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What to Do in New York City in October 2023

By The Center Magazine StaffSep 19 2023
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If you blink, you might miss it. There’s only one month a year when you can enjoy the changing colors of the leaves and crisp air of fall before winter comes and makes everything bare again — and that’s the month of October. There’s a sort of stillness that envelops the city as you quite literally feel the seasons change. Just deciding to go on a walk through Central Park can turn into an all-day affair as you bask in the picture-perfect weather.

But if you’re looking for something more concrete to do with your days, there’s no shortage of fall-inspired activities to choose from. Don’t worry; this city may take Halloween seriously, but this month is more than just spooky stories and costumes. At Rockefeller Center, Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE sculpture returns to the city streets through October 23, and several other public art exhibitions will be dotted throughout campus.

If you’re searching for fun things to do in New York City in October, you’ll find there’s something to do and see for every interest. Whether you want to spend the day at a museum, among the fall foliage, or rooting for your favorite New York team, there’s something for everyone on this list. Below, find our recommendations for the seven best things to do in New York City in October.

Wondering what else is going on at Rockefeller Center in the fall? Scroll through our upcoming events, and sign up for The Center Newsletter to get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Still from the movie "Ferarri;" courtesy of NYFF
Still from the movie "Ferarri;" courtesy of NYFF

1. New York Film Festival​

September 29- October 15

Film buffs have gotten used to watching new releases from the comfort of their homes, but nothing beats the experience of watching a movie in theaters. This year’s lineup features 32 films from household names, like Sofia Coppola, as well as many exciting newcomers. There are multiple VIP package experiences available and even all-access passes, like the Currents express pass. This allows movie-goers priority access to standby tickets and free access to Rush screenings. You can explore all pass options here.

"Nabucco;" photo by Marty Sohl, courtesy of the Met Opera
"Nabucco;" photo by Marty Sohl, courtesy of the Met Opera

2. See a Show at the Metropolitan Opera

All month long

On September 24, the Metropolitan Opera’s 2023-24 season begins with the Opening Night premiere of Dead Man Walking, a story based on the memoir of Sister Helen Prejean, featuring a lauded score by American composer Jack Heggie. Other performances include classics like La Bohème and masterpieces by Verdi, the celebrated Verdi’s Requiem, Nabucco, and Un Ballo in Maschera. Tickets start at $47. See the full lineup of shows here.

Courtesy of the Village Halloween Parade
Courtesy of the Village Halloween Parade

3. 50th Annual Village Halloween Parade

October 31

Perhaps the most iconic event on this list is the Village Halloween Parade, which takes place on the boisterous streets of the West Village. Every year, the parade has a different theme, with this year’s being “Upside/Down : Inside/OUT.” The parade will be in full swing – rain or shine – between 7 and 11pm (but it’s recommended to get there around 6:30), and VIP tickets are available. Otherwise, it’s completely free to watch from the sidelines. If you want to participate in the parade itself, you must be in full costume.

Photo by Danny Nanni via Unsplash
Photo by Danny Nanni via Unsplash

4. Fall Foliage Cruise on the Hudson​

October 15, 21, 22, 28, 29

Even the most concrete jungle-obsessed New Yorker finds solace in the ethereal moment when the leaves change, and if you want to celebrate the turning of the seasons (or just making it through another year!), you can toast to New York in style on this foliage cruise up and down the Hudson River. The boat itself is heated, and large windows allow glimpses of New York City sights, skyscrapers, and, of course, the colorful trees. One ticket includes a complimentary drink — beer, wine, soda, champagne, coffee, or tea — with the option to purchase light snacks while on board (bringing your own snacks is also allowed). Tickets are $108 per person, and you can purchase them here.

Photo by Seth Hoffman via Unsplash
Photo by Seth Hoffman via Unsplash

5. Catch an NHL or NBA Preseason Game at Madison Square Garden​ ​

All month long

Opened in the late 1960s, Madison Square Garden is one of the most iconic sporting venues in all of New York. It is also the home arena for the New York Knicks and the New York Rangers — the latter of which kicks off its preseason on September 26 with a game against the New York Islanders. Catching a preseason game brings all the excitement of the regular season events, but tickets are heavily discounted. This year, tickets to preseason New York Knicks and New York Rangers games at Madison Square Garden start at less than $100. Reserve your preseason tickets here.

Performer Reggie Workman; photo by Richard Kohler, courtesy of BRIC Jazzfest
Performer Reggie Workman; photo by Richard Kohler, courtesy of BRIC Jazzfest

6. BRIC JazzFest 2023

October 19 - 21

BRIC’s ninth annual JazzFest will feature a marathon of performances across three days and two stages. The opening night lineup includes a stunning array of performers, from three-time GRAMMY-nominated artist Terrace Martin to avant-garde Jazz great Reggie Workman. The performances continue Friday and Saturday with a suite of boundary-pushing artists that draw on a variety of musical influences, making the festival a great fit for a broad audience. Curated by performer Melanie Charles, BRIC Producer Viviana Benitez, and Winter JazzFest Founder Brice Rosenbloom, the events will take place in BRIC House, a 40,000-square-foot complex in the former Strand Theatre. Tickets start at $59 and can be purchased here.

Behind the scenes of "Crooklyn" (Spike Lee, 1994, 115 min.); photo by David C. Lee, courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum
Behind the scenes of "Crooklyn" (Spike Lee, 1994, 115 min.); photo by David C. Lee, courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum

7. Spike Lee: Creative Sources at the Brooklyn Museum

Opens October 7

One of New York’s living legends, renowned film director Spike Lee, will be the subject of a sprawling immersive exhibition in his home borough of Brooklyn. The exhibition will include over 350 objects from Lee’s personal collection, from sports memorabilia and family photographs to works of art by prominent artists like Kehinde Wiley and Deborah Roberts. The show will also feature footage from Lee’s most lauded films, allowing visitors to draw connections between his personal objects and creative output. Tickets can be purchased here, with special discounts for museum members, seniors, students, visitors with disabilities, and children.

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