The Best Places to See the Fall Foliage in New York

Central Park in fall | © 12019/Pixabay
Central Park in fall | © 12019/Pixabay
Photo of Nikki Vargas
Travel Editor14 September 2017

As the amber honey glow of summer melts into autumn, a palpable excitement sweeps through New York’s avenues. Chunky knit sweaters replace flimsy camisoles, pumpkin finds its way into our coffees and lagers, and the orange and yellow hues of fall’s foliage settle like a blanket over old Manhattan. Without a doubt, fall is the best season in New York; a time of year when—as F. Scott Fitzgerald once put it—life starts all over again when the weather gets crisp. In Central Park, the light pink cherry blossoms and verdant fields that mark spring and summer, transition into a brilliant display of burnt orange, golden yellow and chocolate brown leaves that carpet the sidewalks and bridges.

Central Park bow bridge | © Anthony Quintano/Flickr

One bridge in particular is a magical spot to take in the fall foliage in Central Park. The cast iron Bow Bridge—the largest in the park—is designed in a classical Greek style and dates back to 1862. Memorialized in numerous films, this iconic bridge is found in The Ramble (a wooded area in the heart of Central Park). It is here, in the depths of the park, far from from the city’s endless soundtrack, that the best fall foliage in the city is found.

Couples in paddle boats sail languidly over the mirror-like surface of the lake, which reflects back the fall colors of the trees above. The Bow Bridge can get crowded with swooning lovers, impromptu bridal shoots and tourists so it is best to come early in the morning or in the evening.

Further up north, in the far reaches of Fort Tyron Park, fall foliage is found amid the Met Cloisters, which bring the architecture and gardens of medieval Europe to NYC. What can best be described as a castle, the Cloisters reveal stunning stone rooms adorned with rich tapestries and artwork from the renaissance.

The Met Cloisters | © Manuel Hurtado/Shutterstock

Covering four acres of land overlooking the Hudson River, it is here that fall-foliage worshippers can enjoy the natural beauty of the season, framed by dramatic stone archways. Sitting in the courtyards of the Cloisters, one can almost imagine the fast glimpse of a velvet renaissance gown dashing around a corner.

Further up the Hudson River, away from the city, is where autumn springs to life with an explosion of color comparable to the musical odyssey, Fantasia. Sure, you can catch glimpses of fall’s leaves scattered around NYC, but it is here, upstate, that the true fall revelers will voyage.

Bear Mountain State Park is a popular getaway for nature-starved New Yorkers who hop on an hour bus ride to hike the rugged mountains that make up the Hudson Valley. Bear Mountain is a city slicker’s paradise, a park and charming inn that offers respite from the subways and taxis that choke up NYC. It is here, in the midst of the sunset-colored forest, that autumn is best seen.

(Left) Bear Mountain State Park, (Right) Sleepy Hollow | © Nikki Vargas

Half an hour away from Bear Mountain State Park is the village of Sleepy Hollow, whose reputation of headless horsemen and creepy cemeteries, precede it. Sleepy Hollow is where the beauty of autumn collides with the eerie thrill of Halloween. Like Dr. Seuss’ Whoville, which comes alive each Christmas season, it seems Sleepy Hollow exists only to celebrate Halloween.

Each October, the quiet village is set ablaze with Jack-o-Lantern carvings, haunted houses, lantern-lit cemetery tours and spooky legends. Enveloped by fiery red trees and autumn leaves, Sleepy Hollow’s fall foliage is as enchanting as its history.

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