27 Actually Cool Things to Do In NYC This Fall
Dance parties, urban obstacle courses, and events to salute your spooky spirit during pumpkin spice season.
Have your fall plans been foiled by the Delta variant? Well, we’re here to help you make some new ones! In a city with no shortage of stuff to check out, our list of things to do will keep you occupied all autumn long—all you need is your vaccine passport and a cozy scarf for when the nights start getting chilly.
This pumpkin spice season, test your mettle with an urban obstacle course, see President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama’s portraits on tour at the Brooklyn Museum, and get into the spooky spirit with a behind-the-scenes peek into the Catacombs at Green-Wood Cemetery. Without further ado, we’ve rounded up 27 actually cool things to do in NYC this fall. So vaxx up, mask up, and see you out there.
Through October 24
Kehinde Wiley’s portrait of President Barack Obama and Amy Sherald’s portrait of Michelle Obama are going on tour! Luckily for New Yorkers, they’re making a stop at the Brooklyn Museum—the only northeast venue to host the portraits—so check them out up close for yourselves. If you’d like to learn even more about the portraits, book an after-hours tour, attend a talk about Michelle Obama’s sartorial vision, or try your hand at a portraits-themed drink and draw.
Cost: The exhibit has a $16 suggested admission; tours, talks, and classes are extra
While the West Indian Day Parade has been canceled due to COVID concerns, the West Indian American Day Carnival Association is still hosting their Caribbean Music night taking place at the Brooklyn Museum. With amazing performances from musicians and dancers from all over the diaspora, celebrate the spirit of the West Indian Day Parade without marching down the street.
Cost: Tickets start at $40
Do you love pink? Do you love creating content? Then you’re definitely going to Pinknic. This extremely photogenic party on Governors Island is designed to help you capture the freshest photos for the ‘gram—all you need to do is wear something that Elle Woods (and Bruiser) would approve of. The party’s got live DJs and dancing, a food garden with treats from local restaurants, and (naturally) a never-ending flow of frosé. Let’s be real, though; you’re mostly here for the social media flexing.
Cost: Tickets start at $119
September 12, 11 am-5 pm
Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. State Office Building
To kick off our newest franchise celebrating local communities and businesses, join us for our inaugural Thrillist Block Party, an all-day celebration of Harlem featuring food, music, dancing, and more. Produced in partnership with Tren’ness Woods-Black of the legendary soul food restaurant, Sylvia’s, the event will feature a Black Greek Fraternity & Sorority unity stroll, parade, voguing and ballroom competition, music like a gospel open mic and DJ set by Sundae Sermon, roller skating, and local Black businesses highlighted via food trucks and an open-air marketplace. Proof of COVID-19 vaccination will be required for all guests to enter.
Cost: Free but be sure to RSVP
This year, the Armory Show is being held in the Javits Center, but its commitment to showcasing cutting-edge work from established and up-and-coming artists remains the same. Featuring a curated installation that reckons with climate change, works from land-centric artist Michelle Stuart, photographer and digital collage artist Carla Jay Harris, and more, it’s the best of the city’s galleries, all in one place. If you’re unable to make it IRL, you can also explore the art fair from your laptop at the Armory Online.
Cost: GA tickets are $65
In partnership with Virgin Voyages, Thrillist is hosting an event that is sure to float your boat. REVVEL is a 3-day floating playground that will take place on the new luxury ship, Scarlet Lady, while docked at Manhattan’s Pier 88. Kicking off on a Thursday and running until Saturday, set sail for an IRL adventure while onboard this boutique hotel at sea (with the option to escape for dry land at any time). Events include a music festival featuring Major Lazer Soundsystem; pool party hosted by drag superstar Trixie Mattel and Bushwick nightlife institution, House of Yes; and six restaurants with global menus.
Cost: Tickets start at $100
The 95th Annual Feast of San Gennaro, the patron saint of Naples, is once again bringing the sweet smell of zeppoles, a meatball-eating contest, and sausage-and-pepper sandwiches to the streets of NYC. Located on Mulberry Street between Canal and Houston, stroll through while sampling fare from Little Italy’s best restaurants. The festival stage on the corner of Grand and Mott will host live performances every night, but the can’t-miss show is, as always, the Cannoli Eating Contest.
Cost: Free to wander
You might think your night out at the bar last weekend was pretty wild, but Brew at the Zoo is going to take it to a whole new level. Happening at the Bronx Zoo, this time-honored autumn tradition is all an event all about beer, bites, bears, and butterflies. A ticket gets you access to the animal exhibits, an old-school arcade, live music, beer hall featuring local favorites like The Bronx Brewery and Coney Island Brewing Co., and the knowledge that you’re supporting the Wildlife Conservation Society by partying the night away.
