13 of the Best Things To Do in Fall in NYC

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New York City is easily one of the most unique places to visit in the US, and it only gets better when autumn rolls around. As the summer heat recedes, the city transforms into a picture-perfect palette of vibrant yellows, rich reds, and deep oranges. Looking to make the most of your trip to the city this year? Here are 13 of the best things to do in fall in NYC.

In my experience, New York is one of the best places to travel in October and other autumn months. Not only is it home to some of the most iconic attractions, stunning views, and gorgeous foliage in the US, but it’s also one of the cheapest places to fly to in the fall. That’s especially good for anyone looking for a way to have a great vacation without breaking the bank.

Below, I’ll share with you my picks for the best things to do in fall in NYC. Whether you’re interested in discovering New York’s hidden gems or revisiting its most famous landmarks, this guide is sure to have something for everyone. So get out there and take a bite out of the Big Apple before winter comes and leaves you cooped up indoors. Autumn in NYC is a magical time of year.

This article about the best things to do in fall in NYC contains affiliate links, where I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

Quick tip on how to find cheap flights to NYC

Looking for cheap flights so you can experience autumn in New York? Before diving into my picks for the best things to do in fall in NYC, I want to share a quick tip on saving money on airfare.

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Best things to do in fall in NYC: 13 awesome autumn activities

Whether you’re planning to go leaf-peeping, window-shopping, or sight-seeing, there’s no shortage of things to do and see in New York City. Without further ado, here are my picks for the 13 best things to do in fall in NYC.

1. Get spooky at the Village Halloween Parade

A parade of homemade skeleton puppets walking down a NYC street on Halloween
The Village Halloween Parade is one of the best things to do in fall in NYC no matter your age. | Credit: Peter Burka

New York City’s Village Halloween Parade is an annual spectacle that transforms the streets of Greenwich Village into a display of creativity and imagination. Known as the nation’s most wildly creative public participatory event, the parade is a fusion of eccentric costumes, larger-than-life puppets, hundreds of marching bands, artists, and dancers, all celebrating under the cover of darkness.

So, what makes this one of the best things to do in fall in NYC? It’s simple. The Village Halloween Parade transcends the usual trick-or-treating experience and converts Halloween into an unparalleled communal art event. There’s a unique thrill in being part of the sea of New Yorkers exhibiting their creativity while celebrating the city’s diversity and artistic spirit. The parade also provides a festive close to October, offering one last burst of fall excitement before November sets in.

The parade, which is open to anyone wearing a costume, takes place on October 31st each year. It travels along Sixth Avenue from Spring Street to 16th Street. Spectators can watch from the parade’s sidelines, which are accessible from the East and South. However, arriving early is crucial to securing a good viewing spot, as the parade attracts massive crowds. If you prefer to be part of the spectacle instead of just watching, don your most creative costume and join the parade lineup at Sixth Avenue and Canal Street!

2. Experience the beauty of Central Park’s fall foliage 

Central Park in fall
After you see the beautiful foilage on display, you’ll recall Central Park in fall for the rest of your days.

Central Park in the fall is an ethereal landscape painted in vivid colors by Mother Nature. With over 20,000 trees transforming into fiery reds, bright oranges, and warm yellows, the park evolves into a living canvas that breathes and thrives in the heart of the bustling city.

Experiencing the fall foliage in Central Park should be at the top of your list of the best things to do in NYC in the fall. The enchanting scenery offers an escape from the city’s fast-paced life, providing both peace and aesthetic delight. Not to mention, the stunning foliage becomes a backdrop for countless activities, such as cycling, boating, bird-watching, or simply picnicking.

Consider visiting The Mall to view the best fall foliage of Central Park. The Mall is a grand promenade lined with giant elm trees, known as The Ramble, a 38-acre wild garden offering a variety of tree species. For picturesque reflections of the fall colors, head to the Bethesda Terrace overlooking the lake. While fall foliage usually peaks in late October or early November, this can vary each year. Keep an eye on the Fall Foliage Report from the Central Park Conservancy for updates. After all, witnessing the metamorphosis of Central Park in the fall is an experience that encapsulates the serenity and beauty of the season in a way nothing else can.

Looking to save BIG on airfare? I recommend signing up for Dollar Flight Club. Thanks to DFC, I saved $5,000+ on travel in 2023…so I couldn’t recommend it more!

3. Broaden your horizons at the New York Film Festival

The cast of The Social Network participating in a panel at the New York Film Festival
The New York Film Festival is one of the best things to do in fall in NYC for movie buffs. | Credit: Raffi Asdourian

The annual New York Film Festival (NYFF) stands as one of the premier cinema events in the United States, held annually since 1963. Hosted by the Film at Lincoln Center, the festival screens an expertly curated selection of new films from renowned and emerging filmmakers, encompassing documentaries, features, and short films.

