See fall foliage
Find out where to go leaf-peeping in New York City.
Wed Oct 26 2011
Photograph: Courtesy the Central Park Conservancy
Start at the Conservatory Water, near the entrance at Fifth Avenue and 72nd Street, where you can spot hawthorn trees covered in red berries. Then continue to the 38-acre Ramble in the middle of the park, where you'll find a large tupelo tree, whose leaves appear in various shades—red, yellow and purple—throughout the season. End your nature trek at the area near the West 100th Street Pool and the Great Hill. Look for European beech trees, whose leaves turn a warm shade of orangey-red, as well as black-cherry, elm and sugar-maple varieties. (212-310-6600, centralparknyc.org). Daily 6am--1am.
New York Botanical Garden
For the best leaf-spotting, get lost in the garden's Thain Family Forest, a 50-acre thicket near the Bronx River. The woodland space is the city's largest patch of old-growth forest (with some trees dating to the 17th century), and numerous species—including oak, hickory and maple—can be found within the site. Keep an eye out for sweet gums, whose star-shaped leaves turn red and purple as autumn progresses, and scarlet oak trees, which are rich in tannins and display brilliant shades of orange. To learn more about the space, head to the garden for two forest festival weekends (Nov 5, 6, 12, 13 noon--5pm), celebrating the ongoing restoration of the forest. Bronx River Pkwy at Fordham Rd, Bronx (718-817-8700, nybg.org). Tue--Sun 10am--6pm; $2--$20.
Sugar and red maples—which you can spot around the park's lake—are the first trees to change, turning orange and red, respectively. The rest of the park's foliage should follow in the next two to three weeks, with species like elm, sour gum and sassafras all displaying fall colors. Head to the Ravine, a densely wooded area at the center of the park, for the highest concentration of plants. Seen enough trees? Climb the hill behind the Audubon Center; there you'll find a wildlife garden filled with plants such as holly shrubs, whose berries also transform in cooler weather. Enter at Prospect Park West and 9th St, Prospect Park, Brooklyn (718-965-8951, prospectpark.org). Daily 6am--1am.
Van Cortlandt Park
This enormous Bronx park can overwhelm, with more than 1,000 acres (and an estimated 80,000 trees) within its borders. But that also makes it ideal for leaf-peepers, who can see species such as oak, sweet gum and hickory displaying rust and orange leaves. For superlative views, take a stroll along the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail, a 1.1-mile nature walk built atop a former tunnel that shuttled water from the Croton Reservoir down to New York City. Check out tulip and maple trees in shades of goldenrod and scarlet. Enter at Broadway at 242nd St, Bronx (718-430-1890, nyc.gov/parks). Daily 6am--1am.
Alley Pond Park
At just over a half-mile long, Tulip Tree Trail is a great place to spot this species. The park is home to what's purported to be the oldest and largest tulip poplar in the city (called the "Alley Pond Giant"), at a towering 133.8 feet tall. Other varieties that you'll spot within the Queens green space include white oak, red maple and sassafras trees, which should be turning yellow and red right about now. Winchester Blvd at Grand Central Pkwy, Douglaston, Queens (718-846-2731, nyc.gov/parks). Daily 6am--1am.