Guide to NYC

Best Places in NYC to See the Fall Leaves

October 9, 2019

New York City in the fall is a special time. The days are crisp and refreshing, the city’s cultural calendar thrives, and the fall foliage is spectacular. Everything is alive with color – from the arts to the faces of people invigorated by the season to the brilliant leaves of crimson and gold. New York in the fall is the stuff movies are made of. While it’s true that you can simply walk down your tree-lined street to witness the gorgeous change of color, however, certain places in the city give a display like no other. Here, we present some of those stunning places. So grab your scarf, head outdoors, and take in the fullness of fall in New York.

Central Park

Central Park, with roughly 18,000 trees, is the quintessential spot for enjoying the fall foliage. While walking, biking, boating, or lounging nearly anywhere in the park, fall cascades around you. There are, however, key places in the park to get a great view, as recommended by the Central Park ConservancyThe Pool provides a beautiful spot for enjoying fall colors, but also for seeing turtles, birds, fish, and other wildlife. The North Woods, one of Central Park’s three woodlands, is stunning and has a newly restored Ravine from which to take in the myriad of colors. The Conservatory Garden might bring up images of springtime, but the crabapple allees turn reddish-orange in the fall, and the chrysanthemum display is in full bloom. The North Meadow and the Ramble both provide explosions of color, while the American Elms of the Mall form a canopy of bright yellow this time of year. Or enjoy the serene beauty of the Hallett Nature Sanctuary, newly opened to the public with meditative views of the Pond

Inwood Hill Park

What better way to experience Mother Nature’s vibrant fall display than in a forest? Inwood Hill Park is home to Manhattan’s last remaining natural forest. It’s also Manhattan’s northern-most point – two key reasons why this is a fantastic spot for fall sight-seeing. Within the forest, there are several hiking trails of varying degrees of difficulty, all lined with some of the oldest trees in New York: oaks, maples, and tulip trees. The colors of these trees are exuberant, and the trails lead to some of the best vistas in New York. Once at the top, enjoy sweeping views of the Hudson River and the Palisades, with their stunning foliage. For a more in-depth look at the diversity of trees in this urban forest, join in a fall foliage hike led by an Urban Park Ranger.

Fall Foliage Cruises

A walk in the park, a hike through the forest – these are classic ways to enjoy autumn’s colors. An unexpected route, yet no less stunning, is by water. Enjoy New York’s beautiful fall display sailing around the Hudson aboard a classic schooner or yacht by Classic Harbor Line. There are several tour options, from a two hour lunch cruise aboard a luxury yacht to a four hour sail on a schooner. Each vessel has its style and experience, but they all provide unforgettable views. As they sail north on the Hudson, passing such landmarks as the George Washington Bridge, the Cloisters, and the Palisades. 

Prospect Park

Prospect Park is beautiful, iconic, and adventure-filled anyway, but in the fall, even more so. The start of the season is hinted at by the horse chestnuts on the Peninsula. From there, the trees begin to change like a chain reaction. By the time fall is in full force, the canopies within the park’s 526-acre expanse light up in stunning displays of amber and gold. Prospect Park Alliance, the organization which sustains and advances the park, provides guides for foliage walks and offers free nature activities for the whole family. Head to the Prospect Park Audubon Center for hands-on exhibits and discovery, or head just over the hill of the Audubon Center to discover the wildlife garden in full autumnal display. 

The Greenbelt

This time of year, you might call it “The Goldbelt.” The largest of NYC’s five flagship parks, this gem of Staten Island spans 2,800 acres of public and private land, including natural areas and traditional parks. It contains glacial ponds, a 16-acre lake, and 35 miles of hiking trails through one of the last undisturbed forests in New York City. If you’re not sure where to start in such a vast, beautiful expanse, head to Clove Lakes Park. There, enjoy a gorgeous walk down a three-mile hiking trail of red oaks, birch, and tulip trees. You may even spot Staten Island’s largest living thing, a three-hundred-year-old tulip tree which rises to 107 feet.   

After a day in the trees, head to the rooftops. Here, a handy guide to some of NYC’s best rooftop bars and restaurants, where you’re sure to get even more great views of the season’s spectacle – and a tipple or two.

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