Central Park is beautiful all year round. It gets amazing during cherry blossom season but it is really when fall foliage peaks that it becomes spectacular. There is such a wide variety of trees in the park with their own growth cycle and leaf types that the park transforms into a ballet of warm colors. Orange, red, burgundy and yellow everywhere for a magical walk in nature, right in the middle of the busiest city in the world.
Central Park has always been one of my favorite places in the city. It is so relaxing and quiet, even though it is right in the middle of Manhattan and surrounded by streets. It’s always a delight to be there, taking a little stroll, admiring the flora and you know, chilling for a bit. And if you’re coming to see some foliage, I got you!
Trees change at a dramatically different pace based on where in New York state you are. I Love NY, the organization in charge of marketing for the state, has a live fall foliage tracker from “no change” to “past peak” that is great to stay updated. New York City tends to be the last place in the state to turn, usually starting mid-October until the first week of November.
For the past few years, fall foliage in Central Park has been peaking the first week, and if not, the second week of November. You can still catch beautiful colors before that of course. If you’re looking for a map of fall foliage for specific trees in specific areas of the park, Central Park got you. And below are my favorite places in the park to see great autumn leaves!
Gapstow Bridge & the pond
The pond is located south of Central Park, at the corner of W 59th St and 5th Avenue. It’s directly by the entrance of the park. Walk up the East Drive and Gapstow Bridge will be to your left. From there, you will get a beautiful background of skyscrapers and fall foliage. It looks especially spectacular at sunrise with some golden light. If you walk some of the parallel paths to the pond, you’ll be able to get to the shore for some gorgeous photos with the bridge in the background!
The Dairy Visitor Center & Gift Shop
If you continue walking north on the East Drive, you will see the Dairy Visitor Center and Gift Shop on your left. It was designed by Calvert Vaux to resemble a Victorian country cottage and completed in 1871. You could almost feel you’re in Vermont in the fall. It’s super cute, great for photos and is surrounded by a lot of trees. To the back, you’ll also get the Playmates Arch and Chess & Checkers House Visitor Center.
Ah, the Mall… probably one of the most famous places in Central Park. A long avenue within the park going from the Olmsted Flower Bed to Bethesda Terrace, frame by towering American Elms that turns yellow in the fall. Absolutely stunning in autumn and a magical path to walk up under those beautiful colors. There are plenty of photo ops from staying on the main path to diverging towards the Literary Walk or sitting on a little bench.
Bethesda Terrace & Fountain
Another very famous location in Central Park, and one of the most featured in pop culture. If you’re a fan of The Gilded Age, you may have seen the area featured in some episodes. Or even spotted filming some time ago. The fountain is surrounded by all sort of trees that beautiful reflects in the lake behind. It’s iconic and better wake up early to get a shot before the place becomes too crowded.
A pedestrian bridge with a romantic vibe, Bow Bridge overlooks the lake and gets you to the Ramble, which is also amazing for fall foliage (next up). There are multiple angles to get a good snap from being on the bridge, to standing on the path from Cherry Hill or being on the other side of the lake. Yellow, red, russet, brown and orange, you’ll get to see an array of warm colors due to the diversity of trees around there, including black cherry, hickory, red maple, red oak and more.
The Ramble is a woodland walk in Central Park, north of Bow Bridge and Bethesda Fountain, and south of the 79th St traverse and Belvedere Castle. There are multiple paths to access it and it is truly beautiful as it is peaceful. Your own little forest in the big city. The Ramble is probably the one place in the park with the highest tree diversity which means you’ll see a lot of different colors! Catch some of them from the Ladies Pavilion on the West Shore of the Lake to avoid crowds.
West Drive & Lake Shore
If you walk along the lake shore on the west side in some of the side paths to West Drive, you’ll get to see all the colors of The Ramble trees from afar. You won’t get a more beautiful background for your photos. In addition, there are a lot of boat landings or other structures that you can stop at to get a great view. Some of those angles will almost make it look like you’re somewhere in the wilds of Main or Canada!
There are of course many other places in Central Park where you can spot fall foliage including:
- North Woods, on the west side to Mid-Park from 101st to 110th Street.
- Conservatory Garden, on the east side from 104th to 106th Street.
- The Pool, on the west side from 100th to 103rd Street.
- North Meadow, mid-park from 97th to 102nd Street.
- Reservoir, Bridle Path and Engineer’s Gates, mid-park from 85th to 96th Street.
However, the ones listed above are my favorite and the one I always love going to regardless of the season!
What are your favorite places in Central Park to see some fall foliage? Do you go there often and keep track of the foliage turning? What about the best places in New York City?
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