Travel Guide

Central Park NYC

Central Park

Central Park in New York City is an iconic destination that offers a unique blend of nature and urban life. From serene landscapes to bustling activities, there's something for everyone in this sprawling green haven.

Central Park in a nutshell…

Central Park with its 843 acres is the green heart of Manhattan and it offers a wide range of attractions and activities for visitors of all ages.

Location: Central Park spans from 59th Street to 110th Street between Fifth Avenue and Central Park West in Manhattan.

Transportation: Accessible by multiple subway lines (B, C, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, A, D, N, Q, R) and bus routes (M1, M2, M3, M4, M10, M72).

Entrance Fees: Entry to Central Park is free; some attractions may charge a fee.

Tours: Daily guided tours available, including walking, bike, and carriage tours.

Opening Times: Open daily from 6:00 am to 1:00 am. At sunset you can enjoy stunning views and a vibrant atmosphere at Central Park.

Central Park is an artificial yet lush green space in the heart of New York City that attracts up to 42 million visitors annually, earning its reputation as the “beating heart of Manhattan.” With its car-free scenic driveways and a plethora of attractions, Central Park offers endless activities and sights throughout the year.

Spanning 843 acres, Central Park occupies nearly 6% of Manhattan’s land area. This expansive green space provides a refreshing escape from the city’s concrete jungle, making it the most visited urban park in the United States. Its popularity is further highlighted by the fact that over 350 movies have been filmed here, cementing its status as New York’s most famous filming location.

Interestingly, Central Park’s size is so immense that it could accommodate roughly 16 million New York apartments, and it is even larger than the entire Principality of Monaco. The park’s creation was a monumental task, involving the use of more gunpowder to blast rocks than was used at the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War.

Brief History

The fascinating history of Central Park involves transforming a rocky and swampy area into a world-class urban oasis. In the mid-19th century, as New York City’s population grew rapidly, civic leaders and philanthropists envisioned a large green space to enhance the city’s appeal. In 1853, state officials approved the purchase of land between 59th and 106th Streets, from Fifth to Eighth Avenues.

This land, previously home to small farms and settlements, required significant effort to become the park we know today. A design competition resulted in the selection of the Greensward Plan by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, who were inspired by Birkenhead Park in England. Their vision included naturalistic landscapes and sunken transverse roads, creating a democratic space for people of all backgrounds. Construction began in 1858, and despite various challenges, Central Park has been lovingly restored and maintained by the Central Park Conservancy since 1980. Today, it stands as a green refuge and historical landmark in the heart of Manhattan.

Practical Information

Central Park offers a wealth of attractions and activities. Here’s what you need to know to make the most of your visit.

Location

Central Park is centrally located in New York City, extending from 59th Street to 110th Street, and bordered by Fifth Avenue and Central Park West. It’s so expansive that providing a single address is impossible.

How to Get There

Getting to Central Park is part of the fun thanks to its prime location within Manhattan! Whether you choose subway or bus services or opt for sightseeing buses – here are some handy tips!

Subway

Numerous subway lines provide access to Central Park:

  • North side: B, C, 2, and 3 trains
  • West side: 1, 2, 3, B, and C trains
  • East side: 4, 5, 6 trains
  • South side: A, B, C, D, 1, N, R, and Q trains

Bus

Several bus routes serve the park:

  • East side: M1, M2, M3, M4
  • West side: M10, M72

Sightseeing Bus

Hop-on hop-off buses are a fantastic way to explore Central Park. These buses allow you to see the park’s highlights at your own pace, hopping off at various points of interest and hopping back on when you’re ready to continue your journey.

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Driving

Driving to Central Park is generally discouraged due to limited parking and traffic.

If you must drive, metered parking is available on avenues running north and south on either side of the park, with varying duration times. Parking garages are also plentiful around the park, with rates depending on location and time.

Tickets

Entry to Central Park is free. However, some attractions and activities, like the Central Park Zoo, require an admission fee.

Opening Times

Central Park is open daily from 6:00 am to 1:00 am.

Best Time to Visit

While Central Park is beautiful year-round, sunset is often considered the best time to visit, offering stunning views and a vibrant atmosphere. For those who prefer a quieter experience, early mornings or early afternoons are ideal.

