An urban oasis in the heart of New York City, Central Park the largest public park in Manhattan. Packed full of beautiful gardens, gleaming statues, and exciting museums and attractions, as well as the lake, ponds, and even its very own castle, no trip to the Big Apple is complete without a trip to this iconic 843-acre park.
Table of contents
- Central Park History and Facts
- Getting to Central Park
- Central Park Things to Do, Landmarks, and Attractions
- Best Concerts and Events in Central Park
- Best Restaurants in and Near Central Park
- Best Tours to Experience Central Park
- Top 10 Hotels Near Central Park
- Final Thoughts
Table of Contents
- Central Park History and Facts
- Getting to Central Park
- Central Park Things to Do, Landmarks, and Attractions
- Best Concerts and Events in Central Park
- Best Restaurants in and Near Central Park
- Best Tours to Experience Central Park
- Top 10 Hotels Near Central Park
- Final Thoughts
Central Park History and Facts
Covering approximately 1.3 square miles of prime New York City landscape, Central Park was first opened in the winter of 1859 and was designed to improve public health.
It was the first major landscaped park anywhere in America. It was once home to 1600 African-Americans who lived in a small community called Seneca Village, and from the 1860s until the early 20th century, sheep grazed within the park.
Going back even further to 12,000 years ago, Central Park was covered with glaciers. As they melted, they left behind a dramatic landscape that lived on to become the rocks and boulders that the park is so famous for today.
Central Park is no small oasis either, as its considerable boundaries make it large enough to be a small country in its own right. To put it into perspective, the park is larger than the Vatican City and almost 6 times bigger than Monaco.
Getting to Central Park
Central Park is so vast that it even has main roads running through it, with 66th, 72nd, 86th, and 96th Streets running crosstown through the park. Cars are only allowed to drive through the park during certain times of the day and night, and regulations differ for each individual route. The speed limit in Central Park is 25 mph in all areas unless otherwise indicated
There are an impressive 23 separate entrances to the park that spans the entire Upper West Side, and there are 4 further entrances on the north end of the park. As it covers such a vast area of the city, there are numerous ways to reach many of the different entrances by subway and bus.
Given the sheer size of the park, several different subway stations offer access to Central Park:
- N, R, Q Trains — trains stop at 57th Street and 7th Avenue
- 2, 3 Trains — trains run both north and south with stops at 59th Street and Columbus Circle, as well as stops along Broadway at 72nd, 96th, and 110th Streets
- B, C Trains — trains run both north and south along Central Park West, with stops at 72nd, 81st, 86th, 96th, 103rd, and 110th Streets
- A, B, C, D, 1 Trains — all trains stop at 59th Street/Columbus Circle; the 1 train also makes stops along Broadway at 66th, 72nd, 79th, 86th, 96th, 103rd, and 110th Streets
The park is serviced by a large number of routes and bus stops, including:
- M10 — running along the west side, the M10 goes north and south along Central Park West
- M1, M2, M3, M4 — running along the east side, all of these buses run south along 5th Avenue and north along Madison Avenue
- M57, M66, M72, M79, M86, M96, M106, and M116 — these crosstown buses run from west to east and east to west along 57th, 66th, 72nd, 79th, 86th, 96th, 106th, and 110th Streets
If you are traveling onwards from a railway station, you can take any of the following buses:
- From Penn Station — take the M20 bus from W. 34th Street station heading towards Lincoln Center to Central Park South near Columbus Circle
- From Grand Central Station — take the Q32 bus from Madison Avenue and E. 42nd Street station toward Jackson Heights, Queens; go west on E. 59th Street until you come to 5th Avenue and Central Park South
Hot Tip: You can get a bus map and schedules for the area from the MTA website.
If you choose to drive into Manhattan, traffic is very heavy most times of the day and night.
Most of the streets that border the park offer free and legal parking, but be sure to read the respective street signs for individual parking regulations. It can also be tough to find a free space. You may need to drive around several times before you get lucky.
Metered parking is available on either side of the park. You can park for 1-12 hours and prices vary depending on the street you are parked on. From 96th to 200th Street, the metered rate is $1.50 per hour, but below 96th Street, the rate is higher at $3.50 per hour.
NYC meters accept coins, and most will also now accept credit cards. You can also pay to park using a prepaid NYC Parking Card.
There are parking garages in many locations around the park. Parking rates will vary depending on location but can range from $22-$66 per hour.
For more information about parking near Central Park, click here.
Central Park Things to Do, Landmarks, and Attractions
The park is packed full of things to see and do. Here are some of the very best to check out during your visit.
Museums and Attractions
Located in Central Park West, just between 77th and 81st Streets, the American Museum of Natural History is the largest natural history museum in the world. Visitors come to explore over 2 million square feet of specimens and artifacts. The museum is also home to the Hayden Planetarium, the LeFrack Theater (which shows IMAX films), and The Butterfly Conservancy.
The museum is open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:45 p.m every day of the week.
Covering 6.5 acres, Central Park Zoo is home to over 150 different species of animals, which can be seen in both exhibits and natural-looking habitats. Visitors come to see the state-of-the-art facilities that include a sea lion pool and tank in the center courtyard, a snow leopard enclosure, and a full program of events that change with the seasons. The park is open all year round.
Over a million visitors come to experience the zoo and catch up with the animals, making it one of the most popular attractions in all of New York.
The zoo is open from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m every day of the week.
Tucked away within the main zoo, the Tisch Children’s Zoo is a unique attraction that is designed specifically with young children in mind. Named after one of its biggest supporters and contributors, businessman Laurence A. Tisch, the Children’s Zoo, has a small petting zoo that allows kids to feed and touch goats, sheep, cows, pigs, and other small furry creatures.
There are also daily shows performed by the actors from the Acorn Theater as well as plenty of interactive displays and statues to help little ones learn about the animal kingdom. Entrance to the Children’s Zoo is included in the main zoo ticket price and the opening hours are the same.
Hot Tip: If you’re traveling with the whole family, check out our post about things to do in New York City with kids.
Located on Vista Rock, the recently renovated Belvedere Castle is one of the most popular attractions in the park, and visitors flock to enjoy panoramic views from the balcony. Originally built as a lookout tower, the castle was named after its Italian meaning “beautiful view,” and it is now home to both the Henry Luce Nature Observatory and the visitor’s center.
