Post Overview: List of iconic things to do in Central Park, New York City
Dare I ask, is there any place more magical in New York City than Central Park? For me personally, it’s an easy no. Prior to moving to New York City, I used to visit regularly and have always found myself amazed by the amount of things to do in Central Park.
Even after 20+ visits, I still stumble upon something new, which speaks to the size of this place. And then it occurred to me, how many other folks are curious about the best spots + best things to do in Central Park as well?
So I decided to re-visit the most iconic spots in Central Park to write this post. I’ll include photos, descriptions and helpful tips to make your visit as enjoyable as possible. Don’t hesitate to reach out with questions either, I’m always happy to help!
Things to Do in Central Park
#10. Picnic at Sheep Meadow
If you love picnicking in parks it doesn’t get any better than Central Park’s Sheep Meadow. The expansive lawn sprawls an impressive 15 acres of healthy grass while the iconic towering skycrapers of Manhattan loom in the background. It’s incredible.
You’ll find many New Yorkers flocking to Sheep Meadow during warm sunny days to sunbathe, picnic or let the kids run wild. So much so, that there’s upwards of 30,000 people per day during the sunny months.
But it’s not hard to see why this area is so beloved by locals, it draws us in time and time again, regardless of how long we’ve called this magical city home.
Location: West Side between 66th and 69th
#9. Stroll the Conservatory Garden
The Conservatory Garden feels like a secret of sorts because most visitors don’t trek so far north in Central Park. As such, you can find both reprieve and lovely spring blooms in this lovely sliver of paradise that encourages peaceful contemplation.
The garden spans six calming acres and it a well known spot for colorful spring blooms. The Conservatory Garden is broken down into three sections — the French North Garden, the Italian Center Garden and the English South Garden — each garden more beautiful than the last.
Location: East Side between 104th and 106th
Planning to visit Central Park during spring? Here’s the BEST spots for cherry blossoms and spring blooms in Central Park!
#8. Hike the Ramble
The Ramble feels like Narnia in the sense that you completely forget you’re within city limits — roaming through this special place feels like stepping foot into a real forest. The area is filled with streams, ponds, winding paths and hilly woodland. Olmsted described the Ramble as a “wild garden.”
The winding path and thick canopy transport you to an area reminiscent of the Adirondacks, as intended. Explore around and see if you can’t find the Azalea Pond and/or the Ramble Stone Arch.
What’s more, with over 210 species of birds spotted in the area, the Ramble is a great spot for birding, especially during migrating season.
Location: Between 73rd and 79th
#7. Rent a boat at the Lake
The Lake in Central Park is as romantic as you can imagine. Rent a rowboat and serenade your special someone amidst the spring blooms or fall leaves while admiring the dramatic New York skyline for a memory you won’t soon forget.
The man-made body of water is 20-acres and forms what is called the heart of Central Park. Thankfully there’s plenty of vistas and ample shoreline to explore this area to your heart’s content. Or like I mentioned earlier, grab a rowboat and jump right in! Boats are available for rent at the Loeb Boathouse.
There’s a good reason many romantic movie scenes take place near the Lake (and the cast-iron Bow Bridge that spans it), it doesn’t get more beautiful than this. P.S. We’ll cover the Bow Bridge shortly!
Location: 72nd Street
#6. Walk the length of the Reservoir
The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir is more commonly known as the Central Park Reservoir, or simply Reservoir. It’s a decommissioned reservoir located between 86th and 96th Streets (spanning 10 city blocks). Holding more than one billion gallons of water, at the time of construction, this was the world’s largest man-made body of water.
The 1.5-mile loop around the Reservoir is a very popular running and walking track, so you’ll notice a ton of folks along the path. And who can resist snapping photos of these lovely cherry blossoms during spring season? Prepare for crowds any time of year, but especially in the spring.
