Looking for the best spots to see fall foliage in Central Park? You’re in the right place.
There’s a reason there’s so many songs and quotes about New York City in the fall and what better place to experience the magical season than in Central Park?
Home to more than 18,000 trees, Central Park is ablaze in fall color during the autumn months. You’ll see mature oaks, maples and elms transform from cheery green to vibrant shades of red, orange and yellow. Fall in Central Park is truly a sight to behold.
But Central Park spans 843 acres and it’s hard to know exactly where to go to see the best fall color. That’s where I come in. I start every morning with a walk through the park and have found the absolute best spots for fall color in Central Park.
With that said, let’s dive right in!
Best time to see fall colors in Central Park
Peak fall color varies from year to year, but a safe bet is to plan your visit around the first or second week of November to see the best fall color in Central Park.
And yes, I know that mid-November sounds late, but I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had folks visit in October expecting to get fall color only to leave surprised by how green the trees are during that month.
Central Park Fall Foliage
#13. The Conservatory Garden
The Conservatory Garden is one of my favorite spots in Central Park for fall color simply because it’s located in the north end of the park and doesn’t get as busy as the south end.
This is the only formal garden in Central Park and it’s sectioned off into three beautiful gardens — French, English and Italian.
You’ll find a plethora of striking fall color here, from the orange crabapple allées, marvelous chrysanthemums, star vibrant magnolia trees and the red-purple Stewartia.
What’s more, the Conservatory Garden is a designated Quiet Zone, ensuring a peaceful autumn experience in beloved Central Park.
#12. North Meadow
Similar to the Conservatory Garden, the 23-acre North Meadow is often overlooked because its located in the north end of the park.
What a pity that is, especially considering this is one of the best spots in Central Park for fall foliage. You’ll find rocky outcroppings peppered between sugar maples, dogwoods and hickory trees bordering a pristine meadow pronounced by a hilly landscape.
This is where locals go to escape the congestion and crowds of the more touristy Sheep’s Meadow area. It’s a great place to let kids run around or simply to people watch. There’s also a great dog run in the area that’s perfect for letting fido burn some energy.
#11. Sheep Meadow
Covering an impressive 15 acres, Sheep Meadow is quite possibly the most popular spot in Central Park. It’s the perfect place to relax with a book or spend a weekend afternoon picnicking with friends.
You’ll see the iconic New York City skyline shooting through a field full of colorful trees. If you choose to visit during a particularly warm fall day, prepare for crowds. Folks flock to Sheep Meadow like moths to a flame!
#10. Conservatory Water
Conservatory Water might be better known as the Model Boat Pond because of the great model boats launched here. You’ll find charming mini sailboats and can easily get engrossed watching them whiz by.
If you’d like to try you hand at one, you can rent them at the Kerbs Boathouse. The area is home to a plethora of park benches, so park yourself for a while and take it all in. This area is especially beautiful in the fall when all the cheery tourists mingle with the locals.
#9. Bridge No. 28
Bridge No. 28 is the most popular cast-iron bridge in the park. Located on the west end of the Reservoir, this beautiful bridge is heavily photographed because of its intricate details and interesting curves.
Bridge No. 28 is a very popular spot for photographers, especially during the fall season when all the surrounding trees start bursting with colors.
#8. The Reservoir
The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir is more commonly known as the Central Park Reservoir, or simply Reservoir. It’s a decommissioned reservoir located between 86th and 96th Streets (spanning 10 city blocks). Holding more than one billion gallons of water, at the time of construction, this was the world’s largest man-made body of water.
The 1.5-mile loop around the Reservoir is a very popular running and walking track, so you’ll notice a ton of folks along the path. And who could resist snapping photos of the lovely fall foliage during autumn? Prepare for crowds any time of year, but especially in the autumn and spring.
You’ll see two types of fall leaves here — the red Kwanzan along the bridle path and the yellow Yoshino cherry tree leaves on the west side.
#7. Belvadere Castle
Sitting high atop a hill on a large rock outcrop known as Vista Rock (the second highest point in Central Park, in fact), is Belvedere Castle. The castle’s terraces offer sweeping views of New York City’s iconic skyline. Belvedere is Italian for “beautiful view” and it lives up to the name.
