While most of New York City is filled with high-rises, bustling streets, and bright lights, you can find some peace and tranquility within the 843-acre Central Park.
There are so many various things to do in Central Park during a visit that you will never run out of activities to experience. As a local New Yorker, I have been to Central Park over a hundred times and still find new places to visit and attractions to take in.
This guide will go over some of my favorite things to do in Central Park and help you uncover some of the park’s most hidden gems.
1) How to Get to Central Park
Before jumping into the list itself, let’s first go over how to get to Central Park. Since the park is just so massive, there are over 50+ entrances to choose from.
This is great for visitors, since no matter where you may be staying or where you may be coming from beforehand, an entrance won’t be too far away. Some of the “main” entrances include:
→ 59th Street & 5th Avenue (Grand Army Plaza)
→ 59th Street & 6th Avenue
→ 59th Street & 7th Avenue
→ 59th Street & 8th Avenue (Columbus Circle)
→ 64th Street & 5th Avenue
→ 72nd Street & 5th Avenue
→ 79th Street & 5th Avenue (The Met – South)
→ 85th Street & 5th Avenue (The Met – North)
→ 90th Street & 5th Avenue
→ 102nd Street & 5th Avenue
→ 110th Street & Central Park West (Frederick Douglas Circle Plaza)
→ 110th Street & Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd
→ 110th Street & Malcolm X Blvd
→ 67th Street & Central Park West
→ 72nd Street & Central Park West
→ 79th Street & Central Park West (Museum of Natural History)
→ 86th Street & Central Park West
→ 100th Street & Central Park West
While those are just some options, there are literally countless more. Some may be more obvious than others, but you shouldn’t be walking more than 5 or so blocks without seeing an entrance.
» Read More: Check out the Central Park Entrances guides to learn more about where to enter the park from
Getting to these entrances is also super convenient no matter where you may be coming from. One of the simplest and most convenient options is to take advantage of the NYC subway system.
Whether it is the NRQW, 456, 123, or ABCD, these subway options do stop all along the south, east, north and west sides of the park.
If the subway isn’t for you, then walking over or grabbing a taxi, Uber, or even CitiBike will have you to the park in no time.
Note: remember though, the park is big! So, if you are trying to see certain places, you may want to think about your overall route and which entrance would be best for you. Have any questions? Feel free to write them in at the bottom of this article and I can give some advice.
2) 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, 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. 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:
» Check out this helpful guide that talks all about the best areas to stay in New York during a visit
3) Map of Central Park Attractions
Throughout the remainder of this guide I will be listing out the 15 best things to do in central park. The map below will pinpoint the locations of these activities and attractions. While some places are pinpointed exactly, remember that other places (like the Ramble or North Woods) are much larger areas to explore.
From there you can decide on what you are most interested in and start putting together your own Central Park itinerary.
4) Best Things to do in Central Park
While there is literally countless things to do in Central Park, below is a list of some of my favorite and most unique features of Central Park. Some may be well known that you will across on other websites, while others will be a bit off the beaten path.
You can take part of most of these attractions by following the Central Park Self Guided Walking Tour I put together. Hope you enjoy some of the best that Central Park has to offer!
The Pond at Central Park
There are several water features around Central Park (many which will be on this list), and The Pond is certainly one of the best there is.
Located at the southeast corner of the park, The Pond offers various walkways and viewpoints to enjoy as you make the stroll around. Be on the lookout for the famous Gapstow Bridge at the northern end of The Pond.
Photo Spot Tip: my favorite spot at The Pond is located along the southern walkway, where you get to see most of The Pond itself and the bridge. Head there during the Fall to see that multi color foliage.
Hallett Nature Sanctuary
There are three woodland areas of Central Park (more on the other two soon) but the Hallett Nature Sanctuary is the smallest one, and the only one that has set hours.
While small in size, it does offer the chance to walk among the peaceful nature on maintained trails throughout. The sanctuary also surrounds part of The Pond so you will have various viewpoints of the water feature from here as well.
Other highlights include a small waterfall, city viewpoint spots, and an elevated view of The Pond and other parts of Central Park.
» Learn more in the Hallett Nature Sanctuary guide up on the site.
Original Manhattan Survey Bolt
In the early 1800’s a man by the name of John Randel Jr. was tasked with creating what we now know as the NYC grid. For several years, he laid out hundreds upon hundreds of bolts that would mark the grid’s intersections.
Now, since Central Park was not part of those original plans, he also placed survey bolts throughout today’s Central Park.
Out of all of the survey bolts that were put into the ground all around Manhattan, just one authentic one has been confirmed and is still in place.
While the location is not outwardly mentioned to the public, if you do just a bit of research, you should be able to find it for yourself.
While there are a few large open grass areas in Central Park, Sheep Meadow is one of, if not the top option. This massive green lawn is located between 65th and 68th Streets and can be used for spreading out some blankets, playing some outdoor games, or just relaxing in the sun.
Fun fact: on the East side of Sheep Meadow you will find Central Park’s volleyball courts
Central Park is full of walking paths curving their way in all directions. The most notable of paths has to be “The Mall”. Spanning from Center Drive (parallel to 66th Street) up until Bethesda Terrace at 72nd Street, The Mall is surrounded by American Elm trees and statues of historical figures.
While it is bustling with pedestrians, street performers, and artists during the day, a visit earlier on in the morning will leave you with a quiet and memorable experience (check out the picture below).
» Learn more in the Central Park Mall & Literary Walk guide up on the site
Bethesda Terrace and Fountain
A trip to the park is not complete without checking out the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain area. Located at the northern end of The Mall, and right next to The Lake, is a beautiful terrace with a fountain in the middle of it.
