How to Explore NYC Without the Crowds This Fall

Enjoy the changing seasons, crisp autumn air and reduced prices without throngs of tourists by your side.

By Amy Whitley, Contributor |Oct. 19, 2017, at 4:06 p.m.

How to Explore NYC Without the Crowds This Fall

Slideshow

Dodge tourist crowds and embrace the Big Apple for less in autumn.

Last fall in Central Park in NY. I loved those colours everywhere and wanted to capture them.

(Getty Images)

Fall is a great time to visit New York City. After all, in autumn you can dodge swarms of tourists and experience the best of the Big Apple like a local. Plus, you can take advantage of shorter attraction lines and reduced prices. Even better, you can enjoy pleasant temperatures in the 60s and 70s, crisp air, changing colors and vibrant fall events and festivals. If you're hoping to beat the crowds in the offseason without blowing your budget, start with these money- and time-saving tips.

Rely on water taxis to get around.

Rely on water taxis to get around.

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Did you know you can ride your bike across the Brooklyn Bridge, before loading it onto a New York City water taxi for a lift back to Manhattan? You can even enjoy an extra day of sightseeing by water taxi for an additional $5 with the 2-Day Access Pass. If you ride the Hudson River Greenway and then bike across the Brooklyn Bridge, there's no need to cycle back. Or, if you would rather skip renting a bike altogether (and battling thick crowds along the bridge), you can simply take a water taxi ride. Water taxis operate in the fall from approximately 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (check the online boat schedule for up-to-date details), and all-access, hop-on, hop-off tickets cost $35 for adults and $21 for kids.

Bundle up.

Bundle up.

Statue of Liberty in New York

(Getty Images)

Purchase a New York City Explorer Pass from Go City Card before your trip. Passes can help you save up to 50 percent on top city attractions and enable you to bypass entry lines and large tourist masses. You can choose from 63 New York City attractions, including the Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building. Make sure to either print your passes or download them onto your phone before leaving home.

Utilize the Staten Island Ferry.

Utilize the Staten Island Ferry.

The Staten Island Ferry passing by The Statue of Liberty at Dusk in NY Harbor.

(Getty Images)

Don't forget that the Staten Island Ferry is free, and on its usual route, it takes a scenic tour around the Statue of Liberty. You won't be able to exit the ferry to walk around the statue or tour it, but you can get great photos from the deck – for free. The ferry operates every day of the year. For current schedules, consult the NYC Department of Transportation's website at NYC.gov.

Meet Broadway stars without buying tickets.

Meet Broadway stars without buying tickets.

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Can't get tickets to "Hamilton" or "Dear Evan Hansen"? Check the showtimes for the dates you'll be visiting, and wait for the cast members to exit at the stage doors after the show. Stage managers for each theater can provide helpful information about where to wait, and cast members will often offer signatures. Visiting NYC regularly? Get an Audience Extras membership. For an annual $85 fee, you can get access to last-minute, free tickets for local shows and concerts that have empty seats to fill. Alternatively, waiting in line for lottery tickets to your favorite show is a quintessential New York experience that's worth doing at least once.

Trade taxicabs for the subway.

Trade taxicabs for the subway.

A train departs the station while commuters wait on the subway platform.

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Sometimes, the convenience of hailing a taxi outweighs the cost, but if you're traveling with a large family (say, bigger than four people), taking the subway can save both time and money. Tourists often shy away from the subway, which means rubbing elbows with locals. Be sure to buy multiday tickets on your first ride (simply use the kiosks in the subway system) if you plan to be in the city more than a single day.

Be aware of free museum days.

Be aware of free museum days.

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If you want to check out top city cultural institutions for free, keep in mind that most of the major New York City museums offer free admission at least once a month, typically on Fridays. Plan your trip around such days if museum hopping is important to you. And if you would rather avoid crowds than slash costs, skip touring museums on free admission days altogether and opt to visit the Brooklyn Museum or Tenement Museum instead.

Think outside of Central Park.

Think outside of Central Park.

People sitting in Bryant Park, New York.

(Getty Images)

Central Park offers plenty of free attractions, but don't overlook less-crowded Bryant Park, where you can catch free outdoor movies and events year-round. If your heart is set on checking out Central Park's sprawling green space, and you're interested in seeing live theater, get up early: Free tickets to Shakespeare in the Park require lining up at dawn. If you would prefer to avoid busy Central Park altogether, head to the Cloisters to stroll amid European medieval architecture.

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Amy Whitley is a family travel writer, editor, and columnist based in Southern Oregon. An avid traveler, backpacker, skier and hiker, Amy has written about family and outdoor experiences for local and national publications since 2009. Amy authors the NWKids column in OutdoorsNW Magazine, is the Southern Oregon ambassador for Travel Oregon, works as a gear reviewer for multiple outdoor brands, and is founder of family travel site Pit Stops for Kids. Amy has been a U.S. News Travel contributor since 2015. Follow her on Twitter @pitsopsforkids.

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