It’s getting to that point in the season where taking a jacket is not just a suggestion, pumpkin spice has already peaked, and the lush greenery of summer is gently fading into the arboreal fireworks of autumn. The leaves officially peak around here during the last week of October and into the first part of November, but the hues are already beginning to shift. In New York City, it might seem like it’s difficult to find a spot to bask in all those fall colors without blocking the sidewalk. So where to go if you want to join in the relaxing but weirdly-named sport of leaf-peeping? Here’s a quick guide for places to catch the spectacular fall colors, from a couple subway stops out to a day-trip.
Though the park may be at its most packed during those gentle days of summer, fall is an excellent time to round up some folks and go for a picnic, flask of hot cider in tow. Parts of the park are already shifting colors, particularly the sugar maples. Take a long ramble around the wooded parts of the acreage, and you’re likely to find some spectacular leaves.
Brooklyn Botanic Gardens
Nestled in the pocket between the Brooklyn Museum and Prospect Park, the Botanical Gardens is well worth swinging in to see the the rows of cherry trees swing into fall color action. Even the delicate bonsai trees that the Gardens displays get in on the seasonal change. If you get chilly, you can always swing into the ample greenhouses to see the cacti, orchids, and other heat-seeking plants.
New York Botanical Gardens
Though these Botanical Gardens are way up in the Bronx, the schlep is worth it to bask in the Thain Family Forest, the largest tract of old-growth trees in the entire city. You can even take a canoe trip through the woods via the Bronx River. The Gardens is hosting Fall Foliage Weekends in November to instruct patrons on the fine art of leaf-peeping. There will also be a “bird beat-boxer,” who specializes in integrating bird calls with modern hip-hop beat-boxing. No, we’re not making it up.
Greenbelt Nature Center
The Staten Island Greenbelt Nature Center has, seriously, 2,800 acres of woodland and wildlife within the borders of New York City. That means 35 miles of hiking trails and all kinds of opportunities to hang out with trees. You can also take in Moses’ Mountain, a hillock named after Robert Moses and made from the debris from a failed plan to build an expressway around the area.
Yes, Green-Wood is a Cemetery, which adds to those spooky Halloween vibes, but it’s also an incredibly beautiful nature preserve as well as an arboretum. There are over 8,000 trees on the cemetery’s 478 acres, including the city’s oldest sassafras tree, which dates from 1838. Bonus: After your ramble, you can head into Sunset Park for some excellent tacos.
Storm King Art Center
For a slightly longer hop outside of the city, you could do a lot worse than visit Storm King, a monumental sculpture garden just an hour north of the city limits, surrounded by the trees of the Hudson Valley. You can spend a day biking or walking around the grounds, taking in mega-artwork by Maya Lin and Roy Lichtenstein. And the car-less need not fret: The Art Center offers two packages that include a roundtrip bus ticket from New York City, or two-for-one admission to ZipCar drivers.
Bear Mountain Oktoberfest
The holy trinity of fall: beer, boats, and Bear Mountain. Circle Line offers a day cruise, leaving from Manhattan, up the Hudson river to the Mountain for hiking (or their annual Oktoberfest) every weekend in October. The two-hour boat ride will give you plenty of time to catch the changing colors as you cruise, and then you can get up close and personal on the mountain. Worth it.