21 Fun & Unusual Things to Do in Central Park | 2024 (with Photos)

Rosalia Ignatova

Rosalia Ignatova - Travel Writer

Published: June 30, 2023

Hi there! I'm Rose, a passionate traveler and adventurer. Join me as I explore Central Park in 2024, sharing 21 unique and exciting activities with stunning photos to inspire your next visit. Let's make unforgettable memories in this iconic New York City gem!

Central Park, New York City

Nestled in the concrete jungle of New York City is the sprawling and iconic Central Park. Escape the city bustle and join the thousands of park goers who seek out this oasis on a daily basis.

Have an authentic New York City experience completely free of charge and enjoy a host of Central Park attractions.

Central Park offers an endless array of nature-inspired activities and sights, all set against the iconic New York skyline. From horse and carriage rides to ice skating and museum trips, the options are endless and diverse.

So if you're looking for things to do in Central Park, your exploration starts here.

Most Recommended Thing to Do

Central Park

Top Choice Hotel

Park Hyatt New York

Our Top Choice Restaurant

Per Se

Our Top Choice Bar for Nightlife

Le Bain

Best Time to Visit

Spring or fall for mild weather and fewer tourists.

Average Temperature

The average temperature in New York City is...

Transportation Options

Subways, buses, taxis, ferries, bikes, walking, rideshare services

Average Cost ($, $$, $$$)


My Top Recommendation

If you're visiting New York City, don't miss out on the iconic experience of strolling through Central Park, surrounded by nature amidst the bustling city - it's a perfect retreat from the fast-paced urban life.

To immerse yourself in the vibrant culture and history of New York City, a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a must - explore the diverse and extensive collection of art and artifacts, and let the masterpieces transport you to different eras and civilizations.

What You'll Need to Bring

  1. Valid identification (such as passport or driver's license)
  2. Comfortable walking shoes
  3. Lightweight clothing for warm weather
  4. Layered clothing for cooler temperatures
  5. Umbrella or raincoat (depending on the time of year)
  6. Travel adapter for your electronic devices
  7. Portable charger for your phone or other devices
  8. Cash or credit cards for purchases
  9. Camera or smartphone for capturing memories
  10. Guidebooks or maps for navigating the city.

What Not to Miss

  1. Statue of Liberty
  2. Empire State Building
  3. Central Park
  4. Times Square
  5. Brooklyn Bridge
  6. Metropolitan Museum of Art
  7. High Line Park
  8. One World Observatory
  9. Broadway shows
  10. Museum of Modern Art

What to Avoid

  1. Crowded tourist areas
  2. Eating at restaurants with high prices
  3. Rush hour subway rides
  4. Street food from questionable vendors
  5. Unlicensed tourist guides
  6. Leaving valuable belongings unattended

1. Stroll or Sail Around the Lake

Central Park Lake

While in New York City, you can escape the bustle and sail across its picturesque Central Park Lake. At Loeb Boathouse you can grab a rowboat or gondola for a serene cruise.

Rivaled in size only by the Central Park Reservoir, the expansive Lake is the perfect place to cool off and spend a leisurely afternoon.

You can enjoy views of the upper west side from the water, amble by The Ramble, sail past Strawberry Fields, and head under Bow Bridge.

When planning things to do in Central Park, the Lake is a must. You can even see our next location from your boat: Bethesda Fountain.

2. Visit Bethesda Terrace and Fountain

Bethesda Terrace and Fountain

No trip to Central Park would be complete without visiting the stunning Bethesda Terrace and Fountain. Overlooking the southern shore of the Lake, take in the iconic eight-foot bronze Angel of the Waters or indulge in a half-hour of people-watching.

The angel represents health and purity so take a moment to enjoy the serenity at Bethesda Terrace.

The Bethesda Fountain is not only a hot spot on the Central Park map, but it is also one of the largest fountains in New York. You're sure to get some Instagram-worthy shots.

