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20 Best Places to See the Fall Foliage in NYC

Autumn is right around the corner, and with it comes NYC’s beautiful fall foliage display. It’s not a surprise that people from all over like to enjoy nature’s final blaze of glory before the winter. When most people think about seeing the leaves changing, they instantly envision a country road. But have you ever considered where to see fall foliage—also known as leaf peeping—in New York City? Let’s find out! 

Where are the best places to see fall foliage in New York?

Residents know that NYC has several hidden nooks—along with glorious parks—where the fall leaves can make them almost forget they’re in one of the biggest cities in the world. 

1. Washington Square – Greenwich Village 

fall foliage Washington Square – Greenwich Village

Everyone might talk about Central Park instead, but Washington Square is also a fantastic park. It happens to be a great place to see fall leaves, too, along with people watching. It might be just under 10 acres, but the brilliant shades of red, orange, and yellow make it one of the most breathtaking places in the entire city. 

2. Riverside Park – Manhattan

fall foliage Riverside Park – Manhattan

Riverside Park is often considered the best waterfront park in Manhattan, and it also has a stunning array of autumn leaves. There are tons of different trees in the park’s 400 acres, but the best of the best is a 4-mile section that’s often referred to as the Cherry Walk. 

3. Prospect Park – Brooklyn 

fall foliage Prospect Park – Brooklyn 

When a park has more than 30,000 trees—plus a wide selection of different species—you know it’s going to be good! There is so much to see, so if you’re short on time, head right to the Ravine, which is in the middle of the park. Other good areas of Prospect Park include: 

  • White Levy Esplanade – West side of the lake
  • Neathermead – Middle of the park (near the Ravine) 
  • Vale of Cashmere – North end of the park 

4. Van Cortlandt Park – Bronx 

If you want to leave the crowd behind, take a ride on the 1 train. Go all the way to the very last stop, and you’ll be at Van Cortlandt Park. This hidden gem in the Bronx has more than 1,100 acres, which includes the oldest residence in the Bronx. To see the very best fall leaves, go to: 

  • Tibbets Brook 
  • North East Forest
  • Van Cortlandt Lake 
  • Croton Woods 

5. Brooklyn Botanic Garden

fall foliage Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Want to spend three to four hours surrounded by the natural beauty of fall? Go to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden! Everything about this 52-acre space will please your desire to see fall leaves. However, if you don’t have three to four hours to see everything, go right to the Japanese Hill & Pond Garden. There is nothing quite like seeing the Japanese maples in their bright red glory. 

6. Fort Tryon Park – Manhattan

fall foliage Fort Tryon Park – Manhattan

You could spend an entire day wandering this park’s 8 miles of pathways, and you’d be well rewarded for it! That’s because Fort Tryon Park combines fall leaves with history. In fact, it was once where the Battle of Fort Washington took place during the American Revolutionary War. There are two primary areas for leaf peepers to visit: 

  • North end of the Stan Michael promenade 
  • The Cloisters 

7. Hudson River Park – Manhattan

fall foliage Hudson River Park – Manhattan

This 550-acre park attracts more than 17 million visitors annually, and it’s the perfect spot to see autumn leaves. One of the things that make Hudson River Park unique is that you’ll be able to see the foliage on the piers, as well. Another good spot to check out is the unique Little Island and its stunning views. 

8. Forest Park – Queens

fall foliage Forest Park – Queens

Many leaf peepers prefer to have a more solitary experience than most of the parks in NYC can offer. Fortunately, Forest Park has got you covered! This hidden gem features 500 acres, and 165 of those acres are dedicated exclusively to trees. Even better, some of the trees in Forest Park are more than 150 years old. 

9. Green-Wood Cemetery – Brooklyn

fall foliage Green-Wood Cemetery – Brooklyn

This land of the dead comes to life in the fall with a stunning blaze of glory. Trees provide a major part of the ambiance in the 478-acre Green-Wood Cemetery, which makes it one of the best places in the city to take in some fall leaves. Additionally, if you’d like to get a secret off your chest, go to Sophie Calle’s 25-year art installation called Here Lie the Secrets of the Visitors of Green-Wood Cemetery.  

10. Roosevelt Island – Manhattan

fall foliage Roosevelt Island – Manhattan

You’ll need to take a tram from the Upper East Side to access Roosevelt Island, but at only $2.75, it’s well worth it. Enjoy the mature cherry trees, including the Kwanzan and Yoshino trees. They’re so beautiful, in fact, that tourists continuously flock to them. Even better, they’re situated around the waterfront, which creates a truly breathtaking canopy. 

Central Park Foliage

Let’s face it; when it comes to leaf peeping, Central Park in fall is where it’s at! This park comes in at 1.317 square miles (843 acres), which makes it the fifth-largest park in NYC. It has more than 18,000 trees, so we’re going to break it down into the ideal spots in Central Park to visit. 

11. The Mall

the mall fall foliage central park

The American elm trees that line the promenade are among the largest American elm plantations in the world. It’s a thing of beauty during the autumn months as most of the elms turn a soaring yellow. Anticipating the many fall-time visitors who want to take it all in, the developers ensured there are plenty of benches in The Mall area. 

12. Bethesda Terrace & Fountain

fall foliage Bethesda Terrace & Fountain

Bethesda Terrace is an anomaly in Central Park, as it is the only formal architectural setting in the entire park. Once you arrive, you’ll be able to listen to live music as you sit on a park bench and take it all in. As one of the largest fountains in NYC, Bethesda Fountain is 96 feet wide and 26 feet high. Plus, it’s surrounded on all sides by some of the most gorgeous trees you’ll ever see.  

