Why Fall is the Best Time to Visit New York City: Things to Do in NYC in the Fall

Why Fall is the Best Time to Visit New York City: Things to Do in NYC in the Fall

Wondering when it’s the best to visit NYC? This New York City blog shows you all the reasons why fall is the best time to visit New York.

When is the best time to visit New York? This is a much debated topic as New York City has its uniqueness during every season. There are so many things to do every season in the year in New York City so it is hard to decide when the best time to visit New York City is.

As the title implies, I personally think autumn is the best time to visit NYC for many reasons. I have to admit that I have always been a summer person, mainly because I lived in cooler places like SF and London. But having spent almost 10 fall seasons here in New York City since I moved, I am a changed person and a firm believer that fall is the best time to visit the Big Apple.

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Pinterest Pin: Why you should visit New York City in the Fall with 4 photos. Top left is a photo of foliage in Central Park; top right is a girl sitting on a ledge on a hike in upstate New York with foliage in the background; lower left is Jack O'Lantern Blaze; lower right is a picture of pumpkin patches in New York

The Weather is Much Better in the Fall in New York City

New York has surprised me, in a good way. After 3 months of humid and hot weather (I moved here in the summer), the change of season couldn’t have come sooner.

Late September to the end of October is the best time to visit New York because the temperature is a comfortable range between 50-75 degrees (depends on the day) and the air is dry and crisp.

Most of the time the weather in NYC during fall is sunny with little humidity. It’s usually a high of 75F (~23C) during the day and low 50s (~10C) at night (colder in late October than in late September). 

Compared to the brutal cold winter, the blazing hot and humid summer and the rainy spring, the dry and cool fall weather is what most people feel the most comfortable at.

Since the fall months are more dry with less rain, you can do a lot more activities outdoors, from hiking to apple picking. In comparison, it rains all the time in the spring and there are a lot of random thunderstorms in the summer.

It is Easier To Travel To and Out of New York City in the Fall

Partially due to better weather (less rain, less thunderstorm, no snow) and partially due to the falling demand, it is much easier to fly in and out of New York City in the fall, and with cheaper airfare.

Given the recent summer travel madness (with airlines cancelling flights left and right), you will see less of that travel nightmare in the fall when you fly in and out of New York.

Almost every summer when I try to fly out of New York, my flight gets either cancelled or severely delayed due to thunderstorm (I have missed one wedding and almost missed another wedding) due to East Coast thunderstorms. Fun fact: my plane got hit by lightning once upon taking off, was not fun.

The Crowd is More Manageable in the Fall in New York

Edge Hudson Yards crowd

Ever wonder how to avoid crowds in New York City? Well shoulder season is often the best time (unless you want to come in February in the dead of winter with nothing else to do).

Most people visit New York from June to August when school is out, but not as many people come to New York in October or November. Even around Labor Day weekend, most New Yorkers leave New York to go upstate or somewhere else so the city is significantly quieter.

With fewer people hotels will be cheaper (less demand) and it would be easier to get reservation at restaurants and better photos at the various attractions in New York (but we all know if you want the best photos you gotta get up really…I mean REALLY early).

If you do want some inspiration, check out my SUMMIT One Vanderbilt guide.

Central Park Fountain photo shoot

The Sunset is Better During Fall in NYC

Brooklyn Bridge Park Sunset
Brooklyn Bridge Park

At first I thought it was just me, but after some Google search I discovered that New York sunsets are prettier and more colorful in the fall because the earth is in transition more during the spring and fall.

Autumn is probably the best time of the year for photographers and sunset lovers to enjoy the beautiful sunsets in New York.

What’s the best place for this beautiful New York City sunset in the fall? A few places I’d recommend for sunset in NYC is at Brooklyn Bridge Park (from where you can see not only Brooklyn Bridge, the Manhattan Skyline, but also Statue of Liberty), SUMMIT One Vanderbilt or a rooftop bar (such as the Crown, 230 Fifth, Westlight, etc).