From June 7 to August 9 the castle is open between 9:00 a.m and 7:00 p.m. and for the rest of the year its opening hours are from 10:00 a.m and 5:00 p.m.
The Henry Luce Nature Observatory is an excellent educational site for those who want to learn more about nature and wildlife within Central Park. The observatory is named after philanthropist and TIME magazine founder Henry Luce.
Although the observatory is small, it offers discovery kits for exploring the park and also has telescopes and microscopes. The second floor of the observatory is an excellent spot for bird watching.
The attraction is located within Belvedere Castle and is free to visit between Tuesday and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Situated between 71st and 74th Streets, the Strawberry Fields memorial is dedicated to the memory of the late John Lennon, who was shot and killed close to the park in 1980. The 2.5-acre site is lined with elm trees and home to a wide variety of beautiful shrubs and flowers. The memorial space is designated as a quiet zone.
This part of the park is also home to the iconic black and white Imagine mosaic, named after Lennon’s song about peace.
First opened in 1962, The Delacorte Theater is best known for its much-loved Shakespeare in the Park program, which is free to all during the summer. Tens of thousands of visitors and New Yorkers queue during the season to pick up free daily tickets, and The Public Theater also plays host to several paid performances, including classic plays by the likes of Anton Chekov and Bertolt Brecht.
Many famous actors have trod the boards of the open-air theater, including Meryl Streep and Al Pacino, and the nearly 1900 capacity venue proudly boasts excellent views of the stage from any seat.
Tickets for Shakespeare in the Park are distributed here at 12:00 p.m. but the queues can start forming from 6:00 a.m.
Situated close to the Children’s Zoo and Wildlife Center, the Delacorte Music Clock is a big hit with younger visitors to the park. Every day, between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., the clock plays from a selection of 32 pre-programmed nursery rhymes on the hour. Every half an hour, it produces a slightly shorter musical arrangement.
The clock is also adorned with bronze animal sculptures that rotate on a track around the clock face while turning on their axis. These delightful animal friends include a goat playing the pipes, a penguin on drums, and a hippo playing the violin.
If you want to explore the park on the water, then hiring a boat or a gondola ride from the Loeb Boathouse is the perfect way to do so. The boathouse has a shuttle service that makes stops along 5th Avenue and to the parking lot at the Metropolitan Museum, and boat hire is available daily.
The Loeb Boathouse is open Monday to Friday between 12:00 p.m. and 3:45 p.m. and again between 5.30 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. On the weekends it is open between 9:00 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. and again between 6.00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.
Located just outside the park itself, Lincoln Center is one of the most famous cultural hubs the city has to offer. It is home to the Avery Fischer Hall, the Metropolitan Opera, the David Rubinstein Atrium, the New York Library of the Performing Arts, Fordham Law School, and much more.
Visitors to Lincoln Center often cross through the park or enjoy a quiet moment there before taking in a show or enjoying any of the center’s rich and varied arts programs.
The box office is open Monday to Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Sunday between 12:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.
Housed on the former location of The Whitney Museum, the Met Breuer is home to The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s modern and contemporary art program. The museum houses a beautiful and diverse collection of exhibitions and commissions and has a regular program of performances and educational initiatives for schools and colleges.
The Met Bruer is open Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday between 10:00 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. On Friday and Saturday the opening hours are extended 9:00 p.m. It is closed on Monday.
The world-famous museum concentrates on showing work from the 20th century, and the iconic architecture and eminent collection of art make it one of the most visited museums in the world. The building itself is almost as important as the collections housed within it, and its proximity to Central Park place it in one of the most prestigious parts of the city.
The museum is home to work by some of the most famous names in modern art, including Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, Paul Gaugin, Claude Monet, and Edouard Manet.
The museum is open Monday to Friday between 10:00 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. On Saturday and Sunday the opening hours are extended 8:00 p.m.
Located between West 79th Street and West Drive, the Swedish Cottage had served many purposes since its original installation back in 1875. The traditional looking lodge has been used as a tool house, a library, and even a laboratory before becoming home to the much-loved Marionette Theater in 1947, that is still running to this day.
Hot Tip: Visitors to the park can book tickets to take in a puppet show (these must be booked in advance), and the Cottage can also be hired for children’s birthday parties.
Offering family-friendly, educational fun, this former stable is now home to the lab that monitors soil and water levels while teaching kids all about the biology and chemistry of the park itself.
There are also computer-based learning rooms available for use by visitors, and kids can borrow kits that include various sporting goods, like frisbees and hula-hoops, as well as basketballs to be used at the center’s very own basketball courts.
The Recreation Center is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Since 2003, Victorian Gardens has been home to a traditional style amusement park and is one of very few found within the New York metropolitan area. It is open during the summer months and is located on the same spot that is transformed into Wollman Ice Rink during the winter. From May until September, families come to enjoy the rides, games, and food stalls.
Opening hours can vary by date. Click here to see an updated schedule.
This stunning walkway runs through the middle of the park from 66th to 72nd Street. Once referred to as an “open-air hall of reception” by its creators, the Mall was specially designed to accommodate the width of old fashioned horse and carriages, making it a grand entrance space for those visiting the park.
These days, the Mall is more likely to be a meeting place for skateboarders, rollerbladers, street performers, and park-loving visitors than it is to a horse and carriage. It is also one of the largest plantations of the American Elm.
Central Park has an excellent reputation for offering outstanding outdoor entertainment all year round. While the Naumberg Bandshell was originally designed to be a mere bandstand, throughout its history, it has become an iconic stage area of great historical importance, including speeches by Dr.Martin Luther King, Jr. and the eulogy for John Lennon.
Constructed in 1862, it used to hold free Saturday afternoon concerts that would draw in the locals on a pleasant summer day. As the popularity of these events grew, the original bandstand was replaced in 1923 under the Wisteria Pergola, gifted to the city by banker Elkan Naumburg.
In the 1980s this corner of the park became best known for the SummerStage music festival, and today the Naumburg Bandshell holds a year-round program of events for all to enjoy.
