There’s no such thing as a bad time to visit NYC: the city’s culture, architecture, food, and unique energy are on offer year ‘round. But if you ask us, the fall is a particularly great season to spend some time in New York: that’s when you can you take in the changing leaves in the crisp autumn air, fill up on seasonal treats, and join in as the city kicks off the fall and winter holidays in festive style. Here’s our best-of guide to fall in NYC.
You don’t have to leave the city to see world-class foliage once the trees start changing colors: NYC’s parks have you covered. The most obvious choice is Central Park, where you’ll be treated to reds and oranges that make this an extra-special time of year for photos (if you’ve got the Empire State Building on your bucket list, this is also an excellent time to get brightly hued aerial photos of the park from the skyscraper’s viewing deck).
To get a little more off the beaten path, we recommend a trip north from HI New York City hostel to Fort Tryon Park. This lovely greenspace in upper Manhattan’s Inwood neighborhood offers stunning river views, plus plenty of vibrant fall colors, no filter required.
Pro tip: While you’re in Fort Tryon Park, spend a few hours at the Cloisters, a branch of the Met Museum specializing in European Medieval art. The museum’s housed in a building reconstructed to look like an amalgam of historic religious sites and is among the most peaceful places on the island of Manhattan.
Leaf-peepers heading south to Brooklyn should add a stop at that borough’s Botanical Garden to their itinerary. Autumn highlights here include red-leafed Japanese maples, scarlet oaks, and brilliant yellow gingko trees.
Stock Up at a Farmer’s Market
The Green Market in Manhattan’s Union Square is legendary for its local produce and other goodies, and while many shoppers will rave about the summer bounty, locals will tell you that fall is where it’s at. That’s because it’s the start of apple season. You’ll find not just endless varieties of the fruit, but also apple cider, apple pies, and the undisputed king of autumnal farmer’s market treats: the apple cider doughnut (trust us: you don’t want one; you want a whole bag).
Get Weird at the Village Halloween Parade
Since the early 1970s, the Greenwich Village neighborhood has hosted an epic Halloween parade showing off some of the most creative and awe-inspiring costumes and art the city has to offer. The sidewalks are packed with spectators every year, so be sure to get to the parade route on 6th Ave. early if you want to snag a good spot. If you really want to get into the spirit, show up to the parade route starting point early and in costume and you can be part of the show.
Or, Go Traditional at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
One of the most famous parades in the country, this beloved annual event offers a true shot of over-the-top American spectacle. Giant balloon effigies of famous American icons (think Snoopy, the Pillsbury Doughboy, and Ronald McDonald), many several stories tall, float down Manhattan’s west side interspersed with marching bands, elaborate floats carrying live performers, and more. The parade’s been around since 1924 and is broadcast nationwide on live TV every year, so it’s extremely popular, but it’s well worth it to bundle up and get an early start to stake out your spot along the parade route Thanksgiving morning.
Get Festive at a Holiday Market
NYC’s holiday markets kick off right after Thanksgiving, and they’re an awesome way to spend an afternoon or evening. Visit the outdoor markets in Union Square, Columbus Circle, or Bryant Park to peruse artisan crafts and holiday gifts from an endless array of vendors (we recommend you browse with a cup of apple cider or hot chocolate in-hand to keep warm). If you choose the Bryant Park location, you can also take a break from shopping to go for a spin on the park’s outdoor ice-skating rink.
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