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New York Nature

In New York State, autumn is a beautiful season to get outdoors. As leaf peeping season approaches and peaks, with hints of cold weather ahead, allow yourself to bask in the glow, appreciate the brilliant colors, and enjoy being in nature.

Autumn displays its best finery in New York’s State Parks, National Historic Landmarks, wildlife refuges and nature preserves. You’ll find easy-to-challenging hiking trails and picnic sites by rushing streams. View a magnificent waterfall or a scenic overlook, just steps from your car; hike or ride horseback to secluded destinations. Or, watch the passing landscape from a bigger window, complete with meals, on the Saratoga & North Creek Railway.

Only-in-New-York annual events highlight specific wonders of nature, such as Raptor Day at Wave Hill Garden in the Bronx. Check out the Hudson Valley Ramble events: guided walks and kayaking tours are infused with river heritage and history. Further upstate, take a boat cruise to Boldt Castle and enjoy a wine festival and farmers market on Heart Island.

Bird watching enthusiasts can train their attention on the migrating flocks at Jamaica Bay and thrill to see soaring bald eagles at the Huyck Preserve. Nature preserves allow wildlife viewing in peaceful habitats: try Long Island’s Sand Point Preserve or the Adirondacks.

The Finger Lakes’ “Vistas to Vineyards” tour for two-wheeled wine enthusiasts combines fun with great exercise, too. Meander along the eight scenic routes by Lake Ontario and the Erie Canal -- they include bike trails through Amish country.

Many communities have designated bike paths and rail trails, and most State Parks offer trails for biking, hiking and sometimes horseback riding too. Reserve a post-Labor Day lakeside camping area – they often have boat launches and allow fishing. Visit the Catskill Forest Preserve or State Parks in Allegany and Letchworth for big picture views of nature’s beauty.

New York museums and nature centers offer activities both indoors and out. The Adirondack Museum and The Wild Center in Tupper Lake are well-known destinations; the Rochester Museum and Science Center has a planetarium. The Brooklyn Children’s Museum, Long Island’s Science Center and the Thousand Islands’ Aqua Zoo Aquarium are fascinating for the whole family.

Looking for unusual outdoor excursions? Tour Slabsides, the retreat of famed naturalist John Burroughs. Go geocaching near Watkins Glen State Park. Try your luck mining for Herkimer diamonds. Or attend a unique outdoor event at night: Night Lights at Griffis Sculpture Park illuminates nature and art, and Hyde Park holds a historic graveyard tour by lantern light, if you like your history on the spooky side.

Or, just enjoy a simple, fall kind of day. Pack a snack of New York State cheeses and apples from a farm stand, and maybe a cider donut, and take a hike. Classic!


Brooklyn Children’s Museum
145 Brooklyn Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11213
Nature events & exhibits, freshwater pond, saltwater beach, urban woodland & community garden

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge
Crossbay Boulevard
Jamaica Bay, Queens, NY
One of NYC’s best places to observe migrating birds; many special events; must-see for avian enthusiasts!

Wave Hill Garden and Cultural Center
West 249th Street and Independence Avenue
Bronx, NY 10471-2899
28-acre public garden; greenhouses; Fall events include Raptor Day, Honey Weekend and Enchanted Wave Hill Weekend


Belmont Lake State Park
Southern State Parkway
North Babylon, NY 11703
Boating, fishing, biking, trails, horseback riding; abundant wildlife and waterfowl

Sands Point Preserve 
127 Middleneck Road
Port Washington, NY 11050
Six marked trails of forests, meadows, fields, cliffs, pond, beach on Long Island Sound; habitats for a variety of plants and animals

Science Museum of Long Island
1526 North Plandome Road
Plandome, NY 11030
Explore science of the region; pre-register for hands-on weekday workshops


Hudson River Valley Ramble (weekends in September)
Locations all along the Hudson River
Events celebrate history, culture and natural resources of this National Heritage Area; hikes, bike rides, boating, river exploration & much more!

