A downside to living in a thriving city is that air pollution makes for poor fall foliage, though some spots in town—Wave Hill, Pelham Bay Park—still boast colorful leaves at the end of October. But if you take a short trip outside the city limits, you can see some beautiful autumn colors, all within a day’s drive. Sadly, the best fall foliage sightseeing trip is no more—Amtrak retired its glass-domed Adirondack train in 2018. But there are other spots to take in the season; here are our seven favorites.
1. Mohonk Mountain House
New Paltz, New York
This ornate Victorian castle resort is great to visit at any season, and not just because the period decor and dearth of in-room televisions invite you to unplug. But the fall is a particularly great time to book a stay, in no small part thanks to the resplendent changing leaves you can peep from the premises. Peak season hits around the second week in October; book a stay, spend the day roaming the grounds, and the evening curled up by one of the resort’s many vintage fireplaces with a hot toddy in hand.
2. Old Croton Aqueduct
Croton-on-Hudson, New York
Photo courtesy of NYS Parks
Some of the finest changing leaves can be accessed via Metro-North. Take, for instance, the foliage around the Old Croton Aqueduct, which stretches from the Croton Dam in Cortlandt to Van Cortlandt Park in The Bronx. You can make as much of your way down the 20-mile, tree-lined stretch as you can, all the while taking in a sea of fall hues. Peak foliage is around October 19 in Cortlandt and a teeny bit later once you hit the city.
3. Walkway Over the Hudson
Poughkeepsie, New York
Photo courtesy of Walkway Over the Hudson
This 1.28-mile-long bridge connects Poughkeepsie and Highland, offering up a dazzling view of the Hudson River. The view is all the more breathtaking during peak foliage, where trees boasting changing leaves flank both sides of the river, making it feel like you’re walking through fire. Peak foliage is typically in mid-October, though the leaves tend to last into early November.
4. Greenbelt Nature Center
Staten Island, New York
Okay, this one is cheating, since Staten Island is, of course, in New York City. But the Greenbelt Nature Center, which comprises 1,778 acres of contiguous public parkland, feels like a land of its own. This is even more the case in the fall when the Greenbelt’s lush trees show their true colors. The Greenbelt Conservancy even hosts Fall Foliage Walks that leave from the park’s Nature Center; a number of them are geared toward families with young children, so kids can take in the oranges and reds at an early age. Peak foliage in NYC is usually around October 19.
5. Storm King Art Center
Cornwall, New York
View of the South Fields, all works by Mark di Suvero. Photograph by Jerry L. Thompson.
Storm King might seem like a good summer spot, but the 500-acre outdoor sculpture gallery is best traversed in the fall, and not just because summer heat bears down surprisingly hard on the grounds. In autumn, Storm King is surrounded by bright-hued red, green, orange, and yellow trees, a phenomenon so breathtaking it almost overshadows all the Calder. Storm King keeps track of the color change progression; check their social media pages to stay updated on the area’s peak.
6. Bear Mountain
Bear Mountain, New York
Photo via NYS Parks
Bear Mountain State Park’s got some of the most beautiful fall foliage within spitting distance of the city. If you drive from Manhattan on the Palisades Parkway, you can see the orange and red-hued trees looming in the distance. Once you’re in the park, you can drive to the top of Bear Mountain and take in the super colorful view. Peak foliage is typically around October 19.
7. Planting Fields Arboretum
Nassau County, New York
This one’s not as obvious as the spots further upstate, but the W.R. Coe family’s erstwhile Gold Coast estate boasts some incredible foliage in the fall. The Arboretum is now a 400-acre state historical park, complete with rolling hills, beautiful gardens, nature walks, and lots and lots of color-changing trees, many of which are labeled with horticultural details for budding botanists. Peak foliage is typically around the end of October.
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Photo of Bear Mountain in lead (top left) courtesy of NYS Parks