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Things to do in New York City in the Fall

The ocher colors and warm autumn light will make you fall in love with New York. Here's a list of the best things to do during the most beautiful time of the year.

Isabel Catalán

Isabel Catalán

17 min read

Things to do in New York City in the Fall

Brooklyn Bridge in the background | ©Hellotickets

One of the most beautiful times of the year to travel to New York is autumn. The city shines with a special light and the temperatures are still pleasant for outdoor activities. In this article I tell you everything you can do in New York in autumn to live a unique experience.

1. Experience the passion for American soccer in New York!

Metlife Stadium| ©Izaac Crayton
Metlife Stadium| ©Izaac Crayton

Contrary to what many believe, the king of sports in the United States is not the NBA but American soccer. Tickets for NFL games sell out months in advance so attending an event is one of the most exclusive and exciting experiences you can have during a trip to New York in the fall.

If you want to include a soccer game during your vacation, either because you are passionate about the sport or because you want to experience the madness and the atmosphere that American soccer awakens in New York, you are in luck because the regular season runs from September to December.

Who plays American soccer in New York?

The NFL teams in the city are the New York Giants and the New York Jets. Interestingly, they both share the same stadium as they play at MetLife Stadium, in East Rutherford (New Jersey) located just 30 minutes west of Manhattan.

How to buy NFL tickets in New York?

To buy soccer tickets you have two options: at the stadium box office or through the Internet. Since there is a high demand to go see the NFL, in my experience, I recommend you to buy tickets online before traveling as it is normal that they sell out quickly.

The key is to buy them as soon as possible so they don't sell out and get the best seat in the stadium at a cheaper price. In my opinion, this is the easiest, safest and fastest option.

If you want to know more about this sport, in my article How to watch a soccer game in New York I tell you everything you need to know to get your American soccer tickets at the best price, what place to choose in the stadium, how the league works and much more. Don't miss it!

2. Stroll through New York's parks in the autumn light

Central Park| ©Hellotickets
Central Park| ©Hellotickets

Contemplating urban nature and the changing leaves of the trees is one of my favorite things to do in New York in autumn. As soon as the landscape begins to be tinged with ochre, orange and reddish tones, the streets of the Big Apple acquire a special charm.

In addition, as temperatures are still warm in autumn, it is even more pleasant to take long walks looking for the most beautiful side of nature to immortalize this explosion of colors in a unique reportage.

If there is something I like about autumn in New York is that this city has more than fifty parks where native species abound that cannot be seen in other parts of the world. Taking a tour through the urban forests you can come across some real natural treasures. Here are some of them:

Central Park

In this season the most popular park in the city looks with a special beauty. You can lose yourself in its trails covered with colorful leaves taking pictures, rent a bike or take a private bike cab tour with a professional guide to explore the most iconic places of the park in the autumn light.

Battery Park

Located south of Manhattan, it is one of the oldest parks in New York. It has the best view of the Statue of Liberty and is a quiet place to go for a stroll that is surrounded by luxury buildings and food trucks where you can eat outdoors.

Bryant Park

It is one of the most beloved parks by New Yorkers created to relax in nature. From late October to December you can ice skate at The Rink, a free skating rink. In addition, guided tours are organized here between September and October by the NYC Audubon platform to learn about the incredible diversity of birds in Bryant Park.

Prospect Park

In Brooklyn we find this huge park that many travelers are unaware of and where there are areas with intact native flora. It is a beautiful place to take a walk, play sports or have a picnic. On Sundays between April and October Smorgasburg is celebrated, a gastronomic event where you can try a wide variety of dishes. A foodie's paradise!

High Line Park

It is a beautiful elevated garden built on old train tracks that run from the Meatpacking District to Hudson Yards. In autumn, the park's vegetation transforms and gives way to a burst of colors. If you want to know more about this modern garden check out my article 10 things to do and see on New York's High Line.

3. Delve into the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Brooklyn Botanic Garden| ©NYC Go
Brooklyn Botanic Garden| ©NYC Go

Speaking of nature, another highly recommended visit to make in New York in autumn is the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which will fill your senses with colors, aromas and serenity.

