While we’re big supporters of enjoying the great outdoors and pristine national parks, especially when it comes to fall foliage, there’s something to be said for leaf peeping amid skyscrapers. If you haven’t been able to explore some of the country’s big cities, you might not know that large parks lie within city limits or that greenways offer the perfect escape into nature. These outlets have made cities both more livable and more beautiful—and they’ve also provided a space for trees to show off their vibrant colors.
Before you head out to the countryside or forest to get a look at fall foliage, consider a trip that’s a bit different. Visit one of these 10 cities for urban leaf peeping and experience fall color like never before.
The big apple is famous for a whole lot—world class dining, theatre and holiday celebrations, for starters—but when it comes to leaf peeping, the northern part of the state gets all the attention. Sure, the Catskills and Adirondacks feature breathtaking fall foliage, but city-dwellers can find fantastic displays without leaving the metro area—or even the island of Manhattan. Two top spots for catching changing leaves in Manhattan are Inwood Hill Park and Central Park, but there are several other spots in Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx.
The capital of country music, Nashville’s charm may begin with music, but it doesn't end there. Fall is the perfect time to visit this southern city, as the weather cools from the highs of summer, early fall music festivals are a highlight and the foliage is not to be missed. Two of the best viewing spots, not far from downtown are Shelby Bottoms Greenway and Radnor Lake State Natural Area.
Celebrated for “coolness” and non-conformity, this city may be the biggest in all of Oregon, but it’s laid back vibe, walkability and access to the great outdoors make it feel more like a big town. As people hear about Portland, it’s been attracting more visitors and there’s no time to visit like the fall. Although the city is surrounded with stunning wilderness, you don’t have to wander far to find fantastic foliage displays. The city’s renowned Japanese Garden and the Lone Fir Cemetery are both home to colorful leaf displays and if you’re looking for more leaves, local trails are another excellent option.
The capital of the nation may seem like it’s all business, but when it comes to enjoying nature inside of a major city, D.C. is hard to beat. Among the many options inside and surrounding the city, Rock Creek Park and the National Arboretum are two of the best. The 1,700-acre Rock Creek Park offers seemingly endless forest and the National Arboretum is a lesser-known gem that’s well worth a visit—especially in the fall.
Likely best known as an Olympic host, Salt Lake City also boasts some of the best access to the outdoors and one of the fittest populations in the country. The proximity to ski resorts and preserved areas draws many people out of city limits, but natural beauty can also be found minutes from downtown. Those in search of fall colors should visit either Sugar House Park or Dimple Dell Regional Nature Park.
Considering it’s location in New England, it’s no surprise that Boston is home to some fantastic displays of changing leaves. While many people come through and leave the city, seeking a more natural landscape, Boston has a lot to offer in the way of leaf peeping. Two big, bright venues, come October, are Boston’s Public Garden and the Arnold Arboretum, both of which are free to enter and enjoy.
Set in the midst of five different climate zones, Denver residents and visitors are surrounded by one of the longest fall foliage seasons in the country. If you’re lucky enough to have a car, there’s no limit to the wilderness you can explore, but if you’re staying in the city, there’s still plenty of fall color to keep you occupied. Washington Park is one of the most centrally-located options and cyclists will love Cherry Creek Bike Trail, which starts in downtown and ends 40 miles later in Cherry Creek State Park.
The anchor of the midwest, Chicago might not be the first place you think of when it comes to viewing fall foliage, but this city has plenty of top leaf peeping spots. Wander the botanic garden, visit Lincoln Park, check out the Morton Arboretum or, if you’re looking for true urban foliage, get to the 24.5-acre Millennium Park. Boasting skyscraper views behind a row of maple, hawthorne and elm, Millennium Park is a natural escape amid an electric city.
Visit Seattle for the rich art and music scene, the incredible new restaurants or the nearby outdoor adventure, but stay for the stunning fall foliage displays. When it comes to top viewing spots, the 230-acre Washington Park Arboretum is pretty tough to beat. Walk along the leaf-laden paths, see ponds reflecting the bright hues from the trees and make a special stop in the Japanese Tea Garden.
This picturesque city, set in northern California, is on the top of many traveller’s lists, but it’s not generally recognized for it’s fall foliage. While the whole city may not be awash in vibrant fall color, there are a few spots that offer brilliant hues with a great backdrop. Visitors should head to Golden Gate Park, where they’ll find late-season fall color—particularly in the botanical garden and the Japanese tea garden (which is the oldest of it’s kind in the U.S.).