With a beautiful vintage look and feel, the Central Park Carousel, officially known as the Michael Friedsam Memorial Carousel, can be found at the southern end of the park near E. 65th Street. With 57 hand-carved and painted horses, this is one of the largest carousels in the country and is the fourth carousel to take pride of place in Central Park.
The Carousel is open daily between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., weather permitting.
Open from May to Mid-October, this 15-acre field is no longer used for grazing livestock but instead is popular for sunbathing, kite flying, and relaxing summer picnics. While the field was originally intended to serve as a parade ground for military drills, this idea was out of keeping with the original design for the park. Instead, it was utilized to keep sheep right up until the 1930s.
In recent years the Meadow has been used for a variety of protests, outdoor concerts, and hippie “love-ins,” although now it is simply a large open space to be enjoyed by all.
This new York City icon has been serving up food since 1934, and throughout the decades, it has been frequented by a whole heap of celebrities, including Grace Kelly and John Lennon, as well as being considered to be the restaurant of choice for opening night festivities of the Broadways shows.
Once the second highest-grossing establishment in the U.S., it suffered a severe decline in the 2000s, but it has since been renovated and is thriving once again.
Tavern on The Green has varied times for brunch, lunch, dinner, and the bar. Click here to see their opening hours.
Located just off of the 5th Avenue and 69th Street entrance to Central Park, Rumsey Playfield plays hosts to a host of concerts and events throughout the year, including the GMA Summer Concert Series and the SummerStage Festival. If you want to see great performances in New York, you can pretty much guarantee that you can catch them here.
This unusual brick building has served as a police station, a weather bureau, and bizarrely, even a zoo, before becoming the art gallery that it is today. Originally built to store arms and ammunition for the New York State Militia in 1848, this unique little building can be found at 64th Street, just off 5th Avenue.
The Arsenal is open Monday to Friday between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. It is closed on weekends.
Sporting Activities and Leisure
Made up of 6 separate baseball and softball fields, the Heckscher Ballfields are located at 63rd Street in Central Park, just west of the Carousel. Nothing could make you feel more like a native New Yorker than a game or 2 on these hallowed grounds, and anyone can play provided they purchase a permit and book an $8 session.
It is also popular with younger visitors and their coaches, as leagues with children 17 and under are allowed to play for free.
As the oldest and largest playground in the park, the Heckscher Playground offers almost 2 whole acres of slides, swings, and seesaws, as well as a water fixture and giant rocks for climbing.
Running from 61st to 63rd Street, the park has been added to over the years to offer separate areas for younger and older children as well as plenty of shaded spaces and synthetic turf and safety surfacing.
The playground is open daily from 7.30 a.m. until dusk.
The Lasker Ice Rink is just one of 2 iconic ice rinks that can be found in Central Park during the winter. Visitors can enjoy ice skating, adult and youth hockey games and lessons, skate rentals and lockers. It is also possible to have group skating lessons, and even children parties held here.
The ice rink is open from late October to mid-March, weather permitting. Opening hours can vary so it is best to check their website.
When it is not busy being a world-famous ice skating rink, the Lasker area is simply a great sized pool for swimming in the city. Overlooking the Harlem Meer, swimming in the pool on hot summer days is a popular New York pastime, and the pool can even be hired for private parties and events.
The pool is open daily from the end of June to Labor Day between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. and again between 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.
Lying just north of the Great Lawn, the North Meadow can be found at 97th Street and offers 23-acres of sports fields. 12 pitch-perfect fields are ready to be used for soccer, touch football, baseball, and football, and the Meadow offers a year-round program of sporting tuition and events which visitors of all ages can partake in.
Hot Tip: The North Meadow Recreation Center offers fitness courses for children and lends out sporting goods to those who need them.
Offering a choice of 30 different courts for use by the public, the Central Park Tennis Center is the perfect place for beginners to learn the ropes and for experienced players to improve their game. Surrounded by the stunning beauty of the park, players here can enjoy the group and individual lessons, as well as summer camps for kids and intensive courses. Whatever your ability, it will still be super cool to say that you have played on the same courts as the likes of Andre Agassi and Bjorn Borg, and various other famous tennis players who couldn’t resist a game or 2 in the Big Apple.
It is open every day from 6:30 a.m. until dusk.
The Wollman Rink is the second of Central Park’s famous ice skating rinks. The Wollman Rink offers ice hockey and skating sessions, as well as a skating school, children’s parties, skate rentals, and lockers.
With its iconic Central Park location and views out across the city, the Wollman Rink has been featured in many Hollywood movies and will be instantly recognizable to many visitors. The rink is open from late October through to early April.
Open hours and class times can be seen here.
Perched on a large rock outcropping once known as the Kinderberg, the Chess & Checkers House was first built in 1952. As one of the park’s main visitor centers, this spot is popular with those who like to visit the park to indulge themselves in a game of chess. With 24 chess tables surrounding the rustic pagoda, the conditions are well shaded and perfect for a spot of al fresco chess, checkers, dominoes, or backgammon almost all year round.
The visitor center is open during the summer between 9:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. and 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. the rest of the year.
Opened in 1993, this is now one of the main visitor centers in the park and is host to a wide range of environmental programs designed for younger visitors to enjoy. Educational workshops teach the importance of the flora, fauna, and wildlife that can be found within the park’s borders, and the catch-and-release fishing program teaches children how to fish using traditional poles and bait.
The visitor center is open during the summer between 9:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. and 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. the rest of the year.
What was once the Central Park Dairy, built to provide children with milk in the late 19th century, is now an information center and gift shop for visitors to enjoy. Built at the southern end of the park, the Victorian Gothic style building with its impressive windows and spires is easily identifiable and makes for a great meeting place and starting point for your adventures in Central Park.
The visitor center is open during the summer between 9:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. and 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. the rest of the year.
While this may not be one of the most iconic attractions in the park, it is certainly one of the most useful. The Columbus Circle Information Kiosk is open during daylight hours every day except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day, and can be found at the southwest end of the Merchants’ Gate Plaza.
The kiosk operators are on hand to offer information about the park, give directions to and from various attractions, subway stations, and other local landmarks, as well as selling a small selection of unique souvenirs. The plaza area was restored in 1997 and is now home to the kiosk as well as a shaded seating area and an outdoor market area during the holiday season.
