Things to Do in Central Park: The Complete Visitor's Guide

March 22, 2019

Central Park is an escape from the concrete jungle and fast pace of Manhattan. With seemingly endless things to do in Central Park, it comes as no surprise that the sprawling natural space welcomes more than 40 million visitors each year and is a top destination for most NYC tourists.

Whether you need a break from the city or want to see one of the world’s most iconic parks, make the most of your trip with the most popular things to do in Central Park

Belvedere Castle

Central Park Attractions

While exploring all 843 acres of Central Park, you’ll stumble upon towering statues, quaint cottages, glistening lakes, and so much more. Plus, the park is home to attractions from rock star dedications to an entire zoo!

Don’t miss your chance to visit top Central Park attractions including:

The Central Park Statues

Throughout the park, you’ll find 29 mesmerizing statues. These works of art depict notable figures including Ludwig van Beethoven, Alexander Hamilton, Balto, and Daniel Webster, along with fictional characters such as Alice in Wonderland and Mother Goose. See how many statues you can identify during your trip!

Strawberry Fields

Dedicated to John Lennon, Strawberry Fields is a tranquil area of the park, often visited by lifelong fans of The Beatles. On top of the blooming flowers all around, guests can see the Imagine mosaic and take pictures.

Belvedere Castle

Belvedere Castle was created in 1869 as an observational point for the park. This iconic castle is also where the National Weather Service takes regular measurements of New York's weather.

*Belvedere Castle is currently undergoing renovations and will be open to the public sometime in 2019.

Bethesda Fountain

Located on the north side of 72nd Street in the middle of the park, visiting and taking pictures with the Bethesda Fountain is among the most popular things to do in Central Park. The fountain is dedicated to the Croton water system, which brought fresh water to NYC in 1842.

Bow Bridge

Have you seen all those gorgeous bridge shots from Central Park? Chances are those pictures are taken at Bow Bridge. A fun fact, the bridge is named after the shape of a violin or archery bow.

PS: If you’re visiting as a couple, this is one of the most romantic spots in the entire city.

Conservatory Garden

Serving as Central Park’s formal garden, this six-acre garden is found on Fifth Avenue between 104th and 105th Streets. The Conservatory Garden includes smaller gardens themed after Italian, French, and English themes.

Heckscher Playground

Of the many playgrounds in the park, Heckscher Playground is the oldest and largest. Built in 1927, the 1.8-acre playground features several play spaces for kids including slides, mazes, and a water feature.

Lasker Pool

Lasker Pool is among the best things to do in Central Park during both the summer and winter! In the summer, go for a swim in the giant pool. During the winter, go ice skating as the pool transforms into a rink for the season.

Loeb Boathouse

The Loeb Boathouse serves several purposes for Central Park guests. Rent a rowboat and row out onto the picturesque lake. Or, hire an authentic Venetian gondola ride. Plus, visitors can also grab a meal inside the historic boathouse.

The Ramble

Spanning approximately 36 acres, the Ramble is a forest area where guests can roam through for peace and quiet or to become one with nature. While you’ll feel completely enveloped in the great outdoors, know that it is almost entirely manmade!

exterior view of red and yellow tulips in Shakespeare Garden Central Park in NYC, New York, USA

Shakespeare Garden

Named after the famed playwright, the Shakespeare Garden in Central Park is a four-acre space featuring flowers from his poems and plays. Tourists prefer to visit this area in the spring and summer when all the flowers are in full bloom.

Central Park Zoo

Quite possibly one of the most frequented things to do in Central Park, the Central Park Zoo is a must if you’re visiting the park for the first time. Inside, you’ll find educational exhibits on animals including sea lions, snow leopards, lemurs, and more. There’s also a children’s zoo with hands-on opportunities for the little ones.

Victorian Gardens

Did you know Central Park is home to a small amusement park? Victorian Gardens opened in 2003 as the summertime attraction on Wollman Rink. Similar to a classic carnival, the amusement park offers rides, concessions, shows, and more for kids and families.

Wollman Rink

Speaking of Wollman Rink…

Every winter, NYC visitors and locals alike flock to Wollman Rink to go ice skating. Ice skating in Central Park is a longstanding city tradition, so get in on the fun this winter.

Delacorte Music Clock

Located inside the Central Park Wildlife Conservation Center at 64th Street and 5th Avenue, the Delacorte Music Clock is a beloved monument. Every day on the hour and half hour, the clock chimes and plays seasonal songs and nursery rhymes from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm.

Central Park Carousel

The Central Park Carousel has been a park staple since 1871. Yet, the current carousel is the fourth iteration. The first two were unfortunately burned down. However, the carousel is a whimsical attraction kids and adults both enjoy.

