Things to do in New York City in the Fall

The ochre colours and warm light of autumn in New York will make you fall in love. 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'll tell you what you can do in New York in autumn for a unique experience.

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

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

Contrary to what many people think, the number one sport in the United States is not the NBA but American football. 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 autumn.

If you want to include a football game during your holiday, either because you are passionate about the sport or because you want to experience the craziness and atmosphere of American football in New York, you are in luck because the regular season runs from September to December.

Who plays football 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 football tickets you have two options: at the stadium box office or online. Since there is a high demand for NFL tickets, in my experience, I recommend you buy tickets online before you travel, as they are likely to sell out quickly.

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

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

Book NFL tickets

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

Central Park| ©Hellotickets
Central Park| ©Hellotickets

Watching the urban nature and the changing leaves of the trees is one of my favourite things to do in New York in autumn. As soon as the landscape begins to turn ochre, orange and reddish tones, the streets of the Big Apple take on a special charm.

And because the temperatures are still warm in autumn, it's even more pleasant to go for long walks in search of the most beautiful side of nature to immortalise this explosion of colours in a unique reportage.

If there's one thing I like about autumn in New York, it's that the city has more than fifty parks with an abundance of native species that can't be seen anywhere else in the world. A tour through the urban forests can turn up some real natural treasures. Here are some of them:

Central Park

This is the season when the city's most popular park looks especially beautiful. You can wander through its leaf-covered paths taking photos, rent a bike or take a private bike-taxi tour with a professional guide to explore the park's most iconic spots in the autumn light.

Battery Park

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

Bryant Park

This is one of New Yorkers' most beloved parks, created to relax in the middle of nature. From late October to December you can ice skate at The Rink, a free skating rink. In addition, between September and October, guided tours are organised 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 travellers don't know about and where there are areas with untouched native flora. It's a beautiful place to take a stroll, play sports or have a picnic. On Sundays between April and October there is Smorgasburg, a gastronomic event where you can try a wide variety of dishes. A foodie's paradise!

High Line Park

High Line Park is a beautiful elevated garden built on former railroad tracks that run from the Meatpacking District to Hudson Yards. In autumn, the park's vegetation transforms into a burst of colour. 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

There are also tours of High Line Park where a local guide organises the best hikes and takes you to the privileged viewpoint.

Rent a bike in Central Park

3. Explore 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 colours, 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 neighbourhood just steps away from the Brooklyn Museum.

With such a great location, my advice is to take a morning tour of this area of New York to see the traditional brownstones of this neighbourhood, the art deco Brooklyn Public Library, Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Museum, one of New York's finest museums with its priceless collections of antiquities and American art.

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is a space full of lawns where you can relax on the grass, paint, read a book or lose yourself in a peaceful environment while observing the different species of plants and flowers grown here, such as peonies, tulips, orchids, cherry trees, cacti and more.

What to see in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden?

It has different ecosystems that vary with the changing seasons, but there are permanent displays that can be visited all year round. Some of the highlights 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: houses the Bonsai Museum, the Tropical Pavilion and the Desert Pavilion.
  • Cherry Esplanade: a large meadow overflowing with cherry trees. It is in spring that this area is at its best with the cherry blossoms in full bloom.

Is it free to enter 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

Celebrate Halloween in New York| ©Hellotickets
Celebrate Halloween in New York| ©Hellotickets

With the permission of the 4th of July and Thanksgiving, Halloween is one of the celebrations that Americans experience with the most excitement. You can really get a feel for it if you spend an autumn holiday in New York.

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

If your trip to New York coincides with Halloween get your costume ready because you'll want to hit the streets to soak up the authentic Halloween spirit. In addition, there are plenty of Halloween-related activities on offer. Some examples are:

Night of the 1000 Jack O'Lanterns

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

Spooky Garden Pumpkin at the New York Botanical Garden

Until 31 October visitors can enjoy the spooky makeover of the garden decorated with pumpkins, scarecrows, skeletons and other typical characters. There is also special programming for families, including evening activities and costume parties.

Boo at the Zoo

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

Halloween parade at Coney Island

While the beach season may be over at Coney Island for this time of year, Halloween takes over with a parade and costume contest, traditional trick-or-treating, face-painting workshops for kids and much more.

Halloween decorations

Most shops and homes start decorating in late September or early October. It's fascinating to walk around the streets of New York and see how carefully New Yorkers decorate everything. Some great 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 inventive costumes gather on the night of October 31st to march down Sixth Avenue, while 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.

Book tickets for the Bronx Zoo

5. Feel the magic of Broadway!

Aladdin the Musical| ©Broadway
Aladdin the Musical| ©Broadway

Whatever time of year you visit New York, you can't miss a musical on Broadway, the mecca of New York theatre.

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 Lion King or Wicked, two titles on the bill whose themes of mystery, 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, which is why tickets tend to sell out quickly. If you want to attend a Broadway musical during your autumn getaway to New York, my advice is to buy your tickets online before you travel because there are shows in high demand, the theatres fill up and the box offices quickly hang the Sold Out sign.

How to buy tickets for a Broadway musical?

In my experience I advise you to buy tickets online as far in advance as possible to ensure you get 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 queues. For me, this is the easiest, fastest and safest option.

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

Book Broadway tickets

6. Take a day trip to Boston

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

While planning your autumn trip to New York you may not have thought of adding a day trip out of the city to see other parts of the United States, as there is so much to see and do in the Big Apple.

However, taking a day 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.

Also, during this season the temperatures are mild with sunny days so the weather is ideal to go out and enjoy all the sights with less crowds and more peace and quiet than in other months of the year.

What is the day trip to Boston like?

