New York is an exciting place any time of year, but the ideal time to visit is fall. Following the relatively slow summer months, the cultural calendar swiftly kicks into high gear with film festivals, Broadway openings, and more, while the trees in Central Park turn to beautiful shades of orange. It's not just the city that's worth a visit in autumn--vineyards on Long Island and Hudson Valley towns will also be at their most picturesque in the coming months. Whether you're a local or a visitor, and whether you're drawn by the high-powered glitz of Fashion Week or the classical offerings at Carnegie Hall, you'll find something to get excited about on our definitive list of things to do in New York this fall.
by Abbey Chase and Michael Alan Connelly
Michael Alan Connelly is the Editor of Fodors.com. Follow him on Twitter: @malanconnelly.
THE 52ND NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL
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Organized by the Film Society of Lincoln Center, the New York Film Festival (September 26–October 12) is one of the season’s most highly anticipated cultural offerings. Now in its 52nd year, the lineup includes 30 films, with new work from international filmmakers Jean-Luc Godard, Abel Ferrara, David Cronenberg, Mike Leigh, and others. This year’s hottest tickets are the David Fincher–directed screen adaptation of Gone Girl, starring Ben Affleck, and Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, an adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s novel. Tickets go on sale to the public September 7 and sell out fast, so book as early as possible.
MERCEDES-BENZ FASHION WEEK
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Twice a year, some of the world’s biggest designers congregate under the tents at Lincoln Center to show off their new collections during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week (September 4–11). This edition will showcase the Spring 2015 presentations of some 80 designers, including Ralph Lauren, Anna Sui, Monique Lhuillier, Carolina Herrera, Nicole Miller, Donna Karan, Tommy Hilfiger, and more. Access to shows is tightly regulated and limited to members of the press, celebrities, and industry insiders, but the city is full of special events and parties that the non-glitterati can attend. Even if you don’t attend any Fashion Week events, it’s fun to be in the city when it feels even more chic than usual.
NYC WINE & FOOD FESTIVAL
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With proceeds going to hunger-relief charities, the New York City Wine & Food Festival (October 16–19) brings together the best of the Big Apple and celebrity chefs from around the world. Gregory Marchand, Christopher Kostow, Andy Ricker, Dominique Ansel, Tom Colicchio, and Mario Batali will all be making an appearance at this year's festival, and chef demonstrations will include everything from vegan and raw dinners to butchering lessons. Admission doesn't come cheap at these events, but the world-class talent and noble cause make the price well worth it.
MUSEUM OF MODERN ART
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In addition to its already extensive permanent collection, MoMA will be welcoming an impressive line-up of temporary exhibits this fall. A showcase of cut-outs by Henri Matisse begins on October 12, while performance art enthusiasts should check out Trajal Harrell's In one step are a thousand animals. Robert Gober's quirky, everyday sculptures will also be on display beginning October 4. Looking for something a little different? Head to MoMA PS1 in Queens; housed in an old school building, the museum is affiliated with the MoMA and will host the interactive exhibit Retrospective by Xavier Le Roy this fall.
METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART
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With a collection of more than two million objects, the Met offers even repeat visitors the chance to see something new in its stunning Beaux-Arts building on the Upper East Side. Upcoming exhibitions will feature Assyrian art, a commemorative exhibition of El Greco's work, and pieces from Flemish painter Bartholomeus Spranger. After you've explored the galleries, head to the Roof Garden Café and Martini Bar for a drink and an unobstructed view of the spectacular fall colors in Central Park.
WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART
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With the Whitney Museum set to move to a new, Renzo Piano–designed location next spring, now’s the time to visit before the current location on Madison Avenue shutters. Regardless of the impending closure, there are three great reasons to visit this iconic building this fall: the blockbuster Jeff Koons retrospective (through October 19), the exhibition Edward Hopper and Photography (through October 19), and the museum’s phenomenal permanent collection of American artwork.
