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fall NYC
Photograph: Shutterstock

25 ways to still have an amazing fall in New York

Make the most out of the city's best season with these super fun activities.

By Time Out New York editors
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If you ask any New Yorker what their favorite season is in the city, there’s a good chance they’ll say fall. There’s something magical about that time in the city when the air gets crisp, the temperature dips just enough that you can start wearing your favorite outfits and the leaves turn vibrant colors. However, there’s no doubt this fall is going to be very, very different from past ones in the city. Major cultural institutions are launching “virtual” fall seasons. Restaurants will only be allowing 25 percent of their normal crowds in to warm themselves by the fire. Broadway’s still dark. Luckily, those necessary changes don’t mean that there isn’t a ton of amazing things to do in the city this season. Here are 25 ways you can still make the most of fall in New York.

RECOMMENDED: Discover more of the best things to do in New York

How to still have an amazing fall in New York

Photoville
Photograph: Courtesy Alan Winslow

1. Catch a two-month-long outdoor photography festival

News Art

Photoville, which typically takes place in Brooklyn Bridge Park for two weeks each year, will be coming to public spaces across the city September 17-December 1. Past highlights have included portraits of NYC's spring graduates in Pandemic Class of 2020 by Elias Williams, a series of photographs documenting the stories of 10 NYC-based Asian Americans who experienced racism during the pandemic called Asian Americans on Race and The Pandemic by Haruka Sakaguchi; and a documentary series about the indie wrestling scene in the South Bronx called Bronx Wrestling by Sofie Vasquez.

Fall foliage in New York
Photograph: Shutterstock

2. Head to these great spots for leaf-peeping

Things to do Walks and tours

Going upstate to see fall leaves is great, but it's a trek. Luckily, if you know where to look here in NYC, there are some truly stunning foliage to see in many parks and gardens across the boroughs, including at Fort Tryon Park, the Greenbelt Nature Center, and Sunken Meadow State Park. Happy peeping!

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drive-in movie theater
Photograph: Shutterstock/Viniciu

3. Cozy up under the stars for outdoor movie screenings and drive-ins

Things to do

Nothing is better than watching a movie under the stars on a cool fall night. One of the upsides to 2020 was the return of the drive-in movie theater and proliferation of outdoor screenings. We recommend checking out the Skyline Drive-in in Greenpoint, the Queens Drive-in at Flushing Meadows Corona Park and a free screening on any day of the week by Bushwick's Syndicated.

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New York Botanical Garden
Photograph: Courtesy Robert Benson Photography/New York Botanical Garden

5. Roam the grounds at the New York Botanical Garden

News City Life

Head to the garden's Seasonal Walk, where you'll find yellow lace flowers, dahlias and 'Midnight Dancer' daylilies or get lost in the Thain Forest, where you'll hear the trickling of the Bronx River and its waterfall. In the fall, the forest is an incredible setting to see the leaves changing. Also, don't miss the duck families in the Conservatory Courtyard Pools that feed on small plants and insects around the water lilies.

The Carreau Club
Photograph: Courtesy of The Carreau Club

6. Play lawn games and drink

News Drinking

The Carreau Club, New York's first pétanque bar, recently opened in Industry City along the Brooklyn waterfront and is a great spot for you and your friends. This lawn game is easy to pick up (it's basically bocce's French cousin) and you can sip a martini at the same time.

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wine tasting
Photograph: RGNY

7. Visit a local vineyard

Americans aren't visiting Italian or French vineyards to partake in the fall harvest this year, but there are plenty of wineries close enough to New York City that are worth a day trip. You can easily find yourself on the North Fork of Long Island or in Hudson Valley within a few hours via public transportation. There's also the Finger Lakes, perhaps the state's most prized wine region, if you really want to make a road trip of it and taste some excellent pours.

Sail around New York at sunset while sipping wine and listening to jazz.

The Rockaway Hotel
Photograph: Courtesy The Rockaway Hotel/Matthew Placek

8. Check into the hottest hotel in Queens

News City Life

The number of idyllic beach days are limited, but if you want to hang out in the Rockaways, the Rockaway Hotel is an ideal spot to call your own beach bungalow. All the rooms have water views and if the weather starts feeling a bit too much like sweater weather, you can always dip into the heated pool.

