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New York in the Fall: Best Things to Do

The state of New York in the Fall is full of surprises!

From slick events in New York City to hiking upstate and snowstorms farther north, there’s so much going on.

It can be really hard to decide what to do or really easy to feel major FOMO when hearing of something cool after it happens. 

With this guide, I’ll show you the best places to see Fall foliage in New York, share the best haunted houses, invite you to the best festivals, and other fun events and attractions in New York in the Fall. 

Before you know it, you’ll be planning your trip with ease.

Have fun at the New York State Festival of Balloons

The New York State Festival of Balloons is held every Labor Day Weekend in Danville.

Photo of a colorful hot air balloon in the air.

It’s a super popular event with an estimated 35,000 visitors each year. 

The New York State Festival of Balloons includes hot air balloon rides, tethered balloon rides, music, food, fair rides, arts and crafts vendors, and a car show.

In 2021, the New York State Festival of Balloon took place September 3-5.

The dates for 2022 have yet to be announced as of September 18.

Rock out at the Governors Ball music festival

The Governors Ball is a weekend-long festival held at Citi Field in New York City. 

The lineup changes each year, so you’ll never get bored attending every year.

A sampling of musicians for the 2021 lineup include Billie Eilish, A$AP Rocky, J Balvin, Post Malone, Megan Thee Stallion, Ellie Goulding, and Carly Rae Jepsen.

In 2021, The Governors Ball will take place September 24-26. 

Let loose at Six Flags: The Great Escape

Fall is a great time to visit Six Flags: The Great Escape thanks to lower crowds. 

Make a plan to stay at their lodge, where you can book a suite with a cabin inside the room for kids!

Plus, they have an indoor waterpark with waterslides and a lazy river.

Six Flags: The Great Escape also has some fun Fall events to consider attending: Oktoberfest and Fright Fest.

As if you need more reason to get in another trip or 2 before the parks close for the season, right?

NOTE: Oktoberfest is cancelled for 2021, but Fright Fest is still on!

Six Flags: The Great Escape Lodge & Indoor Waterpark
89 Six Flags Dr, Queensbury, NY

Get your geek on at New York Comic Con

Calling all geeks! Did you know there was an east coast comic and anime convention? 

The event, New York Comic Con, includes autograph signings, discussion panels, a cosplay competition, and screenings.

In 2021, New York Comic Con will take place at the Javits Center from October 7-10.

Visit the home of the headless horseman

Head to Mount Pleasant, NY where the village Sleepy Hollow from the tales of the headless horseman.

Photo of a wooden house with a water wheel and bridge.

Sleepy Hollow embraces its infamous roots and transforms into a Halloween hotspot in the Fall, much like Salem, MA.

During the Fall, you’ll find farmer’s markets, ghost tours, a scary movie film festival, a 5K race, a parade, and much more.

Have a family day at Barton Orchards

This adorable farm and orchard in Poughquag, about a half hour outside of Poughkeepsie, is jam packed with things to do in the Fall. 

First up is pick-your-own fruits and vegetables, where you can pick apples, pumpkins, tomatoes, peaches, and other seasonal produce. 

They also have a farm stand where you can purchase fresh produce if you don’t want to pick it yourself.

In addition to apple picking and pumpkins, they have a ton of family-friendly fun available. 

They have live music, hay rides, a corn maze, a haunted house, a petting zoo, and a dog park. 

In addition, they have an aerial adventure park with bridges, climbing walls, and ziplining that is open on the weekends.

To top it all off, they have a tap room at the farm where you can try local craft beers and hard ciders.

Barton Orchards
63 Apple Tree Lane, Poughquag, NY

Watch the world’s largest parade in person

Every year on Thanksgiving Day, Macy’s hosts the world’s largest parade through the streets of Manhattan from 9 AM to 12 PM.

Photo of pumpkin floats in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Photo by Julienne Schaer, courtesy of NYC & Company.

The parade features performances from famous musicians, Broadway performers, marching bands, floats, and dozens of massive balloons designed after characters and other pop culture items.

For those that can’t watch the parade in person, NBC broadcasts it live across the country.

My family always has it on in the background while preparing our Thanksgiving feast!

In 2021, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will take place on Thursday, November 25.

Cheer on a local sports team

As a Bostonian, it’s tough for me to recommend this (I kid…sort of), but many professional sports teams play at least a portion of the Fall season. 

Photo of a sign at a baseball stadium that reads "Yankee Stadium."

With New York being much larger than even several New England states combined, they have many professional sports teams to choose from. 

Professional baseball, basketball, football, hockey, and soccer leagues are all in session at some point during the Fall season, so you’re bound to find a sports game to attend.

Check out the following teams’ websites to see if they’ll be playing during your visit to New York in the Fall. 

  1. Baseball: New York Mets, New York Yankees
  2. Basketball: Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks
  3. Football: Buffalo Bills, New York Giants, and New York Jets*
  4. Hockey: Buffalo Sabres, New York Islanders, New York Rangers
  5. Soccer: New York City FC, New York Red Bulls*

*Although the Giants, Jets, and Red Bulls are New York teams, both teams play out of stadiums in New Jersey.

Watch monarch butterflies migrate

From late summer to early Fall, monarch butterflies migrate south for the season. 

Closeup of 2 Monarch butterflies on a pink flower.
Photo by Bridgette Kistinger, courtesy of Discover Long Island.

Their migratory path goes over Fire Island National Seashore, where many lay eggs along the way.

Be sure to schedule one last beach trip to Fire Island before the Fall cold snap rolls in to enjoy the scenery, complete with these gorgeous orange-and-black butterflies.

Visit a haunted house, if you dare

There are many haunted houses, hayrides, and other spooky experiences across the state of New York. Here are a few that stand out amongst the bunch.

Frightmare Farms

At Frightmare Farms, there are 4 spooky experiences to choose from:

  1. Frightmare Forest Haunted Hayride
  2. The Professor’s Estate Haunted House
  3. The Condemned Mine Trail
  4. The Twisted Labyrinth.

The big stand out at Frightmare Farms is their new partnership with Kulture City that provides sensory inclusive accommodations for people with different sensory needs or processing issues, such as autism, anxiety, or PTSD. 

Frightmare Farms
4816 State Rt 49, Palermo, NY

Blood Manor

Located right in the heart of New York City, Blood Manor is perfect for those visiting NYC in the Fall.

This top-notch haunted house features 10,000 square feet packed with all of your worst nightmares, like zombies, killer clowns, creepy crawly bugs, and spooky ghosts.

You can up the creep factor by attending their “lights out” nights where you have a single glow stick per group to help you navigate the manor in complete darkness.

It’s proven to be so popular that they’ve expanded to Long Beach to host a haunted dining experience called Nightmare on Beech Street.

Blood Manor
359 Broadway, New York, NY

Ever Haunt

Located in the Buffalo area, Ever Haunt features 8 attractions guaranteed to get you into the Halloween spirit. 

In addition to 2 traditional haunted houses, Delaware Creek Estate and Rosewood County Asylum, 6 of the attractions are quite unique compared to most spooky attractions.

First up is Escape from Frankenstein, a virtual reality experience where you must escape from the classic lab monster.

Next is Escape from Holland Road, a 5 minute escape room, where you have to figure out how to bust out of an old camper before you become a victim of a local urban legend.

Another fun experience is Buried Alive: The Last Ride, a short pitch black motion ride that simulates what it’s like to be buried alive.

At the Awakening Public Library, hear stories about the most haunted places in Western New York.

Lastly, Back Alley Games, a spooky twist on a few carnival games, and The Scream Booth, a spooky photo booth experience, are also available. 

Ever Haunt
144 Lake St, Angola, NY

Headless Horseman in Ulster Park

The Headless Horseman haunted attractions in Ulster Park feature several spooky experiences. 

Typically their main attraction is their haunted hayride, but in recent years, it’s been reimagined as a walking trail called The Haunting of Pumpkin Jack, to maintain social distancing amongst guests. 

There are also 9 additional haunted houses and mazes to choose from:

  1. Blood Thirsty
  2. Dr. Dark’s Circus Sideshow
  3. Evil Reaping Dark Harvest
  4. Glutton’s Diner & Slaughterhouse
  5. Horseman’s Tomb
  6. Two Raven Manor
  7. Mama Rosie’s Swamp Shack
  8. Night Shade Nursery & Greenhouse
  9. The Lunar Motel

Headless Horseman
78 Broadway, Rt. 9 W, Ulster Park, NY

Go for a walk or hike to see Fall foliage

Hiking is always an excellent way to see the beautiful Fall colors, no matter where you are in the US.

Photo of a path through Central Park with Fall foliage throughout the park.
Photo by Molly Flores, courtesy of NYC & Company.

New York is packed with beautiful trails and nature paths that have impressive views.

Here are a few to consider for leaf peeping.

If you’re in New York City, head for Central Park for a walk around the park’s perimeter, a bit over 6 miles. 

Aside from gorgeous Fall colors right in the middle of the city, the paths around and throughout the park are stroller and wheelchair accessible.

Cornish Estate Trail in Hudson Highlands State Park is a unique 1.8-mile out-and-back trail that takes you to the stone ruins of a former mansion. 

The ruins are a little bit creepy and mysterious – perfect for the season of Halloween!

For a more challenging hike, consider the Letchworth State Park Gorge Trail in Portageville.

This trail is 14 miles out-and-back and takes you past 2 waterfalls, in addition to being surrounded by colorful foliage if you visit in mid-Fall.

Witness the Great Jack-o-Lantern Blaze

Perhaps one of the coolest Halloween events in New York is the Great Jack-o-Lantern Blaze.

At this seasonal attraction, visitors can walk through the grounds to see giant sculpture-like displays, such as a Statue of Liberty replica, created from over 7,000 hand-carved pumpkins. 

It is such a cool, family-friendly event that has become so popular that it is available in two locations: Old Bethpage Village Restoration in Old Bethpage and Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson.

Blaze Long Island @ Old Bethpage Village Restoration
1303 Round Swamp Rd, Old Bethpage, NY

Blaze Hudson Valley @ Van Cortlandt Manor
525 S Riverside, Croton-on-Hudson, NY

What will you do in New York in the Fall?

Let me know what your favorite activities or events in New York in the Fall are in the comments below.

Looking for more Fall travel destinations? Check out these posts:

  1. Best Places to Visit During Fall in the USA
  2. New York City in the Fall
  3. New England in the Fall

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