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This post covers the best things to do in New York City in October updated for 2018 including a top 10 list, nighttime activities, free and family-friendly things to do. Be sure to check out our master post, Things to Do in NYC, for more ideas.
TOP 10 THINGS TO DO IN OCTOBER
This section will feature our top 10 activities to enjoy in New York City throughout October. Whenever possible, we will make note of attractions and events that are free, family-friendly or great after dark.
Several of the items below are already included for free with the purchase of a tourist discount pass.
(1) Take a walking tour with Free Tours by Foot
We offer approximately 40 different tours, including free, self-guided, guided, and GPS-enabled audio tours of every neighborhood that you will likely visit as a tourist in NYC.
Our tours take you to neighborhoods such as Greenwich Village, Soho, Little Italy, Chinatown, Central Park, Midtown Manhattan, Lower Manhattan, Harlem, the High Line, Brooklyn neighborhoods and much, much more.
Our guided walks are free to join and operate on a pay-what-you-like basis, which means you decide what a tour was worth or what you could afford (even free) when the tour is over.
(2) See the Autumn leaves in Central Park (kid-friendly)
You don’t need to leave New York City to see the different hues of oranges, yellows, and reds on the changing leaves. Central Park is a perfect place to enjoy the beauty of the fall.
We recommend that you take a guided walking tour to help you find your way through this huge park. We offer several pay-what-you-like tours of Central Park including a tour of the lower section and one of the middle section.
(3) Go see a concert at Madison Square Garden
There are so many amazing performers playing at Madison Square Garden this month, you may as well bring a sleeping bag and move into this world-famous area. Steely Dan fans are treated to 9 performances at the historic and intimate Beacon Theater. Radio City Music Hall welcomes the amazing Christina Aguilera and head out to Brooklyn’s Barclay Center for Keith Urban.
TIP: Madison Square Garden offers All-Access Tours so you can see how this iconic arena has become a world landmark. Radio City Music Hall also offers a tour of its beautiful Art Deco interior. See more at our post, Radio City Music Hall Stage Door Tour.
(4) The New York Film Festival
The New York Film Festival is New York City’s version of the Cannes Film Festival. Though it starts at the end of September, most of the films will be shown from October 1- 14. This is one of the most important film festivals for both Hollywood directors and brand new directors.
They are shown in beautiful Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center. While tickets are $25, which is double the price of a regular movie, the experience is anything BUT regular! To find out which films are playing and to purchase tickets (which go on sale September 9th), click here.
TIP: Lincoln Center offers a tour of several of its most famous performance spaces. If you are an aficionado of the performing arts, this tour is for you. Find out more about the tour and how to get discount tickets by clicking here.
(5) See a Sports Event (kid-friendly)
October offers several thrilling sports to choose from. We’ve got ice hockey in full swing, football heating up and the basketball pre-season starting.
TIP: For a fun, free activity, go see the Brooklyn Nets practice on Saturday, October 6th. It’s open to the public and family-friendly too. See below for details.
(6) Lower East Side Pickle Day (kid-friendly)
On October 14, on Orchard Street between Delancey and East Houston Streets, it’s all about pickles. Come out to try all sorts of pickled foods from 20+ picklers.
There will also be non-pickled treats, pop-up shops by local boutiques and restaurants, live music, games, and a home pickling/dancing contest. Find out the details here.
Pickle Day is on a Sunday and would be an excellent activity to attend after taking our Sunday Lower East Side Food Tour at 1 pm.
(7) New York Comic Con
For connoisseurs of comic books, games, sci-fi, anime, manga, and all things pop culture, October 4-7 brings you heaven on earth. This annual convention is 4 days of wackiness where you can meet artists, celebrities, publishers, and toymakers inside the giant Jacob Javits Convention Center.
Feel free to come dressed as your favorite animated character!
Visit their website for more information and to purchase tickets.
(8) NYC $1 Pizza Party
On October 10, do a good deed while filling up on $1 samples of pizza from over 50 of the best pizzerias in the whole city like Grimaldi’s, John’s of Bleecker St., Lombardi’s, Patsy’s, and so many more.
A $1 ticket gets you a slice from any of the participating pizzerias. An amazing 100% of all the money raised goes to 2 great charities that help feed New York’s hungriest. You can buy as many tickets as you want (meaning, eat as much as you want!). Visit Slice out Hunger’s website for all the information you need.
(9) Open House New York (OHNY)
This very popular annual event gives the public free access to over 275 of the city’s architecturally and culturally significant buildings and other spaces that are not generally open to the public, such as the Woolworth Building, the spectacular Standard Oil Building, formerly the headquarters of the Rockefellers’ billion-dollar oil business, and the Old Croton Aqueduct.
