New York, New Season: Autumn openings in the Big Apple

Autumn foliage in Central Park © Francois Roux / Shutterstock

Autumn foliage in Central Park © Francois Roux / Shutterstock

There’s something to be said for every time of year in New York, but we have to admit to a soft spot for autumn. The sweltering heat of summer gives way to cooler days and cosier nights, and the season always brings with it an assortment of new things to see, do, eat and drink. We take a look at what’s coming up over the next few months.

Attractions, exhibitions and experiences

Created by a team of scientists, digital designers and Oscar-winning artists, major new Times Square attraction National Geographic: Encounter Ocean Odyssey opens on 6 October. This 90-minute walk-through experience leads visitors on a virtual underwater journey into the depths of the Pacific Ocean, combining elements of immersive cinema with cutting edge technology designed to allow face-to-face interactions with humpback whales, great white sharks, dolphins, rays and other sea creatures. Tickets are now on sale for reserved timed-entrance slots.

If you’re a fan of New York’s diverse architecture, get ready for the annual Open House New York event, which provides access to some of NYC’s most remarkable buildings over the weekend of 14–15 October. Though some sites require advance reservations, the majority of participating buildings are open access. Highlights include the converted art deco residential skyscraper 70 Pine near Wall Street; the historic landmark Westbeth Artist Housing in the West Village which is home to the largest artist community in the US; the reimagined Brooklyn Navy Yard and its new clutch of high tech start-ups, artist studios and shops, and the Stanford White-designed Gould Memorial Library in the Bronx, with its extraordinary gilded rotunda.

Over on Fifth Avenue, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is preparing to launch the largest exhibition of Michelangelo artworks in its history. Described as a once-in-a-lifetime retrospective, the show gathers together works from more than 50 American and European collections, including marble sculptures, sketches and his earliest known painting, as well as complementary works by other artists. Michelangelo: Divine Draughtsman and Designer opens on 13 November, followed two weeks later by a major David Hockney retrospective which became the fastest-selling show in Tate Britain’s history when it ran in London earlier this year. If you missed it in the UK, you now have another opportunity to view – the Met’s exhibition runs until February 2018.

Finally, autumn signals the return of a perennial family favourite at the American Museum of Natural History, with the re-opening of the seasonal Butterfly Conservancy on Saturday 7 October. An ideal destination on a cool fall day, the transparent 1,200 square foot vivarium features a rainforest-like environment and 80-degree temperatures, creating a magical setting for a kaleidoscope of more than 500 shimmering butterflies – perfect for budding lepidopterists.

The Butterfly Conservancy at the American Museum of Natural History © Maxine Sheppard

The Butterfly Conservancy at the American Museum of Natural History © Maxine Sheppard

Broadway shows

Autumn heralds a host of new shows, with one of the most hotly anticipated being Steve Martin’s new play Meteor Shower, featuring comedian Amy Schumer in her Broadway debut. The marital comedy – which follows a surreal evening in the life of Corky (Schumer) and her husband Norm (Alan Tudyk) as they invite another couple over to dinner at their California home – begins previews on 1 November at the Booth Theatre on West 45th Street.

The stage adaptation of the wildly popular animated TV series SpongeBob Squarepants opens at the Palace Theatre on November 6. The soon-to-be hit musical brings the comings and goings of Bikini Bottom to Broadway and features music and lyrics from a stellar line-up of songwriters, including David Bowie, Cyndi Lauper, Steve Tyler, John Legend, They Might Be Giants and the Flaming Lips.

Another big name making her Broadway debut this year is Uma Thurman, who stars in House of Cards creator Beau Willimon’s new political drama The Parisian Woman as one half of a Washington DC power couple. The play – which Willimon says he’ll adapt to the ever-changing political landscape on a weekly basis if necessary – is directed by Tony award-winner Pam MacKinnon, and has its first preview on 7 November.

Hotels, restaurants and bars

It’s impossible to keep pace with New York’s frantic hospitality scene and we don’t intend to try, but a handful of new launches cannot be let pass without mention. The first of these is slick-yet-earthy new hotel Made in the ever-changing NoMad neighbourhood (NOrth of MADison Square Park), which opened its doors just last week. The 108-room property oozes urban cool, with a warm wood-and-glass aesthetic that will appeal to a young, design-focused crowd. Highlights include the light-filled coffee bar Paper, which morphs into a cosy lobby cocktail bar come nighttime, and the 18th-storey rooftop bar Good Behavior which features a Tiki-inspired menu and direct views of the Empire State Building.

On the restaurant front, the big news is the long-delayed arrival of multi-Michelin-star-awarded French restaurateur Joël Robuchon’s L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in early November. The venue, on 10th Avenue in the Meatpacking District, marks a return to NYC for the famous chef, whose previous Manhattan venue in the Four Seasons hotel closed in 2012. This latest venture features a 35-seat signature tasting counter, plus a relaxed street-facing lounge bar serving sandwiches, salads and “simply prepared” dishes.

Bar-wise, we’re especially looking forward to the debut of The Aviary on the 35th floor of the Mandarin Oriental at Columbus Circle. The new arrival is the first outpost of chef Grant Achatz’s experimental Chicago cocktail lounge, and the 90-seat space, with sweeping views of Central Park, will offer a similar open kitchen concept along with a menu of inventive cocktails and small food plates. The Office – a second, more intimate speakeasy-style bar specialising in rare and vintage spirits – sits adjacent and is open for previews now.

Visit our New York City destination guide for more Big Apple tips and ideas.

About Maxine Sheppard

Maxine is the co-editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.
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