halloween child jack o'lantern
Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock

The best fall activities for kids in NYC

Autumn isn't canceled—in fact, these fall activities for kids in NYC prove otherwise. What's on your list?

By Danielle Valente, Allie Early and Dorkys Ramos
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Snag a bushel of Golden Delicious apples and resurrect your sweaters from the closet: autumn's in the air! To celebrate, we're rounding up the best fall activities for kids in NYC. 

Although this year has been difficult, the spooky season is trudging on—safely, of course. Some things will look a little different, but there's still plenty to enjoy: apple picking, hot chocolate, Halloween events like the Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze. 

RECOMMENDED: More things to do in the fall with kids

We found ways to keep you and your little ones busy now until we're ready to put up the Christmas trees. Have a look at the seasonal festivities, reopened family attractions and new events that require a spot on your calendar. No, in case you were wondering, fall is not canceled. 

Fall Activities for Kids

Time Out + NYPL
Time Out + NYPL
Photograph: Time Out/Shutterstock

1. Time Out + NYPL daily storytimes

Things to do Literary events

Are your little ones missing their favorite reading circle? Don’t worry, Mom and Dad: We have the perfect solution! Time Out is partnering with the New York Public Library to present digital storytimes for pint-sized bookworms. Families can tune in Monday through Friday at 10am right here for a remote read-aloud. Curious about the lineup? The Time Out New York Kids newsletter will reveal forthcoming story time schedules on Fridays, so sign up today!

 

Queens County Farm Museum, New York
Queens County Farm Museum, New York
Photograph: Queens County Farm Museum

2. The Amazing Maize Maze

5 out of 5 stars
Kids Quirky events Queens County Farm Museum, Queens

No autumn would be complete without the Amazing Maize Maze at the Queens County Farm Museum! The American Maze Company builds a labyrinth every year that that stretches over several acres, with the length of the course often stretching two miles! Previous years’ themes have included a violin, a riverboat, a train, a farmscape and the largest living sundial. This year, paths will be larger, timed tickets will be required and employees will monitor guests. Ages 3 and up.

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Boo at the Zoo
Boo at the Zoo
Photograph: Courtesy Julie Larsen Maher

3. Boo at the Zoo

News City Life

In a spooky state of mind? You're not alone. Tickets have just gone on sale for the Bronx Zoo's annual Boo at the Zoo festival, and this year's celebration is chillingly wicked—in a good way! Thursday through Sunday from Oct 1 to Nov 1 is your chance to revel in the Halloween fun, from magic shows and pumpkin carving demonstrations to mind reading and trips through the spooky extinct animal graveyard. Each day, animal-themed costumed stilt walkers and Halloween animal puppets will put on a "MASKerade" while the Wildlife Theater will pull out all the stops with performances in Astor Court. You can snag tickets online ($39.95 adults, $29.95 children ages 3–12).

Photograph: Courtesy Jennifer Mitchell

4. The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze

Things to do Quirky events Van Cortlandt Manor,

Like a well-stocked candy stash, the Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze is an essential part of Halloween in New York. The attraction is set along the beautiful 18th century riverside landscape of Van Cortlandt Manor and boasts a pumpkin promenade like none other: There are over 7,000 hand-carved jack o'lanterns waiting to impress visitors. As you tour the grounds, expect synchronized lighting, spooky music and more dazzling, Instagram-worthy features like the Pumpkin Carousel and the Pumpkin Windmill. What's new in 2020? A pumpkin fire truck and a coven of witches cooking up a spell! New safety measures will be in place in 2020. Read all about them online. Be sure to snag tickets early; the event is likely to sell out. All ages.

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Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze at Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson on September 27, 2018.  (Photo by Tom Nycz)
Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze at Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson on September 27, 2018.  (Photo by Tom Nycz)
Photograph: Courtesy Historic Hudson Valley/Tom Nycz

5. The Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze's new location

News City Life

New Yorkers' favorite fall event, the Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze, will illuminate a second location with its stunning pumpkin art. In addition to operating at Van Cortlandt Manor in the Hudson Valley, the Halloween happening will set up shop at the Old Bethpage Village Restoration on Long Island from Oct 2–Nov 1. Expect another 7,000+ pumpkins glowing in the autumn evening. Similar to the original event, the Long Island Blaze will also have synchronized lighting and seasonal tunes to accompany the hand-carved installations. You'll want to snag a spot quickly—tickets (starting at $24) are now on sale for both locations, though the Hudson Valley event will run from Sept 18–Nov 1. Given the popularity of this event, we can't guarantee that there will be availability for much longer.

Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock

6. Fall festivals

Things to do Festivals

Pick a fall festival—or two!—and get ready to celebrate the most beautiful time of the year. We've rounded up celebrations with fun autumnal activities like pumpkin picking, apple picking and scary movies for kids, all of which are necessary ways to ring in September and October. Although many of these events have had to make safety adjustments this year, they'll gladly welcome you to enjoy those candy apples and corn mazes you look forward to every season. 

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apples
apples
Photograph: Shutterstock

7. Apple picking

Things to do

Nothing is sweeter in autumn than the taste of a crispy apple. We round up the best apple picking NY families love to explore, so you might want to grab an empty basket and plan a few day trips from NYC. It's time to summon the harvest season, one Granny Smith at a time.

 

food fair carnival
food fair carnival
Photograph: Shutterstock

8. A drive-thru fair food festival

News Transport & Travel

One New York town wanted to ensure that you got your funnel cake fix. Plan a weekend day trip to the free, socially-distanced Orange County Drive-Thru Fair Food Festival. From Sept 24–27 and Oct 1–4, you and your family can head to the Orange County fairgrounds in Middletown for all the sweets your heart desires. A drive-thru setting will only accommodate cars only (no walk-ups) and include everyone's favorites: funnel cakes, fried Oreos, candy apples, popcorn, fried Twinkies, sausage and peppers, gyros and so much more.

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Hocus Pocus - 1993
Hocus Pocus - 1993
Disney/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

9. Family-friendly scary movie drive-in

News Movies

Come for the treats and stay for the screams: This week, Adventureland will debut its Nightmare at the Movies drive-in experience. For $40 per car, the whole family can cash in on the ghoulishly good fun. The package includes a chicken fingers and fries dinner, a $10 Adventureland Arcade card, movie-style popcorn and a choice of beverages, trivia on select evenings and, of course, some of the our favorite scary movies for kids. The series will kick off on Friday Sept 25 with a classic, Hocus Pocus, beginning at 7pm. Feel free to drive by sooner, as gates open at 5pm and festivities like trivia will begin at 6:30pm. Even better news? If you're in search of a spooky date night, leave the kids with a sitter and enjoy the late screening at 10pm (gates open at 8:30pm). First up? Nightmare on Elm Street. The series will continue on Oct 9, 23 and 30. However, a full schedule has yet to be released, so check back in for the latest updates!

headless horseman
headless horseman
Photograph: Shutterstock/Benjami

10. Kid-friendly: Headless horseman haunted drive-thru

News Transport & Travel

The Headless Horseman and his creepy counterparts are toning it down for the kids this Halloween. (So sweet!) In Ulster Park, New York, the Headless Horseman Haunted Hayrides and Haunted Houses is gearing up for a fright-filled drive-thru experience for adults. However, it's more about smiles than screams during its Children's Day event, which will take place Oct 11 and 24 from 11:30am–3pm. (Rain dates are Oct 11 and Oct 25.) Families can expect to drive through an I Spy-like Halloween game in their vehicles and encounter spooky (but fun!) characters along the way. Then they'll be able to park their cars and enjoy more fall festivities, including a maze, a haunted garden, seasonal tunes and more cool things to do. Like most Halloween events this year, reservations are required ($11.95 tickets are available online) and new safety protocols will be in place.

 

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Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock

11. Best apple cider donuts in NYC

Restaurants Bakeries

What's chock-full of cinnamon, spice and everything nice? The best apple cider donuts NYC has each autumn, of course. Once September hits, people might start craving all-things pumpkin, but there's no excuse to surpass delectable apple desserts. Trust us, your sweet tooth will thank you. 

