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Top 8 Autumn Views in Central Park

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Around this time every year, I get a ton of messages from people asking me when the leaves are changing in Central Park and what the best places are to soak in the best of Central Park in the autumn. So, without further ado, here are my top picks.

Gallery Key (corresponds to the order of photos in the photo-set:

1. What’s more romantic than 2 bicycles waiting next to trees dripping with autumn foliage? This photo was taken on the east side of Central Park near the East 70s. I usually enter the park in this area. It’s full of rolling hills. If you wander around during the peak of autumn, you are bound to catch views like this in quite a few places in this area. View this photo in my portfolio here: New York Autumn - Central Park - Lovers

2. If you happen to be in Central Park when the fall foliage is at its peak, make sure you stick around for an autumn sunset. This photo was taken adjacent to The Mall in Central Park. No, The Mall is not a giant shopping center. Rather, The Mall is a section of Central Park that runs from 66th to 72nd Street. I usually enter Central Park from the east side of the park and follow the signs to get to The Mall. This is a pathway that is right next to The Mall. It has an abundance of trees that turn red in the autumn which makes it ideal for sunset gazing. View this photo in my portfolio here: New York Autumn - Central Park - Sunset

3. This is one of my absolute favorite areas of Central Park in the autumn. It is right next to the Loeb Boathouse which is on the east side of the park near 72nd Street. The willow trees here turn the most vibrant shades of yellow and orange at peak foliage and you get a perfect view of San Remo (the two-towered building in this photo) as well as people in row boats on The Lake enjoying the last vestiges of nice weather. View this photo in my portfolio here: New York Autumn - Central Park Fall Foliage at The Lake

4. Another favorite spot which I mentioned above is The Mall and Literary Walk. It’s the absolute best autumn view in Central Park (hands down) due to Central Park’s gorgeous elm trees that form a giant canopy above the bucolic landscape. View this photo in my portfolio here: Autumn - Central Park - New York City

5. Bow Bridge is always my main goal when I go to Central Park to view the peak fall foliage. It’s a fairytale setting that seems to have made its way into reality. It’s also made an appearance in a Dr. Who episode and a ton of films (Spiderman 3 being one of them). Bow Bridge is located right in the middle of the park overlooking The Lake. It is between 74th and 75th Streets and the easiest way to find Bow Bridge is to head to Bethesda Fountain and then follow the path from there to the Bridge. Central Park is an easy place to get lost in (even I get lost there on a regular basis despite going there often) but there are signs everywhere and I have never failed to find a knowledgeable NYer who is willing to help with directions (and who isn’t directionally challenged like I am!). View this photo in my portfolio here: New York Autumn - Central Park Fall Colors - Bow Bridge

6. Here is another photo taken in the area of The Mall (see above for explanation of where this spot is located: in fact if you look closely you will notice this view overlooks the view in Photo 4). I love this area because at autumn’s peak, the leaves carpet the ground. View this photo in my portfolio here: New York Autumn - Central Park - The Mall

7. When you are walking south away from The Mall on the East Side of Central Park and you are in the vicinity of the Alice in Wonderland sculpture (which is near 74th Street), there are a series of large rocks that people love to climb. The light is absolutely stunning there during the autumn especially when the leaves are covering the ground. View this photo in my portfolio here: New York Autumn - Central Park - Trees and Fall Foliage

8. Bow Bridge is also beautiful to view from the other side of The Lake. If you wait until the hour before sunset, the sun tends to set almost directly above Bow Bridge when you are standing (or sitting) at this vantage point. View this photo in my portfolio here: New York Autumn - Central Park - Bow Bridge - Fall Sunlight

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Are these the only beautiful autumn landscapes in Central Park?

If you notice, a lot of my top views are near the east side of the park. This is because for about 7 years I lived on the border of the Upper East Side and Harlem and I would walk down to this area to acquaint myself with Central Park. Familiarity breeds unabashed love.

Are there gorgeous areas of Central Park on the west side or further north and south? Of course there are. Central Park stretches across 840 acres of Manhattan. I just happen to be extremely enamored of this particular area due to my familiarity with it and my love of Bow Bridge.

When do the leaves change in Central Park?

Great question! I can give you only an approximate answer though since the peak has varied wildly over the last few years due to extreme weather (Hurricane Irene and Sandy).

Usually peak fall foliage in Central Park occurs towards the beginning of November. If New York City gets a lot of rain though, the quality of the fall foliage will vary. Lots of rain means less leaves on the trees and a less lush appearance during the peak. Also, if New York City is incredibly dry, the peak can take longer to occur.

Some years, peak foliage has occurred early towards the middle to end of October. Currently, I have noticed some leaves already changing here in New York City. Most of Central Park is still green at this point though. We seem to be on track for a relatively normal peak this year (late October, early November). But (and I think I speak for a lot of NYers right now), I am apprehensive to stand by that claim due to the extreme weather we have experienced over the last few autumns.

How long does peak fall foliage last?

Not long enough.

No really. It’s only vibrant like in the photos in this post for around two to three weeks. Sometimes that time is cut short by rainfall and/or early snow. I wish it lasted for a month or two!

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I hope you have enjoyed my autumn tour through Central Park :).

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