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10 big differences between fall in NYC this year vs. last year

This will be a fall unlike any other.

Shaye Weaver
Written by
Shaye Weaver

There's nothing like fall in New York City—the crisp air hitting your lungs, the golden leaves waving in the cool breezes, the cocktails and coffee drinks that warm us up—it's a time that most of us look forward to every year.

This year, well, is going to be a lot different. We're facing a new reality as most of us aren't yet back in our offices and going out requires a whole new set of rules.

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So while we prepare for cooler, shorter days, here's how the season is looking to be different this year:

1. Masks aren’t just for Halloween anymore

What was once a costume is now an essential piece of our wardrobe. Last year, we bought masks to feel scary and now we buy them to feel less scared. We’ve ditched the Scream masks for surgical ones. (But sometimes it does still feel like we’re secretly in costume as a ninja or superhero.)

2. Now you have to order your PSL ahead of time

Getting our pumpkin spice latte fix looks very different this fall. With new safety precautions in place, Starbucks recommends that we order ahead of time so we can grab it and go. This sounds easier than waiting in line to order but don’t forget that drinking it on the go poses its own challenges. It’ll be tricky to sip when you have that mask to worry about.

3. Trick-or-treating may (or may not) be canceled

Whether our kids can go trick-or-treating for Halloween has never been a question until this fall. Going door-to-door collecting candy from strangers who could be sick seems risky, but so far, Governor Cuomo said he does not plan to prohibit trick-or-treating in New York State. That being said, there will be some differences—don’t expect food and drink handouts this year, and eating candy before washing hands should be a no-go. 

4. There's, uh... a little election happening

This fall, we’ll be going to the polls (or at least mailing in our ballots.) The presidential race is going to be all we hear and talk about this fall until November 3, since so much is at stake. Prepare for a very political autumn. 

5. While we avoid COVID-19, we’re also avoiding colds and seasonal viruses

It’s highly possible that while we stay at home to avoid contracting COVID-19, we may also avoid the seasonal crap we usually come down with as the weather changes. This could be the year that you’re finally not miserable with a cold.

6. San Gennaro and Oktoberfest are a lot smaller

September and October are typically big months for festivals, and because gathering in large numbers just isn’t happening this fall, we can expect to celebrate on a smaller scale. A few restaurants in Little Italy are hosting a feast each weekend and restaurants across the city will be serving beer and brats in a distanced format rather than to crowds.

7. We’re eating outside more (and a lot later in the season)

Since restaurants will only be able to have 25 percent capacity for indoor dining starting Sept. 30, it’s likely that our dining out will be just that—outdoors. Perhaps this will give us more time to enjoy the cooler weather? 

8. We’re cycling instead of taking the subway

A lot of us will be skipping the subway and bus for an invigorating bike ride across town this fall. Let’s face it—it’s cleaner, better for the environment, and for some, more reliable.

9. Streets and Cemeteries are the hottest concert venues

Fall is usually the best time to catch live acts at our favorite venues, but this year, we’ll be catching them out on city streets, and weirdly enough, at Green-Wood Cemetery, which is hosting several live events. We’re grateful because a lot of our favorite events are now virtual, including most of the New York Film Festival.

10. Haunted house ghouls won’t get up in your face

We love a good scare, but that usually entails jump scares at a haunted house. While some will still be open this year, all of them will have to abide by social distancing rules, so that means ghosts, zombies and demons will have to cool it and take a step back. Some venues are going so far as to introduce a drive-thru format so there’s no chance of coming into contact at all, like the Hudson Valley's new Headless Horseman drive-thru.

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