20 Fun Things to do in Central Park NYC
20 Fun Things to do in Central Park NYC
Yes, there are plenty of things to do in NYC, but no visit to New York City is complete without a visit to Central Park. This green oasis in the middle of Manhattan’s concrete jungle offers the best view of New York City and is the perfect place to escape the city without actually leaving it.
For those who haven’t visited Manhattan before, it’s easy to assume that Central Park is just that, a park. While this is true, there is far more to it than one might expect. Spanning 843 acres in a 2.5 mile by .5 mile rectangle, Central Park has so many things to see and do that you could spend days exploring it.
Things to do in Central Park New York
Central Park is chockful of something for everyone. Be it cycling, running, walking, sail boating, exploring nature, relaxing from the chaotic city, there is more than enough to keep you coming back for more. If you’re wondering where to start or if it’s really worth a spot on your jampacked itinerary, keep reading our picks of 20 fun things to do in Central Park.
1 | Metropolitan Museum of Art | Easily the most famous museum in New York City, The Metropolitan Museum of Art is also the largest art museum in the United States. It houses more than 36,000 pieces of art from all over the world that span over 5,000 years of human history.
Of particular note is the Egyptian collection, which spans a full 39 rooms. Visitors can also enjoy vast collections of medieval, Buddhist, Jewish, and Islamic art. Music lovers will find lots to see in the Andre Mertens Gallery for Musical Instruments. No matter where your artistic interests lie, there is bound to be something to wow you at this iconic museum.
2 | Belvedere Castle | It isn’t every day you can visit an old-style castle in the midst of an enormous city. Belvedere is Italian for “beautiful view,” and it isn’t misnamed. This gorgeous piece of architecture overlooks all of Central Park’s most famous landmarks and provides one of the most extensive views of the Manhattan skyline in the park.
Belvedere was designed in 1865 with no purpose other than to be an interesting landmark with a great view. While this would have been reason enough for its existence, it became a point of scientific interest in 1919. The National Weather Service started using the castle’s tower to measure weather conditions. It now acts as a natural history and science center as well as a remarkable piece of architecture.
3 | Central Park Zoo | If you are an animal lover or are visiting with children, you can’t miss the incredible exhibits at the Central Park Zoo. One of the oldest zoos in the country, it covers seven acres and features impressive collections of rare animals like penguins, tropical birds, and snow leopards. Fair warning, you could probably spend an entire day exploring the place.
4 | Conservatory Water | If you’re looking for a beautiful pond to enjoy in Central Park, Conservatory Water will not disappoint no matter the time of year. This wide-open body of water provides a pleasant atmosphere worthy of relaxation. However, depending on the season, there are plenty of activities to choose from.
Should you visit from April to October, you can enjoy Conservatory Water’s boating season. Rent your own boat or stop by on a Saturday morning to watch a race. If you come in the winter, you can go ice skating for free when the ice is safe enough.
5 | Loeb Boathouse | For a luxurious float through Central Park, look no further than the Loeb Boathouse. Boat rentals and gondola rides are essential for a visit. This two-story, Victorian building has been a staple of the park since 1954. It also functions as an event space for weddings or corporate get-togethers. Once you’re through with your ride, satiate your hunger at the delicious restaurant housed inside.
6 | Conservatory Garden | Plant lovers, rejoice. Open each day from 8:00 am until dusk, the Conservatory Garden is Central Park’s finest and only formal garden. Visitors enter this magical paradise through the Vanderbilt Gate and stroll among the lilac, magnolia, crabapple, and yew trees. Admire the flowers and fountains along the way.
This garden was originally opened in 1937 but underwent extensive renovations in the 1980s. Today it is as beautiful as ever.
7 | The Mall and Literary Walk | One of the best things to do in Central Park is simply to walk through it. The most noteworthy spot for a stroll is The Mall, a walkway that runs right through the middle of the park. Street performers, cyclists, and rollerbladers can be found on its wide pathways daily. Enormous elm trees create a canopy overhead that makes you feel far away from Manhattan’s skyscrapers. In autumn, it is a prime spot to walk among the falling leaves.
At the southern end of The Mall, you can enjoy The Literary Walk, which is populated by the statues of important figures in the history of literature like Shakespeare, Walter Scott, and Robert Burns. 2020 also saw the addition of the Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument.
8 | Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre | Though the Swedish Cottage has existed in Central Park since 1877, it’s only housed the Marionette Theater since 1947. The cottage had a number of purposes, including a tool house, a laboratory, a library, and a civil defense headquarters during World War 2.
Now, the Swedish Cottage is the perfect spot to bring the kids for a classic puppet show. We especially recommend checking it out in winter time, when a blanket of snow might make you feel like you’re tucked away in the forests of Sweden.
9 | Go Ice Skating at Wollman Rink | Should you visit between October and April, you can experience the magic of ice skating in Central Park. This attraction has been a favorite for decades, and it isn’t hard to see why. Seeing the beauty of the Manhattan skyline while gliding across ice is an unforgettable experience. Prices and hours vary, so give them a call ahead of your visit.
10 | Central Park Carousel | An estimated quarter of a million people ride this famous carousel every year, so it should come as no surprise that it is considered a must-do when visiting. With fifty-seven hand-carved animals, it is one of the largest carousels in the entire world. It has gone under many renovations during its century of operation, but it hasn’t lost any of the magic that’s made it so special.
11 | Delacorte Clock | Located near the Children’s Zoo, the Delacorte Music Clock is a must see if you’re visiting with your little ones. Every hour between 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., the clock plays one of thirty-two nursery rhymes.
This attraction has been entertaining children and adults alike since being built in 1965. George T. Delacorte, after whom the clock is named, was inspired by clocks he saw on his trips to Europe. Enjoy some old-world charm during your visit.
12 | The Dairy Visitor Center | Though it now serves as an information center and gift shop, this historic building was originally built in 1870 as a source of fresh milk for children. It is a remarkable piece of architecture, exemplifying the Victorian Gothic style and taking visitors back to a simpler time.
As of the writing of this article, the Dairy Visitor Center is closed for renovations. Be sure to call ahead if you’d like to see inside. The building is worth stopping by to see its gorgeous exterior even if it’s still closed.
13 | Butterfly Gardens | Fifty species of beautiful butterflies call this garden home. Located in the North Meadow of the park, it is the perfect place to