The castle was completed in 1872 and designed specifically to offer views of the surrounding landscape. It was renovated in 1983 and then again in 2019 to modernize the terraces and building.
Visitors are welcome to explore the castle for great views, but I especially enjoy seeing it from the great lawn, especially during fall. You’ll see tons of picnickers on the lawn and might even stumble upon a yoga session, like I did.
#6. Gapstow Bridge
I probably don’t have to tell you that Central Park is full of romantic bridges, but the Gapstow Bridge is one of the most intriguing.
The views from the bridge is breathtaking, especially when the area is engrossed with fall color. You’ll see a great variety of colorful trees here, from oaks, tupelo trees, cherry trees and birches.
Take in the splendor of fall in Central Park by sitting on one of the many benches and soak in the view of the Pond.
#5. Oak Bridge
The Oak Bridge is tucked into the Ramble, on the west side of the park. It’s seldom crowded, which makes it a nice escape from the nearby Bow Bridge. What’s more, the views from here are just as beautiful.
I pop over every morning during the fall season to take in the changing leaves and can’t help but take photos every time. There’s something so intriguing about this vantage point, the sturdy oak bridge and the ever-changing autumn leaves. I simply can’t help myself.
#4. The Ramble
The Ramble feels like Narnia in the sense that you completely forget you’re within city limits — roaming through this special place feels like stepping foot into a real forest.
This densely forested 36-acre woodland is filled with streams, ponds, winding paths, rustic bridges and hilly terrain. Olmsted described the Ramble as a “wild garden.”
So imagine this area during the fall months! The winding paths and thick canopies of bright fall leaves transport you to the Adirondacks, just as intended. Explore the area and see if you can’t find the Azalea Pond and/or the Ramble Stone Arch.
#3. Bethesda Terrace & Fountain
Bethesda Terrace is remarkable. It’s the park’s sole formal architectural setting. The terrace’s arcade creates the perfect acoustic environment and draws in some of the city’s most talented street musicians.
It’s hard to imagine a better place to see fall foliage in Central Park than wandering through this area before parking on a park bench for some live music and great people watching.
Fun fact: Measuring at twenty-six feet high and ninety-six feet wide, Bethesda Fountain is one of the largest fountains in New York.
#2. The Bow Bridge
The Bow Bridge gets its name from the shape of the arch which resembles an archer’s bow. It’s one of the most photographed locations in Central Park for a reason.
Originally constructed in 1862, the bridge spans 60 feet over Central Park Lake, connecting Cherry Hill and the Ramble — and let me tell you, the views of Manhattan’s skyline from the Bow Bridge are absolutely breathtaking!
So it probably wouldn’t surprise you to learn that this is one of the best spots in Central Park for fall color. The bridge gets packed with locals and tourist alike during peak foliage because everyone wants an iconic shot of the skyline from this bridge.
Plus, most folks would argue that autumn is the most romantic time to visit NYC, and what is more romantic than the Bow Bridge in the fall? Especially with the bright reflections of fall foliage on the dreamy lake.
Fun fact: Bow Bridge is the second oldest cast-iron bridge in the country.
#1. The Mall
The Mall is an iconic American elm-lined promenade that leads directly to Bethesda Fountain. The mature trees create an enchanting canopy that offers a shady retreat during hot city summers. In fact, the Mall is home to one of the largest plantations of American elms in the world.
Thankfully, there’s plenty of benches to sit and enjoy while you watch the world go by. For me personally, it’s always fun to spot young couples giddy with excitement during their first visit to Central Park.
This magical area transforms into a breathtaking canopy of fall color during autumn. In fact, this is the absolute best place to see fall color in Central Park.
Best spots for fall leaves in Central Park (Post Summary)
- The Mall
- Bow Bridge
- Bethesda Terrace and Fountain
- The Ramble
- Oak Bridge
- Gapstow Bridge
- Belvadere Castle
- The Reservoir
- Bridge No. 28
- Conservatory Water
- Sheep Meadow
- North Meadow
- The Conservatory Garden
Central Park in Autumn (Helpful Map)
Love Central Park in fall?
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- How to Find the Best Fall Foliage Across New York State
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