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How to enjoy Philadelphia’s fall foliage

Philadelphia is currently in fall’s sweet spot — the temperature has cooled, pumpkin spice has hit the cafes, and the leaves have started to change from lush greens to deep yellows, oranges, and reds.

With all those typical autumn vibes, now is the perfect time to enjoy the colorful and fresh foliage.

“One of the great things about fall is that people look up to trees,” said Bryan Thompson-Nowak, the director of education at Morris Arboretum in Chestnut Hill.

A self-proclaimed “tree nerd” who loves fall, Thompson-Nowak says this is the time of year people are waiting for — when the fall color palette begins to appear. But he wasn’t sure how it would look this season.

Bryan Thompson-Nowak, director of education at Morris Arboretum, examines an Enkianthus tree changing in the fall.
Bryan Thompson-Nowak, director of education at Morris Arboretum, examines an Enkianthus tree changing in the fall. (Kimberly Paynter/WHY)

“After the drought that we’ve had all summer, a lot of us are a bit nervous,” he shared. These vibrant seasonal shades only arrive and last in the right conditions, and that includes the right amount of water.

Rain throughout the summer is ideal, but luckily there have been storms in recent weeks.

“That really helped the leaves actually get some color,” Thompson-Nowak explained. “If this drought had been prolonged, they would have just turned brown and fallen off.”

Autumn foliage of an Oakleaf Hydrangea at Morris Arboretum.
Autumn foliage of an Oakleaf Hydrangea at Morris Arboretum. (Kimberly Paynter/WHY)

Then there is the threat of frost.

But so far, temperatures have worked in Fall’s favor. That means Philly will have “great color” for several weeks, according to Thompson-Nowak, depending on the tree.

Philly is still in that precious window. So if you have an affinity for fall and its majestic colors, here are some tips from Thompson-Nowak on how to make the most of the foliage before it’s gone:

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Yes, it’s obvious, but get out there

“You can experience nature almost anywhere in Philly,” says Thompson-Nowak. From small neighborhood parks to larger gardens and arboretums, the city is full of outdoor spaces perfect for enjoying the autumn views. “You don’t have to drive or go too far.”

Fall foliage of a three-flowered maple tree at Morris Arboretum.
Fall foliage of a three-flowered maple tree at Morris Arboretum. (Kimberly Paynter/WHY)

There’s Bartram’s Garden in southwest Philadelphia, the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Tinicum near the airport, and the Awbury Arboretum in Germantown. The Wissahickon is also a popular option at this time of year.

But you don’t necessarily have to go into these big rooms, Thompson-Nowak emphasized. Any park, from Rittenhouse Square to Norris Square, will work if it’s near you.

All it takes is “some big trees and some big plants” to admire.

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