You can go pumpkin picking by moonlight or slurp fresh oysters at Long Island’s largest festival — toast Oktoberfest in a beer garden or get spooked in a real castle. It’s all part of finding fun on Long Island this season.
It’s more than just a beer garden — it’s an atmosphere. Polka bands and traditional German dancers trim Oktoberfest celebrations at Plattduetsche Park’s outdoor hall, which serves a special menu laden with brats and wursts besides the usual big-as-your-head soft pretzels. Festivities continue most Fridays-Sundays clear through October. No cover charge.
INFO Plattduetsche Park, 1132 Hempstead Tpke., Franklin Square; 516-354-3131, parkrestaurant.com
Watch some hoops
The renovated Nassau Coliseum is getting a league of its own: the Long Island Nets. The minor league NBA team affiliated with the Brooklyn Nets makes the Coliseum its new homestead this season. With tickets starting at $10, expect games to have lots of family-friendly entertainment, including a kids dance troupe.
INFO From $10, Nov. 4-Mar. 18; 516-231-4848, longisland.gleague.nba.com
Pick pumpkins at night
Pick the perfect pumpkin by moonlight – no spooks, no gore — at Organics Today Farm, which offers family-friendly Friday night picking in its patch. Bring a flashlight and wander the field to find just the right pumpkin, then relax at a candle-lit table with roasted corn, pumpkin muffins and cider donuts.
INFO 6-9 p.m. Fridays Sept. 22-Oct. 27 at 169 Washington St., East Islip (ages 19 and younger must be accompanied by an adult); 631-650-4424, organicstodayfarms.com
Hit the Oyster Festival
Long Island’s largest festival draws up to 200,000 people to Oyster Bay’s waterfront. It’s a mega affair — tall ships dock for the weekend, pirate reenactors roam, there’s a midway, arts and craft fair, oyster-eating and shucking contests. But really, most people are in it for the food. Local organizations have made a tradition out of offering once-a-year specialties such as oyster po’boy sandwiches and oyster stew — booths are cash only.
INFO Free admission, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Oct. 14-15 at Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park, West End Avenue, Oyster Bay; 516-628-1625, theoysterfestival.org
See the carved pumpkins
Five thousand hand-carved pumpkins are set aglow for the Halloween season on the grounds of Old Westbury Gardens. Walk through the marked trail — tickets are sold in advance for timed entry — and you’ll see them arranged in vignettes dedicated to sports, television, movies and more. For families, it’s a not-so-scary way to get out after dark. New this year: an onsite patch for those who want to choose a pumpkin to take home.
INFO $26 ($22 ages 2-12); Oct. 6-29 at Old Westbury Gardens; 516-252-3392, therise.org
Get spooked at a castle
With its stone gargoyles and stately Tudor-style architecture, Sands Point Preserve’s Hempstead House looks all the part of a storybook castle. That makes the 40-room Gold Coast estate a particularly fitting place for a haunted house. Visitors roaming the three-floor estate — including the underground dungeon — may well think there’s danger lurking in the darkness.
INFO $25 cash only, Oct. 25-27 and 29-31, 127 Middle Neck Rd., Sands Point; 516-571-7901, sandspointpreserveconservancy.org. Kids younger than 12 not permitted, ages 13-18 require adult supervision.
Get your apple fix
Sure you could go for a jug of pressed cider, an apple cranberry crumb pie or an apple cider doughnut. But fall’s signature fruit comes in myriad other forms at the Jericho Cider Mill, now open year-round. Consider the Frapple — a slushy frozen apple cider drink that satisfies year-round — or an apple cider cheesecake. Shelves are stocked with pantry items such as homemade apple sauce and apple-flavored syrup, marmalade, vinegar, oh my! Don’t stop there: Baked goods range from apple cinnamon rings to crisps and breads.
INFO 9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily, 213 Jericho Oyster Bay Rd, Jericho; 516-433-3360, jerichocider.com
Meet the horses
The winery has a long-running program that rescues retired racehorses and other equines at risk of slaughter to live on the farm. On weekends, visitors can tour the paddock and meet rescues like the Arabian horse Mirage and Justice, a thoroughbred descendant of the famed Triple Crown winning racehorse Secretariat.
INFO $5, offered hourly 1-3 p.m.(weather and attendance permitting) weekends at 2114 Sound Ave., Calverton; 631-369-0100, bhfhorserescue.org
DIY craft spirits tour
The North Fork isn’t all about wine anymore — in recent years, craft distilleries have cropped up to offer made-on-site small batch liquors. There’s Long Island Spirits for potato vodka, rye and Pine Barrens single malt whiskey and gin (2182 Sound Ave., Riverhead; 631-630-9322, lispirits.com). Or Twin Stills Moonshine, which uses imported copper stills to brew liquers infused with such flavors as apple pie, honey and coffee (5506 Sound Ave., Riverhead; 631-779-3199, twinstillsmoonshinedistillery.com).
Both offer sampling flights and sell bottles to enjoy at home.
