When it comes to taking pictures in New York City, it doesn’t get much better than those Central Park photo spots.
All throughout this 843 acre park, you will find plenty of highlights that make perfect photo locations. From the immense greenery and tree lined paths to the bridges and water features, there is so much to choose from in Central Park.
Whether you are looking for that perfect Instagram photo, engagement shoot, or just want some cityscape shots, this guide will go through some of the best Central Park photo spots to choose from during a visit.
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1) Central Park Photography
As someone who has photographed Central Park countless times over the years, I feel like I have a solid understanding of the ins and outs of the top photo spots.
The park is really big, running across 3 avenues and 50 blocks. So, as you can imagine there are a lot of places to photograph all throughout.
This guide, however, will go over just 20 of the best spots in Central Park to photograph. These spots are spread throughout the park. So, whether you are looking to focus on one area or you want to encircle the entire park, this guide has you covered.
Of course, there are many more locations than just the 20 mentioned on this list. As you walk all around the park, you will find many scenic spots to enjoy.
And no matter if you are trying to take pictures of a subject/s or you just want to take pictures of the park’s landscape, I will give some tips about both.
→ Check out some more top NYC photo spots to visit during your time in the city
2) Best Time to Take Pictures in Central Park
When it comes to NYC, Central Park is by far one of the most visited places by tourists. Due to this, you will find thousands of people around the park from morning until night.
While many of the park’s top photo spots will be crowded with tourists, there are ways to avoid the crowds too.
In general, whether you are trying to take landscape photos without the crowds or you want a perfect photo op with your subjects, I would highly recommend heading to the park soon after sunrise.
Many of the photos you will find throughout this guide are taken in the couple hours post sunrise. You can see the lack of people in frame and the ability to have more freedom with your creativity (like the photo below of Central Park in winter).
Now, there are certainly places in the park where you wouldn’t need to come early, but in general, the earlier the better for the crowds.
→ Visit these spots in Central Park as part of a 4 Day NYC Itinerary
One of my favorite types of photography in Central Park is taking photos of water reflections (especially during Central Park Foliage). Throughout the park you will find 7 different water features offering plenty of great photo ops.
However, if you want to get those reflections, you will need to have the weather on your side. During those windier days, the water will begin to ripple. When that happens, you will lose the reflections.
During my experience in the park, it seems like those earlier morning hours offer calmer weather in general. If reflections are a priority for you, be sure to check the forecast and get your day started early (most likely) to enjoy those mirror like views.
3) Central Park Photography Map
The map below shows the locations of the 20 Central Park photo spots that I will talk about throughout the remainder of this guide.
You can use this to get a better idea where each and every location is within the park (and help choose which Central Park entrance is best for you).
4) The Best Central Park Photo Spots
Now, let’s talk through the best Central Park photo spots to choose from during a visit. Like I mentioned earlier, this is just a list of 20 spots.
You are sure to come across so many more great spots as you walk the miles of pathways all around.
The Pond & Gapstow Bridge
Located in the southeast corner of the park you will find the Pond and the Gapstow Bridge. All around the Pond area you will find some beautiful photo spots to enjoy. Some of my favorite spots include:
1) Pond Lookout Rock
On the eastern side of the Pond, you will find a rock that you can safely climb. Here lays one of the best elevated views of the park. This gives you a perfect spot if you are you looking to get a canopy view of the trees.
2) Gapstow Bridge
Head onto the bridge itself, where you can get views of the park and the skyline in the background. This makes for a perfect spot for subjects to walk along or stand in place. If you are up for it, you can even sit on the side of the bridge.
3) Pond Southern View
On the southern end of the Pond, you can get some great photos of the water, bridge and surrounding trees all in one shot. This is a great landscape photo, especially on a calm water day (to get those reflections).
Located between the Pond and the Mall (more on that next), you will find the Wollman Rink. During the colder weather months, this is turned into an ice skating rink for visitors. During the warmer months you may find a roller skating rink, movie nights, or sporting events being played here.
While taking photos on the ice is sure to offer some great photo ops, you can also head up to the elevated viewpoint on the northern end of the rink.
Here you can take in those views of Wollman surrounded by Central Park’s nature and the NYC skyline out behind it.
The Mall & Literary Walk
Perhaps the busiest section of Central Park is along a 0.3 mile stretch of path called The Mall & Literary Walk. Here you will find a straight pathway leading up to the Bethesda Terrace area.
On either side of the pathway are a collection of American Elm trees, whose leaves turn a beautiful yellow during the peak foliage time.
While most of the day you will find the path crowded with tourists, street vendors and performers, in the early hours of the day you may have the whole place to yourself.
