View across the Jackie O Reservoir in Central Park, NYC

29 Best Things To Do In Central Park

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Wondering what are the best things to do in Central Park?

Central Park is one of New York City’s most beloved spots and is the most visited urban park in the world. You can’t think of New York without thinking of the iconic Central Park filled with glorious trees, picturesque ponds, and historic attractions.

Central Park is quite literally a magical respite from the hustle of the world’s most popular city. Its 843 acres are designed for fun! 

The best things to do in Central Park include an actual castle, a fabulous zoo, restaurants, over 30 bridges, a carousel, playgrounds, boat rides, a theater, and even skating rinks!

And mostly everything in the park is FREE!

You’ve seen the park in movies and on TV and it is wildly popular among tourists and New Yorkers alike. Bring your family, bring your dogs, and bring your friends.

There are more than enough things to do in Central Park to keep you entertained for as long as you like.

Here are the 29 Best Things to do in Central Park

There are so many reasons to visit New York City, and Central Park is at the top of that list! Today, 42 million people visit Central Park each year. And here’s why!

Walking tours, bikes tours, horse  & buggy, run, picnics. Look for celebrations at Halloween, the holidays, or twilight boat rides, summer concerts, theater, music festivals, fitness, yoga, art activities, children attractions, and more!

Whether you are looking for things to do in New York City at night or during the day, Central Park will be part of the itinnerary.

I’m going to narrow it down for you to the top 29 Central Park attractions you shouldn’t miss when visiting the park.

In alphabetical order, here we go!

Must See In New York City
Central Park in fog

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#1 Play on the Alice In Wonderland Sculpture

North Park at East 74th St. This is the 11 foot bronze sculpture designed in 1959 celebrating Lewis Carroll’s story. Its a great spot for children to climb on and and play around.

#2 Climb Up for a Photo with Balto

North of the Zoo at East Drive and 67th St. This is the famous sled dog statue commemorating Balto and other sled dogs who braved blizzards for almost 674 miles to bring medicines to diphtheria victims in Nome, Alaska in 1925. When the statue was placed on the rock, the real Balto came for the ceremony!
The Alice in Wonderland statue in Central Park
Belvedere Castle Central Park

#3 Explore Belvedere Castle

Mid Park at 79th St. This is probably one of the most iconic spots in Central Park. Its a fantasy castle built on the huge Vista Rock, on the second highest spot in the whole park.Bird watchers love it for the views.  The castle overlooks the Turtle Pond, the Great Lawn, and the Ramble. If you venture inside the castle, you’ll find the Henry Luce Nature Observatory with activities and nature displays. The castle is open Tues – Sun 10 AM – 5 PM.

#4 Visit Bethesda Fountain, Terrace, and Arcade

Mid Park at 72nd St. This is one of the most visited posts in the whole city. This fountain was dedicated back in 1873 to commemorate the Croton Aqueduct which brought fresh water to New York City.

The fountain’s statue, Angel of the Waters, was designed and commissioned by Emma Stebbins, just for the park. It’s one of the most famous fountains in the world.  The four little cherub statues that surround the angel represent peace, health, temperance, and purity.

The steps from the fountain up to the plaza are important because public bathrooms are located here!!!

The Arcade is the gorgeous arched walkway where you will often hear musicians playing because the acoustics are so great. Also, its the link between The Mall and the Fountain and the lake.

Central Park
Bethesda Fountain Central Park

#5 Walk Across the Bow Bridge

Mid Park. The iconic bridge that spans the 60 feet across the Central Park Lake connects the Ramble to Cherry Hill. This is the oldest cast iron bridge in the park and is a photographer’s dream. Its the spot of famous scenes in many movies and is popular for proposals and romantic moments.

#6 Rent a boat at Central Park Lake and
Loeb’s Boathouse

Mid Park. The 20 acre lake is the second largest man made body of water in the park. It was originally a swamp and became the spot for ice skating and boating. In 1950 the lake was closed to allow the park’s wildlife to settle in and now its the prime spot in the park for birdwatching, gondola rides and rental boats from April through November.