230 Fifth Rooftop Bar Sunset
230 Fifth Rooftop Bar

You Can Still Catch Sunflowers Early Fall

Visiting-Sunflower-Fields-near-NYC

Did you think sunflower is only a summer thing? Well for the most part it is, but for certain sunflower fields near New York City, their sunflowers actually bloom in September.

So if you thought you missed the boat already don’t worry, you can still see some!

If you do visit a sunflower field, be sure to wear closed toe shoes. It’s not fun getting poked by sunflower stumps as you try to navigate through the bright yellow rows of sunflowers.

New York City is Prettiest During Fall

Yes you can say New York City is pretty all year round, but because of the changing of the leaves and foliage, it adds a lot more color to NYC in the autumn month.

Fall foliage leave changing color in New York City

New Yorkers love to spend time in Central Park regardless of the season but I’ve noticed more people take photo shoots there in the fall than any other season. Who can blame them?

Central Park Foliage on the pond with boat. Beautiful scenery in Central Park is why Fall is the best time to visit New York City

Central Park becomes gold and red during this beautiful season. Although there is no bad time to visit, I do think that fall is one of the best time to visit Central Park because it’s less crowded and it’s colorful everywhere.

The best things to do in Central Park during the fall is to bike through the park, jog, take photo shoots (especially wedding ones), picnic under foliage and simply walk around with family and friends on a nice weekend afternoon.

Central Park Foliage Golden Hour

The prettiest places in Central Park during Fall is the famous “Mall” where you will see fall foliage at its full force.

Central Park Fall Foliage the Mall

Hiking is Best Near New York City in the Fall

If you are a big outdoors or hiking fan, then fall is the best time to visit New York. In fact I think fall is almost like the only time you can hike near New York City.

Due to the temperature, it is rather difficult to hike in the high humidity in the summer and the high rainfall makes it hard to hike in the spring near New York City. That’s why New Yorkers flock to these Hudson river hikes to see the foliage during fall in New York.

A photo of hiking trail with peak foliage in upstate New York for the blog why fall is the best season to visit New York

The hikes in New York are a little different than the West Coast. Our hikes are definitely more rocky with a good amount of rock scrambling. But you are rewarded with beautiful views at the end.

Since the hikes are generally in upstate New York, you will need to have a car to visit. Many New Yorkers go to the few hikes that are reachable by train, so if you decide to go to hikes that require a car, you will face less of a crowd so keep that in mind.

If you are interested in hiking in New York, definitely check out my blog on the best fall hikes in New York!

I have listed some of the best and most popular foliage hikes near New York City that you cannot miss in that blog.

This is a photo of Gertrude's Nose Fall Hike in upstate New York with colorful fall foliage in the background. A girl is sitting on a ledge in this photo overlooking the peak foliage scenery

Halloween is the Most Epic in NYC

New Yorkers take Halloween very seriously. If you are not going to a Halloween Party, then you should at least walk around at night to see all the costumes.

New Yorkers even dress up their dogs for Halloween, see here. If you were to spend Halloween anywhere, it should be in New York City where you might sit next to random creatures on the subway to dinner.

Every year there is an epic Halloween parade in lower Manhattan that you simply cannot miss. Usually the parade is on October 31st from 7pm to 10:30pm.

Village Halloween Parade in New York City.
*Source: http://www.timeout.com

If you like Pumpkins and lanterns, a cool thing called The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze in Hudson Valley and Long Island that runs from end of September to mid November (depends on location). It is a ticketed event but you get to see thousands of carved pumpkin lit up at night. To learn more, click here.

Jack O'Learn blaze in New York; Halloween celebration in New York during the fall months

 The Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze things to do in the fall in New York

Even if you do not end up going to the Halloween Parade or Jack O’Lantern, you can feel the Halloween spirit just by walking around the city. Some of the townhouses especially on the Upper West or Upper East Side are super decorated.

Halloween decoration of New York City townhouses

Lastly, Pier 17 in Lower Manhattan has a famous Pumpkin Arch that makes its appearance every October. Although not guaranteed to appear this year, it’s definitely instagram worthy if they do decide to install it again.