The kiosk is open during the summer between 9:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. and 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. the rest of the year.
Gardens, Landscapes, and Waterways
Located near the 6th Avenue entrance, Cop Cot is a natural wooden gazebo situated on the top of a hill, overlooking Central Park South. Popular with those looking to get married in the park, Cop Cot is one of the oldest structures in the park and offers shade from the summer sun and winter rains.
Located at 72nd Street, Cherry Hill overlooks the lake and is famous for its beautiful cherry trees and 14-foot fountain. What was originally designed to be a scenic watering trough for horses drawing carriages through the park back in 1860 is now a peaceful and romantic part of the park reached only on foot or by tourist carriage.
Lying just to the east of Bethesda Fountain, the Cherry Hill Fountain can be easily recognized by its distinctive glass lamps and globes.
Covering 11 acres of water and named after the Dutch word for “lake,” the Meer is located to the north of Conservatory Gardens and is a popular destination for anyone looking to enjoy the water or relax on the lush vegetation that surrounds it.
The long pathways that lead from the cove to the water’s edge are often laden with roses and hydrangeas in full bloom, and the Meer is home to a wide variety of birds and animals.
This is a great spot for those wishing to join in with the popular catch-and-release fishing programs or those wanting to enjoy seasonal events such as ice skating or the Halloween Pumpkin Flotilla. Kids can also play in either of the 2 children’s play parks.
Tucked away in the northeastern corner of Central Park, this beautiful oasis offers nearly 6 acres of peace and quiet in the center of the city. Filled with a wide selection of stunning plant life, the Conservatory Garden is divided into 3 different sections: the French Garden in the north, the Italian Garden in the middle, and the English Garden to the south.
The garden has varying opening hours month to month. You can see a full schedule here.
As perhaps the most iconic open space in all of New York, the Great Lawn is a 55-acre stretch of parkland that runs from 79th to 85th Street. This part of the park has a rich a varied history and was once occupied by a large rectangular reservoir before becoming a home for displaced people during the Great Depression.
These days, however, it is the perfect spot to enjoy a picnic with friends and it also plays host to a wide range of music festivals and open-air performances during the summer months.
This 4-acre nature reserve is one of Central Park’s many hidden gems and is located just northwest of the pond close to 5th Avenue. Starting life as a bird sanctuary back in the 1930s, Hallett Sanctuary is now home to many different species of birds as well as raccoons, rabbits, and other animals. Guided tours of the sanctuary are available all year round, weather permitting.
The sanctuary is open daily between 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Officially known as the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, the water is circled by a mile and a half long track that is popular with joggers who come to burn off calories while enjoying excellent views of the city skyline. It is also a favorite place for birdwatchers who come to see the herons, egrets, coots, and loons that call the water their home.
During the springtime, this peaceful part of the park is transformed into a blossoming bouquet of lilacs from all around the world. The stunning purple, pink, and white flowers draw in admirers from all across the city, and the path also offers clear views of the famous New York City skyline.
Conceived and financed by philanthropist Nell Singer, the Lilac Walk has been a hidden gem of an attraction in the park since 1970.
Situated at the base of the beautiful Belvedere Castle, the pool is named after a large number of turtles that have lived within its waters since the 1980s. A man-made body of water, Turtle Pond was restored and improved in the late 1990s, making it not only prettier to look at but also a better functioning home for the park’s wildlife with the addition of trees and shrubs for them to nest in. Turtle Pond is one of the park’s designated quiet zones.
Covering 38 acres of woodland and winding pathways between 73rd and 78th Streets, The Ramble is a wild garden that sits in contrast to the more formal gardens and walkways found throughout the rest of the park. The Gill, a man-made stream that runs through The Ramble, adds to the wild feel of the woodland, and even the odd raccoon might come on out to say hello.
Hot Tip: This part of the park is home to a wide range of native and exotic species of trees and plants — visual guides are available to help you identify them.
This peaceful oasis is set deep in the heart of the park, yet still at street level, offering easy access for anyone wanting to take five from the busy city streets. The tranquil water is also home to a wide range of migratory bird species, as well as a wealth of flora and fauna that make their home on the banks, including crabapples and forsythia trees.
The Pond is close to the Hallett Nature Sanctuary, making it a popular spot for anyone looking to enjoy the natural aspects of the park.
This steep hill is a favorite sledding spot during snowy winters, and it is also popular for family gatherings and birthday parties when the weather warms up again. Located close to Conservatory Water at 72nd Street, the hill is named after the statue of pilgrim John Quincy Adams Ward, which stands on a knoll overlooking the East Drive.
With Yoshino Cherry Trees, magnolias, and crabapples surrounding Pilgrim Hill, it is a relaxing and beautiful spot from which to take in the park laid out beneath you.
Another lesser-known attraction in the park is the 4-acre Shakespeare Garden that features plants that have been alluded to in the Bard’s greatest works, including rosemary, pansies, thistle, and even a mulberry tree. Bronze plaques can be found along the way, all featuring quotes from his famous plays.
The garden is also home to some of the beautiful plants and flowers that can be found in Shakespeare’s private garden in Stratford-upon-Avon.
The Shakespeare Garden is open daily between 6:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m.
This picturesque 20-acre lake started life as a murky, untamed swamp until it was excavated in the 1850s. As the second-largest man-made body of water in the park, the lake is the perfect place to get out on a rowboat and see firsthand the wide and varied wildlife inhabitants and birds that call the lake their home.
Hot Tip: If you are looking for a more leisurely activity, the lake also has Venetian-style gondola rides available to rent, too.
As part of the original plan for the park, The Loch forms part of the North Woods and is considered to be an excellent spot for a bit of birdwatching. What was once intended to be a far larger lake eventually became just a tranquil stream that offers peace and tranquility in the heart of the city. Extending from 102nd to 106th Street, The Loch is close to both the Huddleston and Glen Span Arches.
Situated on the edge of the lake, Wagner Cove is home to trees and flowers and offers a quiet retreat away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The rustic wooden shelter that sits in the cove is the perfect place to relax and is just west of Cherry Hill. Visitors can enjoy a scenic walk to Wagner Cove from 72nd Street.
