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The Top 25 Things To Do in Central Park NYC | Tips from A New York Local Blogger

The Top 25 Things To Do in Central Park NYC | Tips from A New York Local Blogger

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.

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1) List of Things to Do in Central Park

Central Park is packed with things to do that can keep visitors busy for days and days. As a local New Yorker, I visit the park constantly and still find new pathways, viewpoints, and sites to see during my time there.

For the purpose of this article, I wanted to list out 25 of the top things to do in Central Park during a visit. Depending on your interests, time of year, and overall itinerary, you can pick and choose which ones are best for you.

To start, below is an overview of the things to do that I will be going over throughout the remainder of this guide:

1) The Pond
2) Hallett Nature Sanctuary
3) Wollman Rink
4) Manhattan Survey Bolt
5) Sheep Meadow
6) Summerhouse at the Dene
7) The Bridle Path
8) The Mall & Literary Walk
9) Bethesda Terrace & Fountain
10) The Lake & Loeb Boathouse
11) Conservatory Water
12) Bow Bridge
13) Hernshead Rocks
14) The Ramble
15) Belvedere Castle
16) The Obelisk
17) The Reservoir
18) Harlem Meer
19) The Ravine & Loch
20) North Woods
21) Conservatory Garden
22) Running in Central Park
23) Central Park Cherry Blossoms
24) Central Park Fall Foliage
25) Central Park in Snow

→ Visit Central Park as part of a longer 4 days in NYC itinerary that takes you throughout the city

Top Things To Do in Central Park

2) Map of Central Park Attractions

Throughout the remainder of this guide I will be listing out the 25 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.

3) 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. You can also get an elevated view from a large rock located on the east side of the water.

The Pond Central ParkThe Pond in Fall

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.

Hallett Nature Sanctuary ViewpointHallett Nature Sanctuary Fall

Wollman Rink

The Wollman Rink is located in the southeast portion of the park between The Pond and The Mall (more on that soon). If heading to Central Park during the Fall / Winter, you will get the opportunity to ice skate in the park at the Wollman Rink.

During the offseason, the rink may be converted into a roller skating rink, movie nights, or NY sports watch parties. So, no matter what time of year you visit, you are sure to find something going on at the rink.

Wollman Rink in Central Park

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.

Survey Bolt NYC Central Park

Sheep Meadow

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

Sheep Meadow Central Park LoopSheep Meadow Snow

Summerhouse at the Dene

One of my favorite viewpoints in Central Park is the Summerhouse at the Dene. Located on a large elevated rock on the eastern side of the park, you will find a wood structure covered in vines.

Here you will get some great views of the Manhattan skyline out back and the greenery of Central Park down below. It is also a popular place for weddings & proposals, so don’t be too surprised if you come across either during your time there.

Summerhouse at the Dene

The Bridle Path

While the main Central Park loop is one way to go about discovering the park, the Bridle Path offers another way. Instead of walking along the paved road, why not head on the dirt path that slivers its way around the west side of the park, and then up and around the Central Park Reservoir.

During a walk along the Bridle Path, you will come across plenty of bridge underpasses, beautiful trees, and a more quiet way of enjoying the park.

Once you reach the Reservoir, you can decide to stay on the path or hop on over to the Reservoir pathway, before looping back around.

» Learn more in the Central Park Bridle Path guide up on the site

Central Park Bridle PathCentral Park Running Bridle Path 3 Mile Loop Bridle Path

The Mall & Literary Walk

Central Park is full of walking paths curving their way in all directions. The most notable of paths has to be The Mall & Literary Walk.  Spanning from Center Drive ( near 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).

Each season offers a different type of perspective of the pathway. During the Fall, the leaves turn bright yellow, in the Winter the trees are bare, the Spring brings light green leaves, and in the Summer you will find dark green all around.

» Learn more in the Central Park Mall & Literary Walk guide up on the site

American Elm Trees Central ParkThe Mall Central Park Foliage Central Park Foliage Mall

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.

Bethesda Terrace and Fountain Central ParkMinton Tiles Central ParkBethesda Terrace Snow

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

The Loeb Boathouse of Central ParkLoeb Boathouse View

Conservatory Water

Another famous body of water in Central Park is that of the Conservatory Water. Located just east of the Lake, you will find this smaller water feature surrounded by a peaceful walking path.

Be on the lookout here for the small model boats that are raced around its waters, making it a fun activity to enjoy while walking along the area.

To the north of the Conservatory Water, you will also find the famous Alice in Wonderland statue.

Conservatory Water Central Park Views

Bow Bridge

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.

Bow Bridge Fall Foliage The Lake Bow BridgeBow Bridge Viewpoint West Drive

Hernshead Rocks

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.

Hernshead RocksHernshead Rocks Central Park

The Ramble

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

The Ramble Walking TrailsHernshead Rocks Boat LandingRamble Central Park Waterfall

Belvedere Castle

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.

