Fall is my favorite season, in NYC and in general. I’m a very spooky person, and I have about a ten degree range of comfort as far as temperature, so September and October are essentially the only time of year I’m not complaining every time I go outside. I’ve always loved watching the leaves change, and having photoshoots at pumpkin patches that make me seem like marginally more of a basic bitch than I actually am. Having lived in New York for seven years, I’ve discovered a huge number of fall-specific events and attractions in the City. These are some of my favorites, still viable in the age of COVID…
Queens County Farm Museum: This is the closest you can come to being in the country within the five boroughs. Brings me back to growing up in a small town and having nothing to do but get high and go to Dunkin Donuts. In addition to a well-stocked farm store, animals you can feed (only with on-site food), and classes for both adults and children, they have a bunch of seasonal activities and events. There are hayrides, a pumpkin patch, a corn maze, and other special programming for the fall, including a children’s fair at the end of October. It’s not super convenient to public transportation, but with a couple transfers it is possible. I don’t go frequently, so when I do I just splurge on an Uber.
Farmers Markets: There are a ton of great farmers markets in the City, and fall is the peak season. I’m partial to the Union Square Greenmarket (open Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday), and the Greenmarket in Prospect Park (Grand Army Plaza, every Saturday from 8AM-3PM). There’s cider and plenty of pumpkin flavored everything, and it’s a great way to make a trip to the park a half-day event. Also, nothing makes me feel like a grownup quite like buying actual fresh vegetables to cook in my actual adult apartment. Vendors change frequently, although there are some regulars. At some point in November, the Union Square market becomes a holiday market, which is also pretty cool.
Queens Botanical Garden Movie Nights: There are plenty of outdoor movie screenings in New York, but this one seems especially awesome. I haven’t been (nobody has, this is their first year)…planning on going multiple times this year though. Tickets are $15 for adults and come with a $5 food voucher. Movies showing at the QBG generally seem to be child-friendly Halloween classics––and just as fun for adults seeking a heavy dose of nostalgia. Weekly offerings include Hocus Pocus, Beetlejuice, and the Nightmare Before Christmas. If you’re looking for something scarier, the Nitehawk Cinemas have plenty of horror movies playing throughout October.
Oktoberfest: There are events throughout the month in celebration of the German beer-centric festival, but the official site of this year’s event is the Watermark Bar, located near South Street Seaport (which has many wonderful restaurants and shops). There’s no admission cost, but very large steins of beer are $15, to give you an idea of the price range. It’s family friendly––there are plenty of non-alcoholic beverages, and snacks (giant pretzels ftw), although anybody under 21 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. The festival runs from September 10th to October 24th, so there’s still a little time left to fit in a day at the Watermark. Lederhosen are encouraged but obviously not required.
The Village Halloween Parade: Had to include this one, since it’s really THE New York Halloween event. If you have any issue with crowds, it’s an absolute nightmare. If you don’t mind barely being able to move, it’s fun and an iconic way to spend Halloween (it’s on Halloween night). There are various Halloweenie activities, live music, candy, and a lot of incredible costumes. You can join the parade or just watch, but note that they’re very adamant that everyone participating is wearing a mask. It starts at Sixth Avenue and Canal Street, and it’s recommended you arrive in the area from 6-9PM so you have plenty of time to get situated before it begins. There’s a theme every year, and this year it’s “let’s play”––think carnival games, and on-brand costumes from creepy clowns to the Queen of Hearts. It’s an incredible show, IMHO a must-see if you don’t mind being in very close proximity to your fellow humans.
Go on a Ghost Tour: Perfect spooky activity if the Greenwich Village parade is a little much for you. There are tours all around the city, and they do require quite a bit of walking. Usually tours last about two hours. Theme varies, mostly by neighborhood (ie. Ghosts of the East Village, Haunted Brooklyn, etcetera). I recommend Boroughs of the Dead or NY Ghosts. There’s also a highly-rated tour of the catacombs under St. Patricks––never been on it, but it seems spooky. If organized group activities aren’t your thing (which I totally get), there are plenty of haunted New York locations to explore on your own.
L’Automne at Eataly: The perennially trendy Italian market and food court in Flatiron has a lesser known rooftop restaurant which changes its menu, decor, and name from season to season. My favorite iteration is, of course, L’Automne. The rooftop is heated and completely covered, so it’s comfortable even in the cooler months. Food and drinks are perfectly themed if a bit pricey…the whole place is kinda pretentious but the staff is very friendly and won’t make you feel uncomfortable if you’re wearing a men’s flannel and haven’t washed your hair in a few days (me 90% of the time). Reservations are helpful, but you can easily walk-in––you may just have to make a reservation then and come back in a few hours.
See the Leaves Change in Central Park: Classic NYC fall activity. Best time to go is late October through mid-November, and the Bow Bridge and surrounding area has the best foliage. The tree-lined Mall and Bethesda Terrace are also good…although you’ll see an impressive autumnal rainbow pretty much anywhere in the park. The aforementioned spots just have the most intense colors and make for good pictures. One of my favorite things to do in the fall is picnic in the Park around sunset, with cider and a beautiful view. Very peaceful, and very romantic.
Halloween Bars / Rooftop Bars: There’s no shortage of spooky bars in the City. One really fun one is Beetlehouse, which is a horror themed bar (heavily influenced by Tim Burton) in the East Village. They have a small but solid food menu, with good gluten-free and vegan options, in addition to various aptly-named cocktails. There’s a Los Angeles location, which I’ve heard is larger, but the New York Beetlehouse is pretty small, and quite popular, so be conscious of when you’re going and consider making reservations. Reservations are actually required if you’re having dinner there. It is family-friendly, although there are costumed staff who could potentially be scary to young children. Should be fine for older kids unless your kids are wimps. Sidenote, they have a cocktail served in a blood bag, which I think is very cool. For a selection of witchy bars, check out my New York for Harry Potter Fans post. For slightly warmer fall nights, here’s a list of unpretentious rooftop bars.
Halloween Parties: There are several annual parties on or in the days leading up to Halloween. My top pick is Halloween Massacre / Monsters Ball at Stage48. It’s an over the top, sexy, clubby spectacular. It’s a lot, and not for everyone, but it’s super fun. The space itself is massive, and there are several bars and dance floors, and costume contests with impressive cash prizes. The event is held on the Thursday and Friday before Halloween. Another good option is Webster Hell, held after the Village Halloween Parade in Webster Hall. For a different kind of Halloween experience, check out Barcrawlerz Trick or Drink Halloween bar crawl. You get a wristband at the beginning of the night, which gets you special prices on drinks at participating bars. Lots of well-themed cocktails. It’s literally like adult trick-or-treating. Every night Halloween weekend.
Also note that Halloween Adventure, the iconic (and massive) Union Square costume store has reopened. I’ve always gotten my costumes there, and once bought creepy black contacts in an attempt to convince my roommate I was a vampire…being of somewhat sound mind, I did suspect it might not work, but wanted to freak her out. Typical college shenanigans.