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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)
Photograph: Courtesy Historic Hudson Valley/Tom Nycz

9. Head to the Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze's new second location

News City Life
New York's most anticipated Halloween event is spreading its spooky spirit. The Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze will set up shop at the historic Old Bethpage Village Restoration on Long Island, in addition to the Van Cortlandt Manor in the Hudson Valley. Visitors will be able to admire 7,000+ hand carved illuminated jack o'lanterns as eerie music and synchronized lights add to the festive experience. 
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burlesque
Photograph: Courtesy New York Burlesque Festival

11. Bump and grind with the New York Burlesque Festival

This world-renowned New York Burlesque Festival, now in its 19th year, features artists from around the globe pulling out the stops (and nipple tassels) to showcase the finest the art form has to offer. This year's lineup of festivities, which runs Oct 1–3, includes three decadent nights of artful tease.

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nyc biergarten
Courtesy N 11th St Cookout

13. Warm up with brews at an outdoor biergarten

News City Life

As we enter Oktoberfest season, head to N 11th Street Cookout and warm your belly with a rotation of beers from NYC-based breweries to get in the spirit. There may be no polka band, but the biergarten has picnic tables with no reservations (that means no time limit for your group) and an on-site food truck, with ballpark-style snacks like cheeseburgers, hot dogs, soft pretzels, elote and fries. 

donuts
Photograph: Shutterstock

14. Dig into apple cider donuts from NYC’s farmers market

As the fall rolls in, there are probably a few things you crave—no, no, not pumpkin spice lattes—apple cider donuts. NYC’s network of open-air markets have all-things apple, year after year. Snag the sugary confection, and stock up on apple cider while you’re at it, too. You can hop over to grownyc.org to find a market nearest you. 

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apples
Photograph: Shutterstock

16. Go apple picking just outside the city

Things to do

Grab an empty basket and don your best plaid for a fall PYO adventure. At local farms in the tristate area, you'll find a generous offering of apple varieties and fun seasonal activities like petting zoos and corn mazes. We guarantee you're bound to stumble upon some apple cider doughnuts along the way.

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Kayaking brooklyn bridge park
Photograph: Courtesy Etienne Frossard

18. Go kayaking (for free) until October

News City Life

Missed your chance to paddle along the East River this summer? Fear not: Free kayaking at Brooklyn Bridge Park will take place on Wednesdays this fall. New reservation slots open every Wednesday and Saturday, but sign on early as spots are likely to fill up.  

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Six Flags HOLLOWFEST
Photograph: Courtesty Six Flags Great Adventure

19. Get spooky at Six Flags' new HALLOWFEST

News City Life

Listen up, ghosts and ghouls: If you're in search of a frighteningly fun adventure, check out Six Flags' new HALLOW FEST. During the day, little monsters can enjoy scream-worthy attractions including inflatables, a Trick or Treat Trail and a hay bale maze. At night, things get a little more serious: 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!  

The best spots to see fall foliage in NYC

New York Botanical Garden
Photograph: Ivo M. Vermeulen

Alley Pond Park

Attractions Parks and gardens Queens

At just over a half-mile long, Tulip Tree Trail is a great place to spot this species. The park is home to what's purported to be the oldest and largest tulip poplar in the city (called the "Alley Pond Giant"), at a towering 133.8 feet tall. Other varieties that you'll spot within the Queens green space include white oak, red maple and sassafras trees, which turn yellow and red.

Photograph: Shutterstock

Bloomingdale Park

Attractions Parks and gardens Staten Island

This 139-acre park features scores of verdant woodlands and a vast diversity of trees. Join a free Fall Foliage Hike on October 25 at 1pm to learn about how leaves change and to see the shifting palette of greens, browns and oranges in Staten Island’s dense, untouched woods.

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Central Park
Photograph: Courtesy of Central Park Conservancy

Central Park

Attractions Parks and gardens Central Park

Start at the Conservatory Water, near the entrance at Fifth Avenue and 72nd Street, where you can spot hawthorn trees covered in red berries. Then continue to the 38-acre Ramble in the middle of the park, where you'll find a large tupelo tree at the southern end of an area known as Tupelo Meadow; the leaves appear in various shades—red, yellow and purple—throughout the season. Continue your nature trek in the North Woods, a rustic landscape alongside the Ravine, featuring brooks, various oaks, elm, red maple and black cherry—enter at the eastern edge of the Pool (between 100th and 103rd Streets) and follow the trails north. Near the Great Hill, look for European beech trees, which has leaves that turn a warm shade of orangey-red.

