Just being in NYC in the fall is an experience in itself—for a few brief months, we all channel Meg Ryan in You've Got Mail and breathe in the crisp air filled with the smell of leaves and pretend we're in the middle of a love story for the ages (maybe we are). It's true that NYC is one of the most sought out places to experience the best that fall offers, from delightfully spooky Halloween events and festivals to gorgeous leaf-peeping opportunities and some of the best festivals.
Autumn in NYC is tough to match! Keep scrolling to find out how to make this the best one yet.
1. See thousands of jack o' lanterns at the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze
The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze is set to return this September in two New York locations, along with a full slate of Sleepy Hollow-themed events.
The Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze will be back in the Hudson Valley at Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson for the 19th year, from September 15 through November 19, as well as Old Bethpage Village Restoration in Old Bethpage, Long Island for the fourth year, from September 22 through November 5. Both experiences will feature thousands of hand-carved jack o'lanterns set up in elaborate displays.
Along with the gorgeous gourds, New Yorkers can head to Philipsburg Manor in the historic town of Sleepy Hollow for a brand-new event, The Spirits of Sleepy Hollow Country: A Night of Legendary Magic, where master illusionists Mark Clearview and Nick Wallace will conjure up the legendary spirits of the town, including Major Andre and the Headless Horseman.
Find ticket and date information at the Historic Hudson Valley website.
2. Be dazzled by Lightscape at Brooklyn Botanic Garden
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is bringing back its gorgeous, after-dark illuminated spectacular to its grounds from November 17, 2023–January 1, 2024.
Lightscape, an illuminated trail of art from local and international artists, features the iconic Winter Cathedral and a larger Fire Garden—all set to over a million lights, color and music. This year, it has been reimagined with a longer trail and new immersive experiences along the way, including “Supernova,” a 24-foot-high illuminated Moravian star, a sparkling new Chandelier Walk and a giant red poppy blossoms of Floraison that hover above the trail.
As always, a curated playlist of music brings the light art to life, but this year, BBG is celebrating the 50th anniversary of hip-hop with “Kaleido Circle,” an illuminated area in Oak Circle that will play a mix of hip-hop songs by influential Brooklyn musicians, curated by Queens-based artist Sherwin Banfield.
Of course, there will be food concessions along the trail that will still offer seasonal treats like hot cocoa, hot cider, and mulled wine as well as light bites, cookies and sweets.
Admission ranges from $34-$39 for adults and $17-$19 for kids.
3. Check out Pumpkin Nights at the Bronx Zoo
Bronx Zoo is preparing for an epic pumpkin celebration—the first of its kind for the iconic venue.
Pumpkin Nights at the Bronx Zoo will debut on Thursday, September 28 and run Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Sunday, October 29 from 6pm to 10pm.
The fall festival will showcase more than 5,000 carved, animal-themed pumpkins in a jack-o’-lantern trail stretching over half a mile. Live pumpkin carving demonstrations, games, festive fall treats and food trucks will also take place at the all-ages Pumpkin Nights.
Tickets for Pumpkin Nights range from $26.95-$36.95 for adults; kids' tickets range from $24.95-$26.95 for kids.
In addition to the new Pumpkin Nights, the Bronx Zoo will continue the tradition of Boo at the Zoo, which will return on Saturdays and Sundays, September 30 through October 29, plus Monday, October 9.
4. See a master pumpkin carver at Fall-O-Ween
Back for its annual celebration of all things pumpkin (and your best opportunity to take a selfie with a scarecrow in NYC), New York Botanical Garden's Fall-O-Ween officially opens on Saturday, September 16.
The event includes hundreds of pumpkins and gourds on display, hands-on activities like mini pumpkin decorating, 3D pumpkin carving, food and beverage talks, tastings and more. Two family-friendly Spooky Garden Nights (Saturday, October 21 and Saturday, October 28) will also offer Halloween-themed entertainment including dancing skeletons, decorating trick-or-treat bags, live shadow puppets, plant potting ad more.
Master pumpkin carver Adam Bierton will return to NYBG on select weekends to create his intricate and nature-inspired pumpkin carvings, and to host a master carver competition. At the “pumpkin patch” at NYBG Shop, guests can pick and purchase the perfect pumpkin to take home.
5. Get into the fall spirit at the Queens County Fair
You don't have to leave the city for a taste of the country lifestyle.
The 40th Annual Queens County Fair returns the weekend of September 8-10, bringing the city’s only corn maze, apple cider margaritas in a souvenir cup, body art, carnival rides, corn husking and pie eating competitions and more to the Queens County Farm Museum in Floral Park.
To celebrate the 40-year milestone, the three-day fair will be full of new programming. Expect a showcase of local food/beverage vendors, a tracot exhibit, gourmet mushroom tastings, historic house tours, butter churning demos and complimentary face painting.
Tickets for the 40th Annual Queens County Fair start at $15.
6. Snap some gourd-geous photos at Color Factory
Autumn brings some of the beautiful colors in nature with its crispy red leaves and bright orange pumpkins, so it's no surprise that Color Factory is going all out for the season as well.