Experiences in Central Park

Exploring Central Park can be as leisurely or as adventurous as you like. Whether you have a few minutes or several hours, there’s a way to enjoy the park that suits your schedule.

You can explore Central Park on foot, but there are several other options as well. Pedicabs, bicycles, e-scooters, guided tours, and even helicopter tours offer diverse ways to see the sights and enjoy the park’s beauty.

Walking Tours

A walking tour of Central Park offers an in-depth look at its history and landmarks. In just two hours, you’ll visit famous spots like Strawberry Fields, Belvedere Castle, Central Park Mall, and Bethesda Fountain, all while learning about the park’s development and significance.

Pedicab Tours

Pedicabs are a fantastic way to explore Central Park because they offer a leisurely, guided tour without the effort of walking or biking. Drivers provide insightful commentary on the park’s history and landmarks, making it an informative and enjoyable experience. Perfect for easily accessing scenic spots, pedicabs ensure a relaxed and convenient tour of Central Park’s beauty.

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Carriage Tours

Carriages offer a charming and romantic way to explore Central Park, allowing visitors to enjoy the park’s beauty at a leisurely pace. With knowledgeable drivers providing insights about the park’s history and landmarks, carriage rides offer a nostalgic experience reminiscent of old New York. Ideal for special occasions or simply a relaxing tour, carriages provide a unique perspective and a serene way to take in the park’s scenic views.

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Bike Tours and Rentals

Renting a bike or joining a bike tour is one of the best ways to see Central Park. Booking in advance is recommended to ensure availability and lower rates. The park’s one-way loop makes cycling easy and enjoyable.

View more biking options in Central Park

Electric Scooter Tours and Rentals

For a unique experience, rent an electric scooter to zip around Central Park. These scooters are easy to use and can cover more ground quickly. Guided scooter tours are also available, providing an exciting way to explore the park.

View more scooter options in Central Park

Helicopter Tours

Helicopter tours of Central Park provide a thrilling and unforgettable way to see the park and New York City from a unique vantage point. Offering panoramic aerial views, these tours allow you to appreciate the vastness and beauty of Central Park, as well as iconic city landmarks, from above.

Perfect for capturing breathtaking photos and experiencing the city in a new light, helicopter tours are an exciting option for those looking to add an adventurous and memorable element to their visit.

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Attractions in Central Park

Central Park is brimming with attractions that cater to all interests. From expansive lawns and tranquil gardens to historical monuments and cultural landmarks, there’s always something new to explore. Whether you’re visiting for a few hours or spending an entire day, the park offers a diverse range of experiences that will captivate and delight.

Central Park is not just a place to relax; it’s a destination filled with historical significance, artistic installations, and natural beauty. Each corner of the park holds a story, making every visit a unique adventure. Here are some of the must-see attractions that you should include in your itinerary.

The Great Lawn

The Great Lawn is a vast, open field located in the center of the park, stretching from 79th to 86th Street.

It features baseball and basketball courts and ample space for various other sports. During the summer months, free concerts are often held here, making it a lively spot for both locals and tourists.

Strawberry Fields

Strawberry Fields is a peaceful area dedicated to the memory of John Lennon, who was tragically assassinated in front of his nearby apartment building, the Dakota.

This serene garden, located on the west side between 71st and 74th Street, features a mosaic with the word “Imagine” at its center. Fans from around the world visit to leave flowers, poems, and candles in tribute to the legendary Beatles icon.

Hidden Waterfalls

Central Park is home to five beautiful, albeit artificial, waterfalls that many visitors overlook. These tranquil spots are perfect for a quiet escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.

The waterfalls are fed by New York’s drinking water and are located between 102nd and 106th Street, along a stream called ’the Loch.'

Belvedere Castle

Perched atop Vista Rock, Belvedere Castle offers breathtaking views of Central Park and the surrounding city. Built in the 19th century, this whimsical castle was once used by the New York Meteorological Observatory to predict the weather. Today, it stands as a picturesque landmark at 79th Street, near Turtle Pond.

Bethesda Terrace

Bethesda Terrace is often considered the heart of Central Park. Located near 72nd Street, this architectural marvel offers stunning views of the lake and the Great Lawn.

