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Experience the Best Fall Foliage in NYC (New York City Fall Colors)

Experience the Best Fall Foliage in NYC (New York City Fall Colors)

There is no doubt that Fall foliage in NYC is one of the best times to experience the city. Getting to see vibrant shades of yellow, orange, and red, brighten up the parks & streets of New York is a special site to see.

As a local New Yorker, I have been able to enjoy many seasons of NYC foliage. In this overview, I will talk through some of the best spots to visit so you can enjoy those colors for yourself.

Read on for an NYC foliage overview and to better understand what the season is all about.

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1) Best Time to See Fall Colors in New York City

Each year starting sometime towards the middle of October, the leaves of New York City begin to slowly change color. These leaves then “peak” in color, displaying the most vibrant colors of the season.

The exact peak foliage dates, however, can change from year to year due to various weather factors.

In past years, this peak foliage occured during the final week of October into the first couple weeks of November. After the peak occurs, the leaves slowly begin to lose their colors before falling off the trees for the winter.

While peak foliage will offer the best viewing opportunities to see those colors in full vibrancy, leading up to and following the peak will still be a beautiful experience to take in.

Fall Foliage in NYC

2) Fall Foliage NYC Overview

For this overview, I will be just be focusing on Fall Foliage in New York City (not the entirety of New York State). Most of the top spots on this list can be found in Manhattan, with some additional spots throughout the rest of the boroughs.

If you are interested in enjoying foliage up the Hudson Valley and in more northern parts of the state, you can still take a look at some hiking guides I have that cover many of the top trail options (such as Mt Beacon and Kaaterskill Falls).

Just note that peak foliage occurs earlier on in the season the further north you go. You can check out the New York State Foliage Tracker that will help you understand what parts of the state are peaking in relation to one another.

Beacon Mountain Fire Tower

But back to New York City for now!

While many people may just think NYC is full of skyscrapers and busy streets, there is actually tons of trees and natural settings spread all around the city.

Whether that means tree lined streets, nature filled parks, or scenic river walks, NYC has a little bit of everything when it comes to offering Fall foliage opportunities.

Next up I will list out many of the top NYC foliage spots that I have photographed & explored over the years during the Fall season.

NYC Skyline Foliage

3) New York City Fall Foliage Spots

While there is essentially a limitless amount of foliage to be found around NYC, here are some top highlights to consider during your time in the city.

Central Park

Without a doubt, Central Park is going to be the place to be when it comes to foliage opportunities. Throughout its 843 acres you can find endless walking paths, water features, woodland areas, and much more.

I take a walk through Central Park at least once a week, so by now I have figured out most of the top spots to take in the foliage from.

The list here can be a long one, but below I have named many of the top places to consider visiting. Depending on how long you want to spend in the park will dictate how many of these you can check off during your time there.

  • The Pond: home to an elevated viewing rock, the Gapstow Bridge, and walking paths
  • Hallett Nature Sanctuary: the smallest of the three woodland areas in the park, offering several different viewpoint areas
  • Wollman Rink: take in the view from above or head onto the ice for a skate around the rink
  • The Mall & Literary Walk: one of the fan favorites with golden American Elm trees peaking during foliage
  • Bethesda Terrace & Fountain: the famous fountain overlooking the Lake, with opportunities to take in the view from above
  • Bow Bridge: the most iconic bridge in the park that connects the Bethesda area with the Ramble
  • Ramble: another woodland area in the park that is packed with trees, walkways, and viewing areas of the Lake
  • Oak Bridge: located on the northern side of the Ramble, with views of the Manhattan skyline in the distance
  • Hernshead Rocks: a collection of large rocks jutting out into the Lake with view of NYC out in front
  • Loeb Boathouse: the famous boathouse restaurant sitting on the eastern side of the Lake
  • Conservatory Water: a small water feature with the Alice in Wonderland Statue out behind it
  • Belvedere Castle: the highest point in Central Park, with views above the trees
  • Great Lawn: large open area surrounded by colorful trees in every direction
  • Reservoir: a circular walking path around the Reservoir offers perfect Central Park views of the foliage and skyline in one shot
  • North Woods: the third woodland area of the park, packed with winding trails to get lost on
  • The Loch & Ravine: a calm stream to walk along that includes the Central Park waterfall
  • The Pool: one of the most colorful water features, located in the northwest area of the park

Learn More: All of this and more is described with great detail in the Central Park Fall Foliage overview up on the site.

Central Park NYC Foliage
Lake Foliage NYC
Foliage in New York City
Best Foliage NYC

Hudson River Park

Along the western side of Manhattan, spanning from Battery Park up to 59th Street is Hudson River Park.

Now, while the whole area is called Hudson Area Park, it is actually split up into many smaller parks and piers all along the way. I will be calling out some of these highlights in the following sections.

