101 things to do in New York City: Fall 2012

Your essential guide to the season’s best things to do in New York City—festivals, parties, hot new spots and more—makes like a leaf and drops.



Add +
  • Photograph: Linder Genz courtesy Transmedia

    11. Freak out to the Joshua Light Show

  • Photograph: © 2012 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts

    12. Admire Warhol's influence

    Pictured: Andy Warhol, Self-Portrait 

  • 13. Find serenity in the city during Spa Week NYC

  • Photograph: courtesy the New Yorker

    14. Snag tickets to the New Yorker festival

    Pictured: The Scissor Sisters performing at New Yorker Festival 2011

  • Photograph: Matthew Williams

    15. Go behind the scenes during Open House New York

    Pictured: Wythe Hotel, which features in 2012's program

  • Photograph: Joshua Hoffine

    16. Have the bejesus scared out of you at the Nightmare haunted house

  • Photograph: Hannibal Matthews

    17. Crack up at the New York Comedy Festival

    Pictured: Kevin Hart, who headlines two shows at Madison Square Garden

  • Photograph: Courtesy New York Botanical Garden

    18. Behold the colorful, slow death of the leaves at New York Botanical Garden's Thain Family Forest

  • 19. Watch big-ticket premieres at the New York Film Festival

    Pictured: Not Fade Away

  • Photograph: Jean-Pierre Durand

    20. Cheer on thousands of New York City Marathon runners



Photograph: Linder Genz courtesy Transmedia

11. Freak out to the Joshua Light Show


Freak out to the Joshua Light Show

  • Critics choice

“Liquid light” artist Joshua White provided consummately trippy backdrops for Fillmore East performances during the hippie-rock era (not to mention the memorable illuminations during that acid-party scene in Midnight Cowboy). This September, White aligns with some of today’s vanguard outfits for a downtown residency. Musical guests include percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie and harpist Zeena Parkins (Sept 13); minimalist icon Terry Riley and his guitarist son Gyan (Sept 14 at 7:30pm); the heavyweight improv quartet of John Zorn, Lou Reed, Bill Laswell and Milford Graves (Sept 14 at 10pm); MGMT mainmen Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden (Sept 15); and international party-starters Debo Band and Forro in the Dark (Sept 16).

  1. Skirball Center for the Performing Arts 566 La Guardia Pl, at Washington Sq South
  2. Until Sat Oct 25
More info

Admire Warhol's influence

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

The Pope of Pop’s enormous impact on contemporary art is examined in this blockbuster of a show, which brings together works by Warhol with those of 60 other artists he influenced. Organized into themes such as “Daily News: From Banality to Disaster” and “Portraiture: Celebrity and Power,” the survey features just about every contemporary art heavyweight you can think of: Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons and Cindy Sherman are among the names topping the list. It’s a postmodern art blowout.

  1. The Metropolitan Museum of Art 1000 Fifth Ave, at 82nd St
  2. Until Sun Dec 30
More info

Find serenity in the city

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

Relaxation is yours for a mere $50 during Spa Week, when more than 100 venues throughout the city discount up to three services of their choosing. Specials include a 60-minute facial at SKN Spa, with a 24-karat gold masque (usually $130), a facial peel with cell-stimulating botanicals from exhale (originally $125) and a spiced eden pedicure from Red Door Spa (usually $85). Fair warning: Many services will be fully booked within hours after reservations become available on Sept 10.

  1. Various locations
  2. Mon Oct 15 - Sun Oct 21
More info
The Scissor Sisters performing at New Yorker Festival 2011, one of Time Out's 101 things to do in New York City in the fall

Snag tickets to the New Yorker festival

  • Critics choice

Get your ticket-purchasing finger ready now: This collection of events featuring New Yorker writers, editors, cartoonists, and many of their subjects from television, music, film and literature sells out quickly. Details for this year’s schedule are announced on Sept 4 and tickets go on sale Sept 14. You can count on of-the-moment discussions and screenings similar to last year’s marquee events, which featured Amy Poehler, Zach Galifianakis, Andy Borowitz and Janet Malcolm. Here’s what we know for sure: The new lineup includes performances by three local acoustic ensembles or indie singer-songwriters who will be chosen to play at Joe’s Pub, the festival’s official hangout. Visit newyorker.com/festival for details.

  1. Various venues
  2. Oct 5–7

Go behind the scenes during Open House New York

  • Critics choice
  • Free

This annual festival gives attendees access to some of the city’s coolest and most exclusive architectural sites and landmarks. This year, participants can check out new sites such as Williamsburg’s new Wythe Hotel (located in a converted factory building); Prospect Park’s Lakeside complex, which is scheduled to open in 2013; and the Public Theater, which will be showing off its renovated home. You can also check out old favorites such as the New York Marble Cemetery, which is rarely open to the public, and the High Line. The full lineup will be available on September 26, and you can start making reservations the following day. But take note: Tours and programs that require an R.S.V.P. ($5) fill up fast.