Belvedere Castle NYCViews from Belvedere Castle Belvedere Castle Snow

The Obelisk

The oldest man made object in Central Park is the Obelisk. Also known as Cleopatra’s Needle, the Obelisk was created over 3,000 years ago in Egypt. Over the course of time, the Obelisk made its way to Central Park, where it now stands tall behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

It is surely one of the most interesting and unique parts of the park, and is worth the visit to learn more.

The Obelisk Central Park

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

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir NYCCentral Park Reservoir Summer NYC Skyline Reservoir

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 Harlem Meer

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 Pool Central ParkThe Ravine Central ParkCentral Park Waterfalls Winter

The North Woods

Another less visited attraction 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

North Woods Central Park The North Woods Entrance PointsNorth Woods Autumn

Conservatory Garden

Not to be confused with the Conservatory Water, is the Conservatory Garden. Located in the northeast part of the park near 105th Street, you will find the most elaborate of gardens that Central Park has to offer.

The garden is split into three different sections, where you will find multiple fountains, lawns, walkways, and plenty of flowers, plants and trees all around.

The garden does have set opening and closing hours, so be sure to check the latest schedules before heading up to it. If visiting in the Spring time get ready for some of the best spring blooms in the entire park.

The Conservatory Garden Central Park

Running in Central Park

When it comes to running in NYC, there are many options to consider. You can head to the rivers, run within the streets, or make your way to Central Park.

All throughout Central Park, you will find various pathways to run on. However, there are some more standard routes to consider to make the route decisions a bit easier for you.

Below are some of my favorite & most popular running routes in the park (some of which we already spoke about):

Central Park 6 Mile Loop: a complete loop of Central Park on the main street that makes its way all around the park

→ Bridle Path: this 4 mile soft trail, gives you the chance to get off the pavement and along a more scenic pathway in the park

Central Park 3 Mile Loop: a loop of the lower section of Central Park, that makes its way from the south end up to the Reservoir and back down

→ Central Park 1.7 Mile Lower Loop: there is also an option to just head around a short lower loop that wraps around Terrace Drive

→ Reservoir Loop: this 1.6 mile loop takes you around the Reservoir pathway as you take in the water, trees, and NYC skyline

Those are just some of the options to consider. Feel free to check out the Central Park running guide to learn more.

Yoshino Cherry Trees Reservoir

Central Park Cherry Blossoms

From mid March to early May, the Central Park cherry blossoms brighten up the park and make for some beautiful scenery. You can find three different types of cherry blossoms in the park including the Okame (mid March), Yoshino (beginning/mid April), and Kwanzan (end of April/early May) trees.

These cherry blossoms are found all throughout Central Park including the Reservoir, Cherry Hill, Pilgrim Hill, Cedar Hill, among plenty of other spots.

Check out the Central Park Cherry Blossom overview to learn more about these blooms. And if you want to see even more, the NYC Cherry Blossom guide has you covered.

Reservoir Cherry Blossoms Central Park The Lake Central Park Cherry Trees Central Park Reservoir Cherry Trees Tunnel

Central Park Fall Foliage

One of the best things to do in Central Park, is to visit during Fall foliage. The colors of the trees begin to change color in October before peaking later in the month and the beginning of November.

During this time, the leaves of the park change from their green color to hues of red, orange, yellow, and purple. Getting to see the brightness of these trees all around you is a special experience to be part of.

If you are thinking of visiting NYC in the Fall, I would highly recommend trying to time your trip to coincide with this time. By doing so you will get to see the park in a whole new way (see below for some pictures!).

» Take a look at the Central Park Foliage guide up on the site to learn more about a visit

The Lake Foliage NYC Fall Foliage Central Park Central Park Mall Walk

Central Park in Snow

If visiting in the Spring or Fall isn’t for you, then maybe a winter visit is. While the temperatures in NYC certainly drop during the winter, there is a chance for some Central Park snow.

Instead of seeing the park covered in colorful trees and flowers, during a snow, the park will be covered in a sheet of white. Having the chance to walk the park in the snow is a perfect way to spend a winter day in the park.

You will get to experience the park in a way that few others get to and this is sure to be one of the best things to do during a visit.

» Read through the Central Park Winter guide up on the site to learn more about a snow experience

Central Park Winter Snow Great Lawn Snow Central Park Central Park Snow

4) How to Get to Central Park

Now that you have an understanding of the best things to do in Central Park, let’s go over how to get there. 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:

South Side

→ 59th Street & 5th Avenue (Grand Army Plaza)
→ 59th Street & 6th Avenue
→ 59th Street & 7th Avenue
→ 59th Street & 8th Avenue (Columbus Circle)

East Side

→ 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

North Side

→ 110th Street & Central Park West (Frederick Douglas Circle Plaza)
→ 110th Street & Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd
→ 110th Street & Malcolm X Blvd

West Side

→ 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.

Central Park Subway Stop

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, 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:

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 areas to stay in New York during a visit

Moxy Hotel NYC

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!

Best Things To Do in Central Park NYC

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