As part of the 3 separate areas that comprise the Conservatory Garden, the Wisteria Pergola is a long patio that is laced with wisteria vines that wind on through the wooden supports of the structure. Pretty as a picture, the Wisteria Pergola is a popular location for weddings and very popular with those looking to capture the very best Instagram images.
Central Park is home to over 5 different waterfalls, all of which are man-made. Most of them can be found in the Ravine section of the North Woods, and the water that cascades across them comes from a huge pipe hidden by the rocks at the Pool Grotto. Much of New York City’s drinking water comes from here, making these waterfalls a useful and beautiful addition to the park.
This beautiful interior walkway is tucked beneath an archway that runs along the center of the park linking the Mall to Bethesda Fountain and the lake. The arcade is famous for its stunning tiled ceiling that features more than 15,000 colorful, patterned tiles from the famous Minton Tile Factory in England.
Originally designed for use on the floors of European cathedrals, to this day, the Arcade is the only place in the world where they are used on the ceiling.
Central Park has 20 original entrances, all of which now bear an inscription to honor local New Yorkers of merit, including scholars, artists, and artisans. Artists’ Gate can be found at 59th Street, and the entrance itself faces out onto the iconic Avenue of the Americas.
Although it is referred to as Artists’ Gate, there is no traditional gate to be opened and closed, but there is an engraving of the names of the gates on the low wall surrounding the park. These days, the gates make great meeting places for friends and groups visiting the park, and they remain an interesting homage to the people who made New York such a great city.
This iconic walkway crosses Central Park Lake, and its romantic setting has been featured in many big-budget movies, as well as being one of the most photographed parts of the park. Designed in the 19th century, the bridge spans 60 feet and can be found at 74th Street, just west of Bethesda Terrace.
Another beautiful bridge, the Gapstow Bridge, can be found at 62nd Street, and this peaceful spot offers one of the very best views of the New York City skyline to be found anywhere in the city. Built back in 1874, and situated at the northeast end of The Pond, the original wooden construction struggled to hold up against the elements.
In 1896 the original bridge was replaced with one of stone construction, leaving a bridge that remains tranquil throughout the seasons.
Located near the Merchants’ Gate, between 61st and 62nd Streets, Greyshot Arch is popular with cyclists and runners who like to traverse under it. The iconic white-grey stonework and carefully crafted balustrade make this one of the prettiest pieces of architecture in the park, and it is one of the most frequently used, too.
Built in 1862, the Greywacke Arch underwent an extensive renovation in the 1980s and is now noted for its ornamental stonework and the intricate Middle Eastern and Spanish style architecture of the arch itself. Close to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, this little archway is a work of art in its own right.
This pretty little gem of an archway can be found just east of the pond, as it is a useful cut through to Wien Walk. The 12-foot archway is made using pink and gray granite and has a railing of 100 feet and a passageway that is 34 feet in length. Due to its position, the Inscope Arch can be prone to flooding during the winter months.
Located close to 75th Street on the west side of the park, the Ladies Pavilion is a pretty and peaceful spot from which to take in the views out across the lake. Offering shelter from the hot sun or heavy rain, this Ladies Pavilion is also one of the most photographed structures in the park and has been featured in many an Instagram post and fashion magazine.
Summit Rock is the highest natural point of elevation in the park, and it was originally the site of Seneca Village during the 19th century. Visitors can climb to the top of the summit and enjoy breathtaking views out as far as New Jersey. It is also a popular spot with joggers and cyclists looking to really feel the burn.
This 16-foot arch was constructed to provide a covered pathway linking Conservatory Water through to the lake. Both sides of the arch feature different designs with a Gothic style on the eastern side and a traditional, rounded arch on the western side.
There are also pretty cast-iron railings with intricate quatrefoils on either side of the arch, as well as buttresses decorated in a floral pattern.
Based on the design of the Grand Basin pond that can be found in the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris, Conservatory Water is a peaceful place to enjoy a bit of model boating in the center of New York. During the winter months, the pond is used for ice skating, but for the rest of the year, it is home to some of the best-loved model boat races in the world.
Given as a gift to New York from Egypt back in 1881, the Obelisk is one of the tallest and most popular sights in Central Park even today. Rising 71 feet high and weighing in around 200 tons, the Obelisk sits on a base that is supported by bronze replicas of sea crabs created by the Romans.
Its unusual looks and rich history have been drawing in visitors for over a century, and in the 1970s it even became officially designated a scenic landmark by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission.
Statues and Fountains
The influential abolitionist, suffragist, author, and diplomat Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey settled in New York after gaining his freedom. Having met his first wife and dedicated his life to the abolitionist cause, he changed his name to Douglass. The bronze statue was unveiled in 2011.
As the main east side entrance to the park, the Grand Army Plaza takes its name from the Union Army that fought during the Civil War. One of the 4 corners of the park, the plaza is home to a bronze statue of Union General William Tecumseh Sherman as well as The Pulitzer Fountain featuring a bronze statue of the Roman goddess of abundance, Pomona.
Hot Tip: This is often the starting point for many horse-drawn carriage rides through the park and is also home to more contemporary art installations throughout the year.
Erected in 1956 to commemorate the author’s 150th birthday, the bronze statue depicts Andersen seated on a bench reading from his very own story, The Ugly Duckling. It is a popular attraction with children and has been designed to be climbed upon and enjoyed by younger visitors to the park.
It is also popular for its Hans Christian Andersen storytelling sessions that take place between 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. every Saturday from June to September. The stories are often read by professional actors.
Perched high up on a large stone, this bronze panther looks ready to pounce on passers-by. Designed and created by American sculptor Edward Kemeys, the original idea was for the statue to look completely realistic in terms of its positioning and to be able to blend in with the scenery around it.
In keeping with this idea, there is no plaque to be read to tell you about the statue, but those looking for it can find it located at 76th Street along the East Drive.
Just outside the entrance to the Tisch Children’s Zoo, there is a beautiful bronze statue of a regal-looking dog ready to offer rides to child-size admirers. A firm favorite within the park since 1925, the statue was erected to honor the husky who traveled over 670 miles through the blizzards with mushers and sled dogs to deliver medicine during the Alaska diphtheria outbreak of 1925.
