Autumn is the best time of the year in New York for the weather. With the crisp, dry air it is the ideal time to explore the outdoors, yet also get cozy indoors. In this guide, I’ll go over the best things to do in autumn in New York City. If you’re more of a visual person, watch my video below instead of reading this article. Also, if you haven’t subscribed to my channel yet do so now!
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The Official List of the Best things to do in autumn in New York City
TOP THINGS TO DO IN CENTRAL PARK
BOATING IN CENTRAL PARK
Let’s start this list in Central Park. One of the best things to do in autumn is to take a rowboat out on Central Park’s lake. You can do this at Loeb Boathouse. It is $35 to rent but $20 of that is the deposit for the boat, so it is really only $15 (as long as you don’t damage the boat).
Insider tip: Go early to avoid crowds. If you are there during a busy time, head towards the bridge, go under it then head towards the other side of the lake. For some reason, few people are on this side of the lake and it makes the experience more intimate.
WALK THROUGH CENTRAL PARK
This is easily one of the best things to do in autumn in New York City. Central Park is filled with hundreds of wooded trails that look magical with the golden autumn leaves. Explore the park using Google Maps on your phone or head to the information booth. There is a lot to see here and google maps has a lot of the sites embedded in the map. If you want a virtual tour of the park, watch my tour of Central Park by becoming a member, and join my live virtual YouTube tours of New York.
Insider tip: Have a picnic in the park at this hidden spot I found with an epic view. This is one of the many things to do in New York City that cost less than $100.
VISIT SHAKESPEARE’S GARDEN
A rather less-frequented attraction of the park, the Shakespeare Garden is the perfect place for a relaxing afternoon in Central Park. The Garden covers four acres of plants that change according to season. Included among these are rosemary and pansies – alluded to by Ophelia in Hamlet; thistle – mentioned in the play Much Ado About Nothing; and even a white mulberry tree that is said to have grown from a graft of a tree planted by Shakespeare himself in 1602.
SEE THE SWEDISH COTTAGE
The Swedish Cottage, built in Sweden in 1875, was placed in Central Park in 1877 at the suggestion of Frederick Law Olmsted. Since its arrival in the US, the Cottage has served a variety of purposes, perhaps most importantly being used as the headquarters for the Civil Defense during World War II. It was also formerly a tool house, a library, and Central Park’s entomological laboratory. More details on it here.
EXPERIENCE THE PUMPKIN FLOTILLA
Bring the whole family and celebrate Halloween in Central Park at the Pumpkin Flotilla. Enjoy pumpkin carving, Halloween crafts, spooky stories, a costume parade, and most of all the Conservancy’s signature Pumpkin Flotilla, which sets sail across the Harlem Meer at twilight!
CENTRAL PARK WALKING TOUR
Experience Central Park with a walking tour! Visit many well-known attractions on this exciting 2-hour adventure!
Learn about the history and architecture of the park through iconic landmarks such as Bethesda Fountain, Strawberry Fields, Wollman Rink, the Gapstow Bridge, Belvedere Castle, and more. See where many famous movie and tv scenes were shot, such as Home Alone 2, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Spiderman 3, and Sex and the City.
Interested in area secrets? Then consider taking my Secrets of New York tour!
More of the best things to do in autumn in New York City (outside of Central Park)
VISIT TRINITY CHURCH AND SEE HAMILTON’S GRAVE
Another one of the best things to do in autumn in New York City is to visit Trinity Church. Trinity Church Wall Street is an active Episcopal Parish that has been an integral part of New York City’s history for more than 300 years. The oldest grave here is from 1681. Try to find it while you’re here!
One of the pieces this church is famous for is being home to Hamilton’s grave. He was secretary of state in 1789. However, today Hamilton is famous for another reason. Hamilton is a massive blockbuster Broadway show that opened in New York in 2015. Since then it has broken many musical theatre records. If you’re a Broadway or history fan this could be a fun spot to visit. If you love Broadway, then watch my video on how to get discounted Broadway tickets, it will help save you money!
Insider tip: Act like a New Yorker and grab a coffee to go at Wattle Cafe then sip on it as you stroll through the ancient cemetery.
ONE IF BY LAND, TWO IF BY SEA
Another one of the best things to do in autumn in NYC is dine at One if by Land, Two if by Sea. This restaurant has been recognized for its classic menu, long history, and beautiful decor. It is often cited as the most romantic restaurant in New York City. The decor features candlelit tables, brick fireplaces, a baby grand piano, and a private garden. More people are said to have announced their engagement here than any other restaurant in Manhattan.
