If I could only visit New York's famed Central Park once a year, I would choose a day in the Fall.
Yes, in Winter it's a snow-capped wonderland. In Spring and Summer, a flower lover's delight. But in the Fall, it's utterly magical. There's nothing like wandering the park's winding paths and verdant meadows in the midst of a kaleidoscope of color.
Wanting to see everything at its most vivid, I went at sunrise on a cloudy day so the colors of the leaves would really pop. I love the park in the early morning. Besides 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 a.m., the tourists, horse-drawn carriages, pedicabs and street vendors have arrived, and though it's still lovely, it's far less serene.
If you're heading to the Big Apple in the near future, make your first stop Central Park, its Autumn glory won't last for long. With every gust of wind, thousands of leaves fall. Soon the trees will be barren and stripped of their glow.
For those not planning a visit, I've included a few pics from my stroll. These may change your mind.
A gorgeous wood duck screeches at a mallard that's too close for comfort. I found these two and with a flock of various other birds resting on the shore near Gapstow Bridge. Location: East Side at 62nd Street.
A young couple walk across the Sheep's Meadow heading east. The meadow typically closes between mid-October and May, but the recent record-setting temperatures have given park-goers a reprieve. Just west of the meadow you'll find Tavern on the Green which rests on the spot where 200 sheep used to graze in 1864, hence the name. In later years, the meadow was used for concerts, protests and family gatherings. In 1969, the moon landing was televised here. Location: West Side from 66th to 69th Streets.
A gorgeous tree I found in the Ramble. I love the graphic quality of the limbs mixed with the delicate leaves. The Ramble was one of the first areas of the park to be built and except for the bedrock it's completely man-made. There are numerous paths to enjoy, and many species of birds flitting between the trees. Location: Mid-Park from 73rd to 79th Streets.
Skaters at Wollman rink reveled in the recent heat wave, practicing their jumps and spins in t-shirts. A year ago, it was 30 degrees cooler. Location: East Side between 62nd and 63rd Streets
After a dip, this mallard -- one of 240 migratory birds that visit the Pond each year -- flaps its wings to shake off the water. Central Park South between Fifth and Sixth Avenues.
Completed by 1862, the Winterdale Arch that carries the West Side Drive at 81st street and has the largest span of all the stone-and-brick bridges in the park. After years of traffic accidents damaging the arch's railings, the Central Park Conservancy restored them in 1993. Prior to that they were missing for over 50 years. Location: West Side at 82nd Street.
Even though this path along the Pond is only yards from the chaos of Central Park South, it's position below street level muffle the sounds of the City to almost a whisper. Location: Central Park South between Fifth and Sixth Avenues on the south side.
A runner's playground with a track that spans its circumference (1.58 miles), the Reservoir is 40 feet deep and holds a billion gallons of water. Originally, it provided water to the City when the Croton Water system was shut down for maintenance every year for two weeks. Today, with the increase in population, experts think the water wouldn't last more than four hours. Yikes! Location: 85th Street to 96th Street, from east to west.
Tiny sparrows enjoy the rain and seeds from the plants that flank the stone steps in Shakespeare's Garden. Here you'll find flowers and plants mentioned in the playwright's poems and plays. If you're familiar with the Bard, you'll recognize the quotes scattered on small bronze plaques throughout the garden's four acres. Location: West Side between 79th and 80th Streets.
On my way north, I couldn't resist checking out the Hernshead on the Lake, an outcropping of rocks where birds of all kinds tend to congregate. You'll find it by entering the park at 72nd Street West and heading north. Location: West Side between 75th and 76th Streets.
A rocky area at the southeast corner of the Sheep's Meadow is a perfect spot for photos and selfies. Location: West Side from 66th to 69th Streets.
In Fall, it's worth a stiff neck to enjoy the canopy of colors above.
A view from the top of the Dipway Arch which runs along West Drive. If you follow the path in the photo north, you'll run into the Park's legendary carousel. Location: Mid-Park at 60th Street
Another view of the Pond at the south-east end of the park. Reflected in the water are the twin towers in Columbus Circle. The left houses Time Warner's global headquarters, the right the Mandarin Oriental. Location: Central Park South between Fifth and Sixth Avenues on the east side.
I wasn't the only one who found the Park at sunrise preferable. Taken on one of the many paths winding through the Ramble. Location: Mid-Park from 73rd to 79th Streets closer to 79th.
A rustic wooden bench near Belvedere Castle is perfect place for a chat with a friend or curling up with a good book. In the background, the impressive high rises that line Central Park West. Location: Mid-park at 79th Street, just north of the castle.
As small bridge in Shakespeare's Garden. Location: West Side between 79th and 80th Streets near the Swedish Cottage.
Millions of gold, red and yellow leaves blanket the Sheep's Meadow. Location: West Side from 66th to 69th Streets.
A wide-angle view of the tree in the 4th picture (above ). I just loved the elegance and curves of the trunk and limbs. Location: Mid-Park from 73rd to 79th Streets.
The Gapstow Bridge from the path on the east side of the Pond. One of my favorite photos from that day's wanderings. Location: East Side at 62nd Street.
This article originally appeared on The Insatiable Traveler.