  1. Various locations
  2. Sat Oct 11 - Sun Oct 12
More info

Have the bejesus scared out of you at the Nightmare haunted house

  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice

If the usual Halloween rank and file (zombies, vampires, slutty angels) don’t set your knees knocking, perhaps an immersion into the world of real psychopaths who have lived—and are still living—among us will. Nightmare creator Tim Haskell joined malevolent forces with Steve Kopelman (producer of Arizona’s haunted house the Nest) for the most recent installment of his popular haunted house. Like Jersey Shore, Killers: A Nightmare Haunted House mines frightening entertainment from real-world events: This year’s theme focuses on historical and contemporary serial killers such as Ted Bundy, Albert Fish and the Zodiac killer. There’s even an associated exhibit of personal effects belonging to infamous murderers, sure to make your skin crawl.

  1. Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural Center 107 Suffolk St, between Delancey and Rivington Sts
  2. Sat Nov 8
More info
Kevin Hart performs as part of the New York Comedy Festival, one of Time Out's 101 things to do in New York City in the fall

Crack up at the New York Comedy Festival

  • Critics choice

The city’s largest stand-up celebration just gets bigger every year. This edition’s most-buzzed-about headliner has to be the confessional Kevin Hart, who’s playing a pair of shows at Madison Square Garden. But if you’d rather skip the tumult of the arena, check out solo shows, podcast tapings, a short-film contest, special editions of several local variety nights, and conversations with luminaries including Robin Williams and Ricky Gervais. nycomedyfestival.com.

  1. Various locations
  2. Wed Nov 7 - Sun Nov 11

Behold the colorful, slow death of the leaves

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Natural death in the animal kingdom is a sad, heartrending thing, but when it comes to plants, it’s vibrant and photogenic. New York’s city parks contain a wealth of spots where you can witness the beautiful decay and crunch through piles of foliage, but we’re partial to the New York Botanical Garden’s Thain Family Forest, a 50-acre thicket near the Bronx River. The woodland space is the city’s largest patch of old-growth forest (with some trees dating to the 18th century), boasting numerous species, such as oak, hickory and maple. Keep an eye out for sweet gums, whose star-shaped leaves turn red and purple as autumn progresses, and tulip trees and hickories which display vivid golden yellows. Go during the Forest Weekends (Nov 3, 4, 10, 11) to take guided walks with NYBG docents and volunteers.

  1. Bronx River Pkwy, (at Fordham Rd)
More info
Not Fade Away

Watch big-ticket premieres at the New York Film Festival

  • Critics choice

This annual treat for cinéastes celebrates its 50th year this fall. The most buzzed about offerings at this cinematic feast are the world premieres of Not Fade Away, the first directorial feature by Sopranos creator David Chase, Ang Lee’s Life of Pi and Robert Zemeckis’s Flight. Other notable showings include Austrian provocateur Michael Haneke’s Amour, which nabbed the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, and Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha, which reunites the writer-director with Greenberg star Greta Gerwig, who cowrote the script. Visit filmlinc.com for more information

  1. Various venues
  2. Sept 28 - Oct 14

Cheer on thousands of New York City Marathon runners

  • Critics choice
  • Free

More than 40,000 marathoners hotfoot it (or puff, pant and stagger) through all five boroughs over a 26.2mile course. Stake out a lively spot—we recommend along Fourth Avenue in Park Slope, Brooklyn, First Avenue between 60th and 96th Streets in Manhattan or Central Park South near the finish line—to cheer on the passing throngs. Get there early to catch the elite competitors, who start at 9:10 (women) and 9:40am (men), or later in the day as amateurs flood the streets. Staggered starts begin on the Staten Island side of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge at 8:30am.

  1. Location TBA
  2. Until Sun Nov 2
More info

Users say

Rod Carlysle
Rod Carlysle

I was really enjoying this list, I hadn't made plans for tonight, so I was sitting alone, in my apartment, with my tabby Max. He and I were especially excited about the Queens County Fair, but unfortunately I don't think we'll be able to make it since my mother will need to be taken to the doctor's that weekend and she likes knowing that I'm at home in case she needs me. It was an enjoyable evening, me and Max, but unfortunately when we came to the end of the list our pleasant evening was brought to an unexpected halt. I searched the entire length of this list, and the rest of your website, but I can't seem to find the 101st thing to do in NY. LIkely I won't be able to do it, I don't get out of the house that often because of my asthma, but I really enjoyed imagining myself doing those wonderful things with all those happy looking people. I hope you'll post the 101st item, if no please send it to the included email address, I don't have a computer with a printer, but that is my mother's email address, she'll print it out and deliver it to my apartment, Yours Truly, Rod


This list is awesome! I'm particularly jazzed about the LitCrawl and Halloween Parade. You left taking a language class off the list though. Fall is the perfect time to take an indoor class and keep your mind active. I took a Spanish class at Fluent City and it was awesome. The offer 10 languages (French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, German, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Hebrew) and have affordable classes in Brooklyn and Manhattan. My teacher was Ricardo and he was really cool. Check out their classes at http://www.fluentcity.com Thanks for the list!!