 

Bar Pisellino Hot Chocolate
Bar Pisellino Hot Chocolate
Photograph: Oliver Strand

12. Hot chocolate in NYC

Restaurants

The hot chocolate in NYC has never been better! There are so many amazing, high-quality options in this city that you could take your kid on a season-long cocoa crawl, and try everything from classic cups to more creative expressions: cardamom almond milk hot chocolate, anyone?

 

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Courtesy Disney Enterprises Inc.

13. The best Halloween movies for kids

Movies Family and kids

We love scary films, and we can't wait to share our list of the best Halloween movies for kids with you! These creepy, freaky and fun family films are perfect for kids of all agesOur ranked list will help you pick just the right shriek-worthy film for your next movie night!

 

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15. Best Halloween songs for kids

Music

Welcome the most frightening day of the year with our playlist of Halloween songs for kids. What better way to get in the spooky spirit than with horrifying tracks? (And not-so-horrifying tracks for the tots.) From classics like "The Monster Mash" to "Halloween Shark" (yep, it's exactly what you think it is), this list will be right up your ghosts and goblins' alley.  

 

Photograph: Courtsey Shutterstock

16. Pumpkin picking

Things to do

Just like Humpty Dumpty, it's time to have a great fall: That means cozy sweaters, mugs of warm cider and the best pumpkin picking NY has to offer. Make a day of it. The awesome pumpkin picking NYC families love might also include farmstand treats and a hayride, some live music and a petting zoo, maybe a corn maze. Remember to wear sturdy shoes and expect the kids to get muddy. We won't make any promises, but we bet they'll sleep all the way home.

 

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fall in nyc
fall in nyc
Photograph: Shutterstock

17. When to see fall foliage in New York

News City Life

Autumn is upon us, folks. Before you know it, you'll be reaching into the closet for something plaid and scoping out the apple cider doughnut supply at the bakery. And, according to new data, now is the time to bid adieu to green leaves. Breaking down peak fall colors by state, Farmers' Almanac predicts that New Yorkers should be on the lookout for fall foliage from Sept–Oct 28, depending on each location's elevation and proximity to the coast. 

 

Photograph: Courtesy Flickr/Kimberly Vardeman

18. Best scenic drives for fall near NYC

Things to do Walks and tours

Right along with cravings for warm apple cider, pies of all types and super cozy sweaters is the wish to see how the landscape turns into gorgeous shades of red, orange and gold. These amazing scenic drives for fall will guide the family along pretty country roads lined with falling autumn leaves, lakes, hills and jaw-dropping vistas. Don’t forget to bring the camera!

 

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Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock

19. Visit corn mazes

Things to do Festivals

That nip in the air tells you it's time to start planning fall fun, which naturally should include a trip to the coolest corn mazes NY families love. You can make a day of it, and fill the afternoon with apple picking in NY, or some of the best pumpkin picking NY has in store this year. If you feel like staying with the Halloween theme, pop some popcorn after you get home and stream one of these scary movies for kids.

 

Six Flags HOLLOWFEST
Six Flags HOLLOWFEST
Photograph: Courtesty Six Flags Great Adventure

20. Six Flags' new HALLOWFEST

News City Life

The spooky season is right around the corner, so ghosts and ghouls should prepare accordingly. HALLOWFEST, Six Flags Great Adventure's all-new celebration, will run from Sept 18 through Nov 1, which means there are plenty of opportunities for creepy, kooky and spooky shenanigans. During the day, little monsters can enjoy seasonal scream-worthy attractions: inflatables, a Trick or Treat Trail, a hay bale maze (in one direction) and other fun activities. At night is when things get a little more serious (perhaps a time better suited for the tweens and teens): Creepy fog, eerie lighting and sinister music will transform the family attraction into a real-life horror movie and thrill-seekers can ride their favorite coasters...in the dark! 

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Petting Zoo Goat Kids
Petting Zoo Goat Kids
Photograph: Shutterstock

21. Visit petting zoos in NYC

Things to do

That's right: You can experience farm life right in the middle of Gotham! What better reason to get outside than to visit one of the best petting zoos in NYC? It's a chance for your little one to get up close and personal with the animal kingdom, and learn how to be kind to our fine furry friends. 

