Leaf peeping is perhaps the quintessential spectator sport during the fall. While viewing the changing colors by car is most Long Islanders’ tried-and-true Plan A, there are tons of unique and fun ways to get front and center for nature’s annual extravaganza. Here are nine alternatives to take in this year’s autumnal splendor with each activity located in a premier regional fall foliage destination.
The Hudson Highlands
The rugged Hudson Highlands are even more stunning in their fall finery, and sightseeing on the water is a must to take it all in. Two cruise options to try this season are the "Pride of the Hudson" with two-hour sailings out of Newburgh ($28 ages 12 and over, $18 ages 4-11 through Oct. 31; bring your own food or add lunch for $14.95) and the "Evening Star" with 90-minute cruises out of Peekskill Saturdays and Sundays through October ($25 ages 16-64, $15 ages 3-15.)
For those who enjoy their fall foliage fast (up to 50 mph), there’s literally nothing like a zip line canopy tour. The undisputed king of the hills is Zipline New York at Hunter Mountain, home to the longest (4.6 miles total) and highest (600 feet) zip line course in North America. Thrill-seekers have a choice of two, adrenaline-charged, roughly three-hour tours, the Mid-Mountain Tour (6 zips and 4 suspension bridges) for $99 per person and the SkyRider Tour (5 dual racing lines) for $139 per person. Available Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through October.
For a significantly slower and less-elevated view, take in the passing scenery on horseback at one of several riding stables in the Catskills, including Mountain Brook Farm in Windham, K & K Equestrian Center in East Durham, and Rolling Stone Ranch in Bethel. The standard hourlong trail ride runs $65-$90 per person.
Delaware Water Gap and Northwestern New Jersey
Stretching for 40 miles along the New Jersey-Pennsylvania border, the remarkably pristine Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area bursts with vibrant colors each fall. Those up for the challenge can hike to the top of either Mount Tammany (in New Jersey) or Mount Minsi (in Pennsylvania), the Gap’s two sentinels, but awaiting you on top is a spectacular view of the Gap and the Delaware River some 1,400 feet below.
Paddle your way down the only intermittently riffled Middle Delaware in a canoe, kayak or raft. A handful of outfitters will set you up, drop you off and pick you up afterward. Trip lengths vary from two to eight hours (4-16 miles) and prices from $46-$52 per person. Through October.
Catch fleeting glimpses of the forest as you descend 1,000 vertical feet at Mountain Creek Resort’s acclaimed 52-trail bike park. All-day open gondola lift passes cost $55 for adults (19 and up), $40 ages 18 and under. Full-day bike rentals: $120 adults, $80 youth. Open Thursdays-Sundays through Nov. 7.
Travel rhythmically back in time on the Stourbridge Line from picturesque Honesdale, Pennsylvania, site of the Western Hemisphere’s first commercial locomotive. Foliage excursions along the Lackawaxen River are 1.5, 2.5, or 3.5 hours in length and offered Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through Oct. 30. ($20-$25 adults, $10-$15 ages 12 and younger.)
More adventuresome types can shoot Class II and III rapids through the Lehigh River Gorge in a rubber raft. Trips, which last three to four hours and cost $55-$70 for adults (slightly less for children), not including wetsuit rental, are run by a handful of operators. Easier trips farther upriver also are available.
For more family fun, head to Jiminy Peak Resort’s two adventure parks. The Mountain Adventure Park features a mountain coaster, alpine super slide, zip lines, chair lift, giant swing and European bungee trampoline, while the Aerial Adventure Park is a treetops rope course. Combination passes (four hours of mountain adventure rides and two-hour aerial adventure) cost $59 (over 54 inches tall) or $49 (48-53 inches.) You can also mountain bike ($29 a day, but no rentals) and spend the night in the base village lodge. Open weekends through Oct. 17.