#7 Central Park Zoo & Tisch Children’s Zoo & Delacorte Clock

64th St. and 5th Ave. This is hands down one of the sweetest  zoos in the world! It started when people dropped off unwanted animals back in the 1800’s and developed into a NYC tradition of taking care of wildlife and endangered species. Enjoy the main zoo and the Children’s petting zoo.

Look up at the Wildlife Center for the  famous clock that plays 44 different songs depending on the season! The zoo is  Must-Do on my list.

Delacorte Clock at the Tisch Zoo in Central Park
Central Park Zoo animal

#8 See the Cherry Blossoms in bloom at Cherry Hill

Mid Park at 72nd St. This spot is filled with Cherry Blossom Trees and overlooks the lake. The fountain was originally designed for the horses to have a watering spot. Catch the trees in bloom in the Springtime if you can.

#9 Stroll the Conservatory Gardens

5th Ave. between 104th and 106th Streets. This six acre garden is the only formal garden in the park and is filled with English, French, and Italian style gardens.

#10 Rent Model Boats at the Conservatory Water and  Kerb’s Boat House Cafe

East Side between 72nd St. and 73rd St.This is the famous model boat pond that was inspired by the pond  in Luxumbourg Garden in Paris. Typically the boat rental season and cafe are open from April – November and boats costs $11 for 30 mins. However, sometimes, they aren’t available so do a little Google check before you get your hopes up!
Cherry Blossom Trees in Cherry Hill Central Park

#11 See Shakespeare at the Delacorte Theater

80th St. This is the famous home of the Shakespeare in the Park started by Joseph Papp. Two plays per summer are performed and tix are free! Just wait in line the morning of the show and you’ll have the chance to sit in the open air theater with 1872 seats. I will never forget seeing Kevin Kline as Henry VIII. Nothing like outside in NYC on a summer night and watching a great performance!

#12 Have a picnic at the Great Lawn

Mid Park from 79th St. to 85th St. This is the 55 acre famous lawn known for its 360 views, relaxing vibe, being a perfect place for picnics and naps.

#13 Check  out the Waterfalls in the
Hallett Nature Sanctuary

62nd St and 5th Ave. and Central Park South. This is a special treat in the park in that it is 4 acres of a nature preserve with views,waterfalls, and wildlife. It’s tucked behind an entry gate and is only open from 10AM until 30 mins before sunset. There is a limit to how many people are there at a time.

#14 Climb on Hans Christian Andersen
& the Ugly Duckling

East Side at 74th St. This is another terrific bronze sculpture for children to enjoy. Erected in 1956, it commemorates the 150th birthday of the author reading his story The Ugly Duckling.
Central Park Rambles
Great Lawn Central Park

#15 Go Fishing in the Harlem Meer

North of Conservatory Gardens. This is an 11 acre lake (can you believe how many lakes are in the park?) surrounded by beautiful tress and flowers. Its open for skating in the winter and catch and release fishing and swimming in the summer.

#16 Honor John Lennon at the Imagine Mosaic in Strawberry Fields 

Central Park West between 71st St. and 74th St. This is a 2.5 acre Quiet Zone dedicated to the beloved John Lennon. About 120 countries donated plants and money to contribute to the spot. The space is beautifully gardened and is a meditative spot for all to enjoy.
Reasons to visit New York

#17 Go for a run around the
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir 

86th St. and 5th Ave. Originally created in 1862, this reservoir supplied clean water to the city. Today, the reservoir distributes water to the Central Park Lasker pool, Harlem Meer, and Loch.

The reservoir is most famous, however, for its 1.58 mile running. Jackie O., Bill Clinton, and countless others have walked and run this track as part of their daily NYC exercise. I never miss the opportunity to run the reservoir and take in the best views when I am in town.

