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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.

Written 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

  • Things to do
  • Events & Festivals

As the days get darker, a sprawling, multimedia experience that explores light as an artistic medium will roll into Brooklyn October 7-9 underneath the K Bridge Park in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Guests will have the chance to view ten light installations crafted by artists Paolo Montiel, Robert Montenegro, and Darrel Thorne along with artworks showcased at the popular Burning Man festival. And there will also be a dance floor experience and performances! The best part? It'll be free!

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  • Things to do
  • Events & Festivals

Escape your same-old rooms for some exciting ones at Refinery29's popular 29Rooms experience this December in Manhattan (for the first time ever). It'll celebrate 2021 with a "Make Contact" theme, i.e. the opposite of social distancing. The event is renowned for ample selfie opportunities with sensorial experiments, disarming first encounters and art-based installations that explore new ways of dating, dancing, socializing and celebrating.

  • Comedy
  • Comedy

The week-long festival, November 8-14, is set to feature some of the most exciting voices in comedy right now, such as Vir Das, Tim Dillon, Colin Quinn, Michelle Wolf, Norm MacDonald, Megan Stalter, Ronny Chieng, Jon Lovett’s Lovett or Leave It, Nick Kroll, Alok, Marc Maron, Brian Regan, Gary Gulman, Bill Maher, Michelle Buteau, Andrew Santino and more. It'll be a chance to laugh hard and often, which is what we need right now.

 

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  • Music
  • Music

There's a new music venue on the scene starting September 30 called Brooklyn Made. The 500-person capacity space in Bushwick will offer all musicians who play there pretty awesome perks, from access to a private outdoor swimming pool to a second-level carriage house and a loft apartment with unparalleled views of the Manhattan skyline. For audience members, Connie's offers a late-night bar next door and Standing Room, also next door, will be where you can get a cocktail, wine and tapas. Singer/songwriter Jeff Tweedy will kick off the opening with two nights of performances beginning September 30. 

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  • Things to do
  • City Life

There's a heart-pounding experience opening above Manhattan at the massive Summit One Vanderbilt 1,401-foot-tall skyscraper. Starting October 21, guests will be able to look over NYC from at least 1,000 feet with only glass between them and the view. "Ascent," is an all-glass enclosed elevator that travels up the outside of the building to 1,210 feet while "Levitation," is a series of transparent glass sky-boxes that jut out of the building at 1,063 feet above Madison Avenue. The Summit aims high with a forthcoming all-day cafe and bars, too, by Danny Meyer’s Union Square Events.

  • Art
  • Art

Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel at the Vatican is one of the must-see artworks of a lifetime, and for a limited time, its likeness will be right here in New York City. "Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition" will bring New Yorkers close to a high-res replication of the fresco that draws about 5 million people each year. It's the next best thing.

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  • Things to do
  • City Life

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is bringing a gorgeous, new after-dark illuminated spectacular to its grounds in November, where you can walk through the Cathedral of Light tunnel, a Fire Garden on Lily Pool Terrace, a Field of Light and an animated light installation covering Cherry Esplanade (and visible from the Robert W. Wilson Overlook). Colorful light displays highlighting the garden’s trees, landscapes, and architecture with more than 18 distinct works of light art and a series of light-based artworks by local artists will be installed in the Plant Family Collection.

 

  • Things to do
  • Festivals

Comics fans across the city have been waiting with bated breath to see if New York Comic Con would return this year — it is! While it's back in person, it's also online again because that capacity is limited. That being said, it's set to be a great one with can’t-miss panels, celebrities and all the cosplay you could ever fantasize about.

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  • 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!

Watch the Tony Awards
  • Theater

The Broadway shutdown in 2020 meant that only about half of the productions that had been scheduled to open in the 2019–20 season actually got to do so. This year’s Tony Awards are a return to form. Experience the show followed by a special Broadway's Back presentation.

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  • Things to do
  • 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.

