A visit to Manhattan is not complete without a stop at the 840 acre Central Park right in the middle of the bustling city. While there are so many different corners of the park to explore, odds are you will want to visit the famous Central Park Bow Bridge during a trip to the area. This guide will walk you through how to visit the bridge, avoid the crowds, and list out some of the top photography spots to enjoy on your visit.
1) Central Park Bow Bridge Background
There are a few bridges in Central Park that make their way over various bodies of water. The most recognized one though has to the Bow Bridge, located above The Lake. The bridge connects two other well-known areas of the park – Bethesda Terrace and The Ramble.
The Bow Bridge was built in 1859 and was designed by architect Calvert Vaux. It was then restored in 1974 to what we see today. The bridge is constructed from cast iron with a 60-foot arched walkway made out of ipe (a South American hardwood).
The bridge has been featured in plenty of movies over the years as well including The Way We Were, Spiderman 3, Manhattan, Night at the Museum, Glee, When in Rome, among several others.
Due to its fame, it is one of the most visited places in the park and during peak hours, you will see never ending crowds of people taking pictures and making their way across.
While it is a popular spot, that doesn’t mean you will always have the crowds there. Whether you are trying to take wedding photos or are just an avid photographer, you can avoid the crowds here which I will get into later on in the guide.
2) Bow Bridge Map & Directions
Walking around Central Park can get quite confusing as there are just so many different paths that make their way through the park. The Bow Bridge in particular can be visited from either the north (through the Ramble) or from the south (near Bethesda Terrace). You can also get views of the Bow Bridge from several different locations all around the The Lake.
Since it is impossible to list out every single route to take to the Bow Bridge as there are countless areas inside and outside the park that you may be coming from, I will talk about one particular route that can be taken from the 5 Avenue and 59 Street entrance, across the street from the Plaza Hotel.
The map below shows the route from the southeast corner of the park to the Bow Bridge. From that entrance you can simply follow the main road called East Drive until you hit the intersection of Center Drive & East Drive.
From this intersection you can head off the main road and follow the route through the Central Park Mall. Here is where you will find a long pathway surrounded by American Elm trees. You can continue through The Mall until you reach the steps down to Bethesda Terrace.
From the terrace you simply want to follow the path to the left alongside the water, and within minutes you should arrive at the Bow Bridge.
3) How to Avoid the Crowds at the Bow Bridge
Odds are if you are visiting Central Park during the day, the bridge will have a handful of people walking across, taking pictures and just enjoying the view from the bridge.
If you are looking to have the bridge to yourself (or with way fewer people around), then you will need to start your day a bit earlier than you may have wanted to.
The only way I see the possibility of visiting the Bow Bridge without the crowds (and during daylight hours) is to get there sometime between sunrise and 8/9AM at the latest.
During the early hours of the morning you won’t have the tourists or locals around, and there is a much better chance to get any sort of photographs that you are looking for.
During my visit on a sunny weekend morning, there was one couple there taking some wedding photos but beyond that, maybe just a few walkers/runners making their way across. By getting there early, you should have little issues with people getting in the way and it will give you the opportunity to have the Bow Bridge to yourself.
» Learn more about other attractions around the park in the guide for Things to Do in Central Park
4) Central Park Bow Bridge Photography Spots
For the photographers out there, I wanted to point out some of my favorite spots to look out for when visiting the Bow Bridge in Central Park. I have included a map below that pinpoints these spots in the case you want to make your way to them.
1) Bow Bridge – getting those shots on the bridge itself is a must do. The arched ipe walkway surrounded by the lake and various foliage will make for a beautiful picture to enjoy.
If you back up just a bit at the very start of the bridge and head to the left hand side, you can also get a view with one of my favorite angles of the bridge, shown in the second image below.
2) Lakeside View – instead of heading on the bridge, if you follow the path to the left hand side, you will begin to get a view of the entirety of the bridge. Here you should get a great reflection off the lake on a calm day.
3) Western Lakeside View – if you are looking to get a vaster view of the bridge and the lake, I would recommend continuing towards the western side of the lake.
Just be sure to head on the path to the left and and follow that around the lake. From time to time you should have some nice views of the Bow Bridge from afar.
4) Eastern Lakeside View – while the view from the west is nice to take in, you can also see the bridge from the other side. If you head across the bridge to the Ramble and immediately make a right hand turn, you will see a few areas on the lakeside to snap some photos.
Also, feel free to continue heading further to the east in the Ramble, where you will have the bridge come into view from time to time on the trail.
Of course there are plenty other spots along the lakeside to take in the view of the Bow Bridge but the options above should get you going in the right direction. See below for a helpful map pin pointing the various locations!
5) Where to Stay in Manhattan
There are so many different neighborhoods to choose from when visiting Manhattan. Below are some of my top choices for a few of my recommended locations in the city:
Chelsea: If you are looking to be well situated between uptown, midtown, and downtown, then Chelsea can be a great option for you. You have highlights such as the Highline, Chelsea Market, the Vessel, and the Hudson River right nearby.
And if you are looking to head to Central Park uptown or the World Trade Center area further downtown, then you are just a quick subway ride away. Recommended Chelsea hotels:
Midtown: Right in the middle of the action is the midtown area, where you have the one and only Times Square, and all Broadway shows right at your doorstep.
You are also within walking distance to the southern end of Central Park. Almost all subway lines connect at Times Square so getting around should not be an issue. Recommended Midtown hotels:
Tribeca: If you are trying to stay in downtown Manhattan, then I would recommend looking into the Tribeca area. Staying here and you will be just a stone’s throw away from the World Trade Center area, 9/11 Memorial Pools & Museum, and the hop on point for the Statue of Liberty.
While Central Park is a bit further away, you should still be able to reach it in about 30 minutes by subway. Recommended Tribeca Hotels:
» Check out this helpful guide that talks all about the best neighborhoods to stay in New York during a visit
That about does it for a guide to the Central Park Bow Bridge. If you have any questions or comments feel free to add them in below!
Have fun out there and safe travels!