On the U.S. East Coast, leaves are starting to turn golden, russet and pumpkin; yet it will take another month before color is most striking. So, you have time to book your ticket to New York CIty, whether you choose to stay in the city, in Brooklyn or Queens, or Upstate.
When travelling to the Big Apple, one of the biggest mistakes one can make is only hitting the touristy spots; namely, Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, etc. A word of advice: avoid all of that. Sure, a view of the Statue of Liberty from Battery Park is fantastic; it’s not to be beat on a cool autumn night. But don’t plan a trip around a packed ferry cruise with tourists from Iowa craning to get their chubby hands over your neck to snap a “selfie” with Lady Liberty.
Here’s what to do instead, since you’ll want to focus on nature rather than human nature.
Start at Central Park South (where the horses are) and wend your way through, maneuvering through the squirrels, tourists and bicyclists and getting slightly off the footpath, past Sheep Meadow and toward the lake, which is on the western side of the park. Deciduous varieties of trees in Central Park include the baldcypress, American elm, the Norway maple and many others.
Make sure you’re wearing supportive, comfy walking shoes such as Nike or New Balance sneakers and have an extra pair of socks in your backpack or purse. For you can easily stumble upon a puddle since New York is known for some beautiful storms this time of year, and they can come upon you suddenly. Nothing worse than walking a mile back in soggy socks.
Bring binoculars and your smartphone or camera and when you hit the center of the park — look here for a map — look all around you including up, left/right and down. While you should not pick leaves from the trees, anything that’s fallen is yours for the taking. Californians unaccustomed to seeing such vibrant colors should bring home a couple of maple leaves. Iron them between two sheets of wax paper in your hotel room before you travel.
For hotels, consider staying in one of Manhattan’s hipper neighborhoods like SoHo or Tribeca rather than the place where natives-dare-not-go, much of Midtown (if you can see huge neon signs where people are looking up, you know you don’t want to spend the night within a 10-block radius). A quaint option is Washington Square Hotel, right off Washington Square Park in the East Village. This is within walking distance of NYU as well as cozy hangs like Cornelia Street Café, where you can hear poetry on a Friday night.
Live like a local and make sure to buy a Metrocard to ride the subway. New Yorkers move super fast, so a word of warning: you don’t want to be the person slowing down the impatient at the ticket machines. Buy your Metrocard, e.g. a one-week pass, and then you’re good to go. The card slips into the silver turnstile and zips out the other end as the red “gate” issues you in. Make SURE to look clearly for the sign that says DOWNTOWN, not UPTOWN (which is heading back to Manhattan and the Bronx.)
TV buffs may recall the classic TV show “King of Queens” having shot its opener here in Queens, while “Ugly Betty” was also set in this ‘burb. It’s much more relaxed than New York, even if you won’t find the tony shops and well-heeled ladies and gents.
But you are here to see something much better: the fall foliage. In Queens, visit Flushing Meadows Corona Park, the largest in the borough. Here you’ll find the iconic silver globe that harkens back to when the park played host to the World’s Fair: in 1939-40 and again in 1964-65. Trees in the park include the Sweetgum, Weeping willow, several varieties of Oak and many others. Also visit a zoo, the botanical gardens, lake, restaurant, science center and the Arthur Ashe Tennis Center here.
To get to Flushing Meadows by subway, take the 7 train from Times Square or other points, or travel via the Long Island Railroad (LIRR), depending upon where you’re staying. Get off at Willets Point/Shea Stadium. It’s just a short walk to the US Open’s East Gate entrance, or to the northern part of the park.
Consider staying in Queens, but also think about just venturing back to Manhattan.
Like Queens, Brooklyn is a New York City borough that has grown exponentially over the past couple decades, especially as Manhattan real estate has become something only a Trump can afford.
Luckily, it also touts exceptional green space as well as one of the best views in all of New York, of the Manhattan skyline as seen from the other side of the East River.
Start your journey by taking the subway again, such as the F from Bryant Park (another must-see, by the way, for its stunning supersized trees rising against a backdrop of the iconic Empire State Building and other skyscrapers.)
For your money, you won’t have a better time than visiting the Brooklyn Promenade (a pretty park area alongside the river) and which is surrounded by gorgeous tree-lined streets. Nice cafes and restaurants dot the neighborhood, which is at once family-friendly and somehow still hip. You might spot a a celeb or two, and no one bothers them here.
For parks: Check out Prospect Park for kite flying and a green market, or even a game of tennis at night in a lighted court; or the popular Brooklyn Bridge Park, which is perfect for any romantics who instantaneously hear Gershwin music when they muse across the river.
- Autumn in New York City can be unpredictable. If you are travelling there in mid-October, expect daytime temps to be anywhere from 48 to 60 degrees, with overnight temps dipping into the high 30s or low 40s. It’s not uncommon, though, for there to be even cooler days. So pack accordingly. Do not make the mistake of bringing snowboots and the like, though. That’s ridiculous, and you’ll stand out like the tourist you are trying not to be!
- New York is expensive, even in Brooklyn and to a lesser extent Queens. Cut your travel costs dramatically by planning to eat all your lunches outdoors at the parks recommended here (or check out Riverside Park in Manhattan’s Upper West Side.) Even hitting a Whole Foods and grabbing fruit, cheese and bagels won’t run you more than $10 a pop. (There is a Whole Foods at Columbus Circle, which is on the Southwest corner of Central Park – recognizable by the statue of Columbus at the roundabout.)
- Bring an old-fashioned foldout New York map. Don’t rely on the GPS on your i-whatevers. OK? For one, maybe there will be a power outage, or your battery will die, or you simply can’t find a signal in the middle of a grove of maples. What-ever. A paper map (Millennials, Google it!) is not only more handy, but after your trip, when you see the little circles around favorite spots, you’ll beam.
Have fun on your trip! Take lots of pictures!