Central Park is the huge park in the middle of Manhattan. It runs from 59th to 110th Street (and from Fifth to 8th Avenue) and is artificially landscaped with some untouched nature here and there. The park has no less than 42 million visitors per year and is the green heart of Manhattan. The recreational route is car-free and the park has a huge diversity of sights and activities. Whether it is winter or summer, there is always something going on.
Places of interest in Central Park
There is so much to do in Central Park that you do not have enough on one visit. To help you a little bit, we have listed some activities in Central Park.
The Great Lawn
The Great Lawn is the big field in the middle of the park (from 79th to 86th Street) with baseball and basketball courts and space for countless other sports. Free concerts are also offered here in the summer.
In 1980, John Lennon, known from The Beatles, was shot dead in front of his apartment (the Dakota Building), near Central Park. After his death, Strawberry Fields was designed as a symbol of peace on the spot in the park where he liked to come. Fans lay flowers, poems and candles in memory of Lennon every day.
Location: West Side, between 71st and 74th Street
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir
The Reservoir was named in 1994 after Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, as a thank you for her great commitment to the city. She also liked to run there. This is still a popular place to walk hard, especially in the spring because the blossoming trees are beautifully blooming. The round is about 2.5 km long.
Location: 85th to 96th Street, from east to west
Central Park Zoo
Lions, monkeys, penguins and polar bears can all be found in the Central Park Zoo. This zoo was also used for the film Madagascar. There is also a special Children’s Zoo, where children can view goats, sheep, cows and a pot-bellied pig.
Location: East Side between 63rd Street and 66th Street
Opening hours: winter 13.00 – 16.30 hours, summer 10.00 – 17.00 hours and weekends 10.00 – 17.30 hours
Read more about Central Park Zoo here
The Belvedere Castle was built in the nineteenth century on top of Vista Rock, one of the original rockeries (450 million years old!). Until the sixties, this place was used by the New York Meteorological Observatory to predict the weather. ‘Belvedere’ is Italian for ‘beautiful view’ and the castle certainly lives up to its name.
Location: 79th Street, in the middle of the park at Turtle Pond
Sheep Meadow is a wonderful place to rest. Many New Yorkers come here in the summer to sunbathe and picnic. The skyscrapers around the park protrude above the trees, this yields a beautiful picture. Until 1934 it was a pasture where sheep grazed and the shepherd lived in a building that is now called Tavern on the Green. This is also the place where films are shown in the open air at the end of August.
Entrance is free.
Location: West Side, from 66th to 69th Street
Tavern on the Green
Tavern on the Green is a chic restaurant, located on the west side of Central Park. The menu includes dishes with seasonal and local ingredients. Here you can have lunch or dinner in a classic setting with a view of the park. Tavern on the Green is a nice restaurant for a special occasion or romantic dinner for two.
Location: West Side, 67th Street
A beautiful garden with only flowers and plant species that are mentioned in the work of Shakespeare. There is also a mulberry tree; it is said to be a shoot of a tree planted by Shakespeare itself in 1602.
The garden is near the Delacorte Theater, where from May to August the work of Shakespeare is recited during Shakespeare in the Park. This is an extremely popular series of theater performances where celebrities such as Al Pacino, Meryl Streep and Natalie Portman have worked on through the years. Free tickets are available, but for this you have to queue on the day of the performance. There is also a limited number of tickets for sale.
Location: West Side between 79th and 80th Street
Did you know that there are also waterfalls in Central Park? It is not known to many tourists and therefore it is beautiful, quiet pieces of nature. There are a total of five landscaped waterfalls through which New York’s drinking water flows. From the west side, enter the park at 102nd Street and follow ‘the Loch’ (up to 106th Street)
The Bethesda Terrace is designed as the heart of Central Park. On the stairs you have a beautiful view of the lake and the Great Lawn and under the stairs is often, because of the good acoustics, beautifully sung or played by street artists. In the middle of the square is the Bethesda fountain, one of the most famous fountains in the world. The fountain is also called the Angel of the Waters, under the angel you can see four cherubs that symbolize health, cleanliness, austerity and peace.
Location : Middle of the park, at 72nd Street
Opposite the Bethesda fountain, on the other side of the water, lies the idyllic Loeb Boathouse. The Boathouse is a place where one can sail in a rowing boat, rent bicycles and romantic gondolas. Of course you can also take a rest while enjoying the fantastic view over the lake while enjoying a snack and a drink.
Location: East Side between 74th and 75th Street (dining is only possible from April to November)
The Naumburg Bandshell was built in 1923 and is the only neoclassical building in Central Park. In the Naumbug Bandshell, acoustic performances take place. Banker and philanthropist Elkan Naumburg financed the construction of the stage. At times when no performances take place in the Naumburg Bandshell, park visitors sit on stage or admire the special architecture.
Location: Middle of the park, from 66th Street to 72nd Street
From the end of October until March two skating rinks can be found in Central Park: the Wollman Rink (recreational) and the Lasker Rink (ice hockey and the experienced skaters). It is best to rent skates for the Wollman Rink in advance.
Location: Wollman Rink -> 59th Street & 6th Avebue ( keep right when entering the park here )
Lasker Rink: west side, 100th Street
Read more about skating in New York here
In the summer months ice skates are replaced by ice cream, then there is an amusement park on the spot of the Wollman Rink. Victorian Gardens is open from June to September and offers a variety of attractions, games, food and fun for the whole family.
Location: 59th Street & 6th Avenue (keep right as soon as you enter the park)
Transport in the park
You can of course go on foot, but there are several ways to explore the park.
Rent a bike
The best way to explore Central Park is by bike. It is best to reserve bikes in advance, so you pay less and you are assured of a bicycle. Central Park uses one-way traffic, making it very easy to cycle around the park without any problems.
Read more about renting a bicycle here
Rowing and bike rental
Rowing boats on The Central Park Lake, it is a classic picture. Rent a rowing boat in Central Park if you want to do something special, romance guaranteed. You combine an hour of rowing with bike rental for a day, so before and after you go on the water, you can explore the park and the rest of the city by bicycle.
Read more about renting a rowboat in Central Park here
If you plan to take a bicycle taxi, I advise you to book it in advance using the link below. That way you know what the costs are.. I never recommend to rent a bicycle taxi on the spot. Also know that only two people fit into a bicycle taxi.
Book a bicycle taxi here
Horse riding in Central Park
A great and special way to discover the park is from the back of a horse. A guide will guide you over the bridle paths that run through the park. Horse riding in New York is a very special experience. It is easy and safe, even if you have never been on a horse before!
Book riding in Central Park here
Central Park Walking Tour
During this two-hour walk you will learn more about the interesting history of the park and its development. You stop at famous film locations such as the Wollman Rink, the Boathouse Cafe, the Central Park Mall and the Bethesda Fountain. In small company you explore the park. The meeting point is on the corner of West 56th Street and 6th Avenue, just a few blocks from Central Park.
Book the Central Park Walking Tour here
Other fun facts about Central Park
-More than 250 films have already been recorded in the park
-There could be roughly 16 million New York apartments in Central Park!
-The park is larger than the Principality of Monaco
-In order to make the four motorways running through the park, so much rock had to be blown away that a larger amount of gunpowder was used than at the battle at Gettysburg during the American civil war.
Central Park is huge, as you can read above. You can walk through the park to discover it, but if you want to see a lot, it is smarter to do a bike tour with a guide. This will cycle you through the whole park in a few hours and you will see the most important sights.