Fort Tryon Park
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/flickr/Kristine Paulus

Fort Tryon Park

Attractions Parks and gardens Washington Heights

After a stroll into the Heather Garden’s vast swath of perennials and a walk through the Cloisters, hike through the arching trees and take a seat at the Linden Terrace, one of the highest points in Manhattan, where you’ll be able to gaze across the water at the Hudson River Palisades, which has 20 miles of cliffs that will be covered in vivid copper and orange foliage.

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High Rock Park, Greenbelt
Photograph: Dorothy Reilly

Greenbelt

Attractions Parks and gardens Staten Island

Consisting of 2,800 acres of interconnected open space in suburban Staten Island, the Greenbelt offers 35 miles of trails through parks and woodland. Start your expedition at the Nature Center, where you can pick up a copy of the trail map (which can also be downloaded from the website) and talk to naturalists. The eight-mile Yellow trail passes the ironically named Moses' Mountain, which was created from debris from Robert Moses's nixed plan to construct a highway through the area. From the 260-foot hill, you get a panoramic view of the surrounding treetops—the mix of oaks, sweet gum, tulip, sassafras and red maple provide a blaze of autumnal color. On the other side of the mountain, cross Manor Road and head back into the woods toward the 90-acre High Rock Park, where you'll glimpse ponds and clusters of red maple.

New York Botanical Garden
Photograph: Ivo M. Vermeulen

New York Botanical Garden

Attractions Parks and gardens The Bronx

For the best leaf spotting, get lost in the garden's Thain Family Forest. The 250-acre woodland area is the city's largest patch of old-growth forest (with some trees dating to the 19th century), and numerous species—including a high concentration of oak, red maple and tulip trees—can be found within the site. Keep an eye out for sweet gums, whose star-shaped leaves turn red and purple as autumn progresses, and scarlet oak trees, which are rich in tannins and display brilliant shades of orange and red. To learn more, head to the garden for two Fall Forest Weekends, which include guided foliage-themed tours, among other activities.

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Prospect Park
Photograph: Paul Nelson/Prospect Park Alliance

Prospect Park

Attractions Parks and gardens Prospect Park

Sugar and red maples—which you can spot around the park's lake—are the first trees to change, turning orange and red, respectively. The rest of the park's foliage should follow by late October, with species like elm, sour gum and sassafras all displaying fall colors. Head to the Ravine, a densely wooded area at the center of the park, for the highest concentration of plants. Seen enough trees? Climb the hill behind the Audubon Center; there you'll find a wildlife garden filled with plants such as holly shrubs, whose berries also transform in cooler weather.

Van Cortlandt Park
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Steven Pisano

Van Cortlandt Park

Attractions Parks and gardens The Bronx

This enormous Bronx park can overwhelm, with more than 1,000 acres (and an estimated 80,000 trees) within its borders. But that also makes it ideal for leaf peepers, who can see species such as oak, sweet gum and hickory displaying rust and orange leaves. For superlative views, take a stroll along the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail, a 1.1-mile nature walk built atop a former tunnel that shuttled water from the Croton Reservoir down to New York City. Check out tulip and maple trees in shades of goldenrod and scarlet.

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Wave Hill
Photograph: Mick Hales

Wave Hill

Attractions Parks and gardens The Bronx

Vivid foliage is in evidence as soon as you enter the grounds of Wave Hill—look out for a golden larch south of the main entrance. It's best viewed from beneath its branches on a clear day when the sun shines through the gilded leaves, says horticultural interpreter Charles Day, who will lead a foliage walk on November 4 at 1pm (free with admission). A katsura tree on the lawn south of the Glyndor Gallery has heart-shaped leaves that turn pale yellow on the tree, and once fallen, emit a fragrance similar to caramel. In the Wild Garden, small trees such as cutleaf sumac (copper-orange), dogwood (red) and shadbush (orange) contrast beautifully with evergreens and late-blooming asters in blue, purple and pink. Also look out for for the narrow, upright English oak, whose leaves turn coppery brown, near the gazebo. Take a seat in the open-sided structure to admire the fiery palette of the New Jersey Palisades on the other side of the Hudson—the pristine oak-hickory forest is scattered with maples, sweet and sour gums, black birch and tulip trees, resulting in an impressionist patchwork of rich hues. If you still crave more, venture into Wave Hill's eight-acre woodland to stroll amid sugar maple and hickory trees.

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