With Labor Day behind us, we're focused on finding the best fall activities in NYC for families because it's official: The seasons are shifting. So, instead of lamenting the summer that was, we're looking forward to all the fall activities that await.
With that in mind, here's our season-long look at the best things to do this fall in NYC. After all, we've got assorted school holidays, plus a few long weekends to fill before the weather really changes. Without further ado, here is our fall bucket list, chock full of 35 things to do in NYC with kids.
Now that we've got you dreaming of fall, find our top picks for family-friendly fall day trips and more seasonal fun in our Guide to Fall Fun in NYC.
2. Whale Watching
Fall is the peak season to see these sea giants in the waters off of NYC's shores. We've found 10 whale-watching cruises sailing from NYC or nearby.
3. Little Island
This waterfront park is an absolute wonder, and its landscaping shines in the fall. Wander Little Island's paths and overlooks and enjoy nature's splendor. FREE
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Morningside Lights pays homage to the written word in 2023. Photo courtesy of the event
4. Morningside Lights
Make reservations for an interactive lantern-building workshop, then save the date for the breathtaking Morningside Lights procession on Saturday, September 30. FREE
5. Dine Alfresco
Take a night off from dinner duty and show some love to one of our favorite family-friendly restaurants. Fall is the perfect time to check out one of these waterfront restaurants or restaurants with backyards before the weather turns and alfresco dining returns to bubbles, parkas, and space heaters.
6. New York Aquarium
Reserve timed-entry tickets for the New York Aquarium and catch a cool autumn sea breeze and a sea lion show.
7. Pumpkin Picking
Nab the perfect pumpkin at one of these nearby patches.
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Rockefeller Productions teams up with Sesame Workshop for a stage show starring the iconic puppets. Photo by Sesame Workshop/courtesy of the production
8. Sesame Street: The Musical
Hang with Elmo, Cookie Monster, and the rest of the colorful puppets as Sesame Street: The Musical comes to Theatre Row for a season-long run.
9. New York Hall of Science
Kids love the NYSCI because they can explore more than 450 interactive, STEM-related exhibits, and we've got it on good authority that the Science Playground is reopening later this fall, plus there's a big bubbles exhibit coming, too!
10. Alley Pond Adventure Course
FREE family Sundays run through September at the Alley Pond Adventure Course. Registration is first-come, first-served in the fall. You can also make time to visit one of these other adventure courses, zip lines, and ropes courses near NYC.
11. See Fall Foliage
Take a brisk fall walk while enjoying some excellent leaf-peeping at one of these city parks. Push yourselves a little harder with one of these fall hikes in NYC. FREE
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& Juliet turns Shakespeare's classic tale on its head with plenty of girl power. Photo courtesy of Matthew Murphy
12. See a Broadway Show
Return to the Great White Way to see one of our favorite Broadway shows for kids, including newcomers like Six, Back To The Future, and more.
13. Pumpkin Nights at Bronx Zoo
Celebrate Halloween all month long during Pumpkin Nights at the Bronx Zoo, from Thursday, September 28 through Sunday, October 29.
14. Visit a Petting Zoo
Visit a local petting zoo to get some face time with the animals.
Plan a day trip to Legoland New York—or opt to stay overnight at the Legoland Hotel—to enjoy the Brick-or-Treat festivities in addition to plenty of theme park fun.
RELATED: Best Things To Do in NYC this September
Take a hayride around the Queens County Farm Museum. Photo by Sarah Meyer
16. Queens County Farm Museum
Don't miss the 40th annual Queens County Fair from Friday, September 8-Sunday, September 10. It's one of the seasonal highlights at NYC's only historic working farm, the Queens County Farm Museum. Another top pick for fall: it's Amazing Maize Maze.
17. Harry Potter: The Exhibition
If you haven't checked out the traveling Harry Potter: The Exhibition show in Herald Square, there's no time like the fall to immerse yourself in its magic—and it just extended through the holidays, so nab your timed-entry tickets now.
