Real New York parents know that summer is busy, but fall is just insane with activity. (In a good way!) There is no way you can do all of these NYC fall activities for kids—although we suppose you could try. Look through our list of the things you must do with kids in New York City this fall—from tried and true festivals, parades, and events, to new museum shows, theater, and happenings—to custom create your most awesome autumn ever!
photo: Lotzman Katzman via Flickr
1. Start the season off right with a trip to pick apples at a local farm or orchard.
2. Show your kids how a savvy New Yorker does the city by heading to one of these free events in October.
photo: DUMBO BID
3. Head to DUMBO to see its annual DUMBO drop on September 27, featuring thousands of tiny parachute-wearing elephants floating to the ground at what is arguably New York City’s most photographed spot. (It’s true!) The yearly event includes food from neighborhood vendors, a drumline from FogoAzul, street games, activities for kids from Creatively Wild Art Studio and New York Kids Club and an elephant bedazzling contest! This year will also feature, in addition to the “classic DUMBO Drop” at 6 p.m., the brand new #DISCODROP, featuring illuminated souvenir elephants at 7:45 p.m. P.S.: It’s $20 to drop an ellie, with all proceeds going to local public schools.
photo: David Zwirner Gallery
4. Get some culture at a kid-friendly museum exhibit. This fall brings knights in armor, a close-up look at Paul Revere, a new Yayoi Kusama show (seen above) and more!
photo: Rockefeller Center
5. Enjoy free “Saturday School” at Rockefeller Center on September 14 from 11 a.m.- 3 p.m. Expect a variety of free STEAM activities, demonstrations and live performances including a collaborative art project with music from Rock and Roll Playhouse, hands-on LEGO fun, gardening fun with the New York Botanical Garden, the debut of MICRO’s tiny Perpetual Motion Museum, fire safety with the FDNY, and even theramin demonstrations and playing from the New York Theramin Society!
6. Hot tip: You can still go back-to-school shopping even if school has already started. Check out what some of our favorite boutiques recommend for being cool for school. (Pickle backpack FTW!)
7. Get out of town with a day trip to one of these family-friendly destinations close to NYC.
photo: San Sharma via Flickr
8. Fall Kids’ Fest at Madison Square Park will host two full days of fun, food, crafts and more on September 13 and 14.
photo: Brooklyn Book Festival
9. Meet and greet some of your kids’ favorite authors at the Brooklyn Book Festival. Children’s Day is Saturday, September 21 at MetroTech Commons. Expect events for kids ages two to 11 from children’s literature top authors, illustrators and publishers.
photo: Witches of the Great Jack-O-Lantern Blaze in Ossining New York by Anthony Quintano via Flickr
10. There are some seriously epic pumpkin displays staged in the NYC area. The Great Jack O’ Lantern Blaze at Van Cortlandt Manor in the Hudson Valley is a perennial favorite, and The Rise of the Jack O’Lanterns is visiting four NYC area locations, including Governors Island. (Tickets are on sale now for all dates—get them before they sell out, because they will!)
11. Spooks on at the New York Botanical Garden from September 21 until Oct 31, when the winding trails of the children’s garden gets decorated with carved pumpkins, gourds and more. Special events and activities throughout the fall, including pumpkin carving demonstrations, a carving face-off weekend (Oct. 19 & 20) and Giant Pumpkin Weekend (Oct. 26 & 27).
12. Take a stroll or hop in the car and take scenic drive to view the prettiest fall foliage around NYC.
photo: Feld Entertainment
13. Catch some theater with the kids. Shows coming to town include Baby Shark Live!, Peter Pan, a new show from Swiss act MUMMENSCHANZ and Disney on Ice! Read all about fall theater for kids here!
photo: Laurie Berkner
14. The queen of kids’ music Laurie Berkner releases her 13th album Waiting for the Elevator on October 4, and she’s hitting stages in the NYC area this fall. Catch her in NYC on October 26 at The Concert Hall!
15. Take a walk on the Highline—and finish at Hudson Yards and the Vessel. (Read our guide to doing Hudson Yards with kids here.)
photo: Governors Island
17. See some classic and new works of animation at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s 16th annual Animation Block Party, running September 20 -22. Family programming includes Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (And Don’t Come Back!!) (1980), the final, traditionally-animated Peanuts film from the Bill Melendez studio, and The Bugs Bunny/Road-Runner Movie (Jones & Monroe, 1979), a 35mm print of the 40-year-old classic Warner Brothers cartoon compilation. Plus, a special “Animation for Kids” program featuring all new selection.
18. Drop in to The Jewish Museum for a Sunday morning concert this fall. Acts include The FunkeyMonkeys (9/22), Dan & Claudia Zanes (10/20) and Hopalong Andrew (11/24)!
photo: brooklyn flea by mararie via Flickr
20. Nab some vintage (but new) fall styles at the Brooklyn Flea.
21. Join the Harvest Festival at Brooklyn Bridge Park for Halloween fun on October 19.
photo: Tamara McCauley via Flickr
22. Head upstate, or to New Jersey, or Long Island, to load up on some farm fresh produce and goodies, and of course, a pumpkin or two.
