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The 5 Best Places to See Fall Foliage in New York City

Category General

|by Mark Robinson |


Autumn turns the city’s parks into an artist’s palette

As summer begins to wrap up, with the next season promising to usher in autumn’s crisp air, many of us look forward to the changing of the leaves. Fall is a time to drink in the colorful landscape, to contemplate life while enjoying nature at one of its most breathtaking stages. Though it might be hard to believe, due to so many tall buildings creating its skyline, there are many places in and around Manhattan where you can enjoy the fall foliage. For those hoping to enjoy the purples, reds, oranges and yellows, peak time in and around NYC comes in the final weeks of October, so be sure to mark your calendar for any of the following ways to enjoy an autumn day during that time period. 

Central Park is one of the best spots to see fall foliage in the city (Photo: iStock)

Central Park is one of the best spots to see fall foliage in the city (Photo: iStock)

Afternoon Fall Foliage Lunch Cruise – Classic Harbor Line
Classic Harbor Line offers a delightful fall outing in the form of their “Afternoon Fall Foliage Lunch Cruise.” While riding aboard the 1920s-style luxury yacht “Manhattan II,” passengers travel north on the Hudson River. From the stunning Palisades mountain range to the natural formations along the river’s edge, guests will delight in a nonpareil chromatic display. If you enjoy being out in the cool autumn air, take-in the sites from the boat’s bow, or step inside the heated observatory where you can stay warm and still enjoy nature’s show.

Central Park
To quote the jazz standard “Autumn in New York” by Vernon Duke, “Lovers that bless the dark, on benches in Central Park, greet autumn in New York.” There is something about Central Park in the autumn that invites images of romance, carriage rides and hand-holding. Regardless of the romantic atmosphere, Central Park is your best bet for capturing fall foliage right in the middle of the city. With over 20,000 trees, the mammoth park transforms into an artist’s palate of color.  Best of all, it is free to stroll through this autumn wonderland, with little carts to buy coffee, tea, hot pretzels and roasted chestnuts on the periphery and throughout.

Take a Train Ride North
It is easy to forget that hopping a train, either the Metro North out of New York’s Grand Central Station or Amtrak out of New York’s Penn Station, can take you on a journey north into some of the most beautiful vistas of fall. Whether you choose to ride to the end of the rail and return home, or if you stop at one of the charming towns along the way, the excursion is up to you. The price of a round-trip ticket will afford you a kaleidoscope of color. Metro North offers three lines east of the Hudson River (the Hudson, Harlem and New Haven lines), each providing a different journey. For the price of a round-trip ticket, you can enjoy autumn scenery from the comfortable, front row seat of your train car.

Fort Tryon Park
If you are willing to take a train up to the Hudson Heights portion of Manhattan, you will be in for such a visual feast at Fort Tryon Park. 30,000 acres await you, overlooking the Hudson River, offering startling views of the majestic Palisades. It is also home to the Cloisters Museum, which is part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, showcasing medieval art in an arresting setting. While at Fort Tryon Park, seek out Linden Terrace (one of the highest points in Manhattan). It is the ideal place to perch and stare off for miles and miles into an unforgettable fall landscape.  

Van Cortlandt Park
A trek to the Bronx might feel a little out of the way for those visiting Manhattan, but Van Cortlandt Park is worth the journey. It is over three times the size of Central Park, and features such natural beauty as a freshwater lake, babbling brooks and acres and acres of trees that, at the right time of year, vividly come to life with shimmering color. Throughout the park, visitors will also find several artistic and architectural wonders in the form of monuments, mausoleums and grottos of immense beauty. Van Cortlandt Park is also adjacent to Woodlawn Cemetery, which is quite stunning at this time of the year. It is guaranteed to be a perfect outing and an exquisite day of autumnal beauty.

Mark Robinson is the author of the two-volume encyclopedia The World of Musicals, The Disney Song Encyclopedia and The Encyclopedia of Television Theme Songs. His forthcoming book, Sitcommentary: The Television Comedies That Changed America, will hit the shelves in October, 2019. He maintains a theater and entertainment blog at markrobinsonwrites.com.

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