This amazing opportunity is on the weekend of October 13-14. There are tours, talks, and family activities throughout all 5 boroughs of NYC. For more information, visit their website.
For those not here that weekend, you can still visit many of the buildings and public spaces that are always included in Open House New York. For example, you can take a tour of the Woolworth Building, Alice Austen House, Grand Central Terminal, and many more locations which are included in our Lower Manhattan tours and our Greenwich Village tours.
(10) Columbus Day Parade (kid-friendly)
This is the world’s largest celebration of Italian-American culture and it is on October 8 starting at 11 am. The parade route is along 5th Avenue from 47th Street and 72nd Street (Map).
There will be over 130 marching groups including bands, floats, and Italian heritage and cultural groups marching proudly along the route. Click here to get more information on the parade.
For suggestions of other things to do in the area once the parade is over, see our post 50+ Things to Do in Midtown Manhattan.
THINGS TO DO AT NIGHT IN OCTOBER
New York City is known as the “City that Never Sleeps”, and for good reason. You can find some amazing things to do any night of the week. For example, you’ve got concerts and the Halloween Parade in our Top 10.
There are also evening activities in other sections of this post, so take a look through. Below are a few highlights for a night out in October.
You can also check out more ideas on our post What to Do at Night in New York City.
Take a Night Walking Tour
October temperatures are still comfortable enough to take a night tour, as long as you dress appropriately. The night air is brisk but invigorating and the city at night is electric and dazzling.
We offer a number of night tours in October. View our schedule to see what is running.
Village Halloween Parade (kid-friendly)
For decades, the Village Halloween Parade has attracted thousands of New Yorkers, not just to watch, but to participate! There is an official line-up of floats and art troupes who flood 6th Avenue with the most creative Halloween costumes you will ever see.
The parade starts at 7 pm on October 31st. The route runs along 6th Avenue from Spring Street in SoHo to 16th Street in Chelsea. (Map).
What many people do not know is that anyone can be in the parade. The only requirement is that you are in costume. It doesn’t need to be fancy, just your average ghost or ghoul will do. To walk in the parade, be at 6th Avenue at Canal Street between 6:30 pm and 8:30 pm. (Map).
Learn about things to do in Greenwich Village.
Enjoy Free Admission to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
On October 25, you can visit this highly interactive and engaging museum for free between 5 pm and 9 pm. This museum is housed on an aircraft carrier whose exhibits include a Concorde, submarine & space shuttle and much more. This is a fun way to spend an evening in NYC. This is also a kid-friendly activity. Get details here.
Enjoy a Skyline View of New York City
What could be more magical than seeing the glittering lights of New York City on a warm June night? You could go to one of the 3 observatory decks, but there are plenty of other ways to get a great photo-worthy view of the iconic New York Skyline.
H.P. Lovecraft Festival
Author Stephen King has called H.P. Lovecraft the “the Grandmaster of 20th Century American Horror”. From October 17 – 28, you can hear some of H.P. Lovecraft’s spine-tingling stories read aloud by the players of the award-winning, critically-acclaimed Radiotheatre.
The readings are accompanied by ominous orchestral scores and spooky sound effects. Readings happen each night during the festival at 81 Christopher Street in Greenwich Village. Find out more here.
Attend a TV Show Taping
If you love Jimmy Fallon or Stephen Colbert on TV, why not see them live and for free? Some of the best late night talk shows tape in the evening. Some shows require you to reserve in advance, and if you want to be spontaneous, you can try for standby or one of the other ways to get tickets at the last minute.
These are three fun shows to attend a TV taping:
To see what other show tapings you can attend, see our post, New York TV show tapings.
FREE THINGS TO DO IN OCTOBER
Below are just a few of the hundreds of free things you can do in New York City in October. Some of the events above are free, like the Halloween Parade and Open House New York. So be sure to look at the other sections in this post for more ideas.
For even more free activities, see our Guide to Free Things to Do in NYC.
Visit Governors Island
For the second year in a row, this recreational, car-free oasis just 7 minutes from Manhattan is staying open through October.
Although you will have to pay $2 for the 7-minute ferry ride to reach this small island just south of Manhattan, you don’t need to pay for anything else once you are there. Endless activities await you and your family at this playground for people of all ages!
Read our post on Governors Island to find out about biking, kayaking, picnicking, historic tours and more.
Get Free Tickets with A Tourist Discount Pass
Though tourist passes are not free, if you choose your activities wisely, it’s money well-spent. The more you do with your pass, you get your money’s worth and more. Essentially, it is as if you are getting free tickets to attractions or tours. Tourist discount passes work by bundling multiple tickets into one price, usually between 20%-50% the retail price. They are worth considering.