As you approach the fountain and terrace area, you will also pass through the underpass of the Bethesda Arcade. Here you will take in the unique Minton Tiles.
Once at the terrace area, you will get your first glimpse of The Lake alongside the Loeb Boathouse.
The Lake and Loeb Boathouse
Now that you have been introduced to the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain area, you will also be welcomed to The Lake and the Loeb Boathouse.
The Lake is a fan favorite as you have the chance to take in some views from a variety of angles and perspective points around this body of water.
Not only that, but you also have the chance to rent some rowboats and head out on the water itself. In order to do so, you will want to head to the Loeb Boathouse, where you can grab a boat for a small fee.
Once you are done with boating around, the Loeb Boathouse also offers a dining area where you can relax and enjoy the view.
» Learn more about this body of water in the Lake Central Park guide up on the site
When it comes to bridges in Central Park, the Bow Bridge is the spot to be. This short bridge connects the Bethesda Fountain area with the Ramble (another woodland area of the park) as it makes its way over The Lake.
The Bow Bridge is a fan favorite when it comes to wedding photos, Instagram shots or whatever other vibe you are looking for.
So, whether it be the walking the bridge itself or taking in some photographs from afar, the Bow Bridge has you covered.
» Take a look at the Central Park Bow Bridge guide up on the site for more info about this structure.
If you are looking to take in some views of the midtown Manhattan high-rises and their reflection off of The Lake, then the Hernshead Rocks is a spot to visit.
This off the beaten path location gives you some of the best landscapes you can ask for as you enjoy the rowboats on The Lake with the city skyline hovering up above.
Also be on the lookout for all of the turtles laying on the nearby rocks and basking in the sun. If you are looking for a relaxing spot to sit down at for a while, this is one of the best there is.
While it is easy to get lost in the park as a tourist, it is also easy to get lost in the park as a local. That is even more so an accurate statement when it comes to The Ramble.
This 36 acre wooded area is packed with winding paths, streams, ponds, bird watching, viewpoints and more.
Every time I visit The Ramble, I have a hard time not just getting lost as I wander all of the paths. Eventually I make my way out but it is definitely one of the more convoluted parts of the park to visit.
With that said, it is also one of the most pristine parts of the park. You are fully immersed in nature here and it is a top choice when it comes to bird watching.
I would recommend heading across the Bow Bridge and walking north towards the Belvedere Castle (next on the list). Along the way you are sure to take some roundabout turns but it is all part of the experience here.
» Learn more in the guide to the Central Park Ramble up on the site
Arguably, the best aerial viewpoint in Central Park comes from the outdoor courtyard area of Belvedere Castle.
From up top you will be able to see Turtle Pond down below with the Great Lawn further out in the distance.
Built in 1869, this miniature castle is located on top of Vista Rock and is the highest point of elevation in Central Park. You can head into the castle to check out some exhibit rooms, an observation deck and gift shop. Fun fact: the castle is also home to Central Park’s weather station.
Tips: don’t forget to check out the nearby Shakespeare Garden and even the Delacorte Theater for an outdoor performance.
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir
The largest water feature of Central Park is the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. This 100+ acre body of water is surrounded by the Stephanie and Fred Shuman Running Track.
The track is 1.6 miles in length and goes around the entirety of the reservoir. I would highly recommend a walk around here as you get to take in the city skyline, the reservoir and the surrounding trees.
If you enjoy those vibrant trees, visit in Fall to enjoy the color changing foliage or in the Spring to take in the cherry blossom trees.
While a bit more on the uncommon side, sometimes the entire body of water is perfectly still. During these times you will get stunning reflections off of the water and is a sight to be seen.
» If you want to learn more about the pathway around the water, check out the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir guide up on the site
The Harlem Meer
Most visitors of Central Park usually don’t make it to the northern end. But I must say, some of my favorite spots are located north of the Reservoir.
One of the most quiet and peaceful bodies of water is that of the Harlem Meer located in the northwest corner of the park. Not only do you have this relaxing water feature here but you also have the beautiful Conservatory Garden right nearby.
The Ravine and Loch
If you are looking for a river stroll, look no further than the scenic Loch stream located in The Ravine. Since it can get quite confusing in the northern wooded areas of the park, I would recommend starting the walk at The Pool (the name of a pond on the west side of the park by 100th Street).
Once at The Pool, you can follow the pathway that takes you under the Glen Span Arch and along The Loch stream. Along the way you will be welcomed to a serene pathway with plenty of foliage surrounding you.
During the walk you will also have these stream viewpoints, where you will be able to get some great views of the reflective water. The grand finale is the Central Park waterfall feature located at the end of the pathway just prior to the Huddlestone Arch.
The North Woods
The final destination of the top things to do in Central Park are the North Woods, located just above The Ravine and Loch area.
Once you finish walking the pathway along The Loch, you can continue the trail northbound and get lost in the North Woods. Similarly to The Ramble, things can get confusing in here.
There are several pathways and directions to choose from but at the end of the day, just wandering the woods here will be an enjoyable experience. And when exploring, be on the lookout for the oldest structure of the park – The Blockhouse. Built in 1814, it was a lookout tower used to defend New York against the British.
» This North Woods and Ravine article I put together will give you more details about both of these beautiful locations
I hope you enjoyed this guide to some of the best things to do in Central Park on your next visit to NYC. If you have any questions or comments feel free to add them in below.
Also don’t forget to check out the remaining New York itineraries and guides up on the site. Have fun out there and safe travels!