As one of the heroic lead dogs, Balto’s bravery will always be remembered, and his statue can be found west of East Drive and 67th Street and just north of the zoo.
At the heart of the park sits Bethesda Terrace, which offers city dwellers and visitors alike the chance to take in some amazing views out across the park and beyond. Designed by artist Emma Stebbins in 1868, the fountain is one of the most iconic and instantly recognizable water features in the world.
The sculpture is also known as the Angel of the Waters, and the terrace that surrounds her is a great place to meet up with friends and family at the center of the city.
The 11-foot tall bronze statue of Alice in Wonderland can be found at East 74th Street. Surrounded by the Mad Hatter, the White Rabbit, and other characters from the classic Lewis Carroll children’s story, the sculpture was donated by philanthropist George Delacorte as a tribute to his late wife, Margarita.
Unlike many other public works of art, children are welcome to climb, touch, and crawl their way around the statue, making it a fun place to take the kids during your visit to the park.
Best Concerts and Events in Central Park
One of the most anticipated events of the annual park program, Shakespeare in the Park performances take place during the summer. Visitors and locals can line up to wait for free tickets on the day or can enter the online lottery to win a pair of the most coveted tickets in the city.
Performed in the park’s very own Delacorte Theater, the 1800-seat outdoor venue has been offering exclusive performances since 1962. Past actors include luminaries such as Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Al Pacino, Blythe Danner, Philip Seymour Hoffman, George C. Scott, and Denzel Washington.
This series of Sunday concerts feature some of the very best local and emerging talents in New York, and concerts take place alongside the lake in the northern portion of Central Park.
Motown cover bands, Lindy Hop bands and dancers, blues musicians, R&B artists, and a whole host of other performers come together over the summer season to let locals and visitors enjoy some of the very best music the city has to offer. These multicultural music and dance performances offer family-friendly entertainment, all set in a stunning location on the lakeside.
As part of the annual SummerStage program, ticket holders can experience world-class opera in just 2 exclusive performances on the Great Lawn in Central Park. Audience members are encouraged to bring a picnic, chairs, and a blanket and make the most of the great weather and exceptional opera.
Performances often feature up-and-coming singers and new performers, and seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis. This summertime tradition in the city also features further performances in each borough of the city and 2 further locations in New Jersey.
As the most famous and eagerly anticipated events in the park program, SummerStage features a variety of concerts and performances throughout the summer, many of which are free. Tickets are usually available on the day of the performance, and headliners include big names and famous faces, so queuing for entrance can start very early in the morning.
Though most of the performance takes place in the park’s Rumsey Playfield, there are further SummerStage happenings that take place across the 5 boroughs from May through to October. Covering a wide range of different genres and music styles, these performances are the highlight of the summer for city dwellers and visitors alike.
Since 1965, The New York Philharmonic brings free classical music concerts to all of the 5 boroughs, including the iconic concerts on the Great Lawn in Central Park. Each of the outdoor shows is followed by a fireworks display and is one of the highlights of the summer season in NYC.
As one of the oldest series of free concerts available anywhere in the U.S., these performances take place in the park’s very own Naumburg Bandshell.
Designed to offer just this, the bandshell has been extended over the years to accommodate both larger orchestras and audiences, and the series seeks to stimulate and encourage new and expanded audiences for classical and symphonic music.
The Naumburg Orchestral Concerts have filled Central Park’s concert grounds with the sound of classical music since 1905, and to this day, the concerts are still one of the most successful ways for new talent to reach a fresh, new audience every summer.
Since the year 2000, the New York Classical Theater has been staging free productions of some of the world’s most popular classics.
The plays can be performed both indoors and outdoors, with some of the larger performances requiring the audience to move around with the actors, covering as much as 3 city blocks during a 2-hour production — making this an entirely unique kind of theater performance.
The New York Classical Theater prides itself on offering immersive Panoramic Theater performances for audiences of all ages to enjoy. All open rehearsals and performances are free to the public, and due to their popularity, visitors should get there early.
Central Park comes to life during the holidays, and there are lots of fun events and attractions for everyone to enjoy.
Visitors can celebrate the start of the seasonal festivities with the Central Park Conservancy’s Holiday Lighting in Central Park, where the little ones can meet Santa and visitors of all ages can sing carols on the plaza and enjoy hot cocoa and cookies. One of the highlights of the evening is the festive lighting of a flotilla of trees that set sail along Harlem Meer.
The park also plays host to some of the very best carols in the city, as The Delacorte Music Clock, located near the Children’s Zoo and Wildlife Center, plays a collection of traditional Christmas songs around the holiday season.
Halloween is a big hit in NYC and set against the backdrop of the beautiful fall foliage of Central Park. It becomes less of a horror and more of an honor to celebrate the season. During the Halloween Pumpkin Flotilla, visitors can listen to ghost stories read by local authors and actors, enter into or simply watch the costume parade, and even get creative by carving a pumpkin.
A fun-filled evening for all of the family, the highlight of the event is the traditional Pumpkin Flotilla, where the Central Park Conservancy will select 50 pumpkins to sail across the Harlem Meer at twilight. Atmospheric and incredibly good fun, this is one of the very best ways for friends and family to spend Halloween.
One of the most popular things to do in the park is to take to the ice during the winter season. Grab your skates or rent some when you get there and enjoy gliding along to the backdrop of Manhattan with your family and friends, from October through to April, weather permitting.
The Wollman Rink is by better known of the 2 ice rinks and offers ice hockey, a skating school, party facilities, skate rentals, and lockers. The Lasker Rink is located mid-park and also offers a host of skating facilities.
Best Restaurants in and Near Central Park
Places to Eat in Central Park
This landmark New York eatery is situated right in the heart of Central Park and is famous for serving up local and artisanal food in a traditional tavern environment.
What started as a sheepfold in the 1880s to house as many as 700 Southdown sheep, the Tavern is now one of the most popular restaurants in New York, and thanks to the incredible number of movies and TV scenes that have been filmed there, it is one of the most instantly recognizable, too.