See the Brooklyn Nets’ Basketball Practice in the Park
On Saturday, October 6, from 11 am-3 pm, the Brooklyn Nets will be shooting hoops in Brooklyn Bridge Park in DUMBO. This is an open-to-the-public and free event. There will also be kids’ basketball games, so this is a great family outing. Click here to get your free tickets.
If you want to learn more about the colorful, waterfront neighborhood of DUMBO, join us on one of our pay what-you-wish walking tours of DUMBO. If you prefer to explore on your own, try our self-guided tour of DUMBO.
Our Things to Do in Brooklyn post has plenty of information about what else you can enjoy in this great borough of NYC.
Celebrate Diwali in Times Square
Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, is the most important holiday in India. It coincides with the Hindu New Year. This gigantic Times Square event on October 13, is the largest Diwali celebration outside of India! Times Square takes on the feel of South Asian culture with the sounds, sights and delicious smells of South Asian and Indian food, musical performances and dancing in the street.
Find out more about this massive and festive event by clicking here.
The Big Apple Crunch
On October 18 at 12 pm, join close to a million New Yorkers across the state promote healthy eating and local farmers by participating in The Big Apple Crunch! Though technically it is not free as you will have to buy an apple. But don’t worry, New York apples are delicious and inexpensive so they won’t take a ‘bite’ out of your budget. For more information see their website.
This event is a great reason to visit one of New York City’s most famous green market at Union Square on 14th Street in Manhattan. Enjoy your apple while you explore the area using our Self-Guided Tour of Gramercy Park and Union Square.
Here are just a few fun activities that will keep the kids and adults amused. Many focus on pumpkins, harvests, and Halloween. Some of the events listed above are family-friendly, such as the Halloween Parade and going to Governors Island, so definitely look at the other sections for ideas.
Historic Bus Festival
Every year, the New York Transit Museum brings out vintage buses dating back as long as the 1930s. Several models of buses from different eras will line Boerum Place in Brooklyn. This year the festival is on October 7 between 10 am and 4 pm. It’s free to attend.
You can board the buses and take a ‘ride’ back in time. Sit down, relax and check out the old advertisements from the 1960s. Think Mad Men. Better still, the Transit Museum is only $1! Get more information here.
The festival will be held in Brooklyn Bridge Park, located in the heart of DUMBO. After seeing the buses, explore DUMBO with our self-guided tour. We also have a guided pay-what-you-wish tour of the Brooklyn Bridge, DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights.
Halloween Parade and Pumpkin Flotilla
Between 4 pm and 7 pm on October 18, you and your family can make your own jack-o’-lanterns, light them up with a candle inside and send it floating away in the waters of the Harlem Meer at twilight. This would be especially fun for younger children. Visit their website to get all the details.
Not just for grown-ups, Comic Con welcomes children of all ages, but ticket availability is somewhat limited depending on age. Kids 5-years-old and under can attend free of charge. Kids 13 and older will need to purchase an adult ticket. Children ages 6-12 are offered a special Children’s ticket for a reduced cost for Sunday, October 7th. As of July, tickets for 7th has already sold out. That doesn’t mean they cannot attend.
If your child of 6-12 years old would like to attend Comic Com on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday (for which Sunday Kids badges are already sold out), you can purchase an adult ticket for them. Admittedly, it’s pricey at $50 a ticket, but your child’s smile is priceless! Comic Con runs from October 4-7, 2018. Click here for more information.
Super Hero Self-Guided tour
Comic Con too overwhelming for you? It can get a bit crazy. You and your family might enjoy moving at your own pace visiting the headquarters and haunts of the most beloved superheroes who always save New York in the end. The tour includes the locations where scenes from films and tv series were shot of these Super Heros: Spiderman, Superman, The Avengers, Captain America, Batman and many more.
You might also like to visit the locales from the Ghostbusters movies. Read our post, Where to Find the Ghostbusters Firehouse and Apartment Building to find out where these scenes were filmed and several others.
Ghouls & Gourds at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden
On October 27, 12 pm – 5:30 pm, bring your kids out to the easy-to-reach Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG) where they can see giant puppets, and enjoy seasonal music, activities, and entertainment. The Ghouls & Gourds festival is perfect for the younger kids and the Garden is offering free admission for kids age 12 and younger.
The BBG is a wonderful place to visit at any time. Though they do charge admission, you can visit for free on Friday mornings from 8 a.m. to noon.
Pumpkin Picking at Decker Farm
On weekends in October, visit Decker Farm in Staten Island to get a true Halloween seasonal experience with hayrides, face painting, farm animals, arts and crafts, a corn maze, and even a pumpkin patch at a historic working farm.
This activity requires that you take the Staten Island Ferry – which is something that every visitor to New York should do. It’s free, fun and with unbelievable views of the New York and Brooklyn skylines.
For information on Pumpkin Picking at Decker Farm, opening times and ticket prices, see their website.
Written by Courtney Shapiro