Fall is Apple Picking Season in New York

Fall is apple season in New York and it is one of the most popular day trips New Yorkers take. This is a cute fall activity for couples, group of friends, and especially families.

There are a lot of orchards near New York (car required) and having done apple picking once, I have to say it really is fun. Even though the main activities at these orchards are to pick apple, but there are so much to eat there as well, such as Apple Cider, Apple Cider Donuts, BBQ, Pizza, spiced Apple Cider, etc.

Check out my blog on the best apple picking spots near New York City.

New York Has Amazing Pumpkin Patches and Instagram Spots

Queens County Farm Museum instagram installations during the fall with a blue truck with colorful fake flowers on top.

If you are already apple picking in New York, chances are you will come across pumpkin patches as well. But if you don’t want to go super far from Manhattan, don’t worry, there are pumpkin patches near Manhattan in Queens.

Every year the Queens County Farm Museum offers not only a pumpkin patch, but also other family friendly activities as well as an elaborate Instagram photo spot at its farm. Tickets are needed for the Instagram display but pumpkin farm is free. You can also do Hayrides and pony rides.

Another cool place to see pumpkins and other fall decorations in the New York Botanical Garden. From mid September to mid November, the NYBG has a Fall-O-Ween event with a ton of fun filled activities and even a pumpkin parades. If you don’t want to venture outside of New York City, certainly stop by NYBG.

Harbes Famly farm Pumpkin Patch on Long Island

Other great pumpkin patches include F&W Schmitt’s Family Farm, Hank’s Pumpkintown, Barton Orchards, Wightman Farm, Harvest Moon. They are mostly located on Long Island or in the Hudson Valley or in New Jersey.

Read Next: Best Pumpkin Picking on Long Island, New York.

New York City Marathon is in the Fall

The annual New York City Marathon takes place in the fall every year. Thousands of runners come to New York City for this epic race and the demand is so great that there is actually a lottery system to enter the NY marathon.

New York City Marathon finish line in Central Park during the fall month

This 26.2 mile course goes through all five boroughs of New York City (in case you didn’t know, the 5 boroughs are Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx, and Staten Island).

Even if you are not here to run the Marathon, it is still a fantastic time to watch and cheer for those who are running. Or you can just be like me and check out the NYC Marathon finish line at Central Park the day before the race.

If you are actually interested in running the New York City Marathon, check out the official website for details on how to register.

The Feast of San Gennaro is Only in the Fall

San Gennaro in little Italy New York every September

Ever year in September, there is a celebration called Feast of San Gennaro in Little Italy in lower Manhattan. This event celebrates Italian culture with an emphasis on the tradition and culture of the Italian emigrant community in the US.

During September 15-25, you can enjoy the Feast of San Gennaro and eat at some of the best Italian restaurant in the city, watch parades, watch free concerts and see the cannoli eating competition.

If you do check it out, be prepared to brave the crowd! I went one year at night and it was super crowded and lively. There were so much food vendors to check out.

Celebrate Oktoberfest in New York City in the Fall

Can’t make it to Munich for Oktoberfest? No worries, we got you covered here in New York City.

Although incomparable to the scale of celebration in Germany, Oktoberfest in New York City is still a fun time for beer lovers.

You can do a Octoberfest-themed cruise on the Hudson River, go to an Oktoberfest party at Black Forest Brooklyn, celebrate at Zum Schneider’s famous Oktoberfest Tent, get all the traditional Oktoberfest drinks and food at Watermark and Stone Street.

Laugh and Relax at the NYC Comedy Festival

Comedy Club in New York

Everyone knows New York City is famous for its comedy club scene. But did you know that there is actually a New York Comedy festival every November?

The NYC Comedy Festival features over 200 comedians performing over 100 shows at more than 20 venues throughout New York City for a week starting November 8th. Check out the official website for more information.

You Can’t Miss the Thanksgiving Parade in New York City

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade is one of the largest and best events in the fall in New York City.

Every year there are giant balloons, flats, performances and other entertainments that march down to 34th street Herald Square on Thanksgiving day morning that attracts tens of thousands of viewers. If you happen to be in New York City during Thanksgiving, you really can’t miss this fantastic event!

