Finally, it’s fall—the trees are about to be ablaze with color, and leaf-peeping stunning fall foliage is definitely on the brain. While making a weekend of it (Vermont, we see you) is fun, packing up for a mini-vacay isn’t so easy. So why not cross the bridge for the day into the Hudson Valley, which boasts some of the most spectacular leaves of the season? Besides being an Instagram-worthy day trip, these family-friendly spots also have spirited and seasonal-themed events, so you won’t hear the “I’m bored” refrain. But make plans soon—like the season, the peak leaves are fleeting, so best to go in the next few weeks. And if you want to stay closer to home, there are plenty of places to peep fall foliage in NJ, too. (feature photo credit: istock.com/Ultima_Gaina)
Here are 4 family-friendly spots for leaf-peeping in the Hudson Valley
Take a hike at Bear Mountain State Park in Rockland County, NY
If your family loves adventure, the hiking and biking trails at Bear Mountain are prime spots to marvel at the varying shades of fiery leaves. You’ll be rewarded when you reach the top—the Perkins Memorial Tower offers breathtaking 360-degree views of rolling hills and the Hudson. Afterward, head to the Trailside Museum and Zoo, where you can check out animals like bears, coyotes, and reptiles or take a walk through the butterfly garden. On October 28, Boo at the Zoo offers lots of Halloween spooky fun, including making Halloween bear treats, which zookeepers feed to the bears while kids watch from the sidelines.
See pumpkins ablaze near FDR State Park in Westchester County
Fall leaves are in full view at FDR State Park, a tree-dense park about 40 miles from New York City. Pack your lunch and plan to spend hours here among the picnic areas, a playground that includes rock climbing walls and swings, and scenic views of beautiful Lake Mohansic and the Crom Pond.
Before you head back, a must-see is the Great Jack-O-Lantern Blaze at Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson, NY. It’s a spectacular display of over 7,000 hand-carved Jack-O-Lanterns that runs through the end of November. Your little ghouls and goblins will gush over each pumpkin-carved area, from a twirling pumpkin Ferris wheel to a gourd-eous circus sideshow. Plan to spend about 90 minutes walking through it and enjoying the Museum of Pumpkin Art, devoted to the Jack-O-Lantern. The Blaze sells out some weekends, so buying tickets ahead of time is best.
Stroll over the walkway at the Hudson State Historic Park in Dutchess County
For a truly breathtaking landscape of every shade of yellow, orange, red, and green you can imagine, head up to Hudson State Historic Park spanning the Hudson River between Highland, NY, in Ulster County, and Poughkeepsie, NY, in Dutchess County.
The park and walkway are accessible from both sides of the river. Standing 212 feet above the water and spanning 1.2 miles, it’s the longest elevated pedestrian bridge in the world. You can ride a glass elevator up to the park or down to the Poughkeepsie waterfront, bringing you to the most colorful trees in the area. While you’re there, stop by the Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum, which features hands-on exhibits and programs for the whole family, like Toddler Tinker Time, where docents host an interactive STEAM-inspired story.
Lush landscapes, leaf-peeping, and LEGOLAND in Orange County
Hike through a watershed for millions and an outdoor recreation area at Sterling Forest State Park. This deep-forest habitat has helped maintain the survival of a variety of hawks to the black bear, and it is a beautiful location to take in the colors of autumn. For a spirited add-on, book a night at the LEGOLAND® New York Resort for Brick-Or-Treat. Their fall events are full of Halloween fun using your favorite bricks as your kids go on rides and watch shows with a backdrop of flaming leaves. Or, if you are looking for a picture-perfect pit stop, stop by the Moodna Viaduct Trail. You can spot it by zeroing in on the iconic iron railroad trestle across Moodna Creek, and with the blazing background, it’s an ideal spot for snapping photos for your fall foliage ‘gram feed (and happened to be the setting for a George Clooney film).
Which spots will you visit this fall? Tell us in the comments!
Become an NJMOM Insider! For all the best things to do with your family around New Jersey, be sure to sign up for our weekly newsletter delivered right to your inbox each week, and don’t forget to tag your photos #NJMOM and @njmom for a chance to be featured on our social media.