The centerpiece of the terrace is Bethesda Fountain, also known as the Angel of the Waters, which is surrounded by cherubs symbolizing health, purity, temperance, and peace. The terrace’s acoustics make it a popular spot for street performers.

Naumburg Bandshell

The Naumburg Bandshell, Central Park’s only Neo-Classical building, is a hub for acoustic music events. Funded by philanthropist Elkan Naumburg in 1923, the bandshell is located between 66th and 72nd Streets. When not in use for concerts, visitors often relax on its stage or admire its architecture.

Shakespeare Garden

This enchanting garden is dedicated to the works of William Shakespeare, featuring flowers and plants mentioned in his plays. Located near the Delacorte Theater, the garden is home to a mulberry tree believed to be an offshoot of one planted by Shakespeare himself.

From May to August, the Delacorte Theater hosts the popular Shakespeare in the Park series, featuring performances by renowned actors. Free tickets are available, though a limited number can also be purchased.

Central Park Zoo with Children’s Zoo

The Central Park Zoo, situated on the east side between 63rd and 66th Street, is a favorite among families. It houses a variety of animals, including lions, monkeys, penguins, and polar bears.

The adjacent Children’s Zoo offers an interactive experience where kids can pet animals such as goats, sheep, cows, and pot-bellied pigs. The zoo also inspired the popular movie ‘Madagascar.’

Loeb Boathouse

Located opposite Bethesda Fountain, the Loeb Boathouse is an idyllic spot for renting rowing boats or simply enjoying a meal with a view. Nestled on the east side between 74th and 75th Street, it offers a serene setting for a relaxing day out on the water.

Winter Ice Skating

From late October to March, visitors can enjoy ice skating at the Wollman Rink, located at 59th Street and 6th Avenue. The rink is a popular winter attraction, and advance ticket purchases are recommended to secure a spot.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir

This picturesque reservoir, named in 1994 to honor Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, spans from 85th to 96th Street. It was her favorite running spot and remains popular with joggers, especially in the spring when the trees are in full bloom. The reservoir’s loop is 1.5 miles long, offering scenic views of the park.

Sheep Meadow

Sheep Meadow, located on the west side between 66th and 69th Street, is a beloved spot for sunbathing, picnicking, and people-watching. This open field was once a pasture for grazing sheep until 1934.

The nearby building, now the famous restaurant Tavern on the Green, once housed the shepherd. During late August, Sheep Meadow also hosts outdoor movie screenings, which are free to the public.

Tavern on the Green

Tavern on the Green is a chic restaurant located on the west side at 67th Street. Known for its use of local, seasonal ingredients, the restaurant offers a classic dining experience with stunning views of Central Park. It’s an ideal spot for a special occasion or a romantic dinner.

Tips to Visit the High Line

Visiting Central Park can be an overwhelming experience due to its sheer size and variety of attractions. Here are some tips to make your visit smoother and more enjoyable:

  • Always have a map with you, either on your phone or a printed version. This is especially useful for self-guided tours, as it’s easy to get lost in the vast park. A map will help you save time and make the most of your visit.
  • Try to attend an event in Central Park, as there is always something happening year-round. Summer is particularly eventful with activities like Philharmonic in the Parks and Shakespeare in the Park. Check the Central Park New York event calendar before your visit.
  • Enjoy a drink with a view at The Loeb Boathouse. This somewhat hidden gem offers a quiet setting with one of the best views in the park.
  • Note that all visitor centers, including Belvedere Castle, Charles A. Dana Discovery Center, Chess & Checkers House, Columbus Circle Information Kiosk, and Dairy Visitor Center, are closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's.
  • To navigate the park more easily, use the numerical codes on the base of each lamp post. The first two or three numbers indicate the nearest street, while the last number denotes the side of the park (odd for West, even for East).
  • Alcohol is not permitted in Central Park.
  • Coyotes have been spotted in Central Park. Maintain a safe distance and exercise caution if you encounter one.