3. Make Waves at the Central Park Reservoir

Central Park Reservoir

If you want to add fitness to your things to do in Central Park, take a jog on the 1.58-mile track around the reservoir, or just take in the view.

The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir is the largest body of water in Central Park and a favorite location of native New Yorkers and tourists alike.

Boasting spectacular views of the New York skyline both the upper east side and the upper west side, whilst soaking in the serenity of the Central Park Reservoir is the perfect reset.

4. Honor John Lennon at the Strawberry Fields

Central Park - John Lennon at the Strawberry Fields

The next location is west on the Central Park map. The Strawberry Fields pay homage to Beatles' legend, John Lennon. It reopened in 1985, on what would have been John Lennon’s 45th birthday.

Adjacent to this part of Central Park is the Dakota Apartments, where John Lennon and Yoko Ono lived.

Commemorating his life and talents, the Strawberry Fields was named after the Beatles' hit Strawberry Fields, which Lennon wrote.

Take in the iconic black and white Imagine mosaic. The mosaic was named after one of John Lennon's most famous songs and represents peace and free thought.

5. Visit the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater

Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater

This quaint Central Park cottage, originally built in Sweden, is the perfect spot to appreciate authentic Scandinavian architecture.

The beautiful wooden building had many functions before it became the well-loved Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater.

One of the many things to do in Central Park is to bring the kids or indulge your inner child and enjoy reimagined fairy tales at the theater.

The Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater promises a moment of magic. Check out the Marionette Theater site to see what's on now.

6. The Shakespeare Garden is a Midsummer Night's Dream

Shakespeare Garden

Pay homage to the works of William Shakespeare in this little slice of English culture in the Big Apple.

Tucked along a steep hillside on the west side, just below the Belvedere Castle, uncover the secrets of the Shakespeare Garden.

Immerse yourself in the thicket of trees and flowers, uncovering the poetic quotes of William Shakespeare on plaques dotted around.

Located next to the Delacorte Theater, a famous venue for productions of Shakespeare in the Park, the Shakespeare Garden is a peaceful delight.

7. Visit Delacorte Theater

Delacorte Theater

After visiting the Shakespeare Garden, why not mosey on down to see a William Shakespeare play in the open-air Delacorte Theater, on the southwest corner of the Great Lawn?

Enjoyed by tens of thousands of Central Park goers each summer, Shakespeare comes to life at the Delacorte**.** Be prepared to wait in line on the day to grab your free ticket.

8. Literary Walk and Mall

Literary Walk

The Mall, known as the "promenade", is the only straight path in Central Park.

Another one of the many things to do in Central Park is head along the Mall, lined with a gorgeous canopy of American elm trees on either side, towards famous writers of the past.

It's not just Shakespeare you will see commemorated in Central Park. The Literary Walk, at the south end of the mall, has statues of renowned writers, such as Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Fitz-Greene Halleck.

Snap a picture with your favorite literary figure, then you can follow the path directly to Bethesda Fountain for more exploration.

9. Go Back in Time to Belvedere Castle

Belvedere Castle

Set atop Vista rock, the gothic Belvedere Castle is a wonder. Marvel at the 1870s architecture in one of the most fast-paced cities in the world.

Belvedere Castle stands apart from the modern skyscrapers of New York City. It offers stunning panoramic views of the Central Park Turtle Pond, the Ramble, and the Great Lawn.

Belvedere Castle is an iconic picturesque setting and one of Central Park's most popular.

10. Speed Things Up with a Central Park Bike Tour

Central Park Bike Tour

If you want to see as much of Central Park as possible, you can whiz around on one of the bike tours. Take in rolling views of the Ramble, bolt across Bow Bridge, and get splashed by the Cherry Hill fountain.

There’s no quicker way to see the whole park. Work up a sweat, stop for sustenance and grab one of the hot dogs to go, and finish by laying out a picnic blanket and relaxing.