Attending NYFF is not just about watching films; it’s about embracing a diverse cinematic culture. The festival offers insights into filmmaking with director Q&As, panel discussions, and opportunities to connect with like-minded enthusiasts. From world premieres to restored classics, it embodies a passion for cinema that resonates with both filmmakers and audiences. All this and more make it one of the best things to do in fall in NYC.

The NYFF typically runs for two weeks from late September to early October. Films are categorized into various sections like Main Slate, Spotlight, and Special Events. Tickets can be purchased online, and early booking is recommended as popular screenings sell out quickly. Keep an eye on the official website for schedules, venues, and guest appearances.

4. Take in a show during Broadway Week

Signs for theatrical performances on Broadway in NYC
There’s no better time to see a Broadway show than during Broadway Week.

New York’s Broadway area is the premier place to experience the city’s vibrant theater scene. Want to make the most of your theater-going experience? Broadway Week is a bi-annual event that offers two-for-one ticket deals for many top Broadway shows. This allows more people to experience live theater.

Broadway Week is your chance to experience the best of New York theater at a fraction of the cost. The discounted tickets open doors to an unforgettable world of drama, comedy, and musical spectacle. The variety and quality of performances make this an unparalleled opportunity for theater lovers and newcomers alike.

Plan ahead and book early, as tickets to popular shows sell out fast. Be flexible with dates and times for the best seat availability, and check out the list of participating shows online. Pair your show with a pre-theater dinner to make it an unforgettable NYC night out.

5. Have a bite to eat at one of NYC’s fall food festivals

A vendor selling donuts at Smorgasburg, one of the best things to do in fall in NYC for foodies
Food festivals like Smorgasburg are a sweet treat for tourists visiting NYC in fall. | Credit: Wally Gobetz

NYC’s fall food festivals offer an eclectic mix of flavors, cuisines, and culinary experiences. From grand tastings to intimate chef-led dinners, there’s something to satisfy every food lover.

These festivals provide a unique opportunity to sample a variety of dishes, engage with culinary experts, and experience food in a fun, festival atmosphere. They reflect the city’s cultural diversity through food and offer a communal experience that’s both entertaining and delicious.

I especially recommend attending the New York City Wine & Food Festival for a blend of celebrity chefs and culinary masterclasses. Alternatively, Smorgasburg is the perfect option for those who love street food and want to get an authentic taste for New York City’s unique flair for cuisine. Festivals like these are among the best things to do in fall in NYC if you’re looking to experience the rich flavors and creativity that define the Big Apple’s culinary scene.

6. Marvel at the New York Botanical Garden’s lush foliage

Close-up of flowers blooming in the New York Botanical Garden
For nature lovers, a visit to the New York Botanical Garden is one of the best things to do in fall in NYC.

With summer leaves turning golden and the NYC air becoming crisp, the New York Botanical Garden‘s autumn transformation is nothing short of magical. From ornamental grasses swaying in the breeze to the kaleidoscope of colors, exploring the garden stands as one of the best things to do in NYC in the fall.

The Garden offers a rare chance to see exotic plants adorned with autumnal hues. Engaging exhibits for all ages present opportunities to learn, while seasonal shows like the annual Chrysanthemum Festival attract visitors from around the globe. Away from the bustling city, the Garden provides a serene escape where you can immerse yourself in nature’s finest art.

Open daily, with extended hours on weekends, a visit to the New York Botanical Garden is easily planned. Tickets can be purchased online or at the gate, with various passes allowing access to special exhibitions. To enrich your experience, consider a guided tour, pinpointing the garden’s highlights and hidden gems.

7.  Work up a sweat running in the NYC Marathon

Joggers participating in the New York City Marathon, one of the best things to do in fall in NYC
Nothing compares to the sense of accomplishment you get from running a marathon. | Credit: MTA of New York City.

The NYC Marathon is a celebration of human endurance and the unique cosmopolitan culture of New York City. Known as one of the largest and most renowned marathons in the world, participating or cheering in the NYC Marathon ranks among the best things to do in NYC in the fall.

For runners, completing this 26.2-mile journey offers an unparalleled sense of accomplishment. The unique route traverses all five boroughs, allowing you to experience the city like never before. For spectators, the marathon is a festival in itself, with live bands, enthusiastic crowds, and a chance to support runners from all walks of life.

Runners must register well in advance and adhere to training schedules. On race day, logistics such as start time and transportation are vital. Spectators, on the other hand, can enjoy the marathon from various vantage points, with the finish line in Central Park being a favorite. Arrive early, and bring your cheering spirit to make the most of this thrilling event!