Accessibility

Central Park is committed to being accessible to all visitors. Here are some features that make the park inclusive:

  • Accessible Pathways: The park has wide, smooth, and obstacle-free paths, marked with wheelchair symbols on park maps for easy navigation.
  • Accessible Entrances: Several park entrances are equipped with ramps or elevators, ensuring convenient access for visitors with mobility challenges.
  • Accessible Facilities: Central Park offers accessible restrooms with spacious stalls and grab bars to provide comfort and independence.
  • Wheelchair Rental: Wheelchair rental services are available for visitors with mobility limitations. Contact the Central Park Conservancy or nearby visitor centers for more information.
  • Inclusive Attractions and Activities: The park features accessible playgrounds, sensory gardens, adaptive sports programs, and guided tours. Check the park’s website or visitor centers for details on inclusive activities and events.

Frequently Asked Questions

Central Park is open daily from 6:00 am to 1:00 am.

You can reach Central Park by subway, bus, sightseeing bus, or driving (though parking is limited).

No, entry to Central Park is free. However, some attractions within the park, like the Central Park Zoo, may charge an admission fee.

Sunset is a popular time for its beautiful views, while early mornings or early afternoons are best for avoiding crowds.

Yes, bike rentals are available and recommended to book in advance.

Yes, there are various guided tours, including walking tours, bike tours, and carriage rides.

Performances are often held at Bethesda Terrace, Naumburg Bandshell, and during events like Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte Theater.

Central Park offers accessible pathways, entrances, restrooms, wheelchair rentals, and inclusive attractions.

Yes, Central Park is generally safe, but it’s always wise to stay aware of your surroundings.

Yes, dogs are welcome in Central Park, but they must be kept on a leash except in designated off-leash areas.

Use a map and the numerical codes on lamp posts to help navigate.

The first two or three numbers indicate the nearest street, while the last number shows whether you’re on the East or West side.

Yes, Tavern on the Green and The Loeb Boathouse are two popular dining options within the park.

Absolutely! Winter activities include ice skating at Wollman Rink.

Strawberry Fields is a memorial to John Lennon, located near the Dakota where he lived. Fans often leave flowers and other tributes here.

Central Park has five hidden waterfalls along a stream called ’the Loch,’ located between 102nd and 106th Street.

Where to Stay Near Central Park

Staying near Central Park offers unparalleled convenience and the opportunity to immerse yourself in one of New York City’s most vibrant areas. You’ll have easy access to the park’s numerous attractions, activities, and events, making it a perfect base for exploring Manhattan.

Many hotels around Central Park provide stunning views of the park and the city skyline. From luxury accommodations to more budget-friendly options, you can find a place that suits your needs and preferences. Enjoy the proximity to cultural landmarks, world-class dining, and the serene beauty of Central Park right at your doorstep.

Other Parks in New York City

New York City is home to a variety of beautiful parks, each offering unique experiences and attractions. Exploring these parks can provide a refreshing break from the urban hustle and bustle, allowing you to enjoy nature, art, and history in the heart of the city.

Battery Park

Located at the southern tip of Manhattan, Battery Park offers stunning views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

This historical park is home to various monuments, gardens, and open spaces. It’s a great spot to start your visit to New York City, especially if you plan to take a ferry to the nearby islands.

The park also features Castle Clinton, an important historical site that served various purposes over the years.

High Line Park

This unique elevated park, built on a disused railway line, runs from Gansevoort Street to 34th Street on Manhattan’s West Side.

The High Line offers beautiful gardens, public art installations, and scenic views of the city and the Hudson River. It’s a perfect example of urban renewal, transforming an old industrial space into a vibrant greenway.

Walking along the High Line provides a different perspective of the city, with plenty of spots to sit and relax.

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Little Island

A relatively new addition to New York’s park scene, Little Island is an innovative public park built on the Hudson River.

Featuring a series of tulip-shaped pylons, the park includes landscaped areas, performance spaces, and stunning river views.

It’s a fantastic spot for leisurely strolls, enjoying live performances, or simply relaxing while taking in the unique architecture and design.

Domino Park

Located along the East River in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Domino Park is a waterfront park built on the site of the former Domino Sugar Refinery.

The park features a playground, a dog run, and a series of historical artifacts from the refinery.

It’s a great place for families, offering interactive fountains, sports fields, and incredible views of the Manhattan skyline.