See a college football game
College football games dominate fall Saturdays around the country — on Long Island, you can get the experience at the Stony Brook Seawolves’ home games. The newly expanded stadium is the largest outdoor athletic facility in Suffolk County, holding 12,300 spectators. Visit the pop-up Seawolves Town for a pre-game tailgate party that includes music, games and face-painting. Hint: Dress in red and blue.
INFO $12-$18, 6 p.m. Oct. 14, 1 p.m. Nov. 4 and 11 at LaValle Stadium, Stadium Rd., Stony Brook; 631-632-4513, stonybrookathletics.com
Go to the farm--after dark
Seeing a field of corn in the daylight is bucoulic — standing in one in the pitch dark of night is anything but, The creepy creatures at Schmitt’s Farms chasing you through a twisted maze of maize is intense enough to keep you awake until Thanksgiving.
INFO 7-11 p.m. or midnight select dates Oct. 6-31, 26 Pinelawn Rd., Melville; 631-271-3276, schmittshaunt.com
Loop the lake
Come fall, some say Belmont Lake State Park is the prettiest spot around. You can stroll or bike the wide paved path the winds around the large lake. It’s framed by groves of trees in glorious shades of crimson, orange and stark yellow.
INFO 625 Belmont Ave, West Babylon; 631-669-1000, parks.ny.gov
Conquer the maze
Only if you enjoy a challenge: Fairview Farm’s corn maze spans 8 acres with stalks growing 10 feet tall — so don’t think you’ll be able to cheat your way through. But you can stand atop a pair of bridges along the way to get a better vantage point. While you’re there, fire off a round in the corn cannon or let the kids play in a “corn” box (kernels standing in for sand).
INFO $12 ($10 ages 4-11), 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Thursday-Sunday and Columbus Day through Nov. 12 at 69 Horsemill Lane, Bridgehapton; fairviewfarmatmecox.com
Feed the fish
Connetquot River State Park’s recently re-opened fish hatchery raises trout year-round to be fished along the river, a long-favored destination for fly fishermen. After a few years of closure due to a disease plaguing the fish population, the hatchery has returned to stock what’s regarded as one of the premiere freshwater fishing rivers in the Northeast. Visitors can stop by the hatchery during regular park hours to get a glimpse of how the trout are raised — more in-depth educational tours are offered a few times a season (reservations suggested).
INFO 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays with $8 parking; $4 hatchery tours 9 a.m. Oct. 14 and Dec. 23 at 3525 Sunrise Hwy, Oakdale; 631-581-1072, parks.ny.gov
Go cider tasting
Apple-picking season isn’t just for kids, particularly at Woodside Orchards, an early pioneer of the now-booming hard cider scene on Long Island. The farm’s orchards produce 28 varieties of apples that are pressed onsite into soft and hard ciders that can be sampled in the tasting room or brought to the picnic area out back to enjoy settled in Adirondack chairs around the firepit.
INFO 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. daily except Wednesdays, 729 Main Road Rt. 25, Aquebogue; 631-722-5770, woodsideorchards.com
Take the slide
Everybody loves a giant pumpkin — and there are plenty of whoppers to be seen front and center at Hanks, which might be the agri-tainment hub of the Hamptons come October. Besides its u-pick apples and pumpkins, there’s a kids activity park offering a dizzying span of entertainment: pig races, simulated cow milking, calf roping. Don’t miss taking a turn down the 50-foot tube slide
INFO $14 activity park, 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through Oct. 31 at 240 Montauk Hwy., Water Mill; 631-726-4667, hankspumpkintown.com
Join a bocce league
The 21-and-over crowd converges on Tuesday nights at 89 North, a bar better known for live music. The national American Bocce Co. league has set up indoor courts for teams of 4 to 8 players to take aim and roll. Stop by any night to watch teams play — recruit your own squad to join the next season or fly in as a free agent to be matched with an existing team.
INFO $260/team, 6:30-10:15 p.m. Tuesdays (7-week seasons) at 89 North, 89 North Ave., Patchogue; 631-730-8992, 89northmusic.com
Ride in a coffin
The theater company’s haunted house is complete with a twisted midway of characters — a fire-breather, fortune teller. Once you’ve had your fill of the haunt you can opt to be loaded into an actual coffin for an all-too-real ride in a hearse.
INFO $25-$30 plus $5 coffin ride, Sept. 22-Nov. 4 at 215 South Country Road, Bellport; 631-286-1133, gatewayshauntedplayhouse.com
Trot like a turkey
Thanksgiving morning Turket Trots are a long-standing tradition, perhaps nowhere more so than Garden City, which is marking its 40th anniversary 5-mile run this year. More than 6,000 runners take to the pavement for what has become the area’s largest Thanksgiving morning road race. Turkey hats and pilgrim garb not required.
INFO $25-$35 registration, 10 a.m. Nov. 23 with physically challenged race at 8:30 (free) and fun run ($15-$20) at 9:15 from St. Paul’s School, 285 Stewart Ave., Garden City; gcturkeytrot.com