Central Park is the refuge of New Yorkers and certainly one of the most famous spots in the city. With a huge area, that goes from 59th St until 110th St, the park is beautiful year-round. Whether in winter, when everyone is playing in the snow, or in the summer, when the lawns become “beaches”, ie in the middle season, when the trees become colorful with the shades of fall or spring. No matter the season, Central Park will always be a place to be visited in New York. And since the place is gigantic, it deserves to be exploited with time! I recommend reserve at least an entire day for the park – which can be split into two periods depending on how is the weather. Many people ask me for a guide on how to explore Central Park and today I decided to highlight some of the main points! In this guide, you will see a photo of each place, a brief explanation and, at the end, a map with all the points marked.
Great Hill – At 135 feet above sea level, Great Hill is one of the highest points in Central Park. It is part of a chain of rock outcrops that stretches across the park at 106th Street, an area that was originally part of Harlem.
Waterfalls – Central Park features not only one but FIVE waterfalls – three of them are marked on the map at the end of the post: The Loch, The Ravine and North Woods. And no, you can not swim…
Lasker Pool / Lasker Rink – Yes, there is a swimming pool in Central Park and it is open to the public! It runs from 11am to 7pm daily, with a break for cleaning the pool between 3pm and 4pm. It usually opens for the season over the Memorial Day weekend (May) and closes the Labor Day weekend (September). Check the website to read all the rules on how to have access. In winter, the place gives way to a skating rink (less busy than the other in the south of the park).
Conservatory Garden – it is the only formal garden found in Central Park. The quiet, calm atmosphere of the Garden, free from runners and bicyclists, makes it an ideal spot for both weddings and relaxing afternoon walks. Opened in 1937, is composed of six acres of beautiful seasonal plants that are arranged into three styles: English, French, and Italian. Check out a post about the place.
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir – One of the Park’s most picturesque landscapes, the reservoir is 40 feet deep and holds a billion gallons of water. It was built in the 1860s as a temporary water supply for New York City, while the Croton Water system was shut down for repairs two weeks each year. It’s a very beautiful walk!
The Metropolitan Museum of Art – You may not even like museums, but remember that in addition to the incredible collection of art, sculptures and other artifacts, MET has a seasonal rooftop – which is open from May to October. The view of Central Park is amazing! Every season, the rooftop has some exhibition as well.
Swedish Cottage – it is home to one of the last public marionette companies in the United States. Puppeteers have worked there since 1947. The cottage was originally constructed as a model pre-fabricated schoolhouse, and became Sweden’s entry in the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. After the exhibit, Park co-designer Frederick Law Olmsted chose the rustic building for Central Park. After a string of diverse uses, the nature study center for children and an entomological lab, for examples, the cottage became headquarters in 1939 for the Parks Department’s Marionette Theater. The marionette company has long been known for its whimsical productions of classics like Peter Pan and Cinderella. For more information go to visit this page.
Delacorte Theater – located in the heart of Central Park, it is best known for its Shakespeare in the Park, one of New York City’s most beloved summer traditions. The presentations are free and you can check information here.
Belvedere Castle – Named for the Italian meaning “beautiful view,” Central Park’s Belvedere Castle offers park goers exactly what its name implies. With its two balconies, it supplies wonderful panoramic views that include some of Central Park’s most beautiful and famous landmarks: the Delacorte Theater, the Great Lawn, the Turtle Pond and the Ramble.
Glade Arch – one of the most famous and classics bridges of Central Park.
The Loeb Boathouse – Super charming restaurant, which sits on the edge of a lake. A great choice for anyone looking for a romantic spot! Sitting next to the windows, enjoying the view of the lake, is unforgettable. Prices for main courses range from $ 16 to $ 26, a fair value and the food is quite tasty. See more details on this post!
The Loeb Boathouse Boat Rental – next to the restaurant, you can rent a boat. It costs $ 15 per hour and each boat has capacity for 4 people. Another option – quite romantic – is to take a gondola ride! The gondola holds up to 6 people and one of the gondoliers is Brazilian, Joseph Gama! It costs $ 45 for half an hour. More infos here.
Bethesda Fountain – Is another super-famous spot in Central Park, which always ends up appearing in movies and TV series. In summer, the fountain is turned on. It’s a delight to sit there…
Wagner Cove – this small location on the edge of The Lake is punctuated by a rustic shelter with two wooden benches. This secluded spot is ideal for a date, a relaxed lunch, or quiet contemplation.
Bow Bridge – Central Park has many bridges and you will probably cross several of them during your walk. This is certainly one of the most famous, classic and romantic!
Strawberry Fields – Is where is the famous tribute to John Lennon, with the words “Imagine” drawn on the floor.
Alice in Wonderland – One of the most beautiful sculptures in the park! And the favorite of the children, who love to climb it. It is made of bronze and was created by the American sculptor of Spanish origin Joseph de Creeft.
Rumsey Playfield – Is where music and dance performances usually take place. The Good Morning America concerts also take place there in the summer.
Naumburg Bandshell – Another beautiful stage where there also music presentations. It’s here that happens the New Year’s Eve celebration.
The Mall and Literary Walk – A true tree-lined corridor that changes color according to the season. During the warmer months, it is common to find musicians and painters there.
Sheep Meadow – A gigantic green area that gets crowded in the warm months. People come here for picnics, play, tanning, etc.
Tavern On the Green –Another super charming restaurant that is located inside the park. It has a beautiful outside area! You can check more details here.
Central Park Zoo – this is the Central Park Zoo. It’s not a big zoo, but it is famous because it was in the movie Madagascar. Tickets cost from $ 13 to $ 18. More infos here.
Wollman Rink – during the winter, this is the place of the ice skating rink. In summer, the space gives life to an amusement park. Check out more details.
Hallett Nature Sanctuary – it reopened to the public in 2016 after more than 80 years. It was originally closed off to become a bird sanctuary, but in the intervening years, the four-acre woodland became horribly overgrown with invasive species like Japanese knotgrass, wisteria and Norway maples. Now that those plants have been cleared and the original paths restored, it’s once again open to visitors for limited hours.
Cats Rock – These rocks stand high and provide a beautiful view of the Manhattan skyline!
Do you like this guide? I hope these tips can help you explore the park better! As I remember – and knowing more places in the park – I will update the post!
Laura Peruchi is a Brazilian blogger, author, and entrepreneur. She has lived in Manhattan with her husband since 2014. Since then, she has shared on her blog varied content about the Big Apple. From travel tips, including unusual things to do, shopping tips, etiquette, restaurants, and a lot more, her blog has become a reference in Portuguese (also available in English) for anyone planning a trip to New York City.