Autumn in New York: A Guide to Fall Fun in NYC

Pond in Central Park, NYC

Central Park’s Pond, decked out in fall colors Photo: Jeff Dobbins

“Autumn in New York, It’s good to live it again.” So goes the classic song by Vernon Duke…and we couldn’t agree more. Every fall the trees turn dazzling colors, the air begins to chill, and the cultural calendar heats up, making it a wonderful time to be in NYC.

There’s so much to see, experience and savor, we’ve put together this list of the highlights of Autumn in New York.

Fall Culture in NYC

After a summer hiatus, New York’s renowned cultural institutions return with new seasons.

At Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Opera presents new productions and classic revivals, showcasing the world’s greatest stars of opera. The New York Philharmonic returns for its 173rd season with a schedule of stellar orchestral concerts and Jazz at Lincoln Center will focus their new season on music of the Americas. New York City Ballet will present its Fall Repertory Season, then share its theater with American Ballet Theater and Russia’s Mikhailovsky Ballet.

Metropolitan Opera, NYC

Lincoln Center comes alive every autumn. Photo: Jeff Dobbins

Carnegie Hall will host some of the world’s finest musical ensembles and artists in its three concert halls, and tickets are available for as little as $10.

The new season on Broadway heats up with lots of new plays and shows. Some of the most eagerly anticipated new productions include the star-studded It’s Only a Play, revivals of A Delicate Balance with Glenn Close and John Lithgow and The Real Thing with Ewan McGregor and Maggie Gyllenhaal.  Other hot tickets are The River with Hugh Jackman, and The Elephant Man with Bradley Cooper.  Musical highlights include the revival of On the Town and Sting’s new musical, The Last Ship. For more on the new Broadway season, see Playbill.com.

There is lots of excellent theater produced off Broadway as well. Off Broadway Week gives you a chance to enjoy the shows with 2-for-1 tickets and 20at20 offers $20 tickets 20 minutes before curtain.

Organized by the Film Society of Lincoln Center, the New York Film Festival will screen classics, documentaries, full-length features, and host special events. The eclectic Coney Island Film Festival offers innovative shorts, campy classic features and some wild parties.

Brooklyn Academy of Music’s annual Next Wave Festival presents an abundant roster of avant-garde music, theater, opera and dance, as well as artist talks and events. The DUMBO Arts Festival is a three-day celebration that will include around 100 open studios, 50 galleries and stages, outdoor installations, and poets, dancers and buskers performing indoors and on the streets.

Fall Foliage in NYC

Pickle Day, LES, NYC

Sweet & Sour: the Lower East Side’s Pickle Day. Photo: Jeff Dobbins

New York’s parks will be ablaze as their trees burst with vibrant colors.  Some of the best spots in the city for savoring the colors of the season include Prospect Park, Fort Tryon Park, Staten Island’s Greenbelt, and, of course, Central Park. See our guide to NYC’s Fall Foliage for more details.

If you want to get out of town and take in the Technicolor scenery, there are a number of options. I Love NY has recommended itineraries for scenic drives. Non-drivers can enjoy the vistas on NY Water Taxi’s half-day Fall Foliage Cruises up the Hudson River.  Metro North Railroad offers getaways into Hudson Valley, Connecticut and beyond, including the stunning Walkway over the Hudson and Fall Harvest Wine & Cheese Weekends. To plan your excursion, check I Love New York’s Fall Foliage Report for current conditions.

Harvest Fun in NYC

Queens County Farm Museum presents six weeks of harvest-themed activities, beginning with the Queens County Fair, an old-fashioned weekend of livestock competitions, pie-eating contests, midway games, carnival rides and entertainment.  Other fun includes the Amazing Maize Maze, picking pumpkins at the Pumpkin Patch, and the Children’s Fall Festival with costume contests, games, pony rides and a petting zoo.

Decker Farm, in Staten Island’s Historic Richmond Town, is the oldest continuously operating small farm in New York City. During the season, you can pick pumpkins, tour the 200-year-old grounds, see farm animals and enjoy hayrides.

Fall Food Events

City foodies have many reasons to welcome the coming of autumn, including the huge NYC Wine & Food Festival, Cider Week, the Lower East Side’s Pickle Day, the NYC Craft Beer Festival, Pig Island Barbeque blowout on Governors Island, and Oktoberfest celebrations in the city.

An exclusive and indulgent culinary experience is our Mario Batali Greenwich Village Food Tour, which explores the Village’s Italian Food Culture (including noshing) before tastings in two of the chef’s renowned restaurants.

Pumpkin Sail, Central Park

The Pumpkin Sail in Central Park. Photo: Jeff Dobbins

NYC Holidays & Events

New Yorkers love Halloween – in fact, the holiday is celebrated throughout the month of October. Some of the highlights include the New York Botanical Garden’s Haunted Pumpkin Patch, terrifying interactive Haunted Houses, spooky sideshows at Coney Island, and events in NYC parks like the Thompson Square Dog Parade and Central Park’s Pumpkin Sail.  Of course, the climax of the festivities is the Village Halloween Parade, the world’s largest Halloween bash.  See our guide to NYC Halloween Festivities.

Another creepy way to experience the season is a visit to one of NYC’s Haunted Cemeteries.

The New York City Marathon, the nation’s largest marathon, races through all five NYC boroughs en route to the finish line in Central Park.  Close to 50,000 people will run, and millions will watch and cheer on the runners. For tips on taking in the spectacle, see NYC & Co.’s Marathon Viewing Guide.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a beloved spectacle that brings millions to the streets of Manhattan to watch celebrities, Broadway performers, clowns, marching bands, floats and enormous floating balloons.  The inflating of the massive balloons around the Museum of Natural History the night before the parade is a wonderful Thanksgiving tradition as well.  See our guide to attending the Macys Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Prospect Park, Autumn

Prospect Park in brilliant fall colors. Photo: Jeff Dobbins

What’s your favorite way to enjoy autumn in New York?  Tell us in the comments below.

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  • Wow !! Love it. It’s look beautiful. New York City has its share of history. I would love to Cross on the dedicated pedestrian walkway on Brooklyn Bridge and enjoy the sweeping views and crisp weather.