It’s no surprise that October’s onslaught of fall festivals comes with a little madness, crowds and waits. Who hasn’t been to a farm or orchard on a gorgeous fall weekend without standing in line for 20 minutes for apple cider donuts. We’ve all been there. But sometimes things can get out of hand, and you’re so overcome by the crowds that you’re on the verge of leaving without donuts, lunch, pony rides, and god forbid, apples! We almost had one of these experiences this past weekend when we visited one of our favorite farms – Harvest Moon Farm and Orchard in North Salem, NY – where it was so crazy that had we not been meeting up with good friends, there’s a good chance we would have bailed. But we didn’t. Below are some tips on how to make the “fall festival” experience run smoothly, or as smoothly as possible.
First of all, do not go to a weekend farm fall festival after lunch time, especially if it’s the most glorious day of the entire fall season (such as it was with us) ! You’re just setting yourself up. Unfortunately, due to soccer games and practices, none of us (we were meeting 4 other families) could meet until 2:00 p.m. Every year our same group of friends from our old home in Brooklyn meets at Harvest Moon for some live music, lunch, beer, bouncies, ponies and apple picking. We’ve always loved it there as it has, despite a lot of people, a mellow vibe. But we’ve always met earlier in the day, and never had a problem. I mean, it gets crowded, but we’ve always managed to get food and activities for the kids without much hassle. Well, this year was a completely different situation. The plan was to meet at 2:00…but we didn’t get there until 3. Why? The exit on the highway to the farm was closed down – due to the traffic to the farm – and GPS rerouted us some ridiculous route and then we had to wait in traffic for ½ hour when we were only ½ mile away. Talk about aggravating. I can’t stress enough, go in the morning if you can! The crowds are building by the minute.
If you need to go in the afternoon, be prepared for long traffic and parking lines. Weather can obviously determine this as well (and perhaps in this instance, Columbus day weekend probably played a part too), but generally speaking, if it’s October, the crowds are descending. Also, if going in the afternoon, make sure to eat lunch ahead of time. My girls did, but I did not, and it was not good! The closest I could come to getting food was kennel popcorn. And beer, which was not a problem, thank god for that. Harvest Moon has one of the prettiest orchards around, where you climb a hill to gorgeous views of fall foliage in the distance, and then you descend down into the orchards. We had no trouble finding orchards where other people were not, so if you’re wanting to escape the festival crowds from the main part of the property, head straight for apple picking. Finally, try and purchase your tickets for bouncies, face painting, etc. all at once so you don’t have to keep going back to get in line. My girls love the bouncies there, and even though we had a few tickets left over, it was worth it to not be in line again.
Despite the madness, we still had a great day because we were in a beautiful setting with great friends. And we did score a lot of apples and pumpkins. But we were all exhausted and hungry come the end of the day. We will do it again at the same place next year – but next time, come hell or high water, we’re meeting much earlier. So take note, and do not while the morning away, no matter which farm you’re going to!