#18 Go swimming or skating at Lasker Pool

Mid Park between 106th St. and 108th St. (The pool is currently under renovation,  but will open  by the summer of 2024). This is a free public olympic size pool with a child wading pool and a snack bar.  Its open for swimming in the summer and ice skating in the winter. It overlooks Harlem Meer and will be open all year round. Skating in the park is magical duirng the winter holiday time.

#19 Take the Literary Walk

66th St. to 72nd St. on the Southern end of The Mall. This part of the Mall is lined with  statues of famous writers such as Shakespeare and the Women’s Rights pioneers.

#20 Take the stage at the Namburg Bandshell

Between 66th St. and 72nd St. is south of the Bethesda Fountain. The bandshell has not only hosted music concerts but was also the site of an MLK speech and a eulogy for John Lennnon. You can listen to music there, or hop onstage for a private performance as you stroll by when no one is performing.
Central Park view from the Jackie O Reservoir
Namburg Bandshell in Central Park
Central Park Statue women in literature

#21 Visit the Ancient Obelisk

81st St. and 5th Ave. Behind the Met. This is a fascinating and underrated special statue standing 71 feet high and weighing 220  tons is covered in ancient hieroglyphs.

Commonly known as Cleopatra’s Needle, this ancient obelisk is one of only two in the world that were made in 1450 BC in Egypt. In the late 1881 century, one was gifted to London and one to NYC as a thanks for helping to modernize Egypt. It took 4 months to move it from the Hudson to Central Park!

In 2011 Egypt threatened to take it back  because it was deteriorating after 3500 years of being in the sand and being poorly restored. It has since undergone lots of proper restoration and is a treasure of the park and museum.

#22 Stroll through the Shakespeare Garden

80th St near the Delacorte Theater. This is a hidden, little known treasure of the park filled with plants  and flowers mentioned in Shakespeare plays. There is even a tree grafted from a white mulberry tree that was planted by Shakespeare himself!

#23 Graze in the Sheep Meadow

Mid Park at 70th St. This 15 acre grassy meadow was originally created for military parades but became the home of sheep grazing in the 1860s.It has since become the spot for protests, concerts, and a relaxing spot for picnics and gatherings.

#24 Climb Summit Rock

West Side at 83rd St. This hill is the highest spot in the park. Its got a cool stone formation and overlooks some of the prettiest areas of the Park.

#25 See a Marionette Show at the Swedish Cottage

79th St. at West Drive. This is a little cottage that was moved to the park from Sweden in 1877. It was used for military purposes, a library, a tool house, and is now a marionette theater. You can see the children’s shows twice daily.
Must See In New York City

#24 Have Drinks at Tavern On The Green

West Side at 66th St. This iconic restaurant used to be the home for all the sheep who grazed in the meadow. In 1934, the sheep were relocated and this traditional New York spot has become to go-to for tourists and New Yorkers alike. Its quite beautiful and special, especially at Christmas time. If you can’t get a reservation for dinner, at least stop in  for a drink and some fries!
Tavern on the Green Central Park
Tavern on the Green at Christmas

#25 Ride the Famous Carousel 

Mid Park at 65th St. This famous attraction opened in  1871 and was fueled  by a horse and a  mule who were trained to stop and start with the operators foot tap. The next  versions were steam powered but were destroyed by fires.

Then in 1950, the current carousel was rescued from Coney Island. It has 57 hand painted horses that are always undergoing restoration. It’s cash only for $3.25 per ride.

#26 Walk the Famous Mall

Mid Park 66th St. to 72nd St.  This is by far my favorite spot in the park. Designed to be a place wide enough for horse carriages to roam and for people to stroll, it’s now famous for all the movies and TV shows it has been in! The Mall is lined with American Elm trees and stretches from the Bethesda Terrace above the fountain.

#27 Wander in the Ramble

Mid Park between 73rd St. and 78th St. This is the 38 acres of rambling and winding pathways designed to be  like a maze garden with the Gill, a man-made stream that runs through it.