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Summer is generally a slow season for Broadway, but that all changes in September, when a new production premieres seemingly every week. As is increasingly the case, this season’s lineup no shortage of celebrity names on the marquee; some highlights include James Earl Jones in You Can’t Take It With You (previews begin August 26); Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, Megan Mullally, and Stockard Channing in It’s Only a Play (previews begin September 4th); Blythe Danner in The Country House (previews begin September 9); Ewan McGregor in The Real Thing (previews begin October 2); Glenn Close and John Lithgow in A Delicate Balance (previews begin October 20); Hugh Jackman in The River (previews begin October 31); Bradley Cooper in The Elephant Man (previews begin November 7); and Jake Gyllenhaal in Constellations (previews begin December 16).
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If you can’t get out of the city, there’s no better urban retreat than Central Park, with its 843 acres of paths, lakes, ponds, and open meadows. The park is at its most gorgeous when the leaves start to turn in the autumn months, inviting long walks around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, picturesque boat rides on the Lake, and lazy afternoons spent sitting beside Bethesda Fountain. While many locals and visitors rarely make it above the Met, it’s worth a trip uptown to the northern boundary at 110th Street to see the park’s more rugged features, like the North Woods and the Harlem Meer. For an unbeatable view of Midtown Manhattan, climb to the top of the Great Hill (enter at 106th Street and Central Park West).
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Even if you have no interest in arias, it's worth a trip to the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center just to see the auditorium awash in deep reds and golds and the Marc Chagall murals in the lobby. Fans of opera will be rewarded this fall with performances of Macbeth, Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro), Carmen, The Merry Widow, and Aida.
NEW YORK CITY BALLET
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The former stomping ground of Mikhail Baryshnikov, the New York City Ballet is one of the most illustrious dance companies in the world, founded by George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein in 1948. The company has a reputation for its contemporary style, but ballet purists should seek out fall performances showcasing Tschaikovsky, Balanchine, and Stravinsky. The 21st Century Choreographers performances will display the company's more modern side and young travelers should take advantage of the $29 for 29 program; NYCB gives away rush tickets to anyone 29 years old or younger for $29 beginning September 22.
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Coming up on its second birthday in September, the Barclays Center has quickly become one of New York's most popular entertainment venues, no small feat in a city packed with some of the world's most famous concert halls and sports arenas. The Black Keys are slated to perform two nights in September and Justin Timberlake's The 20/20 Experience World Tour comes to the stage on December 14, while the Brooklyn Nets will play their first home game November 3. Whatever takes you to the Brooklyn arena, be sure to sample some of the excellent food served up by 55 local vendors.
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Playing in his 20th and final season, Derek Jeter will soon be closing the door on a historic career, and both casual fans and baseball enthusiasts should take advantage of the chance to see a legend playing in one of his final games. The Yankees, currently in third place in the AL East, aren't well positioned to make the playoffs, so fans will want to head out to South Bronx stadium before the Bombers' final home game on September 25.
MADISON SQUARE GARDEN
Photo Credit: Madison Square Garden by Daniel0685 AttribIt doesn't get much more iconic than the Garden and the arena is coming off a $1-billion renovation completed last fall that features a larger entrance, more dining options, and countless modern technological updates. The Rangers will play their first home game on October 12 and the Knicks' kick off their season with a home opener against the Bulls on October 29. Classic rock dominates the fall MSG line-up, with Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers taking to the stage on September 10, followed by the Eagles on September 13, Billy Joel on September 17, and Fleetwood Mac October 6-7.ution 2.0 Generic
STORM KING ART CENTER
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Ranked as one of the best sculpture parks in the world, Storm King Art Center (open through October 31) features more than 100 works of art spread out over 500 acres of fields, hills, and woodlands. Just 90 minutes north of New York City, Storm King is a great day trip (you’ll want at least four hours to explore the grounds) that perfectly marries art and nature. In addition to its distinguished sculpture collection, this year feature two seasonal exhibitions of work by artists Zhang Huan and Virginia Overton.
DAY TRIP TO THE HUDSON VALLEY
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With many towns accessible via Metro-North or Amtrak, the Hudson Valley is an ideal place to visit in fall thanks to its beautiful riverfront scenery and abundance of trees. Depending on where you go, there are also museums, state parks, historical sites, and quaint villages; top picks include Beacon, Cold Spring, Hudson, Hyde Park, Poughkeepsie, and Rhinebeck.
