Yearning for a fall festival experience for the family, but dreading the traffic and the crowds that can accompany a trip to the North or South forks? Never fear: You can enjoy a singing hayride, go moonlight pumpkin picking, and master a corn maze at these smaller, mellower farms and nurseries, all west of Riverhead:
Take a singing hayride in Dix Hills
Albert H. Schmitt Family Farms, 6 Bagatelle Rd., Dix Hills, 631-549-3276, schmittsfamilyfarms.com
There’s entertainment on board the singing hayride ($4 per person), and it changes each weekend. “I had a singer with a ukulele. She was great. I had a singer who played harmonica and guitar. He was multi-tasking,” says Jean Schmitt, co-owner. Kids also can ride the tractor-pulled train ($6 per person) with seats decorated like six different animals — including a pig, a goose and an elephant — during the fall festival at this farm just off Exit 50 of the Long Island Expressway in western Suffolk County (if getting there by GPS, use Huntington Station in the address instead of Dix Hills). They also can race rubber duckies ($4 per child) controlled by pumping water in a gutter, and pick pumpkins laid out in a field (starting at $3.99 each). Traditional fall food offerings include roasted corn, apple cider doughnuts and candy apples. The festival runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends through Halloween, as well as on Columbus Day.
Giddyap in Oceanside
The Dee’s Nursery & Florist, 69 Atlantic Ave., Oceanside, 516-678-3535, deesnursery.com
Kids can ride a pony ($6.99 per ride) at the Fall Festival. They also can pet and feed goats, chickens and rabbits inside the fenced-in petting zoo ($7.99 per child). And for budding archaeologists, there are two “digs” — kids can mine for fossils or for gems ($10.99 at each station). Either stones or bones will be in the sand, and kids shake out the sand using a wire-framed screen and take home what they unearth, says co-owner Adele Dee. Pumpkin photo-ops abound, Dee says, and there’s a complimentary corn maze and spooky walk. The activities are available weekends through Halloween, as well as on Columbus Day.
Go moonlight pumpkin picking in East Islip
Organics Today Farm, 169 Washington St., East Islip, 631-480-6497, organicstodayfarms.com
“You know how kids love flashlights,” says owner Mike Massina. For “Moonlight Pumpkin Picking,” from 6 to 9 p.m. each Friday through Halloween, kids bring their own flashlights to the pumpkin patch. “The pathway is illuminated, but the pumpkin patch is dark,” Massina says. The event is geared to families with children ages 12 and younger. “This is not a spot for teenagers — it’s not that kind of vibe going on here. We don’t do scary. For 12-and-under kids, dark is scary enough.” In addition, the farm stand is lit up, all the tables are lit by candlelight, and four chimeneas offer a fireside ambience. A hayride runs all evening. “The hayride cart is lit up and the tractor is also,” Massina says. Admission is $3 per person; hayrides are an additional $3 per person. Pumpkins and food purchases are a la carte. The farm sells roasted corn, apple cider doughnuts, pumpkin muffins, warm cider and hot cocoa, and there are food trucks out front, Massina says. The farm is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. for pumpkin picking and hayrides through Halloween. There’s no admission during the day, but hayrides are still $3 per rider.
Race rubber duckies in Brookhaven
Glover Farms, 633 Victory Ave., Brookhaven; 631-286-7876, gloverfarmsbrookhaven.com
Kids race rubber duckies down pipes in this new game, pumping water to make the ducks move. Four kids can play at a time. They also can enter a big pumpkin that’s filled by blowing air and has floating beach balls inside. “The kids go in and try to catch the beach balls,” says owner Gail Glover. Both of those activities, as well as a straw mountain that kids can jump on and pumpkin bowling, are included in the $2 entry fee. Additional new offerings including a “Chicken Run” ($2 per person), which is a tractor-pulled hayride decorated with chickens, and a corn cannon that shoots pieces of corn on the cob into a field ($2 for three shots). Hours for all activities are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekends through Nov. 3, as well as on Columbus Day.
Take a wagon ride through a Christmas tree field in Huntington
Elwood Pumpkin Farm, 1500 E. Jericho Tpke., Huntington, 631-368-8626
Take a wagon ride through the farm’s Christmas tree fields ($6 per adult and $4 per child). “I call it a wagon ride because I don’t put hay in it,” owner Lee Itzler says. Explore the family friendly maze ($5 per person). “The corn maze is set up to be child friendly. Adults go in and have a nice time with their kids,” Itzler says. And pick your own pumpkin (between $5 and $30, depending on the size). “You can go to Costco and buy a pumpkin. But you don’t come to places like this because you just want a pumpkin. You come for the experience,” Itzler says. The farm is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, but families can also experience the fall offerings from 3 to 5 p.m. weekdays. Activities continue through Halloween, as well as all day Columbus Day.
Pick a pumpkin off the vine in Manorville
Lenny Bruno Farms, 740 Wading River Rd., Manorville 631-591-3592, lennybrunofarms.com
While most pumpkin-picking venues have already picked the pumpkins and arranged them in a field for visitors to inspect and choose, at Lenny Bruno Farms visitors pick their pumpkins while the pumpkins are still on the vine (69 cents per pound). “That’s a big plus,” says owner Dominic Bruno. “People want to see something that’s real.” In addition, the farm offers a hay ride, a corn maze, face painting and a play area with a play tractor for a $5-per-person admission fee. There also are three bounce houses — one is shaped like a castle, Bruno says. There’s a separate $5-per-child admission fee to the bounce houses. The farm is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekends through Halloween, as well as on Columbus Day.
Hold a not-so-scary baby bunny in East Setauket
Benner’s Farm, 56 Gnarled Hollow Rd., East Setauket, 631-689-8172, bennersfarm.com
“It’s a small farm,” Bob Benner says of the 15-acre farm he owns. “But it’s kid-sized. It isn’t overpowering.” Children can hold baby bunnies and see the farm’s three pigs and handful of sheep, Benner says. They also can take a not-so-scary haunted hayride that’s included with the admission fee of $8 per adult and $6 per child or senior citizen. Pumpkin picking also is available, as is taking rides in the swing hanging from the farm’s huge oak tree, Benner says. Activities are available from noon to 4 p.m. on weekends through Nov. 3.
Be A-maze-d in St. James
BB & GG Farm & Nursery, 625 North Country Rd., St. James; 631-862-9182
BB & GG Farm has a 5-acre pumpkin patch. Pumpkins are priced at 69 cents per pound. It is $10 per person to enter the farm's corn maze and take a hayride. “I keep it very simple here. I basically attract the local people who don’t want to go out on Sound Avenue,” says owner William Borella. Attractions open weekdays noon to 6 p.m. and weekends from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Halloween, including Columbus Day.