Madison Square Park

Situated in the Flatiron District, Madison Square Park is a historic park that offers a peaceful retreat in the middle of the city.

The park is known for its lush greenery, seasonal flower displays, and the iconic Shake Shack.

It also hosts various art installations and community events throughout the year, making it a lively and engaging space for visitors of all ages.

Bryant Park

Nestled between Fifth and Sixth Avenues in Midtown Manhattan, Bryant Park is a beloved urban oasis.

Known for its beautiful lawn, seasonal ice skating rink, and the iconic New York Public Library adjacent to it, Bryant Park offers a variety of activities year-round.

Whether you’re looking to read a book, grab a coffee, or enjoy a picnic, Bryant Park provides a serene setting amidst the city’s hustle and bustle.

Brooklyn Bridge Park

Stretching along the East River in Brooklyn, Brooklyn Bridge Park offers spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline and the Brooklyn Bridge.

The park features piers with sports fields, playgrounds, and picnic areas. It’s a great place for walking, biking, or just enjoying the waterfront scenery.

The park also hosts various cultural events and outdoor activities, making it a vibrant community space.

Other Nearby Attractions

Central Park’s prime location makes it an excellent starting point for exploring many other famous New York City attractions. After spending time in the park, you can easily continue your adventure and visit some of the city’s most iconic sites.

Situated in the heart of Manhattan, Central Park is close to numerous landmarks and cultural institutions. Whether you’re interested in museums, shopping, or entertainment, there’s plenty to see and do just a short walk or subway ride away. Here are some nearby attractions that you won’t want to miss.

Central Park Zoo

Located within Central Park itself, the Central Park Zoo is a delightful destination for families.

The zoo is home to a wide variety of animals, including penguins, sea lions, and snow leopards. The Tisch Children’s Zoo, a part of the main zoo, offers interactive exhibits where kids can pet and feed domestic animals. It’s an educational and fun experience for all ages.

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Metropolitan Museum of Art

Just a short walk from Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or the Met, is one of the world’s largest and most prestigious art museums.

It houses over two million works of art, spanning 5,000 years of history. The museum’s diverse collections include everything from ancient artifacts to modern masterpieces.

A visit to the Met is a journey through time and cultures, offering something for every art enthusiast.

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Rockefeller Center

Located a few blocks south of Central Park, Rockefeller Center is a historic landmark known for its Art Deco architecture, the famous ice skating rink, and the annual Christmas tree lighting.

The Top of the Rock observation deck offers breathtaking views of the city. The complex also features shops, restaurants, and the NBC Studios, making it a bustling hub of activity.

Times Square

Known as “The Crossroads of the World,” Times Square is a must-visit destination for anyone new to New York City. This vibrant area is famous for its bright lights, Broadway theaters, and bustling crowds.

Times Square is always buzzing with energy, offering numerous entertainment options, from theaters and restaurants to street performances and flagship stores.

American Museum of Natural History

Located just across Central Park on the Upper West Side, the American Museum of Natural History is one of the largest museums in the world.

It features extensive exhibits on everything from dinosaurs and space exploration to human cultures and the natural world. The museum is a treasure trove of knowledge and wonder, perfect for visitors of all ages.

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Carnegie Hall

Just a short distance from Central Park, Carnegie Hall is one of the world’s most prestigious concert venues. Since its opening in 1891, it has hosted countless legendary performances by the greatest musicians.

Attending a concert here is a memorable experience, and the venue also offers guided tours that provide insights into its rich history and architectural splendor.

Fifth Avenue Shopping

Fifth Avenue is synonymous with luxury shopping, and it’s just steps away from Central Park. This iconic shopping street is home to high-end retailers, flagship stores, and renowned department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue.

Whether you’re looking for the latest fashion, unique gifts, or simply window shopping, Fifth Avenue offers a premier shopping experience.

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Explore Our Comprehensive Travel Guide

On this page

  1. Introduction
  2. Brief History
  3. Practical Information
  4. Experiences in Central Park
  5. Attractions in Central Park
  6. Tips to Visit the High Line
  7. Accessibility
  8. Frequently Asked Questions
  9. Where to Stay Near Central Park
  10. Other Parks in New York City
  11. Other Nearby Attractions