North Meadow Butterfly Gardens

Over on the North end of the park, visitors will find four butterfly gardens. The gardens serve as a safe haven for migrating butterflies and seek to help repopulate and maintain NYC’s butterfly population. Visit the gardens in spring to make the most of your time in the gardens.

sun shining through trees over central park in nyc

Tours of Central Park

It comes as no surprise that some of the top things to do in Central Park include tours. After all, with 843 acres to explore, the park is filled with history, fun facts, and secret spots.

If you’d like to learn more about Central Park, reserve your spot for one of these tours.

Walking Tours

Fortunately for visitors, there is a walking tour for almost everything in Central Park. Whether you want to know about the movies filmed here, the history of the park, or even about the architecture, there’s a tour for that.

Should you choose to go on a walking tour, book your spot in advance and wear comfortable shoes. These tours are walking tours after all!

Bike Tours and Rentals

To see as much of Central Park as possible on a single tour, consider reserving a spot on a bike tour. These tours are led by local tour guides who know the ins and outs of Central Park’s roadways, tunnels, and attractions.

Similar to walking tours, you’ll want to dress appropriately for the weather and wear comfortable shoes.

If you’d rather explore Central Park on your own, you can also rent a bike from several nearby shops.

Horse-Drawn Carriage Rides

You’ve seen them in classic films and romantic movies, now it’s your turn to ride the horse-drawn carriages around Central Park. These leisurely rides through the park are available year-round. Often, your carriage driver will be more than willing to provide insight on Central Park and Manhattan.

Keep in mind, not all carriage rides are priced the same. Most ride prices are negotiated with the drivers themselves, while others are set in stone. Ask about the price before you hop in the carriage!

Photography Tours

If you fancy yourself a budding photographer, sign up for a photography tour of Central Park. You’ll visit the park’s most stunning destinations and monuments for the perfect photo opportunities. Along the way, your guide will also share photography tips and information about the park.

Ice skating on Wollman Rink is by far one of the best things to do in Central Park

Central Park Activities

On top of visiting the renowned attractions and embarking on a tour, there are so many entertaining things to do in Central Park, like these popular activities:

Lounging on the Lawns

With so much green space, NYC visitors and locals alike love to sunbathe, lounge, or have a picnic on the lawns. Pack a few snacks, a blanket, and perhaps a good book and make your way to the lawn of your choice for a relaxing time. Many visitors also bring along yard games and sports equipment such as frisbees, soccer balls, and baseball gloves.

A few of the top lawns include the Great Lawn, Sheep Meadow, Cedar Hill, and North Meadow.

Go to a Nearby Museum

As you explore Central Park, consider taking a trip to one of the nearby museums.

The American Museum of Natural History is located on the west side of Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art is on the east. Other close by museums include:

  • The Guggenheim
  • Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum
  • New York Historical Society
  • American Folk Art Museum
  • Asia Society and Museum

Bring Fido

If you’ve brought your dog to New York City, Central Park is the perfect place to go for a walk. The dog-friendly park has 23 spaces where dogs are welcome, including Harlem Meer, East Meadow, Cedar Hill, and Mineral Springs.

If you wish to have your dog off-leash, visit the park before 9:00 am or after 9:00 pm. Otherwise, dogs must be leashed at all times during those hours.

In addition, the park also has 21 dog-friendly water fountains for Fido to hydrate at!

Take an Exercise Class

Those who grow tired of their hotel or apartment complex’s fitness center will enjoy a trip to Central Park. You can run, walk, or bike along the pathways, meditate or do yoga in the fields, or join in an exercise class.

Central Park offers several types of fitness classes, some of which are even free! Take a look at the class schedule and participate in pilates, yoga, HIIT, and other types of exercise classes while you visit the park.

exterior view of the Loeb Boathouse and water in Central Park NYC, New York, USA

Dining in Central Park

It’s easy to work up an appetite while discovering all that Central Park has to offer. If you haven’t packed a picnic or brought your own snacks, don’t fear! Central Park has several places to grab a bite to eat.

From full-service dining at the Loeb Boathouse to a quick snack at Harlem Meer Snack Bar, there’s a dining establishment for everyone at the park. Plus, there are several concession carts selling everything from pretzels to ice cream located throughout the park, too.

SummerStage NYC / Facebook

Events, Concerts, and Performances in Central Park

With 843 acres to use, Central Park is also one of the hottest performance venues in the city. Several concert series and shows make going to a performance among the most entertaining things to do in Central Park.

A few of the top events throughout the year include:

Depending on the event or festival you wish to attend, you may need to purchase tickets in advance. For certain events, such as Shakespeare in the Park, tickets are available via a particular system and sell out fast! Be prepared if you plan to attend one of the many popular events in the park.

What are Your Favorite Things to Do in Central Park?

From relaxing on the grass to taking a tour or playing in a baseball game, there are so many things to do in Central Park for every type of visitor. What are some of your favorite things to do in the park? Let us know!

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