In October, the weather in New York City turns chilly, and residents start to look indoors for their fun – hence the surge in theater, music and movie festivals. And with Halloween at the end of the month, look for spooky (and funny) thrills in the weeks leading up to the big night.
Fall colors in Central Park
Planted with dozens of species of deciduous trees, Central Park is a lush color show in fall when the leaves turn golden yellow through deep scarlet. Two good leaf-peeping spots: the North Woods (mid-park at 102nd St) and the Ramble (mid- and west park at 72nd St). Starting October 26, the two park ice rinks, Wollman (the one you’ll recognize from the movies) and Lasker (on the north end), open to enthusiastic skaters.
When: all month
Where: 59th & 110th Sts btwn Central Park West & Fifth Ave
More info: centralparknyc.org
October sees Architecture and Design Month open in New York with a busy schedule of special insider tours, lectures, guided walks and boat rides in every borough. Each day showcases a different 'building of the day,' with an on-site tour led by the architect. The weekend of October 11 and 12 is also Open House New York, when many privately owned historic buildings are open to the public. Many events are cheap or free.
When: all month
More info: archtober.org
BAM 2014 Next Wave Festival
Every fall, the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) hosts its celebrated Next Wave Festival, which features cutting-edge theater, dance, music and performance art. Top events in October include The Source, a musical-theater piece about Chelsea Manning; Shakespeare’s Sonnets, Robert Wilson’s surreal take on the Bard's poetry ; and a minimalist staging of the Tony Kushner epic play of the AIDS era, Angels in America. The festival runs until December.
When: until December 20
Where: 30 Lafayette Ave, btwn Ashland Pl & St Felix St, Fort Greene, Brooklyn
More info: bam.org
All through October, the city’s aspiring actors are pressed into service as ghouls, slashers, witches, and other things that go bump in the night, at very high-production haunted houses. The longest running and most creative (and scariest; no one under 16 is admitted) is Nightmare New York. This year’s theme is the metropolis’s creepy urban legends. For more kid-friendly fun, look to the Merchant’s House Museum, which is allegedly haunted all year round; in October, it hosts special music, lectures, and candlelit after-hours tours.
When: all month
Where: Nightmare New York: 107 Suffolk Street btwn Rivington St & Delancey St; Merchant’s House Museum: 29 East 4th St btwn Lafayette St & Bowery
More info: hauntedhousenyc.com, merchantshouse.org
Once part of the Brooklyn Flea, Smorgasburg has grown to become its own separate event. The draw: bites of food that’s one part craft-kitchen Brooklyn, one part global surprise. Look for curried noodles (Burma Noodle Company), the ultimate roast pork sandwiches (Porchetta) and Indian veg treats (Dosa Royale), among others. It takes place on Saturdays in Williamsburg and Sundays at Brooklyn Bridge Park.
When: weekends until November
Where: Williamsburg (East River State Park, 90 Kent Ave at N 7th St), Brooklyn Bridge Park (Pier 5 off Joralemon & Furman Sts)
More info: smorgasburg.com
On weekends from April to November, over 100 vendors sell their wares in Brooklyn. You'll find antiques, records, vintage clothes, craft items and enticing food stalls stuffed with tasty treats. On Saturdays it happens in Fort Greene and on Sundays on the Williamsburg waterfront.
When: weekends until November
Where: Fort Greene (176 Lafayette Ave btwn Clermont & Vanderbilt), Williamsburg (50 Kent Ave btwn North 11th & 12th Sts)
More info: brooklynflea.com
New York Film Festival
Now in its 52nd year, the city’s biggest film event is known for its big-name premieres (this year: Gone Girl), but its eclectic lineup yields other treasures too (and screenings where tickets aren’t immediately sold out). This year’s focus on documentaries brings films about Syria and Indonesia, along with Martin Scorsese’s The 50-Year Argument, a tribute to The New York Review of Books.
When: September 26–October 12
Where: Lincoln Center (Columbus Ave btwn 62nd & 66th Sts)
More info: filmlinc.com
New York Gypsy Festival
If you love brass bands, frantic fiddling and line dancing, buy your tickets to this 10-year-old festival of invigorating Roma music, featuring performers from all over the globe, from the traditional Rajasthani Gypsy Caravan to the modern Latin mash-up, Las Cafeteras. Dollar bills will be flung in the air; wine will be drunk; tears will be shed.
When: October 2–17
Where: Drom, 85 Ave A btwn 5th & 6th Sts
More info: nygypsyfest.com
New Yorker Festival
The city’s most prestigious magazine draws big names across the arts, with a schedule that reflects the mag’s wide-ranging curiosity: pulp master Roger Corman will be there; so will Scandinavian literary sensation Karl Ove Knausgård and sitcom queen Mindy Kaling. Also on the bill: talks from famed New Yorker staffers, such as Malcolm Gladwell, Atul Gawande and cartoonist Roz Chast.
When: October 10–12
Where: venues around Manhattan
More info: festival.newyorker.com
CMJ Music Marathon
For the more than 1300 indie performers involved in this music fest, CMJ is an opportunity to catch the ear of discerning radio programming directors, record-company reps, and more. For the concert-going public, it’s just an especially busy weekend of rock, pop and electronica shows, at more than 80 venues around the city.
When: October 21–25
Where: venues in Manhattan and Brooklyn
More info: cmj.com/marathon; full schedule at ohmyrockness.om
Margaret Mead Film Festival
To travel around the world without leaving your seat, look no further than this anthropology-theme series of documentary films. Drop in on a Bulgarian men’s club, cross-dressers in Vietnam, a band of female mariachis in New York, and plenty more.
When: October 23–26
Where: American Museum of Natural History (Central Park West at 79th St)
More info: amnh.org
Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade
A daytime, kid-friendly alternative to the big Village Halloween Parade (see below), this goofy scene takes place in the East Village the weekend before. Dogs of all shapes and sizes nobly bear their owners’ creative visions – which are highly inspired, perhaps thanks to the cash prizes at stake. Hilarious, heartwarming and free.
When: October 25
Where: Tompkins Square Park
More info: tompkinssquaredogrun.com
Fun with Zombies
On October 25, choose which crew of undead you’d like to hang out with. Out in Brooklyn, the Zombie Run is an obstacle-course race in which runners have to dodge flesh-eating ghouls (as played by volunteers – possibly you?). If you’d prefer just to spectate, head to Coney Island, where the sixth annual Thrill the World event sees a mass reenactment of the zombie dance in Michael Jackson’s Thriller video – with the incongruous beach and thrill rides in the background, it's quite the spectacle. Both events benefit kids’ charities.
When: October 25
Where: Zombie Run: Aviator Sports & Events Center (3159 Flatbush Ave, Brooklyn); Thrill the World: Ruby’s (1213 Boardwalk btwn Stillwell Ave & 12th St, Coney Island)
More info: thezombierun.com; thrilltheworldnyc.com,
Village Halloween Parade
This annual congregation of downtown weirdness has been going on for more than 40 years, and it has surged back stronger than ever since it was canceled by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. You can stand on Sixth Ave (get there early to stake out a spot) and watch the giant puppets, gaggles of zombies, kinetic floats and live bands go by – or don a costume and join the marchers. The theme this year is The Garden of Earthly Delights.
When: October 31
Where: West Village, Sixth Ave between Spring St & 14th St
More info: halloween-nyc.com
This article was written by Zora O'Neill, a travel and food writer living in Queens, New York.