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5 fall traditions you can still experience on Long Island this year

Steve Breest of Flanders and his daughter Ariana

Steve Breest of Flanders and his daughter Ariana Breest, 16, eat corn on the cob in Riverhead. Credit: Marisol Diaz

Fall's coming, and so are many things that we associate with the season-- from u-pick apples and pumpkins to corn mazes, hay rides and haunted houses.

Here’s a bucket-list rundown of ideas to keep your fall traditions going this year, at a safe distance:

1. Pick your own

Apples, pumpkins and more are ready for you to pick right off the vine (or branch) this fall. The u-pick farm options on the East End are aplenty, and a trip to the fields is sure to leave your pantries full of fresh fruits ready for baking.

Be sure to check what's ripe and in-season before you head out. If a warm apple pie is the end goal of your picking, consider reaching for those Granny Smiths at Lewin Farms in Calverton, The Milk Pail in Water Mill, Woodside Orchards in Jamesport or a variety of other farms. Apples are in season through October at most locations and since the activity is entirely outdoors, it's ripe for social distancing. Farms are requring mask-wearing, hand sanitizing and many have installed shields between the cashiers and customers. If you're eyeing that perfect jack-o'-lantern canvas, slot in your farm trip for early to mid-October. 

2. Spend the day on a farm 

A picturesque autumn day on Long Island features a trip to the farmstand more often than not. Family-friendly farms have resumed their dining, drinking and playing options just in time for peak season. Pull on your mask and enjoy a day sipping cider at Harbes Family Farm in Mattituck where the kids can roam the Barnyard Adventure and meet goats, rabbits and more. A new obstacle course, complete with ropes walks, tunnels and balance beams, is sure to intrigue ($19.95 on weekends, 631-482-7641, harbesfamilyfarm.com). If your ideal farm experience comes complete with Long Island-made wine, try Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard, a bar-meets-winery in Calverton currently open for tastings. (631-369-0100, baitinghollowfarmvineyard.com)

3. Get lost in a maze 

Some sunflower fields will be in bloom again mid-September, so you still have a shot at scoring that perfect Instagram shot. Rottkamp’s Fox Hollow Farm is slated to open a new field for the season and Sidor Farms expects its existing field to last through the month. Call ahead to make sure farms are open as weather can impact bloom. (Rottkamp’s: $5 for visitors over 6 years old; 2287 Sound Ave., Baiting Hollow; 631-727-1786, foxhollowfarm.net. Sidor Farms: $7 per person; 8632 Wickham Ave., Mattituck; 631-644-2200)

If corn is more your scene, F&W Schmitt Farm's 7-acre corn maze opens Sept. 19 in Melville ($9, schmittfarms.com). Further east, the three corn mazes at Harbes' locations in Mattiuck, Jamesport and Riverhead have been widened to encourage social distancing this year. The most interactive is the Robin Hood-themed maze in Riverhead, where players can play touchless trivia to work through to the end ($22 includes u-pick apples, harbesfamilyfarm.com). 

4. Sip on cider and snack on treats 

Fall is just as much about the flavors as it is the activities. Breweries, cider mills and wineries are serving up locally made ciders with a crisp apple taste. At the Jericho Cider Mill, where people line up to buy it by the gallon, a frozen apple slushie is on tap when you visit (516-433-3360, jerichocider.com). The Riverhead Ciderhouse serves up the hard ciders, with flavors including original apple, raspberry, peach and cranberry (631-591-0217, riverheadcider.com). Sweet and savory snacks from roasted corn still in the husk to the beloved apple cider doughnuts and pumpkin pies are also waiting to be enjoyed at local farm stands this season. 

5. Get spooked 

Several haunted houses are still on track to open this spooky season — and, to do so, they're getting creative. More haunted attractions than seasons prior are expecting patrons to reserve timeslots to limit the number of people on the grounds. But social distancing doesn't mean fewer haunts. Bayville Scream Park is slated to open six haunted attractions — including Bloodworth Haunted Mansion — and it will add a new haunted drive-in experience complete with live theatrical performances and a movie screening to the mix. (From $23; 516-624-4678, bayvillescreampark.com

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