But for those that just want to take a nice walk along the waterfront pedestrian pathway, plenty of Fall foliage can be found throughout.

Getting to have the skyline, river, and colorful natural surroundings all in view is going to be a relaxing Fall activity to take part of.

Hudson River Fall Colors
NYC Foliage Trees

Pier 57

All along Hudson River Park are piers that jut into the water. While most of these are just a single level, Pier 57 offers a multi-story pier with a rooftop park at the top.

What makes this so special, is that you can take in some amazing views of NYC from above.

Getting to see the rest of Hudson River Park, Little Island, One World Trade Center, and plenty more, is going to give you one of the best foliage views in NYC.

If you are craving some food after the views, head down to the food hall on the bottom level which has a variety of cuisines from around the world.

Pier 57 Fall

Little Island

Just next door to Pier 57 is the manmade Little Island. This elevated island is full of walkways, lawns, viewing platforms, artwork, and even some entertainment.

During the Fall, the variety of trees and plants come to life, turning the island into a sea of colors.

Due to its size and its popularity, this is one place that will get crowded. I would recommend an early morning visit to have a more overall relaxing experience.

Little Island Foliage

Riverside Park

While Hudson River Park takes you up to 59th Street, Riverside Park will take you most of the way up the remaining coastline of Manhattan.

Stretching from 59th Street to 158th Street, Riverside Park is a big one! Over these 100 blocks, visitors will be welcomed to a whole array of walking paths, parks, lawns, and points of interest along the way.

Some parts of the park are right along the waterfront, while other parts offer the chance to be a bit more elevated from shore.

But if there is one thing that is constant about Riverside Park, it is the foliage that turns the waterfront all colorful in the Autumn.

Riverside Park Fall

Union Square

Located in downtown Manhattan is the Union Square Park area. Known for its year-round farmers market, it is a hub of the area with many different subway lines connecting to the rest of the city.

While the park is on the smaller side, it still packs a lot in given its size. Trees line the internal and external walking paths and the southern end is always a happening place to be.

Now, you can simply enjoy the foliage from the park itself, but there is an opportunity to get an elevated view of the park from above.

To do so, head to the top floor of the nearby Burlington Coat Factory on Union Square South. Make your way to the windows, where Union Square can be seen in addition to the Empire State Building out back.

Another option is to go to the northern side of the park at Barnes & Noble. Similarly, if you make your way to the top floor, you can get views of the park from the opposite angle.

Union Square NYC Viewpoint

East River Greenway

Lining the eastern side of the Manhattan waterfront is the East River Greenway. The Greenway connects Battery Park in the south with 120th street in the north.

Although the greenway is not fully connected from north to south, there are still plenty of walking paths, parks, lawns, and more to walk through along the way.

Here you will also come across some of the most famous bridges in NYC – the Williamsburg, Manhattan, and Brooklyn Bridge. Getting to enjoy that NYC foliage with the bridges out back is going to be a different perspective to enjoy.

Along the way you can also stop at some other highlights such as Pier 35, South Street Seaport, and Pier 17.

East River Greenway Foliage
East River Greenway Foliage

Roosevelt Island

One of the more underrated spots to enjoy some foliage in NYC is on Roosevelt Island.

The island sits in the middle of the East River between Upper Manhattan and Queens. Connecting the two is the famous red tramway that you can take for a quick ride.

Once on Roosevelt Island, you can explore the waterfront pathway along the western side for views of NYC. Be sure to then head to the southern point at Franklin D Roosevelt Four Freedoms State Park.

Another highlight are the Roosevelt Island cherry blossoms. However, be warned that these only occur in the spring time once the flowers begin to bloom again.

Roosevelt Island Cherry Blossoms

Brooklyn Bridge Park

While Manhattan is packed with foliage opportunities, so is the other side of the river. If you make your way to the Dumbo neighborhood, you can enjoy a walk along the Brooklyn waterfront.

At Brooklyn Bridge Park you will find 1+ miles of walking paths, piers, parks, restaurants, activities, and more.

During Fall foliage, expect the park to be vibrant in color as the trees brighten up against the backdrop of NYC.

What I also love most about this area is that the Manhattan Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge are in view throughout the park. Getting to see the NYC foliage with the bridges out back makes for a special experience to take part of.

Brooklyn Fall Foliage
Brooklyn Bridge Park Foliage
Brooklyn in Fall

Squibb Park Bridge

Connecting Pier 1 of Brooklyn Bridge Park with the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood, is the Squibb Park Bridge.

While Squibb Park is just a small park with some courts, it is the bridge that brings the people. The scenic overpass gets overwhelmed with color during the Fall as visitors get to see the Manhattan skyline out in the distance.

It is a fan favorite NYC photo spot, so be sure to add it to the list as you pass by the neighborhood.