John Burroughs Sanctuary
Fall Slabsides Day (first Saturday in October)
Burroughs Drive
West Park, NY 12493
Special tours of rustic cabin retreat that inspired famous naturalist’s essays; 192-acre National Historic Landmark; wide variety of birds

St. James Historic Graveside Tours (October)
St. James Episcopal Church
4526 Albany Post Road
Hyde Park, NY 12538
Tour guides lead visitors by lantern light to celebrated churchyard; actors play illustrious “residents” from Hudson Valley’s past


Ashokan Center
477 Beaverkill Road
Olivebridge, NY 12461
Educational retreat center teaching about nature, history and the arts; community events include caring for the land, native plant & animal species; hiking trails

Catskill Forest Preserve
287,500 acres in Ulster, Greene, Delaware & Sullivan Counties
Hiking, camping, hunting, fishing, mountain biking, rock climbing, canoeing, fire towers; trail maps available

RamsHorn – Livingston Sanctuary
DuBois Road
Catskill, NY 12414
Bald eagles – and many other bird species – often spotted here; large tidal marsh; more than 3 ½ miles of trails; observation tower


Grafton Lakes State Park
100 Grafton Lakes State Park Way
Grafton, NY 12082
Fishing, boating; hiking, biking on 25 miles of nature trails; horseback riding; water-lovers paradise!

Saratoga & North Creek Railway (through October)
26 Station Lane
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866-6067
Saratoga Springs into Adirondack Park; beautiful vistas, fall foliage, meals en route

The Huyck Preserve & Lake Myosotis
5052 Delaware Turnpike
Rensselaerville, NY 12147
Bird watching, fishing, kayaking/canoeing, picnicking, nature walks


Adirondack Interpretative Center
5922 State Route 28N
Newcomb, NY 12852
Trails open daily, dawn to dusk; guided walks & other special programs

Adirondack Museum (through mid-October)
Routes 28N & 30
Blue Mountain Lake, NY 12812
22 modern exhibition galleries & historic buildings; covers relationship between people and the wilderness from boating to logging; indoor/outdoor kids’ activities

The Wild Center 
45 Museum Drive
Tupper Lake, NY 12986
Info & exhibits (indoors & out) about natural world and uniqueness of the Adirondacks


Aqua Zoo Aquarium
43681 Route #12
Alexandria Bay, NY 13607
50+ exhibits of fresh and saltwater fish, coral & invertebrates from all over the world

Boldt Castle (through mid-October)
Wine Festival and Farmers Market (September)
Heart Island
Alexandria Bay, NY 13607
Legendary castle, yacht house, garden & grounds on Heart Island; tours, special events & stunning views

Northern New York Agricultural Historical Society at Stone Mill (closes end of September)
30950 NYS Route 180
LaFargeville, NY 13656
Historic buildings & exhibits preserve regional artifacts; beautiful grounds


Chittenango Falls State Park
2300 Rathbun Road
Cazenovia, NY 13035
Picturesque 167-foot falls as centerpiece; hiking, fishing & picnicking too

Herkimer Diamond Mines
4601 State Route 28
Herkimer, NY 13350
Herkimer diamond prospecting; gem & mineral shop, restaurant, museum, camping

Otsego Lake
Cooperstown, NY 1336
Fishing with two boat launches (south & northeast sides of the lake); lake trout, walleye, perch, many other species


Cayuga Nature Center 
1420 Taughannock Blvd
Ithaca, NY 14850
Exhibits, programs, camps, nature hikes & more

Geocaching near Watkins Glen
Watkins Glen, NY 14891
Several sites; striking views, beautiful hikes, adventure gaming, exploring

Vistas to Vineyards Bike Tour
Corning, NY & Finger Lakes region
70-mile self-guided bike tour; lodging, meals & stops at parks, overlooks, vineyards


Letchworth State Park
Park entrances at Mount Morris, Perry, Castile, Portageville & Parade Grounds from Route 436
“Grand Canyon of the East,” three waterfalls, camping, 28 hiking trails, fantastic views

Orleans County Cycling Trails
Orleans County, NY
Eight routes, three difficulty levels & plenty of sightseeing along Lake Ontario, the Erie Canal, through Amish Country and more!

Rochester Museum & Science Center
657 East Avenue
Rochester, NY 14607
Planetarium, outdoor nature center & three floors of hands-on exhibits


Allegany State Park – Quaker Area
2373 ASP, Route 1, Suite 3
Salamanca, NY 14779
Two lakes, wonderful camping; fishing and canoe/kayak access; hiking & fall foliage!

Night Lights at Griffis Sculpture Park (October-November)
6902 Mill Valley Road
East Otto, NY 14729 ‎
250+ large-scale steel sculptures on 450 acres; hiking trails are illuminated with colorful and theatrical lighting

Panama Rocks Scenic Park (until mid-October)
11 Rock Hill Road
Panama, NY 14767
Wildlife galore; 300-year old hemlocks, towering rocks, cavernous dens, hiking trails


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