For years, tourists have driven to the north country to enjoy the spectacular colors created by the fall foliage.
But Corey C. Fram, director of the 1000 Islands International Tourism Council, says that the region has so much more to offer to tourists than colorful leaves during the fall.
Communities throughout the region host their own seasonal autumn events that attract big crowds, Mr. Fram said. The next two weekends are loaded up with festivals, a couple of Oktoberfest events and other activities for locals and tourists to enjoy.
“You give them a reason to visit,” Mr. Fram said.
Last fall, many of those events were canceled because of the pandemic but are returning this year. He expects that significant crowds will be back.
Zoo New York in Thompson Park and Old McDonald’s Farm in Sackets Harbor also remain popular destinations in the fall, he said.
Calling it “a shoulder season,” Mr. Fram said fall tourism begins as soon the summer season ends after Labor Day weekend and runs through the Columbus Day weekend.
While the summer season remains important for the region’s tourism and hospitality industry, fall can extend that success, he said. Visitors change as the seasons change, he said.
Families are the big draw for summer visits. During their stays, they tend to pop in and out of different destinations to make sure that their children have fun.
In the fall, Mr. Fram said visitors are older, single or couples who might be empty nesters, describing their visits as “slow travels.” Instead of hitting several destinations in a day, they go to such places as historical museums, wineries, distilleries and breweries and then stay a few hours.
The season is already in high gear. He’s noticed that hotel rates continue to be “pretty high,” so people must be coming here, he said.
Christine A. Tiger, retail manager for the Thousand Islands Winery in Alexandria Bay, looks forward to this weekend, when the winery will celebrate its annual Oktoberfest on Saturday. It will feature five bands, four food trucks, crafts and vendors from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Between 3,000 and 5,000 people are expected to attend.
“It’s our biggest event of the year,” she said. “It’s kind of a last hurrah.”
With the season winding down after Columbus Day, visitors can still stop by daily for their last-minute stocking up on its products for the summer, she said.
In Watertown, several events are planned this weekend.
The Watertown Business Association is kicking off an annual arts festival on Saturday that will feature the unveiling of its first mural in Veterans’ Memorial Riverwalk Park. Watertown First has arranged for a number of food trucks in the J.B. Wise parking lot. An Oktoberfest will be held downtown, and L.L. Bean will have a pop-up store on Public Square.
With the change of seasons, it’s time to put on a flannel shirt and head to Old McDonald’s Farm to pick out that perfect pumpkin and enjoy fall activities. Old McDonald’s has two corn mazes, pig races at noon, hayrides, cider donuts, pumpkin ice cream, a mega slide and, of course, farm animals.
“It’s been a nice fall,” said Jocelyn Hayslett, who’s worked a variety of jobs at the farm since 2019.
After Labor Day, hours were reduced on weekdays. The farm closes for the season after Halloween.
Fall also means it’s leaf peeping time along the St. Lawrence River. For the last couple of years, Clayton Boat Tours has offered two-hour sunset tours for viewing fall foliage.
“Each of the captains have their tour,” said operations manager Debbie L. Scholes. “They pick their place to go. You could go different days and get a different tour.”
A view of colors is also reflected on Lake Ontario, Mr. Fram said.
Director Gabriela Padewska expects the crowds will be back on Oct. 9 for the Minna Anthony Common Nature Center’s 42nd Autumn Festival after a year absence.
Located at Wellelsey Island State Park, the nature center has a host of events scheduled for the festival, a fundraiser put on by the Friends of the Nature Center. A scarecrow building contest, pony rides, a petting zoo and a birds-of-prey demonstration are just some of them.
The season brings a slate of Saturday events through December, Ms. Padewska said. The nature center attracts people from all over the region, although Canadian visitors still cannot cross the border. Most of the activities are outdoors, so visitors should feel safe from COVID, she said.
The Punkin Chunkin’ event in Clayton is traditionally one of the final activities of the fall tourism season, Mr. Fram said. After a year break, the pumpkins will be flying on Oct. 16, rain or shine.