8. Set sail with an NYC architectural boat tour

Skyscrapers looming over the Hudson River with a boat in the foreground
One of the best things to do in fall in NYC is to take a relaxing boat ride along the Hudson River.

Among the best things to do in NYC in the fall is sailing through its rivers on an architectural boat tour. Imagine gliding along the water, the city’s breathtaking architectural panorama unraveling before your eyes. The skyline adorned with fall’s golden hues creates a mesmerizing backdrop that enchants both tourists and locals alike.

Not only will you enjoy unparalleled views of iconic buildings, but you will also be enlightened with knowledgeable commentary about the city’s architectural history. Experience the serene sailing on the Hudson and East Rivers during the fall season. The fall colors and crisp air add a unique dimension to the experience, making it an unforgettable outing.

There are multiple tour operators offering different packages to suit your needs. Departure points vary, and you can choose from various timing options to fit your schedule. Ensure you book your tickets in advance, especially in the busy fall season.

9. Discover the centuries-old history of the Met Cloisters

Front entrance to the Met Cloisers, one of the best things to do in fall in NYC
The Met Cloisters are a little slice of Medieval Europe hiding in the middle of NYC. | Credit: Joyofmuseums

Nestled in Fort Tryon Park, the Met Cloisters is a haven for medieval European art and architecture. Visiting this breathtaking site is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in fall in NYC, as the surrounding foliage takes on vibrant shades to enhance the experience.

The unique opportunity to explore a piece of European history in the heart of NYC cannot be missed. The tranquil gardens and picturesque views of the Hudson River in its fall glory create an unparalleled atmosphere of peace and wonder.

The Met Cloisters is open daily, but hours vary seasonally. Key highlights include the Unicorn Tapestries and the Gothic Chapel. Dress comfortably and allow ample time to explore this magnificent collection of architectural wonders.

10. Take in the view from the elevated High Line

Tourists and locals walking along the High Line, an elevated public park in NYC
Walking the High Line offers some of the best views of the Big Apple. | Credit: Dansnguyen

An oasis in the urban jungle, the High Line is an elevated public park that offers a refreshing escape and stands out as one of the best things to do in NYC in the fall.

Walking along the High Line, you’ll encounter a beautiful fusion of architecture and nature. Fall brings a magical transformation, with leaves changing colors, city and river views framed perfectly, and rotating public art installations that inspire and provoke thought.

Access the park from various entry points, such as Gansevoort Street or West 34th Street. Weekday mornings provide a more peaceful experience. Don’t miss the overlook at Tenth Avenue Square and the spur that offers a living theater of city streets.

11. Support creators at NYC’s annual fall art fairs

Paintings on display as part of the Affordable Art Fair in New York
The city’s annual art fairs are among the best things to do in fall in NYC for creatives. | Credit: j-No

The art scene in New York City flourishes during the fall, culminating in some of the most impressive and varied art fairs and exhibitions. From contemporary to classical, these fairs present an unparalleled opportunity to engage with art from various eras and cultures.

Your visit to New York’s fall art fairs is not merely a viewing experience; it’s an opportunity to understand humanity’s creative evolution. You’ll be drawn into dialogues about aesthetics, innovation, and cultural context that will enrich your perspective.

Yearly events like The Armory Show, Affordable Art Fair, and Frieze Art Fair are must-visits. Check online for the schedules, and don’t hesitate to invest in art that resonates with you. These fairs not only cultivate appreciation but also provide an opportunity to own pieces of cultural significance.

12. Experience the Sounds of Jazz at Lincoln Center

An orchestra of jazz musicians playing at the Lincoln Center in NYC
The Lincoln Center in New York draws some of the most talented jazz musicians in the world. | Credit: Adam Bowie

Jazz is intrinsic to the cultural fabric of New York City, and there’s no better place to experience this musical genre than at Jazz at Lincoln Center. Fall’s line-up usually features a rich array of performers, from legendary names to emerging talents.

Allow yourself to be transported by the soul-stirring performances that encapsulate the essence of New York’s rich musical history. Whether you are a jazz aficionado or a newcomer to this art form, the experience is bound to be transformative.

Secure tickets in advance for a show that resonates with your musical taste. Pair this with a dinner at one of the nearby culinary establishments, and you have the perfect evening, imbued with cultural flair.

12. Explore the Awe-Inspiring Museum Mile

Exhibits on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of the best things to do in fall in NYC
More than just one of the best things to do in fall in NYC, visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art is an essential experience.

Fall is the perfect time to stroll down Museum Mile on Fifth Avenue, home to some of the world’s most renowned museums. From the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the mile-long stretch offers a concentration of art and history experienced that is unmatched.

Exploring the Museum Mile is more than a cultural endeavor; it’s a journey through human creativity and understanding. Each museum presents a unique viewpoint, and collectively they offer an unparalleled educational experience.