Feel the Holiday Spirit in New York City Without the Crowd

Towards the end of fall is the time when the entire New York City is preparing for the upcoming Christmas holiday season. If you have seen any Christmas movies and TV shows based in New York City then you know how beautiful and festive the city becomes every holiday.

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree New York

The decorations for Christmas are up end of November/ early December and they are dazzling, really. I have devoted an entire post on the best Christmas decorations in New York during the Holiday Season as well as the most festive restaurants and pop up bars in New York City.

Taxi decoration fifth avenue

One downside of the festivity in New York is that it gets REALLY crowded around Christmas time. However, if you are visiting New York in November, you can actually see all these festivity without the crazy crowds.

Lotte Hotel tree 2022

In addition, a lot of the holiday markets and outdoor ice rinks are open starting in November for you fall lovers. Check out my guide on the best holiday markets in New York City.

Christmas in New york Bryant Park Ice Skating Rink

Read Next: Complete Guide on Bryant Park Winter Village

You Have an Excuse to Sip on Pumpkin Spice Latte at a Flower Cafe

Best Flower Cafes in New York City

Let’s face it, pumpkin spice latte is something that Starbucks pretty much invented and marketed to sell more coffee but it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it.

I guess that marketing campaign must’ve been super successful because I now see pumpkin spice latte everywhere during the fall in New York. I mean why not, it’s something fun to spice up your morning coffee routine.

What’s better is that you can enjoy your pumpkin spice latte (or hot chocolate……or just coffee in general) at a beautiful flower cafe in New York City. Yup, flower cafes are a thing now too and cafes like Ariston Flowers and Boutique changes up its seasonal decorations all the time.

You Can Save Money on Broadway Shows During Broadway Week

Since watching a Broadway show is definitely one of the bucket list items in New York City, you should take advantage of the 2-for-1 ticket deal every fall during Broadway Week (and early winter but who wants to come in the winter?).

Wicked broadway show

Even though the name is Broadway week, the actual event actually lasts for more than a week (it’s more like 2 – 3 weeks depending on the year).

You will need to what shows are participating (most popular shows do participate) on the tourism website. The website will give you a code to use when checking out so you can get the 2-for-1 deal.

Spend Labor Day Weekend at Ezoo

Labor Day Weekend in New York City marks the start of EZoo, the annual electronic music festival on Randall’s Island.

Although the 2023 event was a complete fiasco, it usually is a fun event for EDM lovers. Besides, what other reason would you have to go to Randall’s Island if not this particular event?

Tips When Visiting New York in the Fall

  • Bring your camera! You will be amazed by all the colors you see everywhere
  • Interested to know where the best spots to take photos in Central Park? Check out this useful map published by Central Park
  • Bring layers as the weather can change drastically overnight (or even over two hours). If you are visiting New York City late fall/ early winter, be sure to check out my NYC winter survival guide.
  • Have a picnic on the great lawn (or any lawn) in the parks to enjoy foliage but don’t forget a cute picnic blanket
  • Rent a car and get outside of the city. Foliage is full blown and you can take amazing photos anywhere. I highly recommend using this company to get the best deal.
  • Take out your skates and show off your talent at any 3 of the outdoor ice skating rink in the city (tip: the one at Bryant Park is free)

What is the best place to stay in New York City?

After living in New York for many years and also having visited a few times before I moved, here are some of the best areas to stay in New York City and some hotel recommendations.

Herald Square or Times Square

Herald Square and Times Square are both considered “mid-town” in NYC. The location of both of these is very convenient for first time New York visitors because many subway lines stop at these two stations and you can walk to major tourist sites like the Empire State Building, Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Bryant Park, etc.

However most locals avoid these areas because it’s always so busy, crowded and loud. But for first time visitors to New York, these are pretty central locations to stay at.

Best Hotels to Stay in Mid-townWestin at Times Square or Hyatt Herald Square.

Central Park (Upper West/ Upper East/ Central Park South)

Central Park area is considered uptown and you can either stay at Upper West (west of Central Park), Upper East or Centra Park South. Central Park area is more quiet but has access to 1 or 2 subway lines. It’s a bit far from the rest of the items on your New York Itinerary but New York Subway goes everywhere.

