Heading up the Hudson to Duchess County every fall is one of my favorite family traditions. Thanks to the MTA, finding our way upriver is as easy as ever. Once September hits, I immediately begin anticipating cold weather, looking out for the changing of the leaves, and craving crisp apple cider.

MTA Getaways offer New Yorkers the opportunity to get out of the city streets and into the neatly organized rows of vineyards and apple orchards.

The past few years have involved signing up for tickets in August, reserving your seats and making the long trek upstate via the MNR on the morning of. If you missed the morning bus, you would have to grab a cab to the groups next destination. Called Duchess County Farm Fresh Tours, you traveled with the group from stop to stop until the bus headed back to the station. For larger families the trip was exhausting, and a 6-8 hour long affair – not including travel to Beacon, where the bus picks and drops off passengers. This year the tour has been updated to be far more flexible and accommodating. Now the tour will feature hop on/off shuttles – so you can visit your favorite spots on your own timetable.

Did you know that while New York is nicknamed the big apple, and it is the nations top apple grower, it’s iconic moniker stems from a different source altogether.

“The Big Apple moniker first gained popularity in connection with horseracing. Around 1920, New York City newspaper reporter John Fitz Gerald, whose beat was the track, heard African-American stable hands in New Orleans say they were going to “the big apple,” a reference to New York City, whose race tracks were considered big-time venues.” – Elizabeth Nix

Costs & Tips

Spots on the tour can sell out. Quickly. Plan ahead and book a month in advance if you can. Dates this year include: September 15, 16, 22, 23, 29, 30 and October 13, 14, 20, and 21st.

Do a little research. You’ll have the choice of stopping at Fishkill Farms, Sprout Creek Farm, and/or Meadowbrook Farms. You’ll also be stopping at the city of Beacon, you can look around for a place to eat the day of – but busloads of tourists will be doing the same, and if your group takes too long to decide you may end up cutting into your apple-picking time or waiting on a long line for a seat at a local restaurant.

Buy your tickets ahead of time. Make your reservation ahead of time, and make an effort to buy your tickets ahead of time too. When reserving your space you’ll be given the option of the 10am tour or the 12pm tour. I recommend the 10am tour to maximize your time. Buying your Metro North tickets to Beacon ahead of time will save you the headache of figuring out weekend timetables and worrying about whether or not you will make it.

Plan to spend a lot and carry a lot. Despite being out of the heartbreaking and wallet destroying zipcodes of Manhattan, things are priced similarly upstate – especially in light of tourist season. However the money spent on this trip goes to supporting small businesses and local farms – so definitely worth every penny and then some. Prepare to haul home bags of freshly picked apples, bottles of cider, and dozens of addictive cider donuts. And buy extra, you’ll probably eat half on the train trip back downstate.

Be kind to your hosts. Opening up their farms to tourists allow these farmers to keep operations going. That being said, they have to make sure that they provide bathrooms, parking space, and contend with hordes of folks traipsing through their property. Don’t leave your trash behind, don’t swing from the bows of the closest apple tree for your next Instagram shot (it takes over 100 gallons of water to produce a single pound of apples, think about all the labor and energy that went into keeping that tree standing and producing), and please don’t try to barter over the price of a bag of apples (we’ve seen it happen).

Reserving your spot on this trip will only cost $1 per person.

Interested in a more guided tour? They’ve got that too! Check out the Dutchess Farms, Apple & Pumpkin Picking Weekend. For $69 per person, you also have access to regular shuttles and the package includes the bus from NYC and back. Stops for this trip may include Rhinebeck, Red Hook, Greig Farm, Rose Hill Farm, Mead Orchards, Hahn Farm and Kesicke Farm.

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