oblige whenever the opportunity for a positive interaction with well-cared-for equines presents itself. And here in the Adirondacks we had just such an opportunity at Saddle-Up Stables.

Around since 1945, Saddle-Up Stables offers daily hour-long trail rides through the woods for adults and older children as well as hand-led pony rides for the littles ones. Our kiddos were all about those ponies. There was quite a bit of action going on that day and we had to wait for a bit, but there were plenty of ponies and horses along the fence that the children loved to watch and talk to as they waited. When their turn finally came around, each and every one of them was beaming with pride as they got boosted on, ready to enjoy yet another round of whatever it is they imagine in their heads whenever they find themselves in the vicinity of these majestic animals.

In the days ahead we explored even more of what Lake George has to offer for families both right in town and deeper into the Adirondack Mountain region. Our adventures that week saw us rafting, hiking, and even tramping through caves in torrential rain. It was exactly the kind of weeklong active fun we’d been waiting so long to have with our littles. Check out the rest of our Lake George hits and misses soon in our upcoming post, Family Camping in Lake George (Part II).