Situated in a truly unique setting, this scenic restaurant is the only eatery in Manhattan to offer such an amazing lakeside location. Diners can enjoy a first-class seafood menu while taking in the stunning views out across the water and Central Park. It is also a great place to sip a cocktail or 2 while updating your Instagram in the city.
Situated just outside the zoo, the Dancing Crane Cafe serves up good quality fast food, soups, and sandwiches all year round. Large tables both inside and out make this a great spot to catch up with friends, and some peacocks like to come over and say hello while you are eating.
A fairly standard addition to most tourist attractions, this cafe offers reasonably priced fare designed for fast refueling for visitors to both the park and the zoo.
Conveniently located next to the Delacorte Theater, this seasonal cafe offers quick bites, wine, and beer. This simple looking takeout window offers really good concession food, with some inspired choices including whoopie pies, old-fashioned root beer floats, and a choice of gourmet hot dogs and sandwiches.
Hot Tip: If you forget to pack a snack, you won’t feel bad about grabbing a quick snack from Public Fare while watching the outdoor theater performance.
Once the Boys’ Ballplayer House for the youngsters who enjoyed playing both baseball and cricket in the park, the Ballfields Cafe now offers high-quality snacks, salads, sandwiches, and burgers to hungry players and visitors alike.
Situated on the northern edge of Heckscher Ballfields, the cafe is popular with players of all ages and abilities who join in with the leagues and teams that play here from mid-April through mid-September.
Places to Eat Near Central Park
RedFarm is famous for its inventive Chinese menu, which offers an inspired take on traditional dumpling and Dim Sum dishes. With sidewalk tables for enjoying alfresco dining on sunny days and cute vintage interiors with private booths or shared tables, this is a great place to enjoy affordable, first-class Asian food just a few minutes away from Central Park.
This stylish take on the traditional American diner is always busy and a firm favorite with both visitors and locals alike. Famous for their delicious and innovative wet sandwich combos, as well as a wide range of iconic American French Dips, a table at Maison Pickle is well worth waiting for.
Offering a highly inventive approach to Indian cuisine, this stylish and upscale restaurant is situated in Midtown, just a few minutes away from Central Park itself. Diners can enjoy a deliciously spicy menu that is best washed down with a little something from the carefully crafted cocktail menu. Indian Accent is a great place to enjoy the finest flavors after a busy day exploring the park.
As the signature restaurant of the Trump Central Park Hotel, this 2 Michelin star-rated restaurant is named after its famous owner, Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Rated as one of the very best restaurants in the city, reservations here are hard to come by.
Those who are lucky enough to get a table can enjoy stunning views out across the park while relaxing in chic white interiors, enjoying exquisite fresh food and award-winning wine service.
This Michelin-starred establishment continues to wow diners under the watchful eye of a seasoned chef, Michael White. Housed in a chic, upscale building, the high-end Italian seafood and house-made pasta continue to attract both visitors and locals alike in a Central Park South setting. Reservations are a must at this popular eatery.
Best Tours to Experience Central Park
Duration: 50 Minutes
Take in some of the most famous sites that Central Park as to offer, while being transported around on an iconic horse-drawn carriage. Listen to the clip-clop of the horse’s hooves as you pass the famous Angel of the Waters statue, the John Lennon memorial and Imagine mosaic in Strawberry Fields, and enjoy close-up views of the Bethesda Fountain.
Feel like royalty as your knowledgable drivers regale you with stories about the park and its rich and varied history before enjoying a romantic moment to yourselves at Bow Bridge. This timeless and iconic way to travel through the park is very popular, so get your tickets booked in advance.
Find out more about the Central Park Horse-Drawn Carriage Ride, along with photos, prices, and availability.
Duration: 2 Hours
More sturdy than a rickshaw and definitely better than a taxi, these pedicab tours can be customized to suit your itinerary. You can ask your driver to stop exactly when and where you want to, but be sure to take in some of the most famous sites the park has to offer including:
- Conservatory Water
- The Bow Bridge
- Loeb Boathouse
- Strawberry Fields
- Shakespeare Garden
- The Belvedere Castle
- Bethesda Terrace and Fountain
You can also hop on and off as often as you like, meaning you never miss a photo opportunity during the tour. Your knowledgable driver will be able to tell you more about the history of the park throughout your journey and may also be able to show you some hidden gems just off the main tourist trails.
Click to learn more about the Central Park Pedicab Tours, along with photos, prices, and availability.
Duration: 2 Hours
Take a bike tour with a licensed professional tour guide to explore everything Central Park has to offer. Visit iconic landmarks such as the Bethesda Fountain, the Belvedere Castle, and Strawberry Fields, as well as a wealth of statues, gardens, gateways, and other attractions as you glide along on 2 wheels.
Tours are offered daily at 9:00 a.m., 10:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., and 4:00 p.m., and you can expect to cover up to 5 miles on your travels. If you want to, you can even rent the bike for longer and see the sites in your own time before the gates shut at nightfall.
Explore the Live Guided Bike Tour, along with photos, prices, and availability.
Duration: 2 Hours
Enjoy a leisurely stroll through New York’s most famous open spaces on this 2-hour walking tour led by a friendly and knowledgable tour guide. During the tour, you can take it the iconic bridges, fountains, monuments, and sculptures that can be found in the park, while finding out about the park’s rich and varied history.
You will also be able to enjoy some of the tranquil open spaces along the way and take in the unusual flora and fauna that call the park their home.
Discover more about the Central Park 2-Hour Guided Walking Tour, along with photos, prices, and availability.
Duration: 6 Hours
This small-group tour will fill up your day with 30 of the very best sights and attractions of New York in just 1 tour. Starting on the iconic Wall Street, you can take in the famous New York Stock Exchange building before heading on through Greenwich Village, Five Points, Chinatown, and Little Italy, passing landmark buildings like the Empire State Building, the New York Public Library, and the Chrysler Building.
Your guide will tell you plenty of fascinating tales about the city, before taking you in the direction of Central Park where you will finish the tour, allowing you to spend time exploring both the park and the zoo in your own time.
Click to learn more about the Central Park Zoo and Top Sights Walking Tour, along with photos, prices, and availability.