The Soho immersive art museum will present Haunted Hues, a Halloween-themed takeover, running from September 14 to November 1 with plenty of tricks and treats. Tickets start at $39 and are on sale here.
The experience will include a pumpkin patch with a Color Factory twist, fun giveaways and fresh seasonal treats. Plus, guests can add on a new scavenger hunt to search for hidden monsters throughout the venue.
7. Dig in at the Feast of San Gennaro
We could all use a big plate of pasta chased with a cannoli right about now. The Feast of San Gennaro is here to meet those needs with its annual festival featuring parades, live music and of course, glorious foods. There's even a cannoli-eating contest.
The festival runs from September 14-24 in Little Italy.
8. Remember the fallen on September 11
This year marks the 22nd anniversary of the September 11 attacks, and you may be looking for events around NYC to memorialize this solemn day. In 2023, events include vigils, memorials, and tribute runs.
9. Admire the Morningside Lights
Every fall, Morningside Lights illuminates the night with a procession of awe-inspiring handmade lanterns. This year’s event, titled "The Open Book," highlights books that inspire, enlighten and shape how we see the world. Just after dusk on Saturday, September 30, see more than 50 community-built lanterns depicting great books.
The theme also celebrates the free exchange of ideas and pays homage to the libraries that preserve access to knowledge and affirm our freedom to read.
The procession will head from Morningside Park to Columbia University campus, fittingly home to the beautiful Butler Library. It’s free to attend with no tickets required; festivities begin at 8pm on September 30 in Morningside Heights.
10. Navigate 10-acre Barbie corn maze
If you think you’ve seen everything Barbie-fied, here’s a new expression of our universal love for Barbie: A Barbie corn maze. Yes, the Northeastern fall tradition is going full-on Barbie at Happy Day Farm this fall, as part of the Manalapan, New Jersey farm’s annual Fall Festival.
The Barbie corn maze theme was planned and cut months ago, long before Barbie’s billion-dollar success. The corn maze is 10 acres with two parts: a short, 15-25 minute path, as well as a larger part for maze enthusiasts, which can take about 45 minutes to an hour to rove through, or longer if you’re eager for a perfect Instagram moment in the Barbie corn maze.
The Barbie corn maze opens on September 10 at Happy Day Farm’s Fall Festival which runs through October 30. Daily hours are 10am-5pm. Tickets to Happy Day’s Fall Festival cost $25, Friday-Sunday and must be pre-booked online. On Mondays, tickets are $21, cash only, and sold at the door.
11. Get rustic at the Queens County Farm Museum
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).
12. Explore the fascinating Green-Wood Cemetery
The cemetery's annual events include concerts in the catacombs, a tribute to Basquiat, a large-scale altar installation honoring Dia de los Muertos, walking tours and trolley tours.
There's also the return of Nightfall—”the crowning event of Green-Wood’s fall season"—a 21-and-over evening of music and moving image on October 20 that will take inspiration from the danse macabre, or the dance of death.
13. Go apple picking just outside the city
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.
14. Head to these great spots for leaf-peeping
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!
15. 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.
16. Watch a scary movie on a rooftop
If you didn't get enough of outdoor movie season this summer, don't worry: It's not over yet. Rooftop Cinema Club is keeping the fun going this fall with a packed slate of films running all the way through October 31.
Sip wine and eat vegan popcorn while watching classics like When Harry Met Sally, The Addams Family, Hocus Pocus and lots more this autumn. Tickets are on sale here.
Movies run all fall long with special scray screenings in October, including Rosemary’s Baby, Paranormal, The Exorcist, The Shining, American Psycho and other cult classics as well as family favorites like Coco and Monsters, Inc. That all leads up to All Hallow's Eve's screenings of Hocus Pocus and Halloween.
17. Nerd out at Brooklyn Book Festival
This annual literary celebration brings together hundreds of spectacular writers from across the globe for more than a week of talks and shopping to satisfy the borough’s brainiacs.
Activities run from September 24 to October 2 with writers in a variety of genres: international and local, for adult and young readers, working in fiction and nonfiction, poetry, prose, and graphic storytelling. Events are free, but you’ll definitely want to bring some money to buy some new books to take home.
While activities run for the entirety of the nine-day celebration, the centerpiece festival day on Sunday, October 1 takes place in the parks and plazas surrounding Downtown Brooklyn’s Borough Hall and other venues. Seven stages will overflow with conversation as authors come together to converse, read and sign books throughout the day. Pulitzer Prize-winning authors Hilton Als, Toluse Olorunnipa, Robert Samuels, and Colson Whitehead will all be on stage. Hilton Als will be awarded The Best of Brooklyn (BoBi) award. Festival Day also stages the largest book market in the Northeast.
Here's the full schedule.
18. See cute pet portraits at Fotografiska
Of course, we all think our beloved pets are works of art, but now Fotografiska New York, the contemporary photography museum in Gramercy Park, is happily agreeing with us.