Squibb Park Bridge

Brooklyn Heights Promenade

If you make it up the Squibb Park Bridge, you might as well continue the few minutes further south to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.

The promenade sits alongside the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood and offers elevated views over the East River and Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Due to its location, you will be able to see the colorful NYC foliage from above with the skyline and bridges completing the panorama.

As for views in NYC, this one is definitely towards the top of the list.

Brooklyn Heights Views
Brooklyn Heights Promenade Running

Governors Island

Another island that sits in the middle of the NYC waterways is Governors Island.

What used to be a major US military grounds, has since been converted into one of New York City’s most happening places to visit.

Whether you want to have a spa day overlooking the skyline, glamp overnight, or just walk around and enjoy the views, Governors Island has it all.

When heading out for foliage, make your way to the southern end of the island. There you will find some hilly areas with walking paths. From up top you should get some great views of the island and the rest of NYC beyond.

Brooklyn Bridge View from Governors

Meal with a View

What better way to enjoy a meal in NYC than to have the colorful foliage be in view.

While there are spots around the city, where you can have meal surrounded by a natural landscape, there is nothing better than Central Park.

Thankfully, there are a handful of restaurants and bars that offer views of Central Park.

Many of these are located nearby the Columbus Circle area, with several others spread out around the park.

Try your best to reserve a table near the windows at these spots, as that is where the views will be best!

Mandarin Oriental Central Park View

NYC Foliage Helicopter Ride

For a true elevated view of NYC during Fall foliage, a helicopter ride is the way to go.

These helicopter tours can last anywhere from 12 minutes to well over 30 minutes. Depending on which option is chosen, you will get to see more or less of the city.

Most of these flights head over Central Park, so you will be able to take in the “top” NYC foliage views in the city.

In addition to the foliage in the park, you are certain to see plenty more colorful landscape down below encircled by the skyscrapers of the city.

Do you want to enjoy New York City’s foliage from the sky? Sign up for an NYC Helicopter tour that will take you over Central Park & plenty more foliage spots.

Red Foliage

NYC Hudson River Fall Foliage Boat Ride

Getting to see the foliage from the sky is one thing, but getting to see it from the water can be just as good. During the Fall, there are scenic boat rides that leave from the Hudson River side of Manhattan.

These boat rides head north along the Hudson River past the George Washington Bridge and into the cliffs of the Palisades.

As you get further up the Hudson, you will get to see the tree lined river come to life with plenty of color.

For those that want to take in that NYC foliage in a whole new perspective, I would highly recommend checking out a Hudson River cruise.

Book Your Tour: Be sure to reserve your spot on this top rated Hudson River Foliage Boat Ride

NY Foliage Fall

Other Top Spots

There are just so many other spots to consider visiting all around New York City for foliage. Just some of these additional options include:

  • Fort Tyron Park (Manhattan)
  • Prospect Park (Brooklyn)
  • New York Botanical Garden (The Bronx)
  • Van Cortlandt Park (The Bronx)
  • Gantry Plaza State Park (Queens)
  • Pelham Bay Park (The Bronx)
  • Brooklyn Botanic Garden (Brooklyn)

The list just goes on and on!

No matter what though, if you end of visiting New York City during the end of October into the beginning of November, you are sure to enjoy some of the best Fall foliage colors out there.

Fall Foliage Orange

4) New York Fall Foliage 2023 Predictions

It is still a bit early when it comes to predicting the 2023 Fall foliage for New York.

However, if history tells us anything, then the end of October into the beginning of November will be your best bet for NYC.

For those that want to explore more up the Hudson Valley and into upstate New York, those peak foliage dates can start at the beginning of October. Be sure to stay up to date as the leaves begin to change.

Hudson River Park Peak Fall

5) Where to Stay in NYC

As you plan your visit to New York, you will come across so many different options when it comes to where to stay. Read up on the below to learn more.

Looking for the top hotels & neighborhoods in NYC? Check out some helpful accommodation resources when it comes to picking the best spot for you!

Neighborhood Overview: Best Places to Stay in NYC
Best Skyline Views: NYC Hotels with a View
Times Square: Top Times Square Hotels with a View
Theater District: Hotels in Broadway Theater District
Central Park: Best Hotels with Central Park Views
Tribeca: Best Tribeca Hotels
SoHo: Where to Stay in SoHo
Greenwich Village
: Top Greenwich Village Hotels
Brooklyn Bridge: Hotels with Brooklyn Bridge Views
Best Panoramas: Hotels in NYC with Floor to Ceiling Windows

Plaza Hotel Foliage

That wraps up a NYC foliage overview! If you have any questions or comments, be sure to add them in below.

Also, don’t forget to check out the other New York itineraries and guides up on the site.

Have fun out there and safe travels!

NYC Foliage

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