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Apples, leaves, football and pumpkin fiestas: The best Buffalo is found in fall

It’s easy to get sad about the departure of Buffalo’s summer.

The short sleeves. The patio drinks. The daily schedule of outdoor concerts, free exercise classes and gentle morning breezes, the kind that caress like only a thankfully calm Great Lakes gust can.

It’s a shame to see it all go away for the year, but it would be much harder to say goodbye if not for one undeniable fact: the Buffalo area is — and has always been — built for fall.

There is so much to enjoy. The changing leaves of the Elmwood Village, Southtowns and Southern Tier. The plethora of world-class apples in every corner of the region. The complementary nature of fall weather and nutmeg-accented craft beers; the desire of much of the local population to enjoy these tastes in a wool sweater or while hovering near an outdoor grill, donning a Bills or Sabres jersey.

Call this a football city. Call it a hockey town. Push those designations together, cover it with autumnal shades and flavor it with a generous smattering of pumpkin innards, and you’ve got the idyllic fall landscape that is Western New York — as long as the weather allows us to enjoy it.

With that last note considered, there’s an urgency to our appreciation. Unlike summer, you never quite know when fall is going to end, so it’s important to take advantage of the region’s offerings, assets and events before another October Surprise or Snowvember ushers us into the quasi-Arctic landscape that can be a Queen City winter.

Ready to get going? Start with adding these tasks to your season’s itinerary.

Enjoy a crisp fall day picking apples or enjoying seasonal favorites made with apples at local fall festivals and events. (John Hickey/News file photo)

Apple picking at your favorite orchard

According to recent rankings reported by the New York Farm Bureau, New York State ranks second in the U.S. in apple production. This makes for an impressive harvest that makes apple picking an anticipated pastime for everyone from amateur bakers to fall-loving families, out to stroll plentiful lines of world-class orchards.

From Stonehill in North Collins (2356 Shirley Road) to Smith’s in Lockport (4960 Mapleton Road), festive locations are ready to deliver a seasonal experience you can make a regular tradition.

Understand your apples: Right now, McIntosh apples — crisp at first pick, but eventually conducive for pies, sauce and other baked goods — are available everywhere. Consistently crisp brethren like Empire and Granny Smith will be in the mix by mid-October.

[Related: 12 great places for apple picking, from 2016 | More apple suggestions, 2018]

Plan for Pumpkinville - or a Pumpkin Fiesta

The season is full of plenty of places you find for fall’s most sought-after gourds, but you can’t go wrong with planning an adventure to either Great Valley’s aptly named Pumpkinville (4844 Sugartown Road, Great Valley) or Becker Farms (3724 Quaker Road, Gasport).

With Great Valley open until Oct. 31 and Becker Farms hosting its activities-packed Pumpkin Fiesta on Sept. 28-29 (as well as every Saturday and Sunday throughout October), both provide an ideal landscape for family fun and necessary Facebook photos.

While there: Navigate Pumpkinville’s elaborate beer-themed corn maze, created in collaboration with nearby Ellicottville Brewing Co. and sample Becker Brewing’s array of six hard ciders, led by its tart and refreshing Almond Cherry (7% ABV).

Plan your fall weekends with pumpkin patches, corn mazes and Oktoberfests

Return of football and hockey jerseys to wardrobe

Did we see friends and neighbors donning Allen and Eichel jerseys over the summer? Maybe, but this line of gear becomes near ubiquitous across the region come Oct. 1, with both considered as conducive to dog walks and Wegmans runs as each are for game days. Time to pull both from the back of the closet, shake them out and treat them as outerwear through Christmas and beyond.

Need a replacement? Those stuck with LeSean McCoy or Ryan O’Reilly jerseys can find reinforcements at sporting goods stores everywhere.

Stock up for sweater weather

Idyllic fall is that of sunshine, crisp breezes and temps comfortable enough to be mitigated with the array of stylish sweaters and sweatshirts we stockpile just for these months. Every year presents the opportunity to debut new recruits, and local shops can accommodate, with city boutiques like Anna Grace (799 Elmwood Ave.) and Modern Nostalgia (1382 Hertel Ave.) providing options that will get you excited for 58 degrees.

Sweatshirt weather? If you would rather go more casual, hoodies from regional purveyors await — and most include the requisite buffalo logo. Solid options can be found from BuffaLove Apparel (4097 Lakeshore Road, Hamburg) and Buffalo Apparel Co. (1415 Hertel Ave.).

To pumpkin and beyond: 10 fall-themed local beers

Fall beers from every local brewery

Just as the season’s shades grow darker, so do the hues of local brewers’ beer selections. Transitioned out are the witbiers, saisons and summer ales, and in move the Märzen-style drafts, smooth porters and pumpkin-flavored ales plus tart ciders that just seem to taste more appropriate this time of year. Thankfully, the Buffalo area has plenty of breweries and cideries, so pull into your favorites and imbibe away.

Three to try: Community Beer Works’ deliciously dark Alpaca Porter (6.3% ABV), Thin Man’s traditional Märzen Oktoberfest (6.3%), and Big Ditch’s Cinnamon Apple Amber Ale (6.8%), brewed with apple cider from Mayer Bros.

Speaking of which …

Enjoy fresh doughnuts at Mayer Brothers. (Photo by Derek Gee/News file)

Cider doughnuts Duke's and Mayer Bros.

There’s no season more conducive to double-fisting doughnuts than fall. Locals are blessed with cider-focused doughnut dealers with the rolling operation of Duke’s Donuts and a must-visit to Mayer Bros. Cider Mill (1540 Seneca Creek Road).

With the orange pop-up tent of Duke’s, it’s a catch-them-where-you-can pursuit, with its most dependable seasonal appearance on Saturday mornings at the Hamburg Farmer’s Market (30 Buffalo St.). To visit Mayer Bros., just saunter into the mill (7 a.m. to 8 p.m.) and munch away on its second-most sought-after fare after apple cider.

Drinks with your doughnuts: If you're stopping at Duke's at the Hamburg market, grab a to-go French press coffee from nearby Grange Community Kitchen (22 Main St.). Or team sweet apple cider to go with your Mayer Bros. delights.

Regional foliage drives

With the constant barrage of technology we’re subjected to on a daily basis, sometimes we need to turn off the phone, embrace some old-time simplicity and enjoy a drive. Regional panoramas make this not only a viable option, but a favored selection of the season.

Drives into the Village of East Aurora off NY-400 provide autumnal snapshots at 30 mph, and cruises to Ellicottville on Route 219 double as a real-time nature film, with breathtaking shades surrounding travelers on all sides.

Tandem the leaf peeping with: A round of pumpkin-spice lattes, available at your local Spot Coffee ($4.10 for a medium), and ideal to sip while staring at a passing landscape.

And speaking of Ellicottville …

Three words: Ellicottville Fall Festival

With its village-wide amalgamation of arts and crafts fair, family carnival and weekend-long keg party, Ellicottville’s seasonal extravaganza may be the most fall-appropriate affair of the entire season — and it's all against a backdrop awash with autumn brilliance.

Starting at 7 p.m. Oct. 11 and running through midnight on Oct. 13, visitors can expect a kid-friendly expanse of rides and fun, as well as a vast selection of street shopping and adult-friendly revelry, both inside beer tents or brick-and-mortar locales.

Set your rally point: With festival days that encourage a lot of spontaneous roaming throughout the village, consider establishing a nighttime meet-up spot for your group at popular locales like Balloons (20 Monroe St.) or Finnerty’s Tap Room (5 E. Washington St.), which just captured meatball glory.

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