This past fall was my first full autumn experience since 2010. The previous three years I was living overseas so I missed out on the wonder that is American autumn. Granted the past two years were in South Korea, where their own fall is amazing. But it was nice to get back to the States where autumn is not just beautiful nature, but practically an industry in and of itself.
There are so many wonderful places to see autumn in America, but I chose to visit the Hudson Valley in upstate New York. I had been wanting to visit it for years now after I read about all the things to see and do there. I mean, there is such a plethora of beautiful nature and of fun Halloween/autumn activities. I was in the area for a long four day weekend, and even then, I didn’t get to see everything I wished I could see.
I was actually a bit surprised when I did my research and realized that the Hudson Valley is only about a 90 minute drive north from LaGuardia Airport. For some reason, I thought it would be farther north. Originally I had planned to fly into Albany, because I thought it would be closer to my destination. And while yeah, it technically was, but it also would have taken about twice the time and an airline ticket would have cost twice as much as flying into NYC.
I flew into LaGuardia in the evening, and once I got off the utter madness and traffic jam of the Long Island Expressway, it was surprisingly easy to get on the right interstate highways. The Hudson Valley is well served by more than one interstate, so it is pretty easy to get around.
I was absolutely lucky to hit the Hudson Valley in peak fall foliage. That is something that is nearly impossible to predict every year. I was there in mid October, but I heard the previous year, that by mid October 2013, the leaves were already on the ground, because the cold came early. But this year, the weather was (near) perfect and the trees were swollen with leaves in all shades of red, orange, and yellow.
I had a very packed weekend schedule of local farms visits, winery tours, haunted houses, short hikes, and leaf peeping (all subject to future blog posts). There was just so much to do and so little time. When traveling on my own, I am a hardcore planner, and I spent a lot of time in advance of this trip researching different things to see and do and narrowing down what was possible in the time allowed. I even calculated all the driving times and directions in advance, and basically wrote out an itinerary that enabled me to maximize my time there, while still providing a variety of experiences.
I had a few absolute must do’s, but everything else was evaluating what was possible. I mean, I was only there for four days, and given the distance between some of the places I originally wanted to visit, I had to let some things, so I didn’t spend a ton of time in the northern part of Hudson Valley, and sort of centered my activities within a reasonable driving distance of Poughkeepsie.
There is so much beauty in this part of New York. So many times I was driving through the valley and wanted to pull over and gawk at the beauty around me. Sometimes I could do that, but other times, there was just no room, because some of the road lanes were rather narrow with no shoulder space.
I will say this though. While driving around New York is beautiful, it is not exactly cheap. I haven’t been to every state in America, but I had never encountered a place that had as many road tolls as New York. It wasn’t every interstate, but it was definitely some key ones. Most of the tolls were calculated based on the distance traveled on the toll road, so it was not a flat fee.
However, none of those upstate tolls compare to the tolls for driving into New York City. I chose the shortest route back to LaGuardia and didn’t make my choice based on tolls. So imagine my surprise when I got the George Washington Bridge from New Jersey, and it cost $13 dollars to cross the bridge into New York City. And then about 15 minutes later, I was shelling out $7.50 to cross the RFK bridge. So yeah, I spent over $20 dollars in road tolls to basically skirt the city and drive back to the airport. Definitely know before you go, and make sure you had enough in cash, because the toll booths don’t accept credit cards. I nearly got the cops called on me, because I forgot I was carrying large bills and asked if I could use my credit card. The toll booth operator called the Port Authority on me (all while the traffic backed up behind me), before I remembered I had a $100 bill that she could thankfully break. Whew.
All in all, this was one of the best weekend trips I have been on in America. There just was so much to see and do in upstate New York. If you like beautiful autumn nature, you definitely want to make a visit to upstate New York at some point. Even though there are other places to see and do for American autumn, I am still highly tempted to go back to the Hudson Valley this year.