Check online for any special exhibitions during your visit and plan your itinerary accordingly. The museums often offer multi-venue passes, providing a seamless and economical way to explore these cultural treasures.

13. Witness the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

A Charloe Brown-themed float in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
Even if you’ve seen it on TV, there’s nothing like experiencing the May’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in person. | Credit: tweber1

Thanksgiving in New York City is synonymous with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, a tradition that dates back to 1924. This awe-inspiring spectacle brings together floats, marching bands, celebrity performances, and the iconic giant balloons.

Being part of this historic celebration is a way to engage with an essential aspect of American culture. The joyous ambiance, the creativity of the floats, and the collective celebration of gratitude make this an event you must experience.

Make sure to arrive early to secure a good spot along the parade route, and dress warmly. The memories you’ll make witnessing this grand celebration will indeed become a cherished part of your NYC fall experience.

Frequently asked questions about the best things to do in fall in NYC?

Planning a trip to the Big Apple takes a lot of work, no matter what time of year it is. To help make your visit a memorable one, in this next section, I’ll do my best to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about the best things to do in fall in NYC.

How can I enjoy fall in NYC? 

As the city buzzes with activities in the fall, planning ahead ensures you don’t miss out on popular events and offers like Broadway Week or food festivals. Decide on what interests you and book tickets in advance.

Whether it’s a stroll through Central Park to admire the fall foliage or participating in the Village Halloween Parade, NYC offers something for every taste. Consider exploring art at the New York Film Festival or enjoy seasonal dishes at various fall food festivals.

Fall in NYC can be unpredictable. Layering is key, so pack a mix of light and warm clothing. Check weather forecasts and be prepared for sudden changes.

What happens in NYC in October?

October in NYC is a cultural hotspot with events like the New York Film Festival, Village Halloween Parade, and Archtober—a month-long festival celebrating architecture and design.

Advantages of visiting NYC in October: The weather is pleasantly cool, making it ideal for outdoor activities. October’s rich lineup of events, combined with vibrant fall scenery, provides a unique and festive atmosphere.

New York City skyscrapers with colorful fall foliage in the foreground
Enjoying the beauty of the foliage is one of the best things to do in fall in NYC.

How can I save money on the best things to do in fall in NYC?

By researching and planning ahead, you can enjoy the vibrant and diverse attractions of New York City without overspending. Embrace the city like a local, and you’ll find that many of the best experiences are available at a fraction of the cost or even for free!

Purchase a City Pass: Investing in an NYC City Pass or New York Explorer Pass can lead to significant savings. These passes grant access to several attractions at a discounted rate and often allow you to skip the long lines.

Take Advantage of Free Days: Many museums and attractions offer free or pay-what-you-wish admission on certain days or times. For example, the Museum of Modern Art is free on Friday evenings. Researching these options in advance can lead to substantial savings.

Utilize Public Transportation: New York’s public transportation system is extensive and affordable. Using the subway or buses instead of taxis or rideshares can save money. Plus, walking through NYC’s unique neighborhoods is a free attraction in itself.

Explore Free Attractions: NYC is home to numerous free attractions. Central Park, the High Line, and Staten Island Ferry offer unforgettable experiences without any admission fee.

Look for Online Deals: Websites like Groupon often have discounts on tours, attractions, and activities. Planning and booking in advance can lead to substantial savings.

Travel Off-Peak: If possible, visiting during non-peak times can lead to lower costs for both attractions and accommodations.

Use Your Student or Military ID: If applicable, many attractions offer discounts for students, military personnel, and seniors.

The Statue of Liberty at sunset
There’s no bad time to visit NYC, but October and other autumn months are especially ideal.

What is the best month in the fall to visit NYC? 

September brings cultural events like Broadway Week; October is known for its festivals and Halloween celebrations; November offers Thanksgiving and pre-holiday excitement.

October stands out as a great choice, providing a balance of cultural activities, beautiful weather, and stunning fall foliage. Its varied offerings cater to diverse interests.

Is it cold in NYC in October? 

October in NYC typically sees mild to cool weather, with average highs around 60-65°F and lows around 45-50°F. It can be quite crisp in the mornings and evenings.

A medium-weight jacket, scarves, and comfortable closed-toe shoes would be suitable. It’s wise to dress in layers to adapt to temperature variations throughout the day.

How should I dress for NYC in October?

Embrace layering to cope with the fluctuating weather. Include pieces that you can easily add or remove as the temperature changes, like lightweight sweaters, scarves, and jackets.

Fall in NYC calls for chic yet comfortable clothing. Think boots, fashionable hats, and tailored coats. Neutral colors with occasional bright accents align well with the season’s aesthetics. Don’t be afraid to experiment with accessories, as NYC’s fashion scene appreciates creativity and flair.

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