Visiting New York but don’t want to be stuck with just boring old cement and buildings? Then you’ll want to head on over to central park, this beautiful and enormous park is full of fun things to do for travelers and locals. Central Park has maintained a high position on things first-time travelers must do when visiting new york for the first time, the reasons being endless.
Whether you love running, biking, exploring trails, visiting expansive museums with beautiful collections, having picnics in meadows, or snapping photos of new yorks stunning skyline, you won’t be let down. This is why we wanted to create the best things to do in central park, so you know exactly how to plan out your days in new york and save enough time to view this magnificent park and live like a local.
This post is all about the best things to do in central park for first-time visitors, locals, and seasoned travelers, regardless of your experience with traveling in new york you are sure to find a new activity to enjoy at this wonderful park.
Commonly asked questions for things to do in Central Park
What is the best part of Central Park to visit?
The best part of central park to visit is undeniably the mall walkway that leads you to the Bethesda fountain and terrace. This popular walking pathway connects the east and west sides of the park and is always busy with travelers, performances, art displays, and more.
What is there to do in Central Park at night?
Central Park has live musical performances, late evening jogs, and young people hanging out. Just make sure to stay in busier areas and dont stay out too late, especially in the more remote areas of central park.
Is Central Park safe after dark?
Central park closes at 1 am, but despite this, we still do not recommend exploring the park or any park after dark. Especially if traveling alone or in small groups. One, you may trip and fall, despite the lighting around the park, and two you could be robbed or hurt.
Which part of Central Park is the most beautiful?
The most beautiful part of central park is up for debate as it’s a personal opinion, but we think it’s the Bethesda fountain and terrace. These beautiful architectural works of art are stunning and worth a visit to see in person.
What can you do for free in Central Park?
There are so many free things to do in central park, go for a stroll through the mall, take photos at the popular Bethesda fountains Terrace and romantic bow bridge, grab food at a food truck on the sides of the park, explore hidden trails, and have a picnic in the sheep meadow.
The 11 best central park attractions
Go for a stroll through the mall
What park visit would be complete without an elaborate drawn-out stroll? Exactly, taking a walk, jogging, roll in a park is almost a requirement of any visitor. Especially the iconic “The Mall” stretch that goes through the middle of central park and connects the west to east side via 66th street and 72nd st. While enjoying this stroll it’s pretty common to see live performances from musical artists, painters, bands, and others. Instead of rushing through this part of the itinerary, grab a latte and sit and relax and enjoy one of these performances. (don’t forget to tip ☺️)
Visit Bethesda terrace and fountain
The beautiful Bethesda Terrace is an architectural beauty that is nestled in the heart of the central park. Tourists from around the world flock to visit this landmark creation, so it’s a very busy destination. If you would like to avoid the crowds, heading on over during sunrise is the best time to secure a peaceful moment.
The terrace features an unsealed arcade that is decorated with over 16,000 tiles across its ceilings. Due to the acoustic favor of this design, it’s very common to see musicians performing and listening to the sounds echo off the tile.
When looking at the Bethesda fountain it’s easy to get lost in the intricate design that features a large sculpture of an angel which is well known as the Angel of the Waters and was created by artist Emma Stebbins, back in 1873 for the celebration of the 1842 opening of the Croton Aqueduct as stated by Central Park. The significance of this aqueduct was of paramount importance due to the city’s lack of a clean water supply, and this is why the angel is portrayed as blessing the water. One special note about this fountain is it stands 26 feet tall making it one of New York’s largest fountains.
Peddle across central park
Central park is massive and would take multiple days to tour by foot if trying to explore every nook and cranny of the park. This is why renting a bike or even joining a bike tour is perfect! By riding a bicycle, a person can shave off hours of wasted foot traffic and hit multiple attractions of the park easily.
The only downfall to this is not being able to ride the bikes on the inner paths, you’ll have to stick to bike paths or the different central parks park drive loops of nearly 2 miles, 5 miles, and 6 miles stretches that take you by some of the listed must-do activities in central park: Renting a row boat, Belveder castle, strawberry field, conservatory garden, and others. If you’re looking for other things to do in new york city then make sure to read our new york city guide!
Rent a row boat and paddle across central park lake
Stop by at Loeb boathouse which is located on the east side of the park. Then enjoy some tasty food and drinks before embarking on your water journey. After having your fill of delicious substances, head on over and speak to the workers to grab yourself a boat, if you dont like the idea of paddling on a hot day then rest assured you can also rent a higher-cost power boat.
If that isn’t enough you can also opt-in for a gondola ride and relax while they take you across the lake, keep in mind this option requires a reservation and they book quickly during the summer months.
Visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Location: 1000 5th Ave, Near Central Park
Cost: Free for 12 and under | $17 for students | $22 for Seniors | $30 for Adults
Special Note: Closed on Wednesdays
Hours: 10 am – 5 pm (subject to change)
Have a. passion for art? Then you have to stop by the famous The Met, this iconic art museum is where the Met gala is held (duh) and we can see why it was chosen. The Metropolitan museum of art features an outstanding collection of various artworks from different time periods such s ancient Egypt, Asia, medieval Europe, and other cultures and time periods. Marvel at unique statues, one-of-a-kind jewelry, and other magnificent pieces that call The Met home.
To ensure you have a ticket, you’ll want to order online and this helps with avoiding the long lines that typically appear from morning to afternoon. The Met museum will take around half a day to a full day to explore so dont procrastinate and save it for last otherwise you’ll find yourself rushing through exhibits and barely remembering anything.
Visit the Central Park Zoo
Location: Central Park
Cost: $19.95 for Adults 13 and over | $14.95 for childnre 3-12 | $16.95 for seniors 65 and over
Hours: 10 am – 5 pm Monday through Friday and 10 am – 5:30 pm Saturday and Sunday
While this Zoo may be on the smaller side at only 6 acres, it’s still a must-do in our book. The zoo is home to over species. These various species are from different bugs, monkeys, polar bears, snow leopards, geckos parrots, and more! The zoo also has a great message and routine is involved in helping curb the extinction of animals by giving back to them in methods of preservation. The zoo is a home for these at-risk species and makes sure they are taken care of above and beyond the typical zoo. It’s no wonder why this zoo is so popular despite its tiny size and a total must do for visiting New York with kids!
Have a picnic at the Sheep Meadow
While you won’t find any sheep here, this special meadow was originally inspired to be an elegant countryside aesthetic similar to those you find in Europe and Britain. It also actually had sheep that would grace the pasture, and it was a thing for quite some time.
We’re honestly a little sad there weren’t sheep, would have been so cool to see them enjoying themselves, but then again can’t imagine society not messing with them ?. Despite the lack of sheep, the sheep meadow is a wonderful place to sit and have a picnic and is usually bustling with visitors who Frolik to this part of central park to relax in the fun and hang out with friends and family for good times and vibes.
Explore Strawberry Fields
Contrary to its name, this is not a huge land made for picking strawberries. it’s also a very busy and popular area that is trafficked by tourists and locals alike on a daily. A direct contradiction to its original purpose of being a place of peaceful reflection. In fact, the strawberry fields memorial was created to remember the departed famous battle, John Lennon.
If you’re not familiar with John Lennon’s passing, he was unfortunately shot near central park and his wife Yoko designed the imagine moral to remember and honor her late husband. Now when you visit, strawberry fields youll see live performances from various artists all strumming away to the famous Beatles near his memorial mosaic. h
Take a photo at the romantic bow bridge
Located: 72nd street
Special Note: Arrive at sunrise for the best photography sessions and fewer crowds
Whether youre visiting with a loved one, friends, family, or solo, visiting the bow bridge should be on your list of things to do in central park. This popular central park attraction is frequently visited due to its unique shape that looks like it came off Cupid’s bow. The romantic shape is the reason so many frolics on this specific bridge, and that says something because the central park has over 40 bridges!
But as you guessed, this bridge is a hotspot! Especially for photography, everyone wants to snap a photo at the romantic bow bridge. So to avoid the crowds we recommend you go during sunrise, we went during sunset and it was still extremely crowded and couldn’t get a nice photo because of how many people there were.
Hop on the iconic central park carousel
Almost every big city has a carousel that is touted to be the best and most meaningful, but New York’s Central Park Carousel has got be one of the best carousels in the united states. It features 58 hand-carved horses and 2 decorative chariots and is said to be one of the largest merry-go-rounds in the USA. This small and retro design carousel is perfect for not just children but also adults! So grab a few dollars and pick a horse and get going!
Also special fact, the carousel standing today is not the original carousel, in fact, central park has replaced the carousel several times due to fires, breakdowns, and new advances in technology. The carousel that stands today was constructed in 1908, and it’s a wonder that nothing has happened to it like its predecessors as mentioned by NYCgovoarks.org.
Visit Belvedere Castle
Most people think of castles and immediately flash to Europe, however, you’ll be happy to learn that new yorks central park has its very own little castle. The Belvedere Castle is exceptionally well made and really makes you feel like youre being transported to another time and place. You’ll find this lovely little castle nestled on vista rock, where you can catch breathtaking views of the expansive park. Make sure to snap a photo or two because it really is such a beautiful sight to witness the park at different angles and levels.
A little history about the beloved Belveder castle, it was originally designed in 1865 by Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted as stated by Cynthia from the Archives NYC. The purpose of the castle was to offer grand views of the park, but it changed over time and became a building for weather shelter, then was abandoned and needed to be repaired due to severe vandalism.
That wraps up our post for things to do in central park, we hope you enjoyed it and found it to be helpful =). Central Park really is a massive park and there is so much to do, so make sure you plan a full day to spend there to get the most out of it.