What to Do in Central Park: 19 Photo-Worthy Adventures for Every Season
A masterpiece by Frederick Law Olmsted, you could spend years exploring every crevice of Central Park.
This sprawling urban oasis is a sanctuary for flora, fauna, and of course many a flustered New Yorker. Tourists and locals alike make the pilgrimage to Central Park to bask in the glory of lush meadows, medieval-style castles, and picturesque lakes. However, Central Park NYC attractions go far beyond these man-made marvels. Follow along to discover the best things to do in Central Park every season.
From sun-soaked summer picnics and lazy scrabble games in Sheep’s Meadow to the icy thrill of figure skating at Wollman Rink, every month offers new Central Park things to see and do.
Trek through the wildest part of the park the Ramble for some mid-December exercise, or recreate your own When Harry Met Sally Moment when you people-watch and leaf peep at the Mall.
Don’t worry about what to do around Central Park, as the second you step foot into this institution of statues, gardens, and greenery, you’ll create your own magic Manhattan moment.
What to Do in Central Park
Ready to make your mark on New York City’s backyard? Get ready to take on over 800 acres of rambles, fields, and more when you devour our seasonal Central Park Guide:
Sizzling temperatures, sweaty subway rides, and the jingle of the Good Humor truck can only mean one thing – it’s summertime in New York City! Embrace the humidity and remember to hydrate, as you explore the best of Central Park during June, July, and August.
Climb up the Belvedere Castle
Designed by Calvert Vaux and Jacob Wrey Mould in 1867, the equal parts Gothic and Romanesque Belvedere Castle has been a staple of Central Park for well over a century. This iconic miniature castle is located atop the huge rock outcrop known as Vista Rock and is the second-highest natural point in Central Park.
The entire complex was designed as a place in which to enjoy sweeping views, making it a perfect photo-op. Soak in the scenery of Turtle Pond, the Great Lawn, and the Ramble before making your way to one of the Park’s visitor centers or the gift shop. If the building is open, be sure to mount the additional steps to the terrace for an even higher viewing point and sensational Central Park selfie opportunity.
Grab a Cocktail at the Loeb Boathouse
Pricey? Undoubtedly! But there’s no denying the Big Apple allure of a luxurious afternoon of aperitifs and appetizers at the Loeb Boathouse. Inject your summertime with a hint of history and class, when you dine at this landmark location.
Make a reservation* for an intimate lunch on their 80-seat outdoor patio or inquire about a boat rental. Slowly sip on your perfectly chilled Rose or gobble down a loaded lobster roll dressed in lemon aioli and chives. For an extra special treat, splurge on a Park Bench lemonade made with Vodka, and blackberry mint lemonade.
*Please note the restaurant is under renovation and is set to reopen with a reimagined menu in Fall 2024.
Picnic in Sheep’s Meadow
Picture perfect blue skies filled with cotton candy clouds plus ample space (over 14 acres) make Sheep’s Meadow the ideal site for a summertime picnic. Pack up a cooler of sandwiches, chips, and drinks, and get ready for the best lazy Sunday of your life. This grassy expanse can be found near the southwestern section of the park between West 66th and 69th Streets.
Originally designed as a reprieve from the stresses of urban life, indeed sheep once did graze here. Today the park’s pastoral landscape remains just as popular with humans looking to sunbathe, people watch, or simply toss around a frisbee. While the meadow may appear bucolic, like the rest of Central Park it was completely constructed. In fact, wooly sheep were brought in solely to keep the lawn well-manicured.
Shakespeare in the Park
What pairs better with the Bard than some balmy temperatures? A Central Park tradition, every summer Shakepeare enthusiasts and novices alike compete in a digital or physical lottery to score Shakepeare in the Park tickets. A free cultural program, the thrill of seeing Hollywood’s elite perform in Hamlet or the Tempest at the stunning Delacorte Theater is incomparable.
Run by the Public Theater, this celebration of art and culture for all has been running for over 60 years. Tickets to these masterpiece productions have included such heavy hitters as John Lithgow and Annette Bening. Obtain your own tickets through in-person distribution in the park, an in-person lottery at The Public Theater, a digital lottery with TodayTix, and an in-person standby line in Central Park.
Cozy cable-knit sweaters, the changing foliage of the west side highway, and the Union Square Farmers Market piled high with gourds. Every season in NYC is a delight, but autumn truly allows this city of concrete and steel to shine. Take a break from midday matinees and museum visits to appreciate the ample fall activities in Central Park:
People Watch in Central Park Mall
Stroll under a stunning canopy of golden orange Elm trees as you attempt to capture the magic of an autumnal visit to the Central Park Mall. Essentially a walkway leading to the beautiful Bethesda Terrace, this Central Park promenade runs from 66th to 72nd Street.
Designed as an ‘open-air hall of reception’ by Olmsted, it has remained eternally popular as both a meeting and gathering place. Grab a piping hot latte and people watch the skaters and street performers, or simply admire the fashionably elite.
Pose for a Photo at the Central Park Bridge or Bethesda Fountain
Whether you are popping the question or not, every Big Apple tourist or local deserves a fridge-worthy snap in front of the Central Park Bridge or the Bethesda Fountain. Glee and Avengers fans will instantly recognize the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain as the backdrop of pivotal silver screen scenes.
This gorgeous fountain makes for an ideal spot in which to soak in some late fall sunshine or appreciate the beauty of its neoclassical sculpture, known as Angel of the Waters. While there are a few bridges within the park’s confines, Central Park’s most iconic over-water structure is the Bow Bridge. Forever immortalized by postcards, paintings, and millions of proposals, this Victorian-era structure connects Cherry Hill and the Ramble. Watch the rowboats glide below, or whip out your phone to capture the staggering Fifth Avenue skyline.
