If you are as much of a fan of fall as I am, you’ll probably want a break from the steel buildings of the city to see the leaves changing color. I could say to pick a direction and start driving; you’ll be likely to see the leaves changing color anywhere outside of New York City. But some places are simply better than others.
Before you go, be sure to check the fall foliage schedules for your destination, as many regions differ from one another on the best time to visit (though it is often in mid-October). Also, be sure to bring a blanket and pack a basket for a picnic, and don’t forget a warm sweater and, most importantly, a camera (hopefully one that’s better than your phone).
These are the five top places you can visit that I’ve found in my wanderings:
For Those Looking for the Most Scenic Drive: The Mohawk Trail (Route 2)
This is a long drive away, but it’s so worth it! I’ve seen Japanese tourists taking pictures there; this route is world-famous for its beauty during autumn. The Mohawk Trail, along Route 2 and Route 2A in Massachusetts, maps an old Native American trade route. It cuts through Savoy State Forest toward the small town of North Adams, which is very close to the New York border and holds its own fall foliage festival. Not only do you get a nearly constant view of the beautiful Berkshire mountains, but you also see streams, waterfalls, and many quaint New England towns.
For Those Who Don’t Want to Drive: The Metro North (Hudson Line) and Hudson Valley
For those who are currently car-less who want to see some great fall foliage, the MTA offers a solution. It might seem counterintuitive, since the Metro North is not the most comfortable, luxurious train service. However, when one is stuck with public transportation, this is a very nice day trip that allows you to take in an area that inspired an entire art movement in the mid-19th century. The Hudson Line travels all the way up to Poughkeepsie and is largely parallel to the Hudson River (which gets cleaner the further up you go). You can see some of the greatest views of the mountains and their reflection in the blue water while sitting comfortably in your seat. When you’re in Poughkeepsie, journey by foot on the Walkway Over the Hudson, which is a pedestrian bridge that allows you get out, stretch your legs, and take pictures.
For Food and Wine Fans: The Finger Lakes (Route 20)
There are numerous regions of upstate New York that are great for leaf-peeping: Honestly, the whole state is full of beautiful places to visit. However, one of the best drives is Route 20 from Albany west into the Finger Lakes region. If you travel to upstate New York, be sure to indulge in great food and drink as well. The Finger Lakes area is known for its wine country, which is a ton of fun to visit in the fall. And if you’re going upstate and you’re a food fan, make sure to stop at an orchard along the way to go apple-picking! Did you know that New York is the second-largest producer of apples in the U.S. and produces 29.5 million bushels annually? Visit one of the thousands of orchards and also get other fun stuff like cider doughnuts, homemade pies, and more farm-fresh treats!
For History Buffs and Enthusiasts: Route 169 in Connecticut
If you have a history buff traveling with you on your day trip, take them to the gorgeous and interesting Route 169. Often called “the quiet corner” of the state, this region is notable not just for the amazing foliage but for the general fall ambiance. Stone walls, Gothic houses, and 17th century buildings also pockmark this route. When leaving Brooklyn, make sure you visit Brooklyn: Brooklyn, CT, that is. Also, be sure you check out the old architecture of Pomfret, the Prudence Crandall Museum, and Roseland Cottage.
For Those Who Want an Active Adventure: The Poconos
More than 100 varieties of trees decorate the landscape of the Poconos, which are only about two hours away from New York City in Pennsylvania. You can simply take Route 507 around Lake Wallenpaupack for a lovely drive, or you can indulge in some of the fun activities in the area. For those with small children, enjoy The Great Pocono Pumpkin Festival. You can also go canoeing or kayaking in the area with Kittatinny Canoes or even enjoy ziplining through the fall foliage for a really crazy time at the Camelbeach Lodge’s adventure course. There are numerous ways to enjoy an active leaf-peeping excursion, and the Poconos are close enough to still make it a day trip.
For Those Who Want to Stay in NYC
Bloomingdale Park is a huge, gorgeous, 138-acre park in Staten Island. It’s a stretch of land that has the color and calmness you’re looking for without the long drive. For free, on October 25 at 1 p.m., you can join in on a fall foliage hike that’s guided by naturalists. You’ll still need to take a ferry, but the beauty of the leaves will make you forget that you’re actually still in NYC. Central Park also has some lovely foliage this time of year as well, so if you’re really trapped in Manhattan, that’s the best place to go!
I must insist that if you’re an enthusiast, just take that extra day, though. Stay at a bed and breakfast and explore more of the regions that are world-famous for their foliage that are just a little too far away for a proper day trip, like Route 100 in Vermont (or any other major highway in Vermont, really), the Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire, or Route 1 in Maine.
Take the time to enjoy the season this fall!