There are so many creative ways to go about your photos here. Whether you want to get that wide shot or a zoomed in photo down the pathway, it is all possible.
For those taking photos with subjects, be sure to also utilize the park’s benches on either side for some more unique shots.
At the end of the Mall, you will find the Bethesda area. Here you will come across several photo spots to enjoy. These include:
1) Bethesda Arcade
You can follow the steps below the underpass, and be welcomed to the Bethesda Arcade. Here you will find the famous Minton Tiles lining the ceiling of the underpass.
Perfectly framed between the arcade’s arches will be the Bethesda Fountain, making for just the ideal photograph.
One photo idea with subjects is to have them walk down the stairs towards the fountain. You can take a photo framing them between the arches as they enter the arcade.
2) Bethesda from Above
Instead of walking down through the arcade, you can also cross the street above it. That way you can enjoy a view of the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain from above.
Check out some early morning shots of the terrace before it fills up with hundreds of people later on in the day.
3) Bethesda Terrace
Lastly, you can take advantage of the terrace area itself all around the fountain. Whether that mean using the staircases on either side of the fountain or taking photos from various angles (such as from the pathways on the western side).
There are plenty of great photography ideas that can be utilized all around this area.
Nearby Bethesda you will find the Bow Bridge, which is the most famous of bridges in the park. Since this is a small location, it can get very crowded with people all throughout the day.
If you are trying to photograph here, you must come in the early hours of the morning to avoid others.
Every time I have arrived early to photograph around the area, I always see photographers with couples taking pictures here. Sometimes you can even have a little bit of a wait if you want to utilize the full bridge.
My favorite spots near the bridge would be those that are located directly on either side. you can get some nice angles and even place subjects to fill out the frame. Below are a couple of shots of just the bridge on its own.
The Lake Boat Landings
Around the Central Park Lake area you will find 5 boat landings with some seating areas. From each one of these landings you will get some great views of the Lake, the trees, and even the skyline (at some of them).
I have pinpointed each one on the map above, but the four boat landings are named Western Shore Boat Landing, Bank Rock Boat Landing, Wagner Cove Boat Landing. Hernshead Boat Landing, and Bow Bridge Boat Landing.
The Ramble Lookout
If you cross into the Ramble from the Bow Bridge, and continue straight, you should soon see a turnoff on your left hand side.
Head down this short pathway, where you will reach a dead end overlooking the Lake and the San Remo building.
This is a well known spot for photography and I have even seen some proposals happen around here from time to time.
While there are clearly many great photo spots in Central Park around the Lake area, be sure to also check out the Hernshead Rocks.
This large rock juts out into the water on the northern side of the Lake. What makes this spot so great, is that you get the best view of the Lake and the NYC skyline out back.
Just next to the rocks you will find the small Ladies Pavilion. This is another famous Central Park wedding venue location as you have a beautiful background to enjoy from it.
Summerhouse at the Dene
A lesser known photo op spot in Central Park is called the Summerhouse at the Dene. This structure is located on top of a large rock on the eastern side of the park (around 68th Street).
From up top, you will get an elevated view of the park with the skyline out in the background.
It is such a scenic spot in the park, that you shouldn’t be surprised if you come across a wedding happening here.
One of the lesser known areas of Central Park is called the Dene Slope – A Native Meadow. This can be found along a hill between the Mall and the Central Park Zoo.
The meadow is filled with native grasses and wildflowers and helps support the diversity of wildlife within the park. You will find a short walking path here that winds its way along the slope in addition to a few benches to sit and relax on.
Towards the top of the meadow you will find a large rock with the city as a backdrop. This is another great photography spot to choose from within the park.
The tallest structure in Central Park is the Belvedere Castle. Located near the center of the park between the Ramble and the Great Lawn, you will find this scenic castle standing tall among the trees.
When taking photos of or with the castle, you have several different options to choose from:
1) Main Terrace
Outside the entrance to the castle you will find a large terrace area overlooking the Turtle Pond down below. This is a great spot for those that want to take photos with the castle as an up close backdrop.
Note that this terrace will get crowded, so be sure to head there earlier on in the day for a crowd free experience.
2) Castle Terraces
During certain hours, you can actually head into the castle and up to the two terraces (second and third floors). This is great for those elevated photos of the park.
3) Turtle Pond
Lastly, instead of heading to the castle itself, you can make your way in front of the castle near the shores of the Turtle Pond. Here you will get some nice views of the castle in the background with the pond right behind you.
A little known structure in Central Park is the Swedish Cottage located just next to the Belvedere Castle. You can actually head down through the famous Shakespeare Garden before arriving down at the cottage.