Cost: Tickets start at $39.99
Marcus Garvey Park
Held in the Richard Rodgers Amphitheater in Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park, the Mothership Three Dance Party is a celebration of queer Black excellence. Hosted by Harlem Dance Club, this “interactive voyage of music and dance” will feature live DJs, Afro-Dance, voguing, house and praise sets, and more performances to soothe your soul. It’s early enough in September for the weather to be beautiful, so pack a water bottle and get ready to sweat out the summer of ‘21.
Sure, we have the best pizza and bagels in the world, but those are hardly the only iconic dishes in our food-obsessed city. Plan a day this fall to taste some of NYC’s other famed eats and it’ll make you fall in love with living here all over again. While it’s impossible to list them all, here are a few of our favorites to get you started: a towering pastrami sandwich at Katz’s Delicatessen; soul food at Sylvia’s; dim sum at Nom Wah Tea Parlor; steak at Peter Luger’s; cheesecake at Junior’s; hot dogs at Gray’s Papaya; cookies from Levain Bakery; donuts at Dough; a cheeseburger at J.G. Melon; a pierogi brunch at Veselka; and more.
September 18-October 10
Take your date to this “experimental tree opera” and be prepared to win the prize for the weirdest-and-most-wonderful date ever. Pack a picnic and head to Prospect Park, Brooklyn’s last remaining forest, where composer and opera singer Kamala Sankaram has created a sound installation that considers climate change, the complex life cycle of New York’s flora, and the future of Prospect Park’s 30,000 trees. No tickets are necessary, so you can wander the soundscape and then spend the rest of the afternoon exploring.
September 28, 5:30 pm-10 pm
Long Island City
Hosted by the Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation, this community-driven party at The Foundry is a fundraiser dedicated to restaurant workers everywhere—and especially since COVID, they’re in need of our support more than ever. Start off the night with cocktails and a panel discussion held by industry experts, then catch a performance from popular drag queens Hibiscus, Miz Jade, and Holly Dae while munching on bites from local eateries like Migrant Kitchen, Soothr, La Morada, and more. Want to learn more about food justice and helping local businesses? Stick around for the keynote speaker and food activist, Devita Davison, as she shares her ideas on how to further connect and aid the hospitality industry. Tickets are available online.
Cost: Cost varies depending on ticket
This “immersive cannabis experience” (not to be confused with, um, an actual immersive cannabis experience) takes you on a journey through a 9,000-square-foot world of weed. This heady space focuses on humanity’s relationship with cannabis while providing plenty of opportunities for a photo session. They’ve partnered with The Last Prisoner Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing restorative justice to the cannabis industry, to use the pop-up to call for social justice reform.
Cost: Tickets start at $45
Saturdays and Sundays, October 2-31
Historic Richmond Town
It just wouldn’t be autumn without a little pumpkin spice! Skip the Starbucks and head to Staten Island, where a quick, breezy trip on the Staten Island Ferry will take you to NYC’s own Decker Farm at Historic Richmond Town. Their pumpkin patch lasts the whole month of October, so you’ve got plenty of time to pick out the perfect scarf-and-booties combo. There’ll be hayrides, pumpkin chucking, and pumpkin carving, so you can get your fall fix all at once.
Cost: Admission to Historic Richmond Town is $10
October 2, 16, 29; November 6, 13, 20, 27
Is it even spooky season without a visit to Brooklyn’s most beautiful cemetery? Green-Wood, the final resting place of Leonard Bernstein and Jean-Michel Basquiat, hosts after-hour tours under the cover of darkness. Once the cemetery gates close, you’ll get an up close and personal tour of the cemetery’s famous graves, ending with a visit to Green-Woods Catacombs, which are usually closed to the public. Halloween costumes aren’t allowed, so leave your getup from Spirit Halloween at home—the graveyard is spooky enough on its own.
In the newly-opened Under the K Bridge Park, Illumination NYC is bringing a “festival of light” to north Brooklyn. Featuring an art walk with light installations that celebrate the five boroughs and the unsung beauty of the Kosciuszko Bridge itself, you can take in the sparkling sights and then explore the rest of the seven-acre park. Built on a vacant lot along Newtown Creek, the nighttime views allow for a peek of the most beautifully-lit installation of all: the Manhattan skyline.
Cost: Free; register in advance for timed entry
Pier 76 & 86
After a two year hiatus, the NYC Wine & Food Festival finally returns for its 14th edition. Over four days, the festival will feature top culinary talent like Rachel Ray and guests can choose from over 65 in-person events, including hands-on classes, dinners, late night parties, and signature happenings like the annual Burger Bash and Grand Tasting. This year’s programming will take place at The Intrepid Museum’s Pier 86 and the newly opened Pier 76 at Hudson River Park, and ticket proceeds will go to God’s Love We Deliver and Food Bank For New York City to help combat food insecurity. Tickets are now available online, just remember to bring proof of vaccination.