#28 Say Hello to the Turtles at Turtle Pond

Mid Park at 79th St. The pond at the base of the castle is home to lots of turtles. Hence, the name. It’s known for being a calm spot in the park because it sits below the street level and tends to be quieter.

#29 Go Skating at Wollman Rink

59th St. at 6th Ave. Since 1949, this is New York’s premiere skating rink. While Rockefeller Center gets a lot of the press, the Wollman is a cherished spot for ice skating in the Fall and Winter and other activities like pickle ball and roller skating the rest of the year.
Central Park Bow Bridge

Know Before You Go To Central Park

Where is the best place to stay near Central Park?

The Hotel Beacon

The Hotel Beacon is a historic building on the Upper West Side with apartment style rooms near Central Park. Reviews say its wonderful, quiet, great staff, walking distance to the park, and is a gem on the upper west side. This hotel can cost you $303 and up.

How to get to Central Park

Central Park spans from 110th Street all the way down to 59th Street, and is between Central Park West and Fifth Avenue.

New York’s Upper East Side and Upper West Side are divided by the park and flank each side of the park with some of the most beautiful and quintessentially New York neighborhoods.

Since the park covers so much territory, its easy to access via subway, bus, taxi, bike and walking.

Depending on where you are starting out, choose an entrance to the park, such as Columbus Circle at 59th Street, at the bottom of the park. Then hop out of your ride share or subway and head into the park!

When is the best time to visit
Central Park?

Summer in the park is a blast. Enjoy the shade, go swimming, boating, see perfomances, picnic and take naps!

Fall is glorious becasue of the foliage and the crisp air. I love the park in the fall!

Winter storms turn the park into a wonter wonderland. Go skating, sledding, and enjoy all the holiday activities.

Spring  in the park brings all the trees and flowers into bloom, so watch for the birds and don’t miss the Cherry Blosssoms.

Some Central Park History

The park is approximately 1.4 square miles dedicated to providing New Yorkers with free and public access to greenery and nature.

Initially, in the early 1850’s the wealthy homeowners in New York wanted a place for their carriage rides and strolls. They said that the less privileged New Yorkers also needed a healthy space for recreation.

Eventually, the state allowed New York City to purchase the swampy land and build a public park.

Unfortunately, many poor people living in settlements in the park were displaced by the project. This included immigrant Irish and German farmers as well as many African Americans who lived in the Seneca Village settlement. By 1857 all the displaced residents had been relocated.

Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux designed what is probably the most famous park in the world today.

About 270,000 trees were planted, rocks were blasted, a reservoir was built, and man made lakes and ponds replaced the swamps. The park opened in 1859 and eventually more attractions were built such as the carousel, tennis lawns, and the zoo. 

Today, the park provides us all with a beautiful setting and a ton of fun things to do all year long!

Is Central Park Safe?

During the day, it is safe to walk alone in Central Park. You’ll see many people walking alone in Central Park, passing through, stopping for a rest, enjoying the sites, and generally taking advantage of one of the most beautiful public parks in the world.

The night time is a different story however. Although the 843 acres of the park are well lit and carefully patrolled by the Central Park Precinct, it is not advised to walk alone in the park at night.

There are crimes such as muggings and assaults reported in the park frequently enough, so being alone in a less populated part of New York City at night is not recommended.

You can shoose a sunset cruise in New York, however, if you’re looking for an outdoor evening activity.

Read more about safety in Central Park here.

I hope you enjoy the Best 29 Things To Do In Central Park

In a nutshell…

You are now basically an expert on all things Central Park! Go, and have a great time. 

If you are visiting NYC for the first time or are a veteran, check out my other New York City posts for more ideas of things to do in the city! 

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Hi There! I’m Carrie.

Carrie Green-Zinn Bio Page

I’m a native New Englander, turned New Yorker, turned California girl! Following a dance career, working as a dance therapist, and being a school psychologist, I’m now ready to share my passion for photography and travel with you! I absolutely love seeing the world with my family and friends. I know you feel the same! Let’s go! 

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