Each season in Central Park offers visitors a new way to see and experience the scenic landscape. Central Park in winter time is no exception. During those winter snow days, Central Park turns into a winter wonderland, completely transforming the park.
If you are lucky enough to visit during a Central Park winter snow day, you can fully enjoy this beauty that the park offers. While there are many things to do in Central Park in general, this guide will go over some of the best spots to enjoy during a winter day in the park.
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1) Central Park in Winter Overview
After the leaves begin to fall off the trees in early-mid November, Central Park becomes less and less colorful. Instead of those bright colors that you may come across in the Spring, Summer or Fall, the Winter time will bring mostly bare trees throughout the park’s 843 acres.
Although the park is least colorful in the Winter, there is always a chance for a snow day. When it snows in Central Park, the park comes alive just as much (or more than) any other season. Locals and tourists flock to the park to enjoy the snow blanketing the trees and grounds.
Sledding, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and ice skating, become some of the top things to do in Central Park during a snow day.
Not only though can you take part of activities, but you can also walk the park, taking in some of the best snow covered views you can ask for.
Seeing the park draped in a white coat is a just beautiful site to see. And while a snow day may only happen a handful of times a year, knowing where to go in the park will give you the chance for the best possible experience.
This guide will talk through some of the best spots to visit during a Central Park winter snow day, so you can enjoy those views for yourself.
Learn More: Visit Central Park in winter as part of a longer New York Itinerary.
2) Snow Tips & Things to Know
If you do end up visiting Central Park during a snowfall, I did want to mention some helpful tips and things to know for a visit.
Outerwear: Be sure to dress properly! This most likely means multiple bottom and top layers, a winter hat, gloves, thick socks, and winter boots. While it certainly will be cold, the snow can also bring higher winds and slippery surfaces to walk on.
Photos: If you are interested in taking crowd-free landscape photos in the park during or after a snowstorm, be sure to arrive first thing in the morning. The photos you will find in this guide started around 6AM and lasted all morning.
Clearing Snow: Once the snow begins to fall in the park, there are numerous snow removal vehicles making their way around the pathways to make things safer.
If it is a lighter snow, that may mean the pathways are completely snow free. On the other hand, a heavier snowfall will probably still result in snow covered pathways (even with the snow removal vehicles).
Lawns: When the snowfall is greater than 6 inches, the lawns of the park open up. These lawns are usually closed for the wintertime, but once there is a heavy snowfall, people are allowed to head onto the vast snow-covered lawns.
Water Features: Depending on how cold it is and how deep into the winter you visit, many of the water features of the park will be frozen over. While you will probably see people heading onto the ice, it is not advised to do so.
In this guide you will find numerous photos from the past year’s heaviest snowstorm. Some of the photos are taken the day of, while others were taken the next day. I enjoyed both days walking around, but I will say the snow day was much windier and colder (especially when trying to take photos).
3) Highlights Map
Below is a map pinpointing just some of my favorite locations to visit during winter in Central Park (especially around an NYC snowstorm).
The remainder of this guide will go through these locations and talk through some activities to take part of along the way.
Looking for a place to stay? Check out this helpful guide that talks all about the best places to stay in New York during a visit.
4) Best Central Park Snow Day Spots
Now it is time to talk through the top Central Park snow day spots for you to visit during a winter visit.
Whether or not you get to experience the park in the snow, visiting these spots will surely still be a great experience during a winter trip.
At the southeast corner of the park you can find The Pond. This is just one of several water features in the park (with a few more on this list).
At The Pond you will find several lookout points all around the water. In addition, the Gapstow Bridge sits on the northern side of the Pond, where you can enjoy a view of the NYC skyline and the Plaza hotel.
One of my top spots here to see the park from above, is a large rock on the eastern shore of the Pond. Especially after a snow day, this makes for a great view of the snow covered park.
The Wollman Rink is an ice-skating rink that is open throughout the Fall and Winter time. In other months of the year, it hosts a variety of events as well. Ice skating is one option (more on that soon), but you can also take in a view from above.
Seeing the ice rink with the winter trees all around makes for a great spot to enjoy.
If you are visiting during a time when it snows more than 6 inches, you will have a chance to make your way on the lawns of Central Park. These grassy fields are usually closed in the wintertime, however after heavy snowfalls, you are allowed to head onto them.
One of my favorites in the park is Sheep Meadow, where you can get some great Central Park views of the NYC skyline up above.
The Mall & Literary Walk
No matter what season you visit, the Mall & Literary Walk is one of the most scenic places in the park. Here you will find a straight pathway with American Elm trees on either side. During the spring and summer these leaves will turn green while in the fall they will turn yellow.
However, in the winter the trees are bare, making it a bit less colorful. After a snowfall though, the Mall & Literary Walk come alive with snow covered trees and pathways.
Underneath the 72nd Street traverse (Terrace Drive) and at the very end of the Mall you will find the Bethesda Arcade and the Minton Tiles.
This is a great spot for some photos as you have the arches of the arcade framing the nearby Bethesda Fountain. It is also a great place to stay dry for a bit if you do happen to visit during a snowfall.