13. The Bow Bridge

fall foliage The Bow Bridge

If you’d like to take a truly iconic photograph of the skyline—including some of the area’s best fall foliage—had to The Bow Bridge. We promise you won’t be disappointed! The 60-foot bridge sits over Central Park Lake, and the reflection of leaves is almost as stunning as looking up at the real thing.

14. The Ramble

 Would you like to feel as if you’d completely left NYC behind while still being within the city limits? The Ramble is a 36-acre section of Central Park that mimics the feeling of being in an actual forest. Enjoy what many have referred to as the “wild garden.” You’ll be able to roam through hilly terrain, winding paths, and rustic bridges, along with getting to see ponds and streams. And, of course, there is a wide array of trees to satiate your leaf peeping needs! 

15. Gapstow Bridge

fall foliage Gapstow Bridge

This bridge stands apart from all the others with its intriguing, almost medieval design. It’s always eye-catching, but the view you can catch from on top of the bridge will take your breath away. All around you, you’ll see tupelo trees, birches, oaks, and cherry trees. These trees always look magnificent, but they turn into something that’s almost out of this world during autumn. Head to Gapstow Bridge to take it all in! 

16. The Reservoir

fall foliage The Reservoir NYC

Although it’s commonly known as The Reservoir, this spot is actually named the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in honor of the late JFK’s wife. The Reservoir has been decommissioned, and it spans 10 city blocks. There is a highly popular 1.5-mile loop that goes around The Reservoir, so expect to see lots of joggers, walkers, and fellow leaf peppers! Prepare to see lots of yellow and red during the fall months, as the two trees featured here are the yellow Yoshino and red Kwanzan trees.  

17. Sheep Meadow 

fall foliage Sheep Meadow NYC

Visit Central Park’s most popular location to relax and take in all the colorful trees! Sheep Meadow provides the perfect spot to photograph fall’s best views of the NYC skyline. You’ll find 15 acres of land here that is ideal for having a picnic or reading a book. Be aware that because of its popularity, you’ll most likely be at Sheep Meadow with many, many other New Yorkers and tourists. It’s worth it, though, as the trees are magnificent! 

18. Bridge No. 28

fall foliage Bridge No. 28 NYC

Despite being the most photographed bridge in Central Park, Bridge No. 28 doesn’t exactly have a special name, although it does have a nickname: Gothic Bridge. Fortunately, its saving grace is that it’s cast-iron and has very intricate details. This has made it a super popular area to go to when you need to take special pictures, including everything from wedding photos to senior pictures. Being surrounded by gorgeous trees certainly doesn’t hurt, either!  

19. Conservatory Water

fall foliage Conservatory Water NYC

Many movies and TV shows have shown Conservatory Water and its mini sailboats. But if you lift your head from the water, you’ll be greeted by stunning orange and red trees during autumn. Go to this spot, take a seat, and let the people come to you. It’s easy to enjoy an hour or two here as you watch the mini sailboats, trees, and people.

20. North Meadow

fall foliage North Meadow NYC

North Meadow holds one of Central Park’s least-known leaf peeping spots, which is too bad because the area is filled with dogwoods, sugar maples, and hickory trees. Why isn’t it better known? Simple; it’s located at the north end of Central Park, and a lot of people never make their way to it. This is where the locals escape crowds of tourists and take in some of the best fall foliage in New York. 

When do the leaves change in New York?

Fall leaves begin to change in early September.

However, they typically don’t reach full peak in NYC until late October. 

When does fall start in New York?

Fall begins in September. Again, though, fall leaves won’t be at their best until later in October. 

Fall Activities NYC

Aside from leaf peeping, there are tons of outstanding fall festivals & activities you can enjoy in NYC. Among them are The Amazing Maize Maze, a Concert in the Catacombs at Green-Wood Cemetery, and Madame Morbid’s Trolley Tours. Alternatively, you could do something truly different by taking a hot tub boat tour of NYC!

Best Driving Route for Fall Foliage

There is a practically endless list of fall foliage drives for New Yorkers and tourists to take. Most of them will require a lot of driving, however, before you’ve even truly begun. The good news is that we’ve found a nice driving route you can take that won’t make you drive two+ hours away! 

Northern Boulevard begins in Long Island, and it’ll take you approximately 40 minutes to begin seeing outstanding color from the fall leaves. Follow Northern Boulevard (AKA New York State Route 25A) through the many scenic towns, including Fort Salonga, Brookville, Cold Spring Harbor, and Rosyln.

As a reminder, NYC doesn’t usually have the best color until late October. Keep an eye on the New York Fall Foliage Report to find out when is the best time to take a road trip! 

See NYC’s Fall Leaves in Style

hot tub boat nyc

One thing that’s missing from most leaf peeping trips is the opportunity to be truly relaxed. After all, you’ll most likely have to take a walk or a drive to see them. What if you didn’t, though? Well, have we got a treat for you! Book a hot tub boat trip, and you can let someone else do all the driving. You and up to 19 of your closest friends will get to see NYC in style as you unwind in a hot tub. Our boat will give you fantastic views of the skyline, which includes a ton of trees! You’ll also get to take in a truly breathtaking view of the Statue of Liberty aboard a Sea the City cruise!

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What you’ll see: Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, Governor’s Island, Ellis Island, Freedom Tower, Janes Carousel, One Brooklyn Park, South Street Seaport, Empire State Building, and more!