11. Central Park by Horse-Drawn Carriage

Central Park Horse Drawn Carriages

If bikes aren't your style, you can live your own fairytale with a horse and carriage ride around Central Park.

Take in all the sights while feeling like you've just stepped out of a scene of Sex and the City.

Coasting past the Bethesda Fountain, the Metropolitan Museum, or the North Meadow by horse and carriage is by far the more luxurious way to experience Central Park.

Central Park Carousel

If real horses aren't your thing, head to the vintage wood-carved carousel located at the southern end of Central Park.

There has been a carousel in Central Park since the 1800s so it's been an attraction enjoyed through the ages.

Indulge your inner child and climb aboard for a whimsical ride that 250,000 people enjoy in Central Park each year. Tickets are only a few dollars.

Race to the Central Park Carousel and pick your favorite of 57 horses now.

13. Conservatory Water

Conservatory Water

Home of the model boat pond, Conservatory Water is a must-see for first-timers and natives visiting Central Park. Sit waterside to watch people racing miniature boats across the water.

If you don't have the time to visit Loeb Boathouse and rent a boat of your own, why not do the next best thing and watch the tiny boats sail across Conservatory Water?

14. The Alice in Wonderland Statue

Wonderland Statue

Central Park honors yet another writer with a gorgeous statue. Not far from Conservatory Water, you can find the bronze Alice, Mad Hatter, and Rabbit statue standing 11 feet tall.

A nod to Lewis Carroll's classic, the Alice in Wonderland Statue is a fan-favorite, especially for children who enjoy climbing (which is allowed).

Don't be late for a very important date, and check out José de Creeft's 1959 creation a stone's throw from Fifth Avenue.

15. Get Wild at the Central Park Zoo

Central Park Zoo

Stalk the snow leopards, watch the sea lions splash, and play alongside penguins and the Central Park Zoo.

Head to the rainforest room to see an array of lizards, frogs, snakes, and tropical birds.

If you have children who are animal lovers too, Central Park Zoo also has the Tisch Children's Zoo where your kids can feed, stroke, and get up close and personal with gentle farm animals.

16. Mellow out at Sheep Meadow

Sheep Meadow

Take a break from exploring Central Park and stop for a picnic or lay out on the expansive, lush Sheep Meadow.

Once grazed by real sheep, now it serves as a popular lounging spot for a moment's rest from busy city life.

There's never been a better time to follow the flock for a few moments of respite. Head to Sheep Meadow and don't forget to bring a great book.

17. Amble by the Ramble

The Ramble, Central Park

If you're in need of even more greenery, where better in Central Park to be than the Ramble? Get lost on the paths less traveled in this serene spot.

Experience a woodland wonderland in the middle of one of the busiest cities in the world. Not far from the Bethesda Terrace, enter New York's favorite forest and breathe in the tranquility of the Ramble.

18. Cross Bridges Over Tranquil Water

Central Park Bridge

Exploring the beautiful bridges is one of the many exciting things to do in Central Park.

One of the most recognized and photographed bridges, Bow Bridge is an iconic Central Park staple. Connecting Cherry Hill and the Ramble, this romantic hotpot offers stunning views, making it the perfect place to pop the question or shoot a rom-com.

Getting its name from its gentle arc, the Bow Bridge is the oldest cast-iron bridge in Central Park, and definitely the most popular.

Bridge the gap at Gapstow Bridge, another stunning and iconic Central Park attraction. If visiting in the fall, indulge in the deep reds and burnt oranges of the changing leaves and breathe in the sweet scent of old oak trees and the abundant cherry trees.

Every inch of Central Park is teeming with wildlife - keep an eye out for ducks and geese wading through the water.

19. Metropolitan Museum of Art

Metropolitan Museum of Art

If you want to check culture off your things to do in Central Park, this is your next stop.