There’s no day of the week or season that doesn’t call for pizza in NYC. And since the start of COVID, a new wave of pandemic-era pizza joints—from pop-up specialty pies by acclaimed chefs to plant-forward shops—have opened up to add to the rich local pizza landscape. Order up Beyoncé’s favorite pizza from Lucali or their new nearby spot, Baby Luc’s; grab slices (with plenty of vegan options) from Paulie Gee’s Slice Shop; score a Sicilian square pie from L&B Spumoni Gardens; or go for a new classic from your favorite chefs at Stretch Pizza or Washington Squares. Order them one at a time, or—for the ultimate pizza showdown—get ‘em all at once for an at-home taste test.
October 21-January 30
The McKittrick Hotel, the longtime home of Sleep No More, is leaning into the Halloween season with the return of long-running West End play, The Woman In Black. Originally staged in a British pub more than thirty years ago, this gothic tale of a young lawyer and a country home full of ghosts is returning to its intimate, boozy roots with a run at The McKittrick’s Club Car Bar. The cozy mystery is more Knives Out than Saw, so even those who are easily scared will be able to survive the night.
Cost: Tickets start at $79
Randalls Island Park
If you didn’t spend lockdown training for the 50th New York City Marathon, maybe an “adventure race” is more your speed. Held on Randalls Island, the New York City Challenge Race features more than 20 urban obstacles over three miles for you to go over, around, and through. All fitness levels are welcome, but be prepared to carry heavy items (including your friends!), climb over walls, slide across cop cars, and perform other feats of derring-do.
Cost: Entry starts at $85
Even months before NYC’s first official COVID-19 case and lockdown last March, Chinatown in downtown Manhattan saw a drastic decrease in business and foot traffic due to anti-Asian sentiment and xenophobia. Since then, residents, non-profit organizations, and advocates like Chinese-American cookbook author and culinary historian, Grace Young, have been fighting to regain a semblance of vitality for the neighborhood, and its eateries and small businesses are in need of our continued support. This fall, help save the historic neighborhood by paying it a visit and give a listen to our Thrillist Explorers Podcast to learn more on how to do your part.
Remember why you love NYC from its many observation decks
One silver lining of the pandemic: there has never been a better time to explore our city’s wonderful collection of sky-high observation decks. What should be on your punch list? The Empire State Building, of course, but we also recommend One World Observatory (the tallest building in NYC), Edge (the highest outdoor sky deck in the Western Hemisphere), and Top of the Rock for Midtown’s most spectacular views. Diehard view seekers might want to pick up a New York CityPASS C3, which offers access to all but One World Observatory on a single ticket.
As crucial havens especially during the pandemic, NYC boasts some pretty sweet riverside parks. On the next brisk fall day, remind yourself of their awesomeness with a stroll or bike ride on their pedestrian and bike-friendly paths. Bring your phone for a couple of sweet IG uploads along either the Hudson and East Rivers from Manhattan and Brooklyn, respectively.
St. George/Financial District
When the weather begins to crisp up, there are few pleasures greater than hopping on a boat for a spin between the boroughs. And while that may seem like a fancy pastime, never overlook The Staten Island Ferry, which is free and operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The 25-minute ride boasts incredible views of New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty, and Manhattan’s glittering skyline. Oh, and did we mention they serve beer on board?
Remind yourself of NYC’s supremacy with dough on a whirlwind tour of bagels. Eat your weight in lox, schmear, and poppy seeds with Tompkins Square Bagels, Russ & Daughters, and/or Black Seed Bagels. If you decide to eat ‘em all in one day, just drink a lot of water, OK? Otherwise you’ll end up as salted as that gravlax you pounded.
While the city’s parks can sometimes be packed on weekends, head to the road less travelled for some more fresh air: an off-hours (in the middle of the weekday? early in the morning?), hike. With plenty of green space in every borough, our lesser-known parks have miles and miles of hiking trails for some serenity from our city sidewalks. Pick a path in your local park, leave the headphones off for the chorus of nature, and get some fresh air in your lungs.
City Hall/Brooklyn Bridge Park
While this iconic NYC landmark and tourist destination is usually swarmed with people, the pandemic has made it easier for locals to enjoy. Treat yourself to a scoop (or two) of ice cream at the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory as your starting point in Brooklyn, then reward yourself once crossing over into Manhattan with a grand meal from Temple Court located inside the gorgeously restored Beekman Hotel (which also dates back to 1883, the same year the Brooklyn Bridge was built). As you turn back around for your return trip over the bridge, make sure to have your camera handy to capture more skyline and the once-in-a-lifetime views.
Cost: Free to cross; food and drink prices vary