Central Park in Fall – Best Places to See and Photograph

Stunning Photography by Susan Portnoy

Updated Sept 2020

If I could only visit New York’s famous urban respite once a year to make photos, I’d choose Central Park in Fall.

In winter, New York is a snow-capped wonderland. In spring and summer, a flower lover’s delight. But Central Park in Fall is utterly magical. There’s nothing like wandering the park’s winding paths and verdant meadows in the midst of a kaleidoscope of color.

Below is a self-guided walking tour to some of the best Central Park photo spots to capture autumn views. While there are many places to enter, I’ve chosen to start at the park’s southeast corner, the area called “The Pond” at Fifth Avenue and 59th Street.

For the best experience, go early in the morning. In addition to the beautiful light, there’s a serenity that belies the park’s place in the center of one of the world’s most frenetic cities. By 10 am, the tourists, horse-drawn carriages, pedicabs, and street vendors have arrived, and though it’s still lovely, it’s far less serene.

Photographers: You’re going to want some wide-angle lenses for these views. I switch between my Canon 16-35mm f2.8, my 35mm f2.8 and my 24-105 f4.0 depending on what else I may want to shoot at the time.

The Pond’s southeast corner facing west toward the CNN towers

Fall Pictures Tour of Central Park

1) Begin at the southeast corner of The Pond. Here, you’re looking west across town toward Columbus Circle and the twin towers of the Time Warner Center.

Location: 59th Street and Fifth Avenue.

Gapstow Bridge - New York Central Park
Gapstow Bridge

2) Head north along the path with The Pond on the left. After a minute or two you’ll see the Gapstow Bridge in the distance, one of my favorite views and a popular Instagram spot.

Location: East Side at 62nd Street.

New York Central Park
A gorgeous wood duck screeches at a mallard that’s too close for comfort. I found these two with a flock of various other birds resting on the shore near Gapstow Bridge. Location: East Side at 62nd Street.

3) Keep your eyes on the edge of the pond as you walk. I found this gorgeous wood duck, (I think must have been a pet that was released, they’re not endemic to the area) with a flock of geese and various other birds resting on the shore near the base of Gapstow Bridge. No matter when I’ve visited, there’s always some wildlife in this area.

Location: East Side at 62nd Street.

Central Park - New York
From this view of the Gapstow Bridge, you can see the famous (or infamous) Plaza Hotel and other Fifth Avenue skyscrapers. This is the second bridge on this spot, the first was wooden and quickly deteriorated and was replaced in 1896. Location: East Side at 62nd Street.

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