Founded in 1910, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is part of the Prospect Park complex and is located in the historic Park Slope neighborhood just steps away from the Brooklyn Museum.

With such a great location, my advice is to take a morning to make a tour of this area of New York to see the traditional brownstones of this neighborhood, the art deco Brooklyn Public Library, Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Museum, one of the best museums in New York whose collections of antiques and American art are of great value.

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is a space full of lawns to rest on the grass, paint, read a book or get lost in a placid environment watching the different species of plants and flowers that are grown here as peonies, tulips, orchids, cherry trees or cactus, among others.

What to see in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden?

It has different ecosystems that vary with the change of seasons, but there are permanent displays that can be visited all year round. Some of the most outstanding are:

  • The Japanese garden: it was the first of its style created in the United States. It has beautiful waterfalls and fish-filled ponds.
  • The Shakespeare Garden: it has dozens of poisonous species taken from the palace intrigues of the writer's work.
  • The Orangery: It houses the Bonsai Museum, the Tropical Pavilion and the Desert Pavilion.
  • Cherry Esplanade: is a large meadow overflowing with cherry trees. It is in spring when this area is at its best with cherry blossoms in bloom.

Free admission to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden?

Yes, on Fridays, admission is free before 12 noon. In winter (December to February), admission is free every weekday.

4. Experience the real Halloween in New York

Halloween celebration in New York| ©Hellotickets
Halloween celebration in New York| ©Hellotickets

With permission of the 4th of July and Thanksgiving, Halloween is one of the celebrations that Americans live with the most excitement. You can truly feel it if you spend a fall vacation in New York.

This holiday is celebrated in a big way in the city and from mid-September until October 31, the Big Apple is decked out with typical decorations such as ghosts, witches, cobwebs and skeletons for New Yorkers and tourists to live a terrifyingly fun experience.

If your trip to New York coincides with Halloween prepare your costume because you will want to walk the streets to soak up the authentic spirit of Halloween. In addition, there are many activities related to this holiday. Some examples are:

Night of the 1000 Jack O'Lanterns

Super fun! During October nights, Governors Island hosts a typical jack-o'lantern tour where you'll walk among hundreds of illuminated pumpkins that have been carved with animals, faces of familiar characters and objects to create a spooky and unique effect in the dark.

Spooky Garden Pumpkin at the New York Botanical Garden

Until October 31, visitors can enjoy the spectral makeover of the garden decorated with pumpkins, scarecrows, skeletons and other typical characters. There is also a special program for families such as evening activities and costume parties.

Boo at the Zoo

From September 28 through the weekend after Halloween, the Bronx Zoo has a full schedule of activities to keep the kids spooky, from costume parades and craft fairs for kids to a Halloween-themed Bootoberfest beer festival for grown-ups.

Coney Island Halloween Parade

Although the beach season is over at Coney Island, Halloween takes over with a parade and costume contest, traditional trick-or-treating and face-painting workshops for children, among many other things.

Halloween Decorations

Most businesses and homes begin decorating in late September or early October. It is fascinating to walk around the streets of New York and see the care with which New Yorkers decorate everything. Some cool places to see are the West Village and the Upper West Side as well as Chelsea Market and Rockefeller Center.

Village Halloween Parade

This parade is a party! Thousands of people dressed in fun and witty costumes gather on the night of October 31st to march down Sixth Avenue, while musical bands liven up the atmosphere. The parade is free, but costumes are mandatory. It starts at 7 PM and ends at 16th Street around 11 PM.

5. Feel the magic of Broadway!

The Aladdin musical| ©Broadway
The Aladdin musical| ©Broadway

Whatever time of year you visit New York, you can never miss a musical on Broadway, the mecca of New York theater.

Towards the end of October, coinciding with Halloween, you can take advantage of the spooky atmosphere in which the city is immersed to attend a performance of The Phantom of the Opera or Wicked, two titles on the bill that for its theme full of mystery and intrigue and supernatural staging are very appropriate for these dates.

