Autumn and New York City go together like apple pie and the Fourth of July and candied yams on Thanksgiving. They’re the Ross and Rachel of cities and seasons and boy, do they know it. Cut to early October and its trees are cloaked in crimson shawls, Halloween decorations and celebrations are in full swing (here’s looking at you, Night of the 1,000 Jack O’Lanterns) and the sweet smell of cinnamon can’t help but linger around coffee shops pumping out pails of pumpkin spice lattes. But beyond Manhattan, there’s a state just oozing in autumnal charm. From Brooklyn’s avenues of brownstones and botanic gardens to upstate New York, which easily rivals its New England neighbours with luscious leaf peeping scenery in the Catskills and Hudson Valley, autumn in New York will leave you thinking ‘Vermont, who?’
Autumn in New York must start in Manhattan. Architectural darling and epicentre of the city’s arts, parks, nightlife and shopping, Manhattan is more than happy to put its best foot forward when it comes to fall. Start in Central Park for a spot of leaf peeping and boat rowing (there’s even an arborist-approved foliage tracker you can download) before winding your way down to the village – Greenwich Village that is – for a slice of its bohemian coffee culture. If food is high on the agenda, the island’s network of open-air farmer’s markets more than do the job (our favourites are Union Square and Tompkins Square Park) with their stands upon stands of cinnamon doughnuts and freshly plucked apples. No place does the all-American Halloween-come-Thanksgiving experience quite like Manhattan either. Once Rockefeller rolls out its ice-skating rink, it’s pretty much a constant stream of seasonal events, from the West Village’s Halloween Parade and NYC Marathon to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and it’s larger-than-life Turkey flotilla.
Who needs Central Park when you’ve got Brooklyn and its brownstones? Synonymous with 19th century romanticism, it’s no wonder these auburn avenues have become an autumnal free-for-all with their complementary carpets of copper leaves and fabulously russet promenades. Leave the influencers behind at DUMBO (Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass) and head to leafy Williamsburg for a spot of thrifting – very Brooklyn – and a slice of pumpkin pie cheesecake at Junior’s – also very Brooklyn. This borough isn’t without its celebrations though. While its 78th Precinct puts up a fright with its Haunted House, and Madame Morbid tries to scare with spooky trolley tours, its botanical gardens put on a dazzling ‘Lightscape’ perfect for all the family. If organised fun isn’t your thing, there’s always Brooklyn Brewery. Keeping things mellow with a range of seasonal brews (we love Marzen Oktoberfest Lager and Post Road Pumpkin Ale), it’s just the spot to relax and see where the night takes you.
A New York city break doesn’t have to start and end in its five boroughs. If you have the time, do as locals do and head upstate to the Hudson Valley. Just 125 miles away from Manhattan, you’ll get a good feel for American road trips as you cruise up the Hudson River, past its smattering of small provincial towns, to Hudson; colloquially known as Brooklyn of the Hudson Valley. Yet despite its hipster label, this is a town that stays strictly in the country swing of things come autumn. From pumpkin patches and corn mazes to orchards filled with perfectly pink apples, you’ll feel as if you’ve just walked onto the set of Gilmore Girls. And given that New York grows more apple varieties than any other state, there’s no better way to enjoy autumn in New York than with a freshly pressed apple cider at one of its lively cider houses.
Sweater weather’s in full swing and we know just the place – the Catskill Mountains. Just west of Hudson, this beloved patch of upstate New York truly comes into its own in October and November. Watch the autumn leaves fall and drift into place as you speed through Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway, stopping by historical hamlets and small towns for a cup of hot apple cider. Bed down at bucolic lodges complete with complimentary s’mores kits and spend crisp autumnal days with your head in the hills on trails up summits of some of the Catskill’s highest peaks. There’s more to these hills than hiking though. From farm-to-table culinary experiences outside Livingstone Manor to horse riding, apple picking and annual autumn festivals, it’ll be hard not to fall for autumn in New York.
Written by Naomi Pike | Header image by Faustine Poidevin