Simply put, who doesn’t love New York City in the fall? From When Harry Met Sally to Moonlight, The Big Apple’s autumns are the stuff of legend. Each year, locals and visitors alike bundle up against the creeping chill and venture out in the hopes of tasting a little bit of that magic. You don’t need to make a two-hour trek to the closest apple orchard to do so, either: there are plenty of ways to get cozy even in the heart of the city if you know where to look. Luckily, we do.
You know we had to start here: walking through Central Park in the fall is akin to a religious experience for many of those lucky enough to experience it year after year, and it never disappoints. The park’s winding paths are adorned with fiery foliage, the air smells of boiled peanuts, and fallen leaves crunch underfoot.
Take a leisurely stroll around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, snap photos of the Gapstow Bridge surrounded by vibrant trees, or simply find yourself a quiet bench where you can relax and take it all in.
For a hauntingly beautiful retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city, head for Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. It’s not just a resting place for the dearly departed; it’s also one of the best spots in the city for reveling in the change of the seasons, offering a less populous alternative for those who prefer to avoid Central Park when it’s at its busiest. As the season progresses, the cemetery’s historic mausoleums and winding paths feel increasingly otherworldly.
Wander on your own (making sure to be respectful of its current inhabitants, of course) or take a guided trolley tour to learn about the cemetery’s famous residents, history, and hear a few ghost stories.
If neither crowds nor headstones are your jam, you’ll find your ideal spot for taking in autumnal sights up in the Bronx. Wave Hill offers a serene escape from the city’s bustle and showcases the best of fall. The sprawling 28-acre estate features an array of stunning gardens, where you can stroll, picnic, or simply lounge before a vivid red and orange backdrop.
Explore the estate’s art exhibitions, walking trails, and the iconic Pergola Overlook, which provides stunning views of the Hudson River and the Palisades.
Arthur Avenue Market
Situated on a mile-long stretch of road in the Bronx, the Arthur Avenue Market offers an experience that’s friendlier and more authentic than that of Manhattan’s Little Italy. This Italian open-air market is a food lover’s paradise any time of the year, but it truly comes to life in the fall. An array of seasonal delights await, from freshly harvested produce to aromatic spices.
Warm up with a cappuccino and pastry from any number of excellent Italian cafés or stock up on ingredients for your autumnal cooking endeavors.
Fall Farmer’s Markets
New York has an incredible selection of farmer’s markets, but the best time to experience them in all their glory is during the fall. Union Square Greenmarket is one of the more popular choices; open year-round several days a week, it comes alive in the fall with a cornucopia of seasonal produce, from gooey apple cider donuts to brightly-hued pumpkins.
Another fantastic fall market is the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. Held on Saturdays, the market is a favorite among locals. The apple cider is a seasonal must, and live music adds to the festive atmosphere.
The McKittrick Hotel
Home to the enigmatic immersive theatrical experience known as “Sleep No More,” the iconic McKittrick Hotel can be found in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. This one-of-a-kind event invites you to explore the mysteries of the McKittrick in a performance inspired by Shakespeare’s Macbeth. There’s no need to be an afficionado of the Bard to enjoy it, though: despite drawing from elements of the famous tragedy, the experience is contemporary and completely captivating.
Afterwards, make a beeline for Gallow Green, the hotel’s rooftop bar. The commitment to creating an atmosphere reminiscent of an abandoned fairy garden is truly commendable, and the incredible city views are nothing to sneeze at either. Sleep No More runs year-round, but the McKittrick’s mystical, slightly spooky atmosphere is heightened come fall.
The Metropolitan Opera House
When the weather gets chilly, rest easy in the knowledge that you can slip on a pair of opera gloves – opera season at the Met begins in late September. Ticket prices vary depending on the performance and available seating, but affordable options are often available.
While performances will run until May, taking advantage of the fall season’s superb lineup is always advisable. The grandeur and elegance of this iconic venue, and the action playing out within its epic theatres, feel especially magical when autumn rolls around.
The Cloisters at the Met
While technically a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cloisters require a journey to Upper Manhattan. Perched on a hillside in Fort Tryon Park, the museum is renowned for its medieval European art and stunning Gothic architecture. Designed to resemble a medieval European monastery, strolling through the Cloisters’ replica cathedrals stone rooms filled with tapestries and triptychs evoke a definite sense of stepping back in time.
It’s the gardens that truly shine in the fall, though: when the season shifts, the garden becomes a canvas of rich, warm colors. Bonus: visiting the Cloisters in the fall also means fewer crowds and a better overall museum experience.