As New York City's largest art museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art holds a plethora of stunning pieces spanning 5,000 years.

This best museum in NYC, just off the iconic Fifth Avenue, is a year-round favorite. Seek shelter in its ornate walls and indulge in some culture.

Admire the talents of Van Gogh or discover Monet's Water Lily, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is definitely a shining gem of Central Park.

20. Ice skating at Central Park

Ice skating at Central Park

Central Park may seem to be more of a summer day out but don't miss the winter wonders it has in store too.

Glide over to the Wollman Rink, grab some skates, and skim over the ice whilst taking in the breathtaking backdrop of New York City.

If you'd love to take part but have never skated before, they also offer skate lessons and rental equipment to help you.

Ice skating at Wollman Rink is the perfect way to enjoy the chillier months in Central Park.

21. Central Park Conservatory Garden

Central Park Conservatory Garden

The Conservatory Garden in Central Park is the only formal garden and one of the most renowned public gardens in New York.

Enter through the stunning Vanderbilt Gate and stroll through the 6 acres of the Conservatory Garden, admiring all three sections of the botanical paradise.

The formal garden boasts an English-inspired South Garden, the French-influenced North Garden, and the Italianate center.

The Conservatory Garden has a plethora of gorgeous flowers. Breathe in delicate scents of lilac, marvel at magnolia, and witness troves of wisteria, chrysanthemums, and summer perennials.

Established in 1937, the Central Park Conservatory Garden is the perfect slice of paradise.

Get More Info at the Central Park Conservancy Site

Central Park has so much to offer at all times of the year. A park of this size needs plenty of attention and care to keep it beautiful for all 42 million yearly visitors.

Central Park Conservancy is responsible for the care of Central Park west to east and runs the Dana Discovery Center for catch-and-release fishing.

If you are looking for even more things to see and do throughout the entire park, check out the Central Park Conservancy website for more information.

FAQs Relating to Central Park

Let's look at some frequently asked questions about things to do in Central Park.

What are some popular attractions within the park?

There are so many things to do in Central Park, like visiting the Bethesda Terrace and Bethesda Fountain. Or, head to the Strawberry Fields to see the Imagine mosaic commemorating John Lennon, then chill out at the Great Lawn. If you have kids, the Billy Johnson Playground and Alice in Wonderland statues are also favorites.

When is the best time to visit Central Park?

You can visit any time of the year with all of the fun things to do in Central Park. If you want to sunbathe on the North Meadow, visit in late spring or summer. For a relaxing afternoon walking in the fall leaves or snow, visit in fall or winter. Central Park exploration is great in any season.

Is Central Park free to visit?

Yes, Central Park and many of its attractions are free. If you love a nature walk you can head to the Sheep Meadow or the Hallett Nature Sanctuary. If you are a literary buff then head to the Mall and enjoy the statues of the most famous writers of the past

What is the nearest subway station to Central Park?

There are many subway stations that will take you to Central Park, depending on where you want to go in the park. Get off at 5 Av/ 59 Street for the Dancing Crane Cafe and the Zoo. Or, head to 103 Street Station for the North End and the Museum of the City of New York.

Are there any guided tours of Central Park?

Yes, there are walking tours and bicycle tours of Central Park. Moreover, you can take a horse and carriage ride around the grounds. Walk or ride in the footsteps of your favorite TV and movie characters from Sex and the City or Gossip Girl on a themed tour.

Summing up: Things to Do in Central Park, New York City

As you can see, there is no shortage of things to do in Central Park, New York City. In fact, New York is one of the most exciting cities in the world, and Central Park is its heart.

Whether you want to graze at Sheep Meadow or sail across the Lake from Loeb Boathouse, there are always new and exciting things to do in Central Park.

Uncover the stunning secrets of New York City's largest and most iconic man-made park by working through this list of hot spots

Central Park is waiting for you. Are you ready? Book any tours in advance so you don't miss out.