 

 

Krispy Kreme Times Square
Krispy Kreme Times Square
Photograph: Courtesy Krispy Kreme Doughnut Corporation

22. NYC gets a 24/7 Krispy Kreme flagship

News Eating

Times Square is due for something sweet: A 4,500 square-foot Krispy Kreme. Opening Sept 15 at 1601 Broadway, the 24/7 doughnut shop will take desserts to the next level, and you need to swing by for an original glazed—and then some. Expect a big-city-twist to a classic brand: You'll be able to enjoy your favorite flavors, and the shop will take things to new levels with a doughnut-making theater, where you can catch a two-foot-tall glaze waterfall and doughnuts whipping through conveyor belts.

 

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DreamWorks Water Park American Dream
DreamWorks Water Park American Dream
Courtesy: American Dream

23. Visit the largest indoor water park in North America

News Transport & Travel

Soon you can hang 10 alongside Shrek and plummet down slides with the Madagascar penguins. DreamWorks Water Park, the largest attraction of its kind in North America, is set to open on Oct 1. American Dream's record-breaking attraction has a laundry list of accolades: the world’s tallest indoor drop slide with a 50-foot freefall, the world's largest lazy river at 1.5 acres, the world’s tallest and longest hydromagnetic water coaster, to name a few.

lefrak center skating
lefrak center skating
Photograph: Filip Wolak

24. Roller blading in Prospect Park

News City Life

Skating has resumed in Prospect Park, so now's the time to show off those moves you've perfected during quarantine. (C'mon, we know you've got 'em!) Families can make the way to the LeFrak Center at Lakeside every day from noon–6pm for a loop around the rink. Admission is $6 and $10 on the weekends; skate rentals are $7.

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Senior Staff Photographjer
Senior Staff Photographjer
Photograph: Courtesy Roderick Mickens

25. "The Nature of Color"

News City Life

Color us curious: The American Museum of Natural History is unpacking the meaning behind blues, reds, yellows and so on in its new exhibit, "The Nature of Color." Along with cool interactive features (think color-changing rooms, floor-to-ceiling color play and a light lab), photo-worthy moments and yes, even some live critters, visitors can expect to delve deep into their favorite hues. 

 

intrepid
intrepid
Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock

26. Visit the Intrepid Museum

News City Life

All aboard: The Intrepid is ready to welcome back visitors. Beginning Friday, Sept 25, New Yorkers can make their way to the aircraft carrier for a peek into our nation's maritime, military and space history.  

 

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spineless at new york aquarium
spineless at new york aquarium
Photograph: Courtesy Julie Larsen Maher

27. "Spineless" at the New York Aquarium

Things to do Exhibitions New York Aquarium | Brooklyn, NY, Brooklyn

Now that New York Aquarium has reopened to the public, we're finally able to check out "Spineless," in person the newest exhibit hall at the aquarium. No internet or live cams required! The exhibit features octopuses, jellies, Spider Crabs and other invertebrates. (Get it?) All ages.

Thanksgiving Day Parade
Thanksgiving Day Parade
Photograph: Filip Wolak

28. The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

News City Life

The show will go on for the annual spectacle and NYC tradition that is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade—but this year, it won’t be live. In order to adjust to the times, there won’t be throngs of parade-loving New Yorkers cheering on the famous mix of character floats and giant balloons. Macy's announced today that the 94th annual event will be on TV only and there will be no crowds.

 

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Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock

29. Best Thanksgiving songs for kids

Things to do

Pass the cranberry and turn up the speakers. The best Thanksgiving songs for kids make the autumn holiday all the more sweet! From Gustafer Yellowgold to The Kiboomers, our roundup includes artists all members of the family will love (so much so that they might be willing to bust a move on a full stomach). Nothing pairs better with dinner, family and friends like a good jam session. 

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Thanksgiving for kids

Once the football game wraps up and you've finished dessert, make sure to keep the holiday momentum going with our favorite Thanksgiving songs for kids—and don't forget to check out the best Thanksgiving movies for kids and Thanksgiving books for kids, too. Make sure to have a cup of the best hot chocolate in NYC in hand while you're indulging. 

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