  • 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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  • Restaurants
  • Eating

New York's hottest pop-up is opening this fall. Flame, a dining experience led by "pyro-chefs" will bring culinary adventure to the city, at an undisclosed location, starting November 18. The pop-up restaurant lets diners watch their food being "flamed to perfection" in a two-course adventure paired with themed cocktails and plenty of fire, designed to spark your palate's curiosity. Blowtorches and molecular gastronomy will pair up for this dinner that's part eating, part performance. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Eating

Although new restaurants have been opening in New York City at an exhilarating rate all year long, fall is prime time for new eating and drinking destinations. This fall, the 2021 restaurant forecast is particularly promising. In the weeks and months ahead, we’re looking at three new openings from one of NYC’s best restaurant groups, a long-awaited and highly-regarded British import, offshoots of sushi favorites, exciting cocktail programs, glamorous dining rooms and unending new chances to nab reservations before they run out.

  • Art
  • Art

This year's delayed Costume Institute exhibition is all about the U.S. of A. It's also (for the first time) going to be divided into two different parts. Part one, “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion,” is scheduled to open to the public on September 18 (complete with an early September version of the iconic Met Gala.) The exhibition will dive into ideas around American identity by featuring a fictional American home constructed with transparent walls that blur the boundaries between rooms. Examples of twentieth and twenty-first-century fashion will be found throughout the interiors, designed by pioneers of American sportswear.

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  • Movies

Easily one of the best things to do in the fall, the annual New York Film Festival dates back to 1963, when it established a mission of bringing the best work from around the world to Lincoln Center. Excitement is already feverish for this year’s 59th edition, thanks to the August announcement of this year's main slate lineup which will include new works from Céline Sciamma, Pedro Almodóvar, Joel Coen, Jane Campion and more big-name directors. We've got a full rundown of what you should see.

  • Things to do
  • City Life

Opening at The Seaport on Sunday, September 12, a new exhibit will honor the late photographer Bill Cunningham, with an exhibit highlighting his career and most popular work. Experience the Times of Bill Cunningham will bring the photographer’s six-decade-long career to life, exploring his work capturing everyday New Yorkers and celebrities like Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Anna Wintour, all on the streets of Manhattan. The exhibit is inspired by The Times of Bill Cunningham, the documentary by filmmaker Mark Bozek, narrated by Sarah Jessica Parker, and currently streaming on several platforms. 

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  • Theater
  • Theater & Performance

The Brooklyn Academy of Music is bringing a piece of Lithuania to Fort Greene this fall. The performing arts venue will be hosting the climate change-focused opera Sun & Sea, a daring, experimental work that depicts a large cast of characters enjoying a beach day as large-scale climate crises rage on. The timely opera was originally written and performed in Lithuanian and shown at the revered arts extravaganza Venice Biennale, where it won a prestigious Golden Lion award in 2019 and was called “a critique of leisure and of our times” by the biennale’s jury.

  • Museums
  • Special interest
  • Queens

This Queens County treasure is well worth the bus trek or car ride. As the city’s longest continually farmed site in the city (it’s been in operation since 1697), the 47 acres feels like an entirely different world compared to Manhattan. Feed and pet the barnyard animals, including sheep, ponies and goats, hop aboard a hayride and take advantage of the fall harvest season when you can go pumpkin picking and attempt to find your way through the Amazing Maize Maze (yes, that’s a corn maze).

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  • Art
  • Art

The artistry behind Disney cartoons will soon be the focus of an upcoming exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where the studio’s revered animations will sit under the same roof as paintings by Monét and Van Gogh. Titled Inspiring Walt Disney: The Animation of French Decorative Arts, the exhibition will examine “Walt Disney’s personal fascination with European art and the use of French motifs in Disney films and theme parks.” 

 

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The best spots to see fall foliage in NYC

  • 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.

  • 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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  • 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.

  • 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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  • 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.

  • 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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  • 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.

  • 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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  • 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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