The restaurant operates inside a historic, land-marked carriage house built in 1767 that belonged to Aaron Burr. Burr was the vice president of the US that killed Hamilton in a duel. It’s a fun connection if you just visited Trinity Church. This spot is known to be haunted by 20 ghosts – a perfect restaurant for the Halloween season.
Insider tip: Get reservations far in advance. This place get’s booked quickly.
TAKE A FALL FOLIAGE CRUISE ON A 1920’S LUXURY YACHT: SARAH’S TOP PICK!
I think the best thing to do in autumn in New York City is to take a cruise along the Hudson. On a Classic Harbor Line Yacht, you can admire the Palisades of the Hudson River through the skylights of their heated and enclosed observatory, or while catching the breeze on her bow. Observe New York’s most dramatic natural wonders and foliage as the seasons change. This is a spectacular season for cruising the Hudson River, north of NYC, will be a true delight for you and your guests.
Insider tip: Book in advance.
THE GHOSTS OF GREENWICH VILLAGE LIVE YOUTUBE TOUR
On this spooky tour, you’ll be armed with only a flashlight (virtually for now), and visit ghost-plagued buildings, and secret cemeteries while learning the stories of the restless souls you might disturb. Starring the spirits of Mark Twain, Aaron Burr, Edgar Allan Poe, Washington Irving, Thomas Paine, artist John LaFarge, the Shadow, Clement Clarke Moore, Mayor Jimmy Walker, Lee Chumley, Patrolman Schwartz, a few skeletons, and various other apparitions, sudden chills, rustlings, and knockings.
MURDER AT THE MET SCAVENGER HUNT
Fans of murder mysteries and The Da Vinci Code will enjoy this scavenger hunt throughout the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A murdered curator has left behind a cryptic trail of clues connected with secrets in works of art. As your team gathers answers about the art, you begin to piece together a sordid tale about greed, lust, pride, revenge, and treachery, all revolving around the museum’s planned multi-million-dollar purchase of a rare painting by Leonardo da Vinci. This is such a fun thing to do in New York City!
MET ROOFTOP BAR
For some of the best views of Central Park in autumn head to The Met Museum‘s Cantor Rooftop Garden Bar. Here you can enjoy cocktails and light fare in an open-air setting with views of Central Park and the Manhattan skyline. Open through the end of October only (weather permitting). If you want to check out other rooftop bars then read my article here where I visit the best in New York.
MACY’S THANKSGIVING DAY PARADE
Though this is more of a touristy thing to do I am including it because Thanksgiving is a holiday that mainly celebrated in the US. If you’re an international traveler, it could be interesting to see such an iconic USA parade while you’re in New York. Expect giant balloon, massive crowds, and wonderful performances. To see the performances get to Herald Square area very early. I found this article very helpful if you are planning on going to this.
Dates: November 26, 2020; November 25, 2021; and November 24, 2022
HAVE A PROPER THANKSGIVING MEAL
If you want to experience a real thanksgiving meal I recommend booking a reservation on Thanksgiving at Joseph Leonard or Prime Meats (now called Frankies Spuntino Group) as soon as possible. Expect turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, and all the good stuff.
Insider tip: If those spots are full check out this article for other suggestions.
BIKE ALONG THE HUDSON RIVER GREENWAY
The autumn brings the most perfect weather to New York (make sure you know what to pack for it). I recommend renting a bike through Citi Bike then biking along the 11 mile stretch up to Fort Tryon Park along the Hudson River Greenway. There are tons of interesting other sites along the Hudson River Greenway while you make you’re way up.
Inside of Fort Tryon Park you’ll find The Cloisters. This fortress has a massive collection of medieval artwork. While you’re there make sure to take a break from the museum in their open air courtyard cafe. Please note that The Cloisters are part of The Met museum and is included in the ticket price to the main museum.
Insider tip: If you want to do this plan a whole day around it so you can see everything.
GREAT JACK O’LANTERN BLAZE
Meander through an 18th-century landscape and discover a breathtaking display of more than 7,000 illuminated jack o’ lanterns at the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze —all designed and hand-carved on site by our team of artisans! Witness a windmill go round and round (with pumpkins all around). Visit their brand new medieval castle and listen for the who-whooo… a flock of jack o’lantern owls is standing guard!
Insider tip: Buy tickets in advance because this sells out quickly.
Those are my top things to do in autumn in NYC. What do you like to do this time of year? Comment below!