Top 10 Hotels Near Central Park
Situated on 5th Avenue itself, this castle-like building has been offering upscale and refined accommodation for over 100 years. Bedrooms are beautifully appointed, and feature state of the art technology and 24-carat gold plated bathroom fixtures and separate rain showers.
Visitors to the hotel can choose from a drink at the famous Champagne Bar at the Rose Club, visit the Plaza Food Hall for international cuisine, or enjoy afternoon tea at the Palm Court.
The Plaza is also home to world-class boutiques and fine-food shops, as well as superb health and wellness facilities that include a Guerlain Spa, Warren-Tricomi Salon, and a gym by La Palestra.
Housed in a stunning Art Deco apartment building overlooking Central Park, the Sherry Netherland offers first-class service and accommodation with plenty of old-world charm. With palatial marble, the lobby will transport you back in time, while the 1920s frescoed ceiling will instantly impress you.
The Sherry Netherland is not just a beautiful building, but it is also a sumptuous and very comfortable hotel with luxurious suites and bedrooms that come complete with marble bathrooms and hand-carved wooden furniture. There is also a barbershop and shoe shiner, a hair salon and a gym, as well as an on-site restaurant that is a replica of the famed Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy.
With a LEED-certification and a strong focus on the environment, 1 Hotel Central Park is an eco-conscious property that creates an oasis of calm in the bustling heart of Midtown Manhattan. Interiors feature reclaimed wood, natural materials, and lots of indoor plants and terrariums, giving the hotel a luxurious, but consciously earthy feel about it.
Bedrooms offer organic bedding, yoga mats, and live plants, as well as views out across the city, and the hotel is home to Jams restaurant that serves up chef-inspired, seasonal goodness all year round. There is also the on-site Field House that is fully equipped with Peloton bikes, rowers, and kettlebells, as well as plenty of yoga mats and a 58th Street view.
This unique boutique hotel offers eclectic interiors and colorful designs alongside serious amounts of luxury and exciting artwork. Communal spaces are a riot of color, with giant wall murals, elaborate wallpapers, and freestanding sculptures, while the bedrooms are spacious and individually designed, with some offering stand-alone bathtubs and walk-in showers, too.
The Whitby Hotel is also home to the lively and popular Whitby Bar that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well as cocktails to both locals and visitors. Guests can also enjoy more formal dining in the Orangerie.
The hotel also offers a 24/7 gym equipped with state-of-the-art treadmills, spin bikes, and ellipticals, and the attentive staff is on hand to advise you on the best places to visit in the city that never sleeps.
Located close to Hell’s Kitchen and just a 2-minute walk from Central Park itself, this boutique-style hotel offers mid-century modern interiors and an uber-cool NY vibe. Splash out on a loft during your stay and you could also enjoy added extras, including fireplaces, wet bars, and bi-level units.
Bedrooms are super stylish and heavy on the custom artwork and retro touches, while 6 Columbus Central Park Hotel is also home to a popular rooftop lounge bar with views out across the city. There is also an upscale sushi restaurant for visitors looking to dine-in.
This family-friendly, modern hotel is situated just 2 blocks from Central Park on the iconic Park Avenue. Interiors are sleek and modern, and bedrooms are spacious and functional, making this a great base from which to explore the city.
Guests can enjoy the first-class cuisine at The Regency Bar & Grill, a full-service restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily. The Loews Regency New York Hotel is also home to the Sant Ambroeus, an Italian inspired cafe with outdoor seating on 61st Street. There is also a relaxing lobby lounge, a Julien Farel Restore Salon & Spa, and a 24-hour fitness center on-site.
Offering luxury from top to bottom, The Manhattan Club offers suite-style accommodation in the heart of the city. Just steps away from Times Square, Central Park, the Theater District, and many, many more must-see New York attractions, these 1- and 2-bedroom suites offer upscale accommodation in a fabulous location.
Bedrooms in The Manhattan Club offer plush furnishings and include well-equipped kitchenettes, comfortable beds, and large lounge areas. For an additional fee, guests can also enjoy valet parking and daily breakfast, as well as complimentary use of the business center, fitness center, and private club lounge with breathtaking views out across the city.
Set just yards away from the entrance to Central Park, the Chambers Hotel is an upscale, pet-friendly establishment with a regal ambiance and a unique collection of artwork on display at every turn. The chic bedrooms are bright and well-appointed, while the suites add skyline views, living rooms, and soaking tubs to add an extra touch of luxury.
The Felice 56 restaurant features an elegant dining room with a Tuscan-inspired interior doused with Italian watercolors. Offering Mediterranean classics in the main restaurant, visitors can also enjoy drinks at the cocktail bar or grab-and-go from the café serving coffee, pastries, salads, sandwiches, and desserts.
Situated on 5th Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, the Peninsula Hotel is an iconic New York establishment that offers upscale accommodation and first-class service throughout. The hotel is also famous for its curated art exhibition that celebrates prominent 21st-century artists, and the public spaces of the hotel features work by such luminaries as Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, and Barbara Kruger.
Bedrooms in The Peninsula Hotel are opulent and well-appointed, while marble bathrooms have built-in TVs and robes for the ultimate NYC luxury living. The hotel is also home to the Clement restaurant that offers contemporary American cuisine, as well as Saloon de Ning, a rooftop bar and terrace that offers signature cocktails and Asian fare.
Just across the street from Central Park, The Pierre offers white-glove luxury in an iconic building that is a proud part of the New York City skyline. Since opening in 1930, The Pierre has been a part of upscale New York society. Elevator attendants and an entire concierge team will show you the very best bits of both the hotel and the city, as well as show you to your beautifully-appointed bedroom.
Guests are also welcome to reserve a table in the newly-opened Perrine restaurant that offers French-American cuisine. There is also a lively bar and lounge (Two E) that serves traditional afternoon tea and is a jumping jazz joint by night. With a Forbes 5 Star and AAA Five Diamond to its name, The Pierre is one of the most exclusive Central Park hotels, and one of the very best in all of New York.
New York is a city that offers excitement at every turn, but nowhere will you find a more beautiful place to be than within the boundaries of Central Park. Steeped in history and a true urban oasis, no visit to the Big Apple would be complete without a trip to the park.