Central Park is a large park in the middle of Manhattan, spanning from 59th to 110th Streets (and Fifth to 8th Avenue). Constructed artificially, with bits of untouched nature here and there Central Park welcomes up to 42 million visitors a year. It’s no wonder that Central Park is known as the ‘beating heart of Manhattan’. The scenic drive-ways in Central Park are car free and the park offers a huge variety of attractions and activities. No matter the season, there’s always something to do.
Attractions in Central Park
There are many attractions in Central Park: you won’t be able to see everything on your first visit. I’ve put together a list of my favourite attractions so you can make the most of your time in the park.
The Great Lawn
The Great Lawn is a large field in the middle of the park (from 79th up to 86th Street). With baseball and basketball courts, in addition to space for numerous other sports. Free concerts are also held here during the summer months.
In 1980 Beatles icon, John Lennon, was assassinated in-front of his apartment block (the Dakota Building), just opposite Central Park. Strawberry Fields was designed after his death, and is a symbol of peace. Located on the spot in the park where he was always happy, fans leave flowers, poems and candles here every day in his memory.
West side, between 71st and 74th Street
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir
The reservoir was named after Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in 1994 as tribute to her great commitment to the city of New York. It was also her favourite place to go running. This is still a popular running spot, especially in the spring because the trees bloom beautifully. The whole loop is 1.5 miles.
85th to 96th Street, from east to west
Central Park Zoo with Children’s Zoo
Lions, monkeys, penguins and polar bears can all be found at Central Park Zoo. You may recognise this zoo as it was used as inspiration for the movie, ‘Madagascar’. There is also a special Children’s Zoo, where children can stroke the animals. Goats, sheep, cows and pot-bellied pigs can be seen up close.
East side between 63rd and 66th Street
Hours: winter 13:00 to 16:30, summer 10:00 to 17:00 and weekends 10:00 to 17:30
A castle was built in the 19th Century on top of Vista Rock, one of the non-artificial rocks in the park (which is 450 million years old!). Until the ’60s, this place was used by the New York Meteorological Observatory to predict the weather. Belvedere is Italian for ‘beautiful views’: the castle certainly does its name justice.
79th Street, in the middle of the park at Turtle Pond
Sheep Meadow is a lovely place for some r and r. Many New Yorkers come here in the summer to sunbathe, people watch and picnic. The skyscrapers peek out above the trees, which makes for a pretty picture. Until 1934, it was a pasture for sheep to graze.The shepherd lived in a nearby building which is now a famous restaurant, Tavern on the Green. Sheep Meadow is also the place where movies are screened outdoors, at the end of August. Admission is free.
West side, from 66th to 69th Street
Tavern on the Green
Tavern on the Green is a chic restaurant situated on the west side of Central Park. The menu focuses on using local, seasonal ingredients. You can have lunch or dinner here in a classic setting with a great view of the park. Tavern on the Green is a nice restaurant for a special occasion or romantic dinner for two.
West side, 67th Street
A beautiful garden, growing some of the flowers and plants mentioned in the works of William Shakespeare. There is a mulberry tree, said to be an offshoot of a tree planted by Shakespeare himself in 1602.
Shakespeare Garden is located close to the Delacorte Theater. From May to August his works are enacted here, during Shakespeare in the Park. This is a wildly popular series of performances, celebrities like Al Pacino, Meryl Streep and Natalie Portman have performed here over the years. Free tickets are available but you have to stand in line, on the day of the play. There are also a limited number of tickets for sale.
West side between 79th and 80th Street
Did you know that Central Park also has waterfalls? Not a lot of tourists know about them, they are beautiful, tranquil places. There are five waterfalls in total, all artificial and New York’s drinking water flows through them. Enter from the west-side of the park at 102nd Street and follow the flow called ‘the Loch’ (up to 106th Street).
Bethesda Terrace is the heart of Central Park. On the steps, you have a wonderful view of the lake and the Great Lawn. Under the stairs, due to the great acoustics, street performers often sing or play instruments. In the middle of the square is the Bethesda Fountain, one of the most famous fountains in the world. Also known as the Angel of the Waters, below the angel there are four cherubs which symbolise health, purity, temperance and peace.
Middle of the park, near 72nd Street
Opposite Bethesda Fountain, on the other side of the water, lies idyllic Loeb Boathouse, a place where you can rent rowing boats, bikes and gondolas. Of course, you can also just relax and enjoy a snack and drink with a fantastic view over the lake.
East side between 74th and 75th Street (dining only possible from April until November)
From the end of October to March, you’ll find two ice rinks in Central Park: the Wollman Rink (recreational) and the Lasker Rink (ice hockey and experienced skaters). You can purchase tickets in advance for the Wollman Rink.
Wollman Rink: 59th Street & 6th Avenue (stay right when you enter the park)
Lasker Rink: West side, 110th Street
During the summer months, ice skating gets replaced with ice (cream) eating as an amusement park is erected at the location of the Wollman Rink. Victorian Gardens is open from June to September and offers a wide assortment of rides, games, food and fun for the whole family.
59th Street & 6th Avenue (stay right when you enter the park)
Transportation in the Park
Of course, you can explore the park on foot, but there are several other ways to get around.
The best way to explore Central Park is by bike. Renting bikes in advance, is highly recommended; you pay less and are guaranteed a bike. Central Park has a one-way loop, making it very easy to cycle around the entire park.
Rowing and Bike Rental
Rowing a boat on the Central Park Lake is ‘classic New York’. Rent a rowing boat in Central Park if you want to do something special: romance guaranteed. You combine an hours rowing with a day’s bike rental. So, before and after taking to the water, you can explore the park and the rest of the city by bike.
I have to be honest, I hate pedicabs. They are too expensive, I’d rather rent a bike and bike myself. However, if you are going to rent a pedicab, I recommend booking it in advance via the below link. That way, you know exactly what you’ll be paying. I never recommend renting a pedicab on the spot. Please note: only two people will fit in one pedicab.
Horse Riding in Central Park
A very special and fun way to discover the park is on the back of a horse. A guide will ride in-front of you, on the bridle paths that lead you through the park. Horse riding in New York is a very special experience. It’s easy and safe, even when you’ve never even sat on a horse before!
Central Park Walking Tour
During this two-hour walk, you will learn about the interesting history of the park and its development. You’ll stop at famous film locations including the Wollman Rink, the Boathouse Café, Central Park Mall and Bethesda Fountain.
You will explore the park in a small group. The meeting place is at the corner of West 56th Street and 6th Avenue, just a few blocks from Central Park.
Other Fun Facts
- Over 250 movies have been filmed in Central Park
- Roughly 16 million New York apartments could fit in to Central Park!
- The park is larger than the Principality of Monaco
- To make the four roads that pass through the park, so many rocks had to be blown up that more gunpowder was used than at the Battle of Gettysburg, during the American Civil War