If you are traveling to New York City with family (or love museums), then it’s better to stay in Upper West or Upper East due to its quietness, safety and proximity to Central Park and a lot of museums.

If you are not traveling with family then Central Park South (north of Times Square) would be a good option since it’s more convenient, close to Broadway shows and have a lot of hotels nearby.

Best Hotels to Stay near Central ParkThe Quin Central Park or The Plaza.

Flatiron/ Nomad

The Nomad and Flatiron Area is the area south of Herald Square (Empire State Building) that goes down to the Flatiron Building (23rd street). This area is a lot more quiet than Times Square and Herald Square but still quite Central with good subway access. I personally like this area a lot because it’s pretty trendy with coffee shops, restaurants and a lot of boutique workout studios. This area is also close to Eataly and Shake Shack if that helps to make your decision. 
Best Hotels to Stay near FlatironRoyalton Park Ave or Arlo Nomad.

Royalton Park Ave Best Hotel in New York City
Rooftop of Royalton Park Ave

Lower East Side

If you like food then Lower East Side is the area for you to stay. Lower East Side is walking distance to great food, bars and Chinatown. However subway is a bit more limited but there are tons of buses. One of my favorite rooftop bars in New York City is in Lower East Side/ China Town called the Crown. Drinks are meh but the view is amazing
Best Places to Stay in Lower East SideCitizenM or Sixty LES.

The Crown rooftop bar Manhattan sunset
The Crown rooftop Bar

Financial District

Financial District has gotten more popular in recent years as more office buildings have been converted to apartments. Cheaper than mid town Manhattan, Financial District is a great option to explore lower Manhattan as well as the Statue of Liberty.
Best Places to Stay in FIDIThe Beekman or Millennium Hilton.

The Villages

East Village, Greenwich Village and West Village are collectively known as the “Villages” in New York City. The Villages are an older neighborhood but one of the most expensive and trendy area to stay in.

There are a lot of younger people (college + people under mid 30s) that live in the villages because there are a TON of amazing restaurants and bars in the villages.
The Best Places to Stay in the Villages: (West Village): The Malton Hotel, Washington Square Hotel
(East Village): The Standard, East Village

Honestly if you are staying close to a subway station in Manhattan you can’t really go wrong with any area. The only exception is if you stay very west or very east near the water. Subways generally don’t run there and you will need to walk a lot!

Just a note on Airbnbs or hostels in New York City: Airbnbs are generally illegal. Well maybe not strictly but you won’t really find that many airbnbs or hostels in New York City especially in Manhattan. I think there are some rules on who can rent out their residential property as Airbnbs in NYC. This is why you probably will find more hotels in NYC compare to other forms of accommodation.

New York First Time Itineraries

Now that you have made your decision to visit New York City in the fall, what would you do? There are over 100 best things to do in New York City before you die so you have a lot to choose from.

If this is your first time visiting NYC, I would suggest spend between 4 to 7 days in the city to get the most out of it. Since the days will be cooler and nice, you can actually spend a lot of time walking around the city to see things such as Times Square, Rockefeller Building, Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty, etc.

If you are visiting New York City for the first time this fall, be sure to check out my 4 day New York City Itinerary and 7 day NYC itinerary!

Other New York City Resources

To help you plan your New York City trip, be sure to check out my other blogs on New York!

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Visiting New York City in the Fall
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Pinterest Pin: Why you should visit New York City in the Fall with 4 photos. Top left is a photo of foliage in Central Park; top right is a girl sitting on a ledge on a hike in upstate New York with foliage in the background; lower left is Jack O'Lantern Blaze; lower right is a picture of pumpkin patches in New York
Pinterest Pin: Best things to do in New York City in the Fall with 4 photos. top left is peak foliage at the mall in Central Park; top right is apple orchard; bottom left is a girl from behind under Jack O'lanterns at Blaze; bottom right is a girl sitting on a bench next to peak foliage in upstate new york