Location: Between 86th and 96th Streets (east and west sides)
#5. Visit Strawberry Fields
Strawberry Fields was intended to be a peaceful reprieve in honor of John Lennon — who lived across the street in the Dakota apartment building and was murdered right outside. The most prominent feature is the Imagine Mosaic which is often adorned with flowers in memory of Lennon.
This iconic mosaic was designed by Yoko Ono, Lennon’s widow. The mosaic was created by Italian craftsmen and gifted by the city of Naples, speaking to Lennon’s legacy stretching to all ends of the world.
Although Strawberry Fields was intended to be peaceful, it’s far too popular now. Expect crowds!
Location: West Side between 71st and 74th
#4. Check out the views at Belvedere Castle
Sitting high atop a hill on a large rock outcrop known as Vista Rock (the second highest point in Central Park, in fact), is Belvedere Castle. The castle’s terraces offer sweeping views of New York City’s iconic skyline. Belvedere is Italian for “beautiful view” and it lives up to the name.
The castle was completed in 1872 and designed specifically to offer views of the surrounding landscape. It was renovated in 1983 and then again in 2019 to modernize the terraces and building.
P.S. I suggest swinging by the Obelisk (better known as Cleopatra’s Needle) if visiting Belvedere Castle. It’s the oldest outdoor monument in New York City (more than 3,000 years old). There’s also a time capsule buried underneath.
Location: Mid-Park at 79th
#3. Walk the Mall
The Mall is an iconic American elm-lined promenade that leads directly to Bethesda Fountain. The mature trees create an enchanting canopy that offers a shady retreat during hot city summers. In fact, the Mall is home to one of the largest plantations of American elms in the world.
Thankfully, there’s plenty of benches to sit and enjoy while you watch the world go by. For me personally, it’s always fun to spot young couples giddy with excitement during their first visit to Central Park. It doesn’t get better than this.
Location: 66th to 72nd Street
#2. Cross the Bow Bridge
The Bow Bridge deserves a mention all its own (even though I lightly touched on it while covering the Lake). The bridge gets its name from the shape of the arc which resembles an archer’s bow. It’s one of the most photographed attractions in Central Park.
Originally constructed in 1862, the bridge spans 60 feet over Central Park Lake, connecting Cherry Hill and the Ramble. Oh, lest I forget, the views of Manhattan’s skyline from the Bow Bridge are absolutely breathtaking!
Fun fact: Bow Bridge is the second oldest cast-iron bridge in the country.
Location: 72nd Street
#1. Take in the splendor at Bethesda Fountain & Terrace
Bethesda Terrace is remarkable. It’s the park’s sole formal architectural setting. The terrace’s arcade creates the perfect acoustic environment and draws in some of the city’s most talented street musicians. It’s hard to imagine a better way to spend a summer evening than wandering through this area and settling in on a bench for some live music and great people watching.
Fun fact: Measuring at twenty-six feet high and ninety-six feet wide, Bethesda Fountain is one of the largest fountains in New York.
Location: Mid-Park at 72nd Street
How big is Central Park?
Central Park is 2.5 miles long and 1/2 a mile wide. Technically you can walk the length of the park at a leisurely pace in about two hours.
Just be careful not to rush the experience — because frankly you don’t need to. Soak in the magnificent beauty of this iconic park and pop off at the most iconic spots. When you get your fill of the “best” spots in Central Park look for new spots discover, it’s an incredible experience.
Best things to do in Central Park (Summary)
In sum, these are the best things to do in Central Park:
- Bethesda Terrace
- The Bow Bridge
- The Mall
- Belvedere Castle
- Strawberry Fields
- The Reservoir
- The Lake
- The Ramble
- Conservatory Garden
- Sheep Meadow
- Best spots to see the cherry blossoms in Central Park
- 10 best spots for cherry blossoms in New York City
- 20 honest pros & cons of living in New York City
And there you have it my friends – a quick roundup of the best things to do in Central Park. I hope you enjoyed the post!
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Until next time,