18. Atlantic Antic
The largest street fest in NYC, Atlantic Antic gets even more kid-friendly this year, because we're teaming up with Brooklyn Bridge parents and event sponsor Prospect Schools to put on a family fun zone with a cardboard maze, giveaways, arts and crafts, circus performances, and more on Sunday, October 1. FREE
19. New Victory Theater
Pint-sized theatergoers will enjoy the shows at this Midtown theater, which opens its season with The Vanishing Elephant, a family-friendly, magical show about Jenny the Indian elephant and her search for identity and the meaning of home on Saturday, October 14.
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A roving cast of performers fills the CAMP space with live performances of Encanto's catchy songs. Photo by Jody Mercier
20. Disney Encanto at CAMP
If you haven't been to Casa Madrigal yet, you've just got a few more weeks to step behind the Magic Door and into the world of Encanto at CAMP's Fifth Avenue location before the installation closes on Saturday, October 14.
21. Apple Picking
Load up baskets until they overflow with freshly picked apples and then nosh on one of these easy apple recipes.
22. The Eric Carle Story Show
Experience the spellbinding stories and colorful characters of author Eric Carle in a whole new way at The Eric Carle Story Show, which brings four of the author's stories to life in puppet form.
23. Carl Schurz Park Harvest Festival
Frolic in this lovely Upper East Side green space for a day of harvest festival fun, including a pumpkin patch on the mayor's lawn. FREE
RELATED: 30 Perfect Fall Family Day Trips from NYC
See pumpkins, scarecrows, and plenty of seasonal fall foliage at the New York Botanical Garden. Photo courtesy of the NYBG
24. New York Botanical Garden
Visit the New York Botanical Garden to enjoy the fall foliage and a season-long display of pumpkins and scarecrows.
25. Brooklyn Book Festival
Pick out some great books to cozy up with on cool fall mornings during the annual Brooklyn Book Festival and its Children's Day, on Saturday, September 30, where kids can enjoy readings from kid-lit icons. FREE
26. Governors Island
Visit Governors Island once the summer crowds die down, and consider an overnight glamping expedition for an extra special treat—Collective Retreats is open through October.
27. Hit the Jersey Shore
Who says beach season is over? Activities abound in the offseason at these Jersey Shore towns.
RELATED: Guide to Day Trips and Weekend Getaways near NYC for Families
One of the most picturesque times of the year in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, autumn brings in a bounty of colorful foliage. Photo courtesy of Visit Bucks County
28. Take a Weekend Away
Sneak away for a long weekend at these fall-friendly haunts across the Northeast.
29. Puss in Boots
Enjoy a marionette adaptation of Puss in Boots at Puppet Works, with elegant, French-style, 18th-century costumes and settings. It features an original score.
30. Go to an Art Park
Take in larger-than-life art at these outdoor art parks near New York City. Bonus: You'll see some stunning fall foliage, too.
31. Harvest Fest at Luna Park
Get ready for the season at the Halloween Harvest at Luna Park, which buzzes with festive and seasonal activities.
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The Great Jack-o'-Lantern Blaze lights up the season with locations on Long Island and in the Hudson Valley. Photo courtesy of the Historic Hudson Valley
32. The Great Jack-o'-Lantern Blaze
Get some serious pumpkin-carving inspiration at the stunning Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze in Croton-on-Hudson or Old Bethpage Village Restoration on Long Island.
33. Open House New York
Go behind the scenes of some well-known NYC institutions during the annual Open House New York, which grants visitors access to behind-the-scenes tours at locales like the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater, Dykman Farmhouse, and more from Friday, October 20-Sunday, October 22. FREE
34. Six Flags Fright Fest
Hit up Six Flags Great Adventure for its Fright Fest and more mild Boo Fest Halloween celebrations—it's little-kid friendly by day—and its cool drive-thru safari park.
One word: Halloween. FREE
Originally published in October 2018.