21 Fun Things to Do in Central Park, New York City

Nestled in the concrete jungle of New York City is the sprawling and iconic 843-acre Central Park. Itโ€™s the perfect place to take solace and slow down. Today, we’ll take you through our list of fun things to do in central park.

Escape the upper east side and join the millions of parkgoers who seek out this man-made oasis to enjoy a host of Central Park attractions.

Visiting Central Park is a way to have an authentic New York experience completely free of charge.

Central Park has 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, there are endless things to do in Central Park.

So, your exploration starts here.

1. Go to the Lake, Set Sail, and Take a Stroll

central park lake in autumn, with backdrop of skyscrapers

Take a break from strolling and sail across the picturesque lake. Head to the Loeb Boathouse and grab a rowboat or gondola for a serene cruise to the heart of Central Park Lake.

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 passed the Strawberry Fields, or head under Bow Bridge.

A visit to the Lake is an absolute must! Go by boat to our next location: Bethesda Fountain!

2. Bask in Angelic Views at Bethesda Terrace and Fountain

large water fountain in central park with backdrop of trees in warm colorsNo trip to Central Park would be complete without visiting the heavenly Bethesda Terrace and Fountain. Overlooking the southern shore of the Lake, take in the iconic angel or indulge in a half-hour of people-watching.

The eight-foot bronze Angel of the Waters represents health and purity so taking a minute out of the smog to enjoy a moment of serenity is essential.

The Bethesda Fountain, as well as being a hot spot on the Central Park map, is 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

Large reservoir with backdrop of New York City buildings

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

The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, the largest body of water in Central Park, is 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

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

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

Commemorating his life and talents, the Strawberry Fields was named after the Beetlesโ€™ hit Strawberry Fields Forever.

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

5. Visit the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater

wooden building surrounded by trees in central park

This quaint little 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.

Bring the kids or indulge your inner child and enjoy reimagined fairy tales. The Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater promises a moment of magic!

6. The Shakespeare Garden is a Midsummer Night’s Dream…

Or any time of year, really! 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 this famous playwright from England on plaques dotted around.

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

7. 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, catch Shakespeare come to life! Be prepared to wait in line on the day to grab your free ticket.

8. Literary Walk and Mall

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

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, 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

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…for good reason!

10. Speed Things Up with a Bike Tour

Bike tour in Central Park, people in a group on bikes in the sun

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.

Thereโ€™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

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.

12. 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 here each year. Tickets are only a few dollars!

Race to the Carousel and pick your favorite of 57 horses now!

13. 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. Watch out for Alice’s Wonderland Statue

Central Park commends yet another writer in statue form.

Not far from Conservatory Water, you can find the bronze Alice standing 11-foot tall, surrounded by her friends.

A nod to Lewis Carroll’s classic, the Wonderland Statue is a fan-favorite, especially for children who enjoy a climb (and it is encouraged).

Don’t be late, for a very important date, and check out Josรฉ de Creeft’s 1959 creation a stone’s throw from Fifth Avenue!

15. Get Wild at the 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

Take a break from exploring the area 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 get to grazing.

17. Amble by the Ramble

If you’re in need of even more greenery, where better to be than the Ramble? Experience a woodland experience 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 serenity ambling around the Ramble.

18. Bridges Over Tranquil Water

Explore the beautiful bridges in Central Park. We’ve picked out two for now.

Bow Bridge

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 here, and definitely the most popular.

Nestled between East and West, meet your special someone in the middle and stroll across the wondrous walkway.

Gapstow Bridge

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

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!

The museum, 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 peruse Monet’s Water Lily, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is definitely a shining gem.

20. 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 those chillier seasons!

21. The Conservatory Garden

The Conservatory Garden is the only formal garden and one of the most renowned public gardens in NYC.

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 Conservatory Garden is the perfect slice of paradise.

Central Park Conservancy – Keeping Your Park Cute

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.

The Conservancy is responsible for the care of the entire park, from west to east, and runs the Dana Discovery Center for catch-and-release fishing.

Over 300 Conservancy employees tend to the maintenance of Central Park. This includes everything from restoration, and architectural care to trash collection, horticulture, and visitor center needs.

Central Park FAQs

What is the history of Central Park?

Before becoming Central Park, the area from West 82nd to West 89th Street was known as Seneca Village.

In the 1850s, the City planned for a large park to take the place of Seneca Village. A law that set aside 775 acres of land in Manhattan was enacted to create the countryโ€™s first major landscaped public park.

There were roughly 1,600 inhabitants displaced throughout the area. Many were compensated and by the end of 1857, the villagers had left. Within two years the park had been created.

What is the size of Central Park?

Central Park is an expansive and sprawling 843 acres. You could walk from the north end of the park to West 59th Street in an hour.

What are some popular attractions within the park?

There are so many things to do in Central Park, like visiting the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain. Spotted in an array of Hollywood films, it’s a prime location.

If you’re a music fan, head to the Strawberry Fields to see the Imagine mosaic commemorating John Lennon, or chill out at the Great Lawn.

There are endless activities to partake in at Central Park, from the zoo to ice skating in winter. If you have kids who want a quick run around, the Billy Johnson Playground is also a favorite.

When was Central Park opened to the public?

In the winter of 1859, Central Park opened to the public and the first ice skating rinks were created. By 1865 the park was receiving over 7 million visitors a year.

When is the best time to visit Central Park?

You can visit any time of the year. If you want to sunbathe on the North Meadow or simply take in the fall foliage, there are always things to do in any season.

Are there any restaurants or cafes in Central Park?

Central Park has an array of delicious restaurants and cafes to enjoy. From the Express Cafe by the Loeb Boathouse to the Dancing Crane Cafe at the zoo, you’ll find most of the eateries in the center and south of the park.

If you find yourself at the north end of Central Park, work up an appetite with a short stroll.

Is Central Park free to visit?

Yes! And many of the 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 address of Central Park?

Central Park spans from North 110th Street to Central Park South (59th Street), and from Central Park West (8th Avenue) to 5th Avenue. If you’re staying at the Plaza Hotel, the park is right on your doorstep.

Where is Central Park?

Central Park is located in the heart of Manhattan, New York City.

What is the nearest subway station to Central Park?

The 96 St station is the nearest subway station to Central Park.

Are there any guided tours at Central Park?

Yes! There is everything from walking tours to bicycle tours. Take a horse and carriage around the grounds, or grab a map from the visitor center and do it yourself!

Walk in the footsteps of your favorite TV and movie characters on a Sex and the City or Gossip Girl tour and see the iconic filming locations!

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

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’s waiting for you. Are you ready?