Best things to do in Autumn in New York City

Autumn in Central Park, New York

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).

Rowboats in Central Park
Rowboats in Central Park. Photo of Sarah Funk.

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.

Picnic in Central Park with Sarah Funk & Luis Yanes
Central Park picnic with Sarah Funk & Luis Yanes

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.

Beautiful view of the lake in Central Park
A beautiful view of the lake in Central Park with Sarah Funk and Tina Lee

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.

The Swedish Cottage in Central Park
The Swedish Cottage in Central Park

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!

Pumpkins
Photo by David Menidrey on Unsplash

SECRETS OF CENTRAL PARK TOUR

On the Secrets of Central Park tour you’ll experience some of the park’s lesser-known treasures and explore the hard to find places that most people don’t get to see, including the last remaining fortification of a site from the American Revolutionary War, a must-see 3500-year-old visitor from Egypt, and other attractions invisible to the average eye. Love 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!

Trinity Chuch NYC
Trinity Church in the Financial District of New York. Photo by Renan Kamikoga on Unsplash

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 two years ago. 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!

Trinity Church
Trinity Church. Photo of Sarah Funk

Insider tip: Act like a New Yorker and grab a coffee to go at Boundless Plains 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.

Inside One If By Land, Two If By Sea
Inside One If By Land, Two If By Sea

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 things 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.

Classic Harbor Line boat interior
Classic Harbor Line boat interior

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.

Spooky NYC at sunset
Sarah holds lantern at sunset in Dumbo, Brooklyn

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!

Murder at the met tour
Murder at the met tour

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.

Central Park
Beautiful view of Central Park

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

Thanksgiving turkey
Thanksgiving turkey

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.

Decoy Wine-5.jpg

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.

Sarah Funk riding a Citi Bike along the Hudson River
Sarah Funk riding a Citi Bike along the Hudson River

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.

A painting at The Met Museum
A painting at The Met Museum. Photo by Una Laurencic from Pexels

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.

Sarah Funk at The Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze
Sarah Funk at The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze

Those are my top things to do in autumn in NYC. What do you like to do this time of year? Comment below!

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