Now is the most magical time to visit New York City. In autumn, America’s greatest city takes on a special ambience. Autumn leaves transform parks and tree-lined streets into panoramas of color. With the end of summer’s heat, strolling on the city’s avenues becomes an exhilarating experience, not a sweltering ordeal. New plays open on Broadway, new styles tempt the fashion-conscious, graceful skaters twirl on ice rinks, department store windows bloom with inventive Christmas scenes, and an anticipatory glow falls over the city.
That happy ambience always brings a horde of visitors to the city. “We are forecasting approximately 5 million visitors will come to the city between Thanksgiving and New Year’s,” said George Fertita, CEO of NYC & Co., the city’s promotional arm.
Last year, autumn’s traditional promise was shattered by Hurricane Sandy, but the good news this fall is that much of the damage done by the storm has been repaired.
A redesigned and rebuilt Space Shuttle Pavilion on the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum reopened this summer. It houses both the Enterprise space shuttle and a Soyuz capsule. All 14 of the city’s beaches reopened in May after $270 million in renovations. Coney Island’s Cyclone roller coaster is back in operation as is Luna Park. The New York Aquarium, also on Coney Island, partially reopened last May.
Lower Manhattan’s new South Ferry subway station, built in 2009 and the closest to the ferries that serve the Statue of Liberty and Staten Island, was badly damaged by the storm. However, the old South Ferry station was reopened last spring and is serving passengers until the new station can be restored.
South Street Seaport also was hit hard by the hurricane surge. Some shops and restaurants have reopened, but a number are still shuttered. The historic Bridge Cafe, which dates to 1794, is closed, as is the South Street Museum. But TKTS, which sells discount Broadway tickets, reopened its permanent South Street Seaport booth at the corner of Front and John Streets last week after extensive storm damage was repaired. Circle Line Downtown (not the same company as Circle Line) operates several local cruises from the seaport. Last month, the seaport’s Pier 17 mall, a fixture for 30 years, was closed to make way for construction of a new mall that will open in 2015.
Although the Statue of Liberty reopened to tourists on July 4, nearby Ellis Island is still closed because of the storm damage.
Not all the news is about storm recovery. In Lower Manhattan, the SeaGlass Carousel, a nautically-themed ride in the works in Battery Park for six years, will finally open this fall. Guests will ride in 30 fiberglass “fish” that pass through a simulated undersea environment in this futuristic attraction.
If you’re a fan of carousels or have youngsters in tow, you might want to ride on two other just-restored historic carousels. At Coney Island, the B&B Carousel with 50 hand-carved horses reopened in May after eight years of renovation. New in Brooklyn Bridge Park is Jane’s Carousel, a restored 1922 attraction housed in a transparent pavilion.
Later in autumn come the joyous events and atmosphere of the holiday season.
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade nominally kicks off the season every year, although some holiday events start earlier. The parade, on Nov. 28, will feature a number of new balloons, including characters from The Wizard of Oz and Adventure Time with Finn and Jake. Returning are such popular figures as Papa Smurf, Kermit the Frog and a new version of Snoopy. Many of last year’s floats will be back as well; among new ones will be creations by Cirque du Soleil, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line and SeaWorld Parks.