This fall, the museum will stage "Best in Show: Pets in Contemporary Photography," a sprawling art exhibition exploring “the role our furry (and feathered) friends have played in culture and how they stand in as representations of status, power, loyalty, compassion and companionship."
The exhibit, on view from September 22, 2023, through January 2024, will feature more than 130 photographs—both artfully arranged portraits and amusing candid snaps—and video installations from 24 global artists across two museum floors.
19. Welcome the "LOVE" sculpture back to NYC
Robert Indiana's iconic LOVE sculpture has been MIA from its usual corner of 55th Street and Sixth Avenue for the past few years, after the work was removed from its post for conservation in 2019. Now Rockefeller Center is bringing a little love—pun intended—back to New York with an installation of work from the American artist.
From Wednesday, September 13 through Tuesday, October 24, see artworks from Robert Indiana throughout Rockfeller Center's landmark campus, including the long-awaited return of his LOVE sculpture to Manhattan.
20. Rock out at the Global Citizen Festival
Global Citizen Festival is an annual music festival in Central Park. Attendees can earn tickets by helping with advocacy work via voting, signing petitions, sending messages and more to government leaders, businesses, philanthropists, artists, and other citizens. Global Citizen shares funds around the world and has the mission of eliminating extreme poverty.
This year’s Global Citizen Festival lineup showcases Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ms. Lauryn Hill, Megan Thee Stallion, Conan Gray, and Stray Kids.
This year's event is on Saturday, September 23, 2023.
21. Catch a show during Broadway Week
Score theater tickets for less with Broadway Week, a twice-annual half-price sale for tickets to pretty much every Broadway production. The name is not quite accurate: The fall 2023 edition of Broadway Week actually lasts two weeks, from September 4 through September 17.
This edition's list of participating shows is the most extensive yet; it includes every single Broadway production except the very first performances of the new productions Melissa Etheridge: My Window and Gutenberg! The Musical! If you act fast, you might even be able to snag seats for this year's Tony winner for Best Musical, Kimberly Akimbo, and such perpetual hot tickets as Hamilton, Sweeney Todd, Wicked and The Lion King. Head to to the Broadway Week website to peruse the list of participating shows and grab the ones you want most.
22. Shop local at Queens Craft Brigade
Whether you're starting on some early holiday shopping or just looking for something to treat yourself, shop local with the Queens Craft Brigade.
The independent, queer-owned market at Katch Astoria brings together talented makers exclusively from around the borough and has created monthly curated events featuring artwork, jewelry, fashion, crafts, and more.
Here's the schedule for the fall:
— September 23: Queens Cat Brigade
— October 28: Queens Witchcraft Brigade (Halloween Party)
— November 25: Small Business Saturday
— December 9: Holiday Market
23. Sip drinks at an Elvis-themed pop-up bar
Grab your blue suede shoes and and get ready for an Elvis-themed pop-up coming to NYC this fall.
Adorably dubbed "Love Me (Bar)Tender," expect wildly retro decor, Elvis-themed cocktails, music from Memphis bands and a photobooth. It'll be free to visit on October 5 and 6 with advance registration (sign up here to get details when registration opens), though the exact location hasn't been announced yet.
The pop-up is inspired by The Jungle Room, the den at the Presleys Graceland mansion. The room harkens back to 1965 and was decorated in Hawaiian-style decor including green shag carpet on the floor (and ceiling!), a rock waterfall and a lacquered tiki bar.
24. Drink endless caffeine at the New York Coffee Festival
The New York City Coffee Festival will return this fall for its seventh year, consuming Metropolitan Pavilion for a long weekend of all things coffee related from October 6-8.
At the three-day event, food, cocktails, live music, art, and more are promised, including unlimited tastings and presentations from local and national brands in the coffee, tea and chocolate industries. Confirmed participants include Parlor Coffee, Blueberry Roasters, Rishi Tea, Matcha Direct, De’Longhi, Bodum, Oatly, Raaka Chocolate, Aeropress, and many more.
Coffee enthusiasts can also take advantage of The Lab program which features interactive demonstrations, educational workshops, talks, tastings, a cocktail masterclass, a latte art tournament and even coffee art.
Tickets are now on sale for both industry professionals (trade day is Friday, October 6) and the general public, with day passes starting at $45 when purchased in advance.
25. Explore an immersive Spike Lee exhibit
He's one of our most famous New Yorkers—now legendary director Spike Lee (Do The Right Thing, Crooklyn, The 25th Hour) is getting his own immersive installation at the Brooklyn Museum this fall.
Running from Friday, October 6, 2023 through Sunday, February 4, 2024, at the museum's Morris A. and Meyer Schapiro Wing and Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Gallery, "Spike Lee: Creative Source" will delve into the world, works and influences of the acclaimed director who, though born in Atlanta, Georgia, was raised and revered as one of New York's own, particularly in the borough of Brooklyn.
The exhibit will feature more than 300 works from Lee's personal collection, "items that have been touchpoints for Lee and the topics he explores on-screen," the museum said.