Go on a Statue Hunt
Mounted soldiers, noble busts, and beloved childhood heroines. Within the grassy confines of Manhattan’s most popular park lies a treasure trove of monuments and statues. Shake up your average park plans when you go for a scavenger hunt of her most notable works. Personal favorites that make for great photos include:
- The Imagine Mosaic
- Alexander Hamilton Statue
- Alice in Wonderland
- Delacorte Clock
- Group of Bears
- Hans Christian Andersen
- Ludwig Van Beethoven Bust
Frigid temperatures and the addition of gloves, scarves, and beanies don’t need to signify an end to your Empire City exploring. While you might need to add some additional layers and plan for some hot chocolate breaks, Central Park in winter will leave you breathless.
Lean into winter traditions and perhaps even show off that triple axel or Lutz when you make the journey to Wollman Rink. For over 70 years skaters of all ages have laced up for hours of icy fun. Glide elegantly across the ice under a crispy winter sky and admire the fairytale-perfect NYC skyline in the background. An ideal family or date night activity, you can feel free to bring your own skates or rent.
Central Park Zoo
Wildlife in the middle of Manhattan? Get wild with your Big Apple adventure and go beyond subway rats and pigeons when you take advantage of the many indoor exhibits and displays of the Central Park Zoo. A haven for the animal-obsessed, little ones will be overjoyed to spot creatures ranging from penguins to snow leopards.
Don’t forget to stop by the Tisch Children’s Zoo to have a chance to hand-feed sheep, goats, zebu, and more. Warm up even more when you take in a thrilling show, such as the Polar Express at the 4-D Theater.
Searching for more winter activities while in New York? Check out our in-depth listings here.
Get your Blood Pumping at the Ramble
Rugged, wooded, and intricate, the design of the park’s most untamed area was intentionally mysterious. Created to challenge the visitor, the Ramble represents one of Olmsted’s most ambitious visions for the park. Drawing inspiration from both the Catskills and the Adirondacks, this spacious wooded area measures 36 acres.
Intrepid visitors can make their way through winding paths, trails, rustic bridges, streams, and dramatic outcroppings. Design your own Ramble stroll or arrive with binoculars for some unparalleled bird watching.
Blooming flowers and the slow melting of winter snow leave even the crankiest New Yorker in bright spirits. Celebrate January’s thaw with Central Park activities that herald in the promise of greener pastures.
Stroll through the Conservatory Garden
While the Conservatory Garden is exquisite year-round, this lauded center for plants, flowers, and landscape design is heaven come springtime. Consisting of six acres that showcase formal designs and floral displays, the garden is also a well-known destination for weddings.
Traipse through the French style North Garden which shows off with seasonal spring tulip displays. Or, take your time appreciating the symmetrical design and blooming crabapple trees of the Italian Renaissance-inspired Center Garden.
Cherry Blossoms at the Reservoir
Rosy-hued angel kisses that only appear once a year, there’s something so wistfully stunning about Central Park’s collection of Cherry Blossom Trees. Embrace the brevity of this spring tradition by swinging by the Reservoir, Cherry Hill, Pilgrim Hill, Great Lawn, and Cedar Hill, all areas where you can find high concentrations of these flowering delights.
Bring along some snacks and revel in a feast for all senses as you observe both Yoshino and Kwanzan Cherry Trees. Early to mid-April you’ll be able to spot the Yoshino trees which were a gift from Japan in 1912, while early May brings about the Kwanzan blooms.
Ride the Carousel
You’re never too old to act like a kid! Pose for a carousel photo and lean into the nostalgia of a classic Central Park ride this spring. Feel the wind in your hair as you bob up and down on this evergreen attraction which has been open since 1871. While the colorfully painted ride has received many reincarnations, the current carousel is one of the nation’s largest merry-go-rounds and displays 57 hand-carved horses and two decorative chariots.
Central Park Fun Things To Do
Still, looking for more ways to take a bite out of the Big Apple’s biggest playground? Traverse Central Park on two wheels, brush up on your NYC movie trivia, or admire a landbound giant Blue Whale with our other premier Central Park attractions, tours, and activities:
- American Museum of Natural History
- Central Park Bike Tours
- Central Park TV & Movie Sites Walking Tour
- NYC’s Central Park Walking Tour with a Private Guide
- The Essential Central Park Guided Walking Tour
New York City Hotels
New York, New York! The City so nice they named it twice. No matter if you are visiting Central Park or have a detailed Big Apple itinerary to fulfill, you’ll need to reserve your lodgings. Ensure you have a cozy room or spacious suite to return to after you conquer all the things to do in Central Park.
Scurry away for a catnap in boutique Upper West Side accommodations, or contrast the tranquil calm of the park with the buzz and excitement of Times Square lodgings. Delight in amenities such as complimentary breakfasts or state-of-the-art fitness centers. Perhaps splurge and treat yourself to sweeping city views and Frette linens. All of our New York City Hotels offer premier levels of style, comfort, and convenience.
The beating heart of New York has come to represent a microcosm of this city of motion. A leading tourist destination, this urban escape also allows New Yorkers to take a step back from the bustle and stress of city life.
Thanks to flawless design from Frederick Law Olmsted, this verdant space of wooded paths, gardens, and streams is able to offer everything from recreational activities to moments of serene solitude.
Spend hours searching for White Throated Sparrows in the Ramble, or take your time climbing to the top of Belvedere’s Castle.
Step up your courtship with a swoon-worthy row boat ride, or pause for a midday lemonade at the Boathouse cafe.
No matter whether you visit during Summer, Spring, Winter, or Fall every time of year brings new inspiration and invigoration to this heralded cosmopolitan habitat.
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