Both are two of the most successful Broadway musicals in terms of critics and audiences, so tickets are usually sold out quickly. If you want to attend a Broadway musical during your getaway to New York in autumn, my advice is to buy tickets online before traveling because there are shows in high demand, theaters are filled and the box offices immediately hang the Sold Out sign.

How to buy tickets to a Broadway musical?

From experience I advise you to buy tickets online as far in advance as possible to ensure the best seats on the date you want and at a better price than at the box office, where you will also save having to wait in endless lines. For me, this is the easiest, fastest and safest option.

If you are passionate about theater and want to know more about Broadway musicals, I recommend you to read my article The 10 best Broadway musicals in New York where I review the best musicals of the season and solve the most frequently asked questions to get tickets, among other issues.

6. Take a day trip to Boston

Harvard University in Boston| ©Benjamin Rascoe
Harvard University in Boston| ©Benjamin Rascoe

While planning your fall trip to New York, you may not have thought to add an out-of-town excursion to see other parts of the United States, as there is so much to see and do in the Big Apple.

However, dedicating a day of your vacation to a trip to Boston is a great idea in my opinion because you will have the opportunity to see the birthplace of the American Revolution and one of the oldest cities in the country founded in 1630 by British settlers.

In addition, during this season the temperatures are mild with sunny days so the weather is ideal for excursions and enjoy all the tourist sites with less crowds and more tranquility than in other months of the year.

What is a day trip to Boston like?

The great thing about this organized tour to Boston is that it gets you to and from downtown New York in the same day, so you don't have to worry about how to get there, which can be an odyssey.

Boston is about 350 miles from New York and ahead of you is a 4 hour or so drive along the Connecticut coastline, which with the Wi-Fi in the minivan and the beautiful scenery along the way, makes it all the shorter.

What to see in Boston in the fall?

During this time of year, the entire state of Massachusetts offers beautiful views and its capital city is a fine example. Autumn colors transform the landscape of Boston's avenues and squares, giving it a romantic look perfect for a beautiful photo shoot.

On this day trip to Boston you will visit MIT and Harvard University with a guide, take a guided tour of the city center, walk the Freedom Trail and live a gastronomic experience in Quincy Market, the oldest market in the city (1800).

What I like about this tour is that the group also has free time for lunch and to visit some sites at their own pace such as Harvard Yard, Widener Library or Trinity Church, among others.

7. Take a gourmet tour of New York's food halls

Little Spain Market| ©Little Spain
Little Spain Market| ©Little Spain

It may happen that during your getaway to New York in autumn the day rises a little cool and intemperate and the body asks you to spend less time outdoors than usual. In these cases, a good idea may be to take a gastronomic tour through the food halls of the city.

New York is known for its endless gastronomic possibilities but finding a place to eat can be a bit overwhelming for a newcomer, especially if you are traveling in a group and each one wants to go to a different place. All of New York's most touristy places have a food hall nearby.

Canal Street Market

Located in Chinatown (265 Canal Street), this food hall specializes in Asian food and has several food stalls offering a wide variety of food for less than $15. You can sample the dishes right there or order a take away for a picnic in Columbus Park. I recommend visiting Boba Guys, a coffee shop where they prepare a fantastic bubble tea with very original flavors.

Chelsea Market

This is the most famous food hall in the city located in the Meatpacking District next to High Line Park (75 9th Ave). In this former cookie factory where Oreos were born there are plenty of options to eat: noodles, sushi, tacos, pasta or seafood (the specialty of the market).

Plaza Food Hall

It is located in the subway floor of the Plaza Hotel (1 W 59th St.) which has a bakery, pastry shop and bar/restaurant where you can buy different products (noodles, dim dum, pizza, crepes, cupcakes ...) You can eat here at one of their tables or bars or order a take away to go for a picnic in nearby Central Park.

Eataly

Located in Madison Square Park (200 5th Ave), the temple of Italian gastronomy in New York. Here you can try all kinds of cheeses, sausages, pizzas, pastas and meats of good quality at a reasonable price. My advice is to go early to this market to get a table as it is in high demand.