On the other side of the arcade you will find the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain area. Instead of heading through the arcade though, you can also take in the view from above on top of the 72nd Street traverse.
Here you will get that overhead view of the terrace with the Lake and Ramble in the background. To get down to the terrace, you can also take the staircases on either side, which offer great viewpoint areas as well.
While the Gapstow Bridge on the Pond is a beautiful bridge to enjoy in the park, the Bow Bridge over the Lake is even better. The bridge connects the Bethesda area with the Ramble. It serves as one of, if not the most photographed spot in the park.
From the bridge and from nearby spots, you should get great panoramas of the surrounding Lake and buildings further out in the distance.
Cross over the bridge into the Ramble, where you will find a labyrinth of pathways in this woodlands area. Be careful here during and after snowfalls as the pathways can get slippery.
Since these are not paved pathways, and there are some hilly portions, the snow removal vehicles don’t makes their way down every section. But spending time after a snowfall is a great way to enjoy a wooded area of Central Park.
The Lake Views
All around the Central Park Lake you will find plenty of viewpoints. Whether that is from Bow Bridge, the Ramble, the Oak Bridge, Hernshead Rocks or along West Drive. The winter and snow views are everywhere.
This is another body of water that will begin to freeze over as it gets deeper into the colder weather. It may look tempting to walk along the frozen ice, but be cautious out there!
On the eastern side of the park is a small structure perched on a hill called the Dene Summerhouse. If you want an elevated view of a snow-covered Central Park, along with views of the NYC skyline, then this is a place to be.
The highest structure of Central Park is Belvedere Castle. As you may imagine, the views from up top are some of the best you will get. Especially after a Central Park snow, when the trees may be covered in white.
You can enjoy the view from the bottom terrace area, but you can also make your way up to the top to enjoy a couple of outdoor terraces within the castle itself. Once done, you can also head to the bottom of the castle and enjoy the view from the shores of the Turtle Pond.
The largest body of water in Central Park is the Reservoir. During the winter time the Reservoir also freezes over but I have seen that it does not completely freeze in its entirety.
What is very special about the Reservoir in the winter, is that you can get reflections of the NYC skyline off of the ice-covered water.
Reservoir reflections also happen in the non-winter months when the water is perfectly still, but in the winter, you get to experience a different type of reflection.
The Reservoir loop is 1.6 miles in length so you can feel free to just walk a portion of it or opt for the entire thing. My top spot is in the northeast corner, as you get the majority of the NYC skyline in view.
The northern portion of the park is the least visited since it is a bit further away from Central Manhattan. However, it also includes some of the best hidden spots that are surely worthy of a visit.
One of the best Central Park trails is along the Loch Stream that connects the Pool with the Central Park Waterfall. All along the stream you will find various lookout points to enjoy.
During the winter, the stream partially freezes over but the water still flows, making it a peaceful and scenic walk to take part of.
Central Park Waterfall
At the eastern end of the Loch, you will find the famous Central Park waterfall. This is the largest of waterfalls in Central Park and is quite the photo op during a snowy winter day in NYC.
There are some larger rocks at the base of the waterfall, if you would like to take a seat and enjoy the flowing water.
Last up on the list is the North Woods. The Loch and Waterfall are part of the larger North Woods area. However, if you continue a bit further up in the park, you will find even more trails to walk along and enjoy.
Many of these trails may be untouched after a Central Park snow, and it is a great area to just stroll around and enjoy.
Holiday Season Visit? If you are visiting during the holiday time, be sure to dine at one of the Christmas holiday themed restaurants in NYC
5) Central Park Winter Activities
While the above were all various spots to visit during your time in Central Park in the wintertime, you can also take part of actual activities too. Below are a few of the top things to do during a winter day in the park:
Cross Country Skiing
If you thought you needed to be out in the countryside for some cross country skiing, you thought wrong. Once it snows several inches in the park, you will find plenty of people blazing trails throughout.
You will obviously need some snowfall for this one, so be on the lookout for that snowy day on the forecast.
While walking the park is one way to get from one place to the next, why not opt for some snowshoeing instead. This can especially be helpful on those pathways that aren’t cleared of snow.
After a big snow day, taking a sled into the park and heading down one of the hills is a perfect activity to take part of.
You will find several hilly areas around the Met including Cedar Hill. This is the biggest of hills in the park for sledding and does bring its fair share of sledders on a snowy day.
While the above few activities need snow to take part of, you can ice skate all throughout the winter time. The Wollman Rink is open throughout the day, where you can rent a pair of skates and make your way around the ice.
It is the perfect winter day activity and makes for a great way to add some fun to a day around Central Park.
Central Park Zoo
The zoo is open year round, but it can be quite beautiful to visit during the winter (especially after some snow).
The Central Park Zoo can be found at the southwest corner of the park at the 59th Street Central Park entrance. During a visit expect to see a variety of animals including snow monkeys, sea lions, puffins and penguins.
Note: the photo below is taken in the North Woods, one of the top natural places to see wildlife in the park
That does it for a guide to enjoying a day at Central Park during a winter snow day. If you have any questions or comments about a visit, feel free to write them in below.
Also, don’t forget to check out some of the other New York itineraries and guides up on the site.
Have fun out there and safe travels!