NEW YORK BOTANICAL GARDEN
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Spring and summer are typically the best times to visit botanical gardens, but the fall season brings just as much beauty to this Bronx landmark. The "Weird, Wild, & Wonderful" exhibit, a showcase of the "botanical world's most bizarre flora" runs through October 26 and the annual Haunted Pumpkin Garden event begins September 20, offering up an eye-popping display of phenomenal pumpkin sculptures. Fall is also the time of year to see chrysanthemum blooms, as well as the astonishing foliage display in the Garden's 50-acre forest.
WHITE TRUFFLE SEASON
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Every year, September through the end of December, the city’s finest restaurants are filled with the heady, earthy aroma of white truffles that are imported from Europe. Best enjoyed shaved over of cheesy risotto or buttery tagliatelle, white truffles don’t come cheap—a couple of ounces added to your plate could easily triple or quadruple the price of your dish—but the splurge is worthwhile. You’ll find white truffles at top restaurants like Daniel and Per Se, and also more casual spots like Locanda Verde, which hosts an annual Trufflepalooza dinner.
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One of the best (and most underutilized) ways to see the city is from the waterfront, but you don’t need to go on an expensive tour boat for that. The East River Ferry offers inexpensive rides (with views of the Brooklyn, Williamsburg, and Manhattan Bridges) that offer a better alternative than the subway for traveling from Manhattan to Brooklyn or between Brooklyn neighborhoods. The city’s most iconic ferry ride, however, remains the Staten Island Ferry, which is free and offers views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
TOP OF THE ROCK
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While the views afforded by the Empire State Building are iconic, the observation deck on the top of Rockefeller Center offers visitors an equally amazing perspective of the city. Take the "sky shuttle" elevator to three floors of indoor and outdoor observation decks on the 67th, 69th, and 70th floors. The observation decks at the Empire State Building are higher (located on the 86th and 102nd floors), but perhaps the best feature of Top of the Rock is the view of the famous Art Deco skyscraper itself.
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With stunningly clear acoustics, Carnegie Hall is the ultimate venue to enjoy classical music, devoid of the usual heavy curtains, chandeliers, and frescoed walls that interfere with crystal-clear sound distribution. Now 123 years old, the illustrious venue sounds as good as ever and will host the Berliner Philharmoniker and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, among countless other renowned musicians.
BAM NEXT WAVE FESTIVAL
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If avant-garde performance attracts you, don’t miss the 2014 Next Wave Festival (September 9–December 20) at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). An annual event, the festival features cutting-edge musical and theatrical performers from around the world. Hot tickets this year include the Philip Glass Ensemble and a bold new production of Angels in America, directed by Dutch visionary Ivo van Hove.
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This 172-acre island in Upper New York Bay is easily overlooked in a city overflowing with tourist attractions, but the view of the lower Manhattan skyline from Governors Island on a crisp fall day is unrivaled. Take the ferry from the Battery Maritime Building to the island, which served as an important American fortification during the Revolutionary War, and rent a bike from Blazing Saddles. Governors Island is easily explored on two wheels, thanks to extensive bike paths, and the lawn near Fort Jay makes for the perfect picnic spot.
NORTH FORK VINEYARDS
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Fall is a perfect time to head out to the North Fork of Long Island for fine wine and dining. Before you go, check the Long Island Wine Council’s site to see a full list of wineries and upcoming events. Where you go is up to you, but standouts include Shinn Estate Vineyards, Bedell Cellars, and Croteaux Vineyards. If you want to do an overnight trip, book a room at The North Fork Table & Inn in Southold.
VILLAGE HALLOWEEN PARADE
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New York’s annual Village Halloween Parade (October 31 at 7 p.m.) is an unforgettable experience, with thousands of costumed parade participants and spectators lining Sixth Avenue. A stunning display of creativity, the parade is known for its over-the-top costumes that don’t resemble anything you can find in a store. To make the evening even more unforgettable, march in the parade itself; all you have to do is wear a costume and line-up between 6:30 and 8:30 (see official website for details).
MACY'S THANKSGIVING DAY PARADE
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If you can't stand crowds or the cold, this may not be the event for your, but despite the inevitable chaos that accompanies this annual tradition, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is a raucous, have-to-see-it-once experience. Now in its 88th year, the three-hour spectacle will offer 2.5 miles of public viewing space along Central Park West and Sixth Avenue. Head to the Upper West Side the night before the parade (November 26) to watch the enormous balloons being inflated.