Hudson Eats

It is located in the World Financial Center, inside the Brookfield Place shopping center (230 Vesey St). It is a huge food hall with a very varied culinary offer adapted to these times: sushi, bagels, tuna burgers, tacos, sandwiches and if you still have space left, some handmade cupcakes.

Little Spain Market

It is located in Hudson Yards (10 Hudson Yards), the new trendy neighborhood in Midtown along the Hudson River. It is a gastronomic space dedicated to the flavors of traditional Spanish cuisine by renowned chef José Andrés and the Adriá brothers. The best of Spanish cuisine outside Spain is here!

8. Enjoy Thanksgiving like a local New Yorker

Macy's on Thanksgiving| ©Hellotickets
Macy's on Thanksgiving| ©Hellotickets

Next to Christmas, Thanksgiving is one of the most familiar traditions in the United States. In case your trip to New York in the fall coincides with this national holiday, you're probably wondering what activities you'll be able to do that day if most establishments remain closed.

Don't worry, because New York is known as "the city that never sleeps" and even if it is a holiday, there is always something entertaining for tourists to do even on Thanksgiving. Here are some suggestions:

Attend the Macy's Day Parade

To start in the morning takes place the classic Macy's Day Parade, a big three-hour parade that this famous department store has been organizing since 1924. It starts at 9 AM next to the Museum of Natural History and runs through downtown to Macy's in Herald Square.

It is a perfect plan to do with the family and the kids will love it since there are many floats, orchestras, dancers and giant balloons. In addition, some of the Broadway musicals are performed in Herald Square before the parade arrives at Macy's.

Thousands of people come to see it every year so if you want to find a good spot you will have to get up early. At 6 AM many New Yorkers begin to take positions to not miss a single detail of the show. Although along the route there are seats and bleachers, these are reserved for Macy's employees and other spectators have to watch it standing.

Other Thanksgiving Day activities

Since on this day most establishments are closed, my advice is to book for Thanksgiving those activities that do not depend on a schedule such as strolling through Central Park, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, walking along Fifth Avenue, visiting Central Station ....

Enjoy a Thanksgiving Feast

On a day as special as this one, you can't miss the traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Surely you have seen it a thousand times in movies and series but now you have the opportunity to experience it on U.S. soil.

In New York the dinner starts early, around 6 PM. Although many stores are closed, there are also restaurants that are open so you can enjoy a delicious feast.

In order to book a table as soon as possible, my advice is to do a quick search on the Internet and if you are interested in a particular restaurant, check their website to see if they are open or not on Thanksgiving Day and what menu they will be serving. Usually the dinner consists of baked turkey accompanied by mashed potatoes, cornbread, cranberry sauce, gravy and delicious pumpkin pie.

Thanksgiving menus are usually prix fixe and are a bit more expensive than the usual menus but being on vacation in New York in the fall, such an experience is worth having at least once in a lifetime, don't you think?

Take advantage of the Black Friday sales!

The day after Thanksgiving is Black Friday, one of the most anticipated events of the year where stores make spectacular sales. It is certainly a good time to go shopping in New York and bring home those souvenirs you were looking forward to.

Black Friday is a day of great discounts, lines and crowds. Many take advantage of this date to get Christmas gifts so I recommend you to go for it and buy that gift you've been waiting for a long time.

Shopping in New York is a great plan. If the shop windows are a magnet for you and you are a bargain hunter, do not miss the articles The best outlets in New York and The 10 best things to buy in New York where you will find ideas for shopping and gifts to buy.

9. Be amazed by New York's Wax Museum

At Madame Tussauds| ©Hellotickets
At Madame Tussauds| ©Hellotickets

If during your trip to New York in autumn you feel like having a different and fun time, don't hesitate to stop by the Madame Tussauds museum, one of the most visited attractions in Times Square that has deservedly earned its fame thanks to its hyper-realistic wax figures.

Madame Tussauds may not be the first museum you want to visit in your list of New York museums but I assure you that it will be one of the places where you will have the most fun. It happened to me! In addition, it is a place where children will have a blast which is a plus if you travel to the city with your family.

I never thought that the New York wax museum would surprise me so much but I have to say that its fame is just. Not only because of how much the sculptures at Madame Tussauds look like the celebrities they represent, but also because you can interact with them in the different sets and even take a sensational souvenir album of your visit back home.

