As the days shorten and temperatures drop, tourists from around the country flock to New York and surrounding areas for great autumn events and to see the Northeast leaves change from green to yellow, orange, and red. This gorgeous array of colors makes a perfect opportunity for a quick hike through forest trails or a drive over scenic byways.
The fall foliage season starts in late September and ends in late December. Leaves typically begin changing colors in early October, and the best time to see the most foliage is in mid-to-late October, and early November before winter chills set in. Plenty of beautiful places within a few hours of New York City display autumn colors between late October and early November, especially on Long Island, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) east of New York City. The Fall Foliage Report informs the public on how much of a color change there is on Long Island and other regions of New York state. Before heading out, confirm details on destination websites to ensure your plans are not affected by cancelations and closures.
The best way to see a wide variety of fall foliage is to visit one of Long Island's many arboretums and botanic gardens, which often feature trees and plants not found elsewhere on the island, giving you a great opportunity to see some unique colors.
With over 400 acres of formal gardens, trails, and historic buildings—including a Tudor-style mansion—Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park blazes with brightly colored trees in the fall. You can get there by car via Route 25A/Northern Boulevard, or take the Long Island Railroad to the Oyster Bay stop. The admission fee for a tour costs $10 for adults, $9 for seniors, and $5 for ages 12-17. This former Gold Coast of Long Island estate in Oyster Bay also hosts concerts in the summer and early fall.
When in Oyster Bay, you may also want to check out Sagamore Hill National Historic Site off Northern State Parkway or the Long Island Expressway. The 23-room Victorian mansion where U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt made his "Summer White House." Also, the Oyster Festival in late October is a free, family-friendly event on the waterfront. Enjoy unique seafood creations, as well as an oyster eating and shucking contest, pirate shows, arts and crafts, and more, usually at Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park.
LIU Post is a historic 1926 college campus located in Brookville, a village within Oyster Bay. The private university located off Route 25A/Northern Boulevard boasts more than 4,000 trees—125 of which are in the 40-acre LIU Post Community Arboretum. Some of the trees are highly rare—so there's plenty to see in the fall when the leaves start changing colors. Group arboretum tours with a horticulturalist may be reserved.
Each tree is labeled with information on the name and species, so you'll know which lovely leaves you're looking at as you walk along a self-guided, wheelchair-accessible trail around the main campus buildings. The arboretum is open to the public every day from dawn to dusk and is completely free of charge.
Bayard Cutting Arboretum State Park
This 691-acre state Bayard Cutting Arboretum State Park offers riverfront views of the fall foliage from along the Connetquot River in the community of Great River (within the town of Islip). Take a car to the park that's off New York State Route 27A, or ride an LIRR train to the Great River station.
Most trees are labeled for visitors' educational purposes. The Long Island park's goal is to encourage serenity, so no pets nor recreational activities such as picnics, sports, games, or bicycle riding are allowed. Like Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park, Bayard Cutting Arboretum State Park's centerpiece is a large Tudor-style mansion, which was built in the 1920s. Depending on the season, tours of the mansion are available. Exhibits, plays, and concerts have no entrance fee, but there is typically an $8 parking fee.
Heckscher State Park in East Islip next to the Bayard Cutting Arboretum allows grilling, canoeing, windsurfing, fishing, and other recreational activities, and offers large fields for soccer, cricket, lacrosse, and other sports. This park usually has vehicle parking fees of about $8-10 per car, depending on the date.
Sands Point Preserve Conservancy
Viewing fall foliage from afar is breathtaking. However, you can also check out the many gardens and nature trails on Long Island to see some places in Nassau and Suffolk that feature hikes under canopies of yellow, orange, and red leaves. Open all year during the daytime, Sands Point Preserve Conservancy in Port Washington off New York State Route 101 North features several Gold Coast mansions including Hempstead House and Falaise, which have guided tours. The admission cost at the preserve is $15 per car or free for members.
In addition, the more than 200-acre former estate has six marked trails that lead you through lush woods, fields, and to a beach on the Long Island Sound; along the way, take in memorable sights of lovely autumn leaves from the red maples, Norway maples, oak trees, and more.
While you are in Port Washington, take a walking tour of the waterfront. You can see the town dock and some local restaurants, relax under trees in Sunset Park, get inspired by the shops and eateries at Inspiration Wharf, and catch some views of Manhasset Bay.
Caleb Smith State Park Preserve
With almost 550 acres of a Nissequogue River watershed in Smithtown, a town in Long Island's North Shore, this pristine refuge offers a stunning view of autumn's colorful magic on its marked trails and beyond. If you're bringing the kids along, make sure to visit the Nature Museum/Visitor Center for natural history exhibits, and if you're into birdwatching, there are lots of opportunities in this outdoor venue. The serene Caleb Smith State Park Preserve on West Jericho Turnpike does not allow bikes, pets, or picnics. Environmental programs cost $4 for ages three and up, and are free for children age two and under. The vehicle entrance fee is $8.
As long as you are in Smithtown, take a guided tour of Blydenburgh Park district, on the National Register of Historic Places for its eight structures from the 18th century, including a mill complex and the Blydenburgh Farmhouse, all part of Blydenburgh County Park near Veterans Memorial Highway. Contact the park regarding potential entrance and parking fees.
Driving Route 25A
While hiking forest trails and wandering through lush botanical gardens may appeal to some, you can also witness the beautiful scenery of Long Island by taking the scenic routes crisscrossing the island instead of the major highways. Try a drive down Northern Boulevard, which is also known as Route 25A or NY 25A. The east-west route starts as 21 Street and Jackson Avenue at the Midtown Tunnel (I-495). Enjoy passing by lovely landscapes in areas including Cold Spring Harbor, Huntington, and other beautiful places. Northern Boulevard spans 73 miles (117 kilometers) from Queens to Calverton.