23. Make your way to the Queens County Farm Museum, where fall is in full effect with a seasonal farmstand, the Queens County Fair, the Amazing Maize Maze, Kickoff to Fall, and a big pumpkin patch!
photo: D. Mitchell
24. Check out Arcadia Earth to take in an artful and immersive exploration of the most pressing environmental issues we face today, including overfishing, plastic pollution, food waste, deforestation and climate change. Designed by experiential artist Valentino Vettori, the experience includes 15 rooms created in collaboration with 12 leading environmental artists who employed upcycled materials and reusable elements in their work. (Like this cave made from plastic bags!) See our roundup of pop-up type installations and experiences for kids here!
photo: Yolanda B. via Yelp
25. If you hit one street festival in Brooklyn this fall, make it the sprawling Atlantic Antic, which celebrates its 45th anniversary this year—it’s the oldest one on the borough. Food, music performances, vendors of all kinds, and a special Kids Zone along the avenue between Smith Street and Boerum Place! It all goers down Sunday, September 29.
photo: Sara L. via Yelp
26. Cooler weather is pizza-eating weather if you ask us. Here’s our list of the very best pizza in NYC!
photo: Mimi O’Connor
28. Compete for high-fives along the sidelines of the New York City Marathon on November 3!
29. Get a look at birds big and small as they come through New York while migrating.
30. Putt-putt around these mini golf courses for hole in one fun.
photo: Chris E. via Yelp
31. Foodie families should head the final Vendy Awards on Governors Island, where NYC’s finest food vendors vie for the top spot and the official Vendy Cup! You get unlimited food and drink and all proceeds from the September 21 event go the the Street Vendor Project.
Also check out EEEEEATESCON NY, a two-day festival filled with tasty bites from around the city and the world, live music and speakers at the divine Forest Hills Stadium in Queens. And, of course, you can always warm those bellies with food from Smorgasburg.
32. Make some noise at Fall Family Day at Carnegie Hall on September 22. This year’s theme is Bam! Crash! Pow!, celebrating the versatility of percussion instruments. Enjoy live performances and music-making activities, build your own instruments, sing and dance with professional musicians, and celebrate fall as a family.
photo: LC Kids
33. Help kick off this year’s LC Kids season on October 5, with a free performance by the Brown Rice Family, a band that plays music influenced by reggae, hip-hop, dancehall, Afrobeat, jazz stylings, rock, Brazilian, Latin, and funk. the group’s eight members hail from all over the world—Japan, Jamaica, Haiti, Nigeria, South Africa and the USA.
34. Walk down 5th Avenue and listen to polka at the Pulaski Day Parade on October 6!
35. Rock out to the music of Madonna, Beyoncé, The Talking Heads, Prince and more at the Rock and Roll Playhouse at Brooklyn Bowl and Industry City.
photo: Halloween Fun 2008 by Erik (HASH) Hersman via Flickr
36. Try some German foods at the Children’s Pumpkin Patch and Oktoberfest Festival at Sunnyside Park.
37. Take in some fall color by boat, and hop a ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
photo: H.L.I.T. via Flickr
38. Explore special NYC buildings, landmarks and sites—many of which are typically not open to the public—on Open House New York weekend, October 1`8-20. Options are throughout the five boroughs, many are kid-friendly and most require just a $5 reservation fee. (Online reservations open October 8, and things fill up fast, so save the date!) Numerous Open House New York sites feature activities for kids, too!
photo: Allison Meier via Flickr
39. Take part in fall fun in Prospect Park. Harvest veggies and play games at the Prospect Lefferts Gardens Fall Feast, head to the Audubon Center to learn about raptors and other animals in the park and celebrate the Jewish New Year on October 1.
40. Get lost in the gorgeous hidden forest of Greenburgh Nature Center.
41. Have you seen the sharks? Head to the aquarium at Coney Island before the chill sets in.
42. Love festivals? Spend your October weekends at these fall fairs.
photo: ferris wheel at coney island by Dennis Yang via Flickr
43. See autumn leaves from a ferris wheel high vantage point.
44. Sit outdoors for a nice meal at these kid-friendly eateries.
photo courtesy of Molly Rosen
45. Don’t be afraid to let your kids run free at the Storm King Art Center. It’s allowed! Already been? How about Grounds for Sculpture in New Jersey?
46. Dance the tarantella at the Columbus Day Parade on October 14.
photo: Mimi O’Connor
47. Attend a joust, meet some fairies, see a rat and cat circus and eat a giant turkey leg at the New York Renaissance Faire in Tuxedo Park. (Now through October 6!) P.S.: bring cash—it’s a money pit.
photo: via New York Hall of Science Facebook page
48. Sad news: World Maker Faire will not be held in NYC this year. Good news!: you can check mini Maker Faires along the east coast, in Philly, Rochester, and Buffalo!
49. Head to the Village Halloween Parade for the most wild and ghostly creative sights.
50. Check out 32 amazing sculptures made entirely of cans of food at the 27th Annual Canstruction, held at Brookfield Place from November 7 – 21. Don’t worry, it doesn’t go to waste: all cans used to create them are donated to City Harvest.
photo: Thanksgiving Macy Parade by cogito ergo imago via Flickr
51. Nothing is more New York in fall than watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. (Or watching the balloons get inflated the night before.)
— Mimi O’Connor