In case you want to visit the wax museum in New York, I recommend you to take a look at my article Tickets to Madame Tussauds in New York where I tell you how to get tickets, everything you can see in its facilities and several curiosities about the wax figures.

10. See New York City from above

New York from the helicopter| ©Hellotickets
New York from the helicopter| ©Hellotickets

Exploring New York on foot in autumn is always a pleasure but a bird's eye view of the immensity of this city is one of the experiences you should have at least once in your life.

We all know that the Big Apple skyline is a spectacle in itself. There are several ways to see New York from above and all of them show a different side of the city.

Stroll through the New York sky

Can you imagine crossing the sky in a helicopter at over 200 kilometers per hour? Taking a helicopter ride over New York is one of the experiences you have to live during your trip to New York in autumn. Get ready to fly over the Big Apple and admire the city's splendorous skyscrapers from the same height - breathtaking!

I have made a comparative table of the different itineraries so you can choose the one you like the most.

  • New York City Essential Helicopter Tour
  • From $ 218
  • 15 minutes
  • Downtown Heliport
  • Ellis Island
  • Statue of Liberty
  • Governors Island
  • Ground Zero and One World Observatory
  • Brooklyn Bridge
  • Empire State Building
  • Madison Square Garden
  • Chrysler Building and Rockefeller Building
  • Times Square and MetLife Building
  • Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
  • Central Park
  • Washington Bridge
  • Buy
  • New York City Extended Helicopter Tour
  • From $ 319
  • 20 minutes
  • Downtown Heliport
  • Ellis Island
  • Statue of Liberty
  • Governors Island
  • Ground Zero and One World Observatory
  • Brooklyn Bridge
  • Empire State Building
  • Madison Square Garden
  • Chrysler Building and Rockefeller Building
  • Times Square and MetLife Building
  • Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
  • Central Park
  • Washington Bridge
  • Buy
  • New York City VIP Helicopter Tour
  • From $ 2,017
  • 30 minutes
  • Downtown Heliport
  • Ellis Island
  • Statue of Liberty
  • Governors Island
  • Ground Zero and One World Observatory
  • Brooklyn Bridge
  • Empire State Building
  • Madison Square Garden
  • Chrysler Building and Rockefeller Building
  • Times Square and MetLife Building
  • Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
  • Central Park
  • Washington Bridge
  • Verrazano-Narrows Bridge
  • Manhattan Bridge
  • Williamsburg Bridge
  • South Street Seaport
  • Queensboro Bridge
  • Buy thebridge

Ride the Roosevelt Cable Car

The Roosevelt Cable Car is not one of the most popular tourist attractions among travelers visiting New York but it has a lot of charm and offers magnificent views of the city. In addition, it is a very economical ride because you only need the Metrocard to go up, the same card to travel by bus or subway.

If you want to know more about the New York cable car, I advise you to read the article How to get on the Roosevelt Island cable car where I tell you all about this great unknown for mass tourism and everything you can do on Roosevelt Island.

Overlooks and observatories

Many of New York's iconic buildings have observation decks and observatories for the delight of its visitors. I've also made a comparison chart so that at a glance you can see the major differences between these engineering marvels:

  • Empire State
  • From $ 49
  • Observatory: open air
  • Floor: 86
  • Views: Chrysler Building, Rockefeller Center, 5th Avenue and from afar One World Building
  • Location: Midtown Manhattan
  • Reservation
  • Top of the Rock
  • From $ 21
  • Observatory: open air
  • Floor: 70
  • Views: Empire State, Central Park and from afar One World Building
  • Location: Midtown Manhattan
  • Reservation
  • One World Observatory
  • From $ 97
  • Observatory: Indoor
  • Floor: 102
  • Views: Wall Street, Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge and from afar Empire State Building
  • Location: South Manhattan
  • Book now
  • The Edge
  • From $ 42
  • Observatory: open air and glass floor
  • Floor: 110
  • Views: Empire State, Midtown and from afar One World Building
  • Location: Manhattan West
  • Book now