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

Boston is about 350 km from New York and ahead of you lies an approximately 4 hour drive along the Connecticut coastline, which with the Wi-Fi in the minivan and the beautiful scenery along the way, is made all the shorter.

What to see in Boston in autumn?

During this time of year, the entire state of Massachusetts offers beautiful sights and its capital city is a prime example. The autumn colours transform the landscape of Boston's avenues and squares, giving it a romantic look perfect for a beautiful photo reportage.

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

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

Book a tour to Boston

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

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

It can happen that during your autumn getaway to New York the day gets a little cool and unseasonably warm and your body asks you to spend less time outdoors than usual. In these cases, a good idea might be to take a culinary tour of the city's food halls.

New York is known for its infinite gastronomic possibilities, but finding a place to eat can be overwhelming for a newcomer, especially if you're travelling in a group and everyone wants to go somewhere different. All of New York's most touristy spots have a food hall nearby.

Canal Street Market

Located in Chinatown (265 Canal Street), this food hall specialises in Asian food and has several food stalls offering a wide variety of food for less than $15. You can sample the dishes on the spot or order a take away for a picnic in Columbus Park. I recommend you visit Boba Guys, a café where they prepare a fantastic bubble tea with very original flavours.

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 biscuit factory where Oreos were born, there are plenty of options to eat: noodles, sushi, tacos, pasta and seafood (the market's speciality).

Plaza Food Hall

Located in the underground floor of the Plaza Hotel (1 W 59th St.), it 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 its 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 cuisine in New York. Here you can try all kinds of cheeses, cold meats, pizzas, pastas and good quality meats at reasonable prices. My advice is to get to this market early to get a table as it is in high demand.

Hudson Eats

Located in the World Financial Center, inside Brookfield Place Mall (230 Vesey St). It's 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 room, some handmade cupcakes.

Little Spain Market

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

8. Enjoy Thanksgiving like a local New Yorker

Macy's at Thanksgiving| ©Hellotickets
Macy's at Thanksgiving| ©Hellotickets

Next to Christmas, Thanksgiving is one of the most familiar traditions in the United States. If your autumn trip to New York coincides with this bank holidays, you're probably wondering what you'll be able to do on that day when most shops are 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 off the morning there is the classic Macy's Day Parade, a three-hour parade that this famous department store has been organising since 1924. It starts at 9 AM next to the Museum of Natural History and winds through downtown to Macy's in Herald Square.

It's a great family event and the kids will love it as there are lots of floats, orchestras, dancers and giant balloons. In addition, Broadway musicals are performed in Herald Square before the parade arrives at Macy's. Thousands of people flock to see it every year.

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

Other Thanksgiving Day activities

Since most shops are closed on this day, my advice is to book Thanksgiving Day activities that don't 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. You've probably seen it a thousand times in films and series, but now you have the chance to experience it on American soil.

In New York, dinner starts early, around 6 PM. Although many shops are closed there are also restaurants that are open so you can enjoy a tasty 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 whether or not they are open on Thanksgiving Day and what menu they will be serving. Dinner usually consists of baked turkey with mashed potatoes, cornbread, cranberry sauce, gravy and delicious pumpkin pie.

Thanksgiving menus are usually prix fixe and a little more expensive than regular menus but being on holiday in New York in autumn, an experience like this 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 eagerly awaited events of the year where shops have spectacular sales. It's definitely a great time to go shopping in New York and bring home those souvenirs you've been craving.

Black Friday is a day of big discounts, queues and crowds. Many people take advantage of this date to get their Christmas presents, so I recommend you go all out and buy that gift you've been waiting for.

Shopping in New York is a great plan. If the shop windows are a magnet for you and you're a bargain hunter, don't miss the articles The best outlets in New York and The 10 best things to buy in New York where you'll 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 Madame Tussauds, 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! Plus, it's a place where the kids will have a blast, which is a plus if you're travelling to the city as a family.

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

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

Book tickets to Madame Tussauds

10. See New York from the heights

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

Exploring New York on foot in autumn is always a pleasure but getting a bird's eye view of the immensity of this city is one of those 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, all of which show a different side of the city.

Take a stroll through the New York sky

Can you imagine flying across the sky in a helicopter at over 200 kilometres per hour? Taking a helicopter ride over New York is one of the must-do experiences during your autumn trip to New York. Get ready to fly over the Big Apple and admire the city's splendorous skyscrapers from the very top of the sky - breathtaking!

I've put together a comparison chart of the different itineraries so you can choose the one you like best.

  • New York City Essential Helicopter Tour
  • From £180
  • 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 £225
  • 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 £1,670
  • 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

Ride the Roosevelt Cable Car

The Roosevelt Cable Car is not one of the most popular tourist attractions for travellers visiting New York, but it has a lot of charm and offers magnificent views of the city. It's also a very economical ride because you only need a Metrocard to go up, the same card to travel by bus or underground.

If you want to know more about the cable car in New York, I advise you to read the article How to take 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.

Lookouts and observatories

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

  • Empire State Building
  • From £37
  • Observatory: open-air
  • Floor: 86
  • Views: Chrysler Building, Rockefeller Center, 5th Avenue and from afar One World Building
  • Location: Midtown Manhattan
  • Book
  • Top of the Rock
  • From £19
  • Observatory: open air
  • Floor: 70
  • Views: Empire State Building, Central Park and from afar One World Building
  • Location: Midtown Manhattan
  • Book
  • One World Observatory
  • From £76
  • Observatory: Indoor
  • Floor: 102
  • Views: Wall Street, Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge and from afar Empire State Building
  • Location: Southern Manhattan
  • Book now
  • The Edge
  • From £32
  • Observatory: open air and glass floor
  • Floor: 110
  • Views: Empire State, Midtown and from afar One World Building
  • Location: Manhattan West
  • Book now