Ultimate Fall Family Weekend

Danielle Contray

Fall in NYC brings fun, kid-friendly events both indoors and out. Cooler temps make it the ideal time to enjoy nature-based activities like fall foliage hikes and pumpkin picking; balance your park-centric adventures with art exhibitions, skyscrapers and sweet seasonal treats. Read on for an itinerary that packs plenty of family time into one perfect fall weekend.

Jacob Meydenbach, Ortus Sanitatis. Courtesy, New-York Historical Society


Start off with a visit to one of this fall’s most anticipated museum exhibits: Harry Potter: A History of Magic at the New-York Historical Society. The collection, on display through next January, includes original drafts of the Harry Potter books as well as sets and costumes from the Broadway play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Timed tickets are required but include admission to the rest of the museum.

Turtle Pond. Photo: Will Steacy

Afterward, head across the street to Central Park so the kids can work off some energy. The grassy areas around Turtle Pond offer plenty of room for running around and practicing spells, and the Diana Ross Playground has a castlelike climbing structure that little ones can pretend is their very own Hogwarts.

Once they’ve worked up an appetite, it’s time for cheeseburgers and pickle-topped fried chicken sandwiches at Shake Shack on Columbus Avenue. The concretes (frozen custard) are also well worth the calories, but if the kids prefer a sweet treat they can sink their teeth into, make your way to Levain Bakery on West 74th Street. Standout cookie options include dark chocolate peanut butter chip and chocolate chip walnut.

Inwood Hill Park. Photo: Daniel Avila. Courtesy, NYC Parks & Recreation


Nothing says fall quite like the changing leaves. You’ll find a stunning display at northern Manhattan’s Inwood Hill Park, the lone remaining natural forest within the borough. Examine the foliage of a variety of trees, including red oak, tulip, witch hazel and dogwood. Choose from three paved hiking paths, the longest of which is the 1.7-mile-long Blue Trail; this moderate hike ascends to Overlook Meadows, a scenic lookout with incredible views over the Hudson to Palisades Park, which will also be alive with vibrant reds, yellows and oranges.

Once you’ve had your fill of foliage, exit the park in the northeast corner for brunch at Indian Road Café. The weekend menu at this farm-to-table spot includes steak and eggs and a Trucker’s Breakfast with bacon, sausage and French toast.

The Met Cloisters. Photo: Christopher Postlewaite

Need more nature? Fort Tryon Park will deliver. Just south of Inwood Hill, the park is known for its American elm trees, which turn a burnished gold come fall. It’s also the location of the Met Cloisters, a collection of reconstructed medieval-style buildings owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Don’t miss the amazing array of sculptures, stained glass and wall hangings (the kids will especially love the vibrant Unicorn Tapestries) within the museum and outside, the stunning views high up on a hill.

Courtesy, Top of the Rock

After spending most of the day in the woods, head down to Midtown for a fresh perspective. Experience some of the best City views at Top of the Rock observation deck, where you’ll get not only get a 360-degree view of the skyline but also a bird’s-eye look at Central Park trees decked out for fall.


By this point, dinner at Serendipity 3 will be a well-deserved treat. The Upper East Side spot serves savory staples like hot dogs, fried chicken and spaghetti and meatballs, but the real draw is the desserts. Spring for the classic frozen hot chocolate or an oh-so-fall apple pie sundae, dripping with caramel.


Start your morning early with a stick-to-your-ribs breakfast at the Lower East Side’s Clinton St. Baking Company. The pancakes and brioche French toast are extra tasty when doused with warm maple butter. If pouring that butter over your meal isn’t enough, you can also try it mixed into a mug of hot apple cider.

Courtesy, Queens County Farm Museum

Think of all those calories as fuel for today’s big adventure: a trip to the farm to enjoy the season’s bounty. The Queens County Farm Museum, located in the borough’s Glen Oaks neighborhood, has it all and then some. On October weekends, visitors can traverse a corn maze, hop on a hayride or pick the perfect pumpkin from the farm’s patch. It doesn’t get more fall than that.

It can get chilly spending the day on the farm. After a short ride on the Q36 bus, warm up at Little Dumpling and end the weekend with a comforting meal of soup dumplings, pork buns and steaming bowls of udon noodles.