The path behind the cottage offers a great photo spot with or without subjects framing the photo.
Located in the northern half of the park, from 86th Street to 96th Street you will find the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. Surrounding the Reservoir there is a 1.58 mile pathway that can be enjoyed.
While there are certainly some great photo spots all along the pathway, I especially enjoy those views more towards the north/northeast side of the Reservoir. Here you are sure to get the best views of the NYC skyline with plenty of Central Park greenery in view.
If you are lucky, you may get those calm days, where the Reservoir is nice and still. This in turn will give you the chance to get some reflection shots of the surrounding scenery.
The Bridle Path
While the main pathway of Central Park is a paved path for walkers, runners, bicyclists, and horses, there is another walkway called the Bridle Path. This dirt pathway winds its way around the west side of the park before encircling the Reservoir.
Throughout this pathway you will walk under some arches and around some more quiet portions of the park. It can make for some great photographs all throughout.
If you are looking for some peaceful running in Central Park, then this is for you.
If talking through Central Park photo spots, it is hard to overlook the vast amount of cherry blossom locations in the park.
During the Springtime you will find three different cherry blossoms coming to life in the park – Okame, Yoshino and Kwanzan. These don’t overlap with one another so don’t expect to see all three at once.
However, taking photos of/with the cherry blossoms is sure to be a photographer’s favorite. Below are some of my top locations for all three. Be sure to check out the Central Park cherry blossoms overview to learn more:
Okame: west side of the Reservoir
Yoshino: east side of the Reservoir, Cherry Hill, Pilgrim Hill
Kwanzan: west side of the Reservoir, the Met, The Glade
→ Also be sure to check out some other NYC cherry blossoms spots in the city
Moving towards the northern end of the park, you will find the Conservatory Garden near the eastern side. This garden is one of the few places in the park that has set opening and closing hours.
The garden is immaculately maintained and has three different sections to walk through. You will find lawns, pathways, fountains, and more making up the area.
When it comes to photography, there are many potential options all throughout. I especially enjoy heading up the staircase to the platform overlooking the central part of the garden.
Here you will get a great view of the lawn and main fountain. For some more photo ops, you can head to either side of the platform, where you will get an elevated view of some tree lined pathways.
Having your subjects walk down the pathways is sure to give you some different perspectives to capture
Central Park Waterfall
Most people may not realize but there are actually waterfalls located in Central Park. The main Central Park waterfall is located in the Ravine area of the North Woods. As you stroll along the Loch stream, you will come across this waterfall on the eastern end of it.
Getting some long exposure shots is a great way to go about the photography around the waterfall and stream. You can even have your subjects stand on the top of the waterfall for another potential photograph idea.
Speaking of the Loch waterfall, don’t forget about the rest of the Loch Stream. The stream starts at the Pool water feature on the western side of the park going towards the Huddlestone Arch on the eastern side.
Along the stream you will find a pathway to follow that will bring you to various photo op spots. Many of these spots are on short one way paths, where you will get a better view of the Loch and its surrounding nature.
In the northeast corner of the park you will find the Harlem Meer. This water feature may be one of the least visited by tourists due to its location, but it is still well worth the visit.
The Meer is located just alongside the Conservatory Garden, so be sure to check it out after.
You can walk alongside the pathway that wraps around the Harlem Meer. My favorite photo spots are those where the Charles A Dana Discovery Center is in the backdrop.
Restaurant & Bars
Last but not least, you can head up into the sky for some elevated Central Park views.
There are several bars and restaurants with views of Central Park.
This can be a great way to have a meal or some drinks with a view and at the same time get some nice photos along the way.
Some of the top option to consider include:
• Mandarin Oriental Bar
• Porter House Bar & Grill
• Robert Restaurant
• Center Bar
• Park Lane Rooftop
If you really want to get an elevated view, check out an NYC Helicopter tour that will take you high above the park and other highlights.
During a flight you can enjoy those views of Central Park alongside the Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, and the rest of the NYC skyline.
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 High Line, Little Island, 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:
Cambria Hotel | Hyatt House | Moxy NYC
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:
LUMA Hotel | citizenM Hotel | Aliz Hotel
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. You will also be able to be walking distance from the start of the Brooklyn Bridge walkway.
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:
The Roxy Hotel | Sheraton Tribeca | Four Seasons Hotel
» Check out this helpful guide that talks all about the best places to stay in New York during a visit
That about wraps up a guide to the best photo spots in Central Park. If you have any questions or comments, be sure to add them in below.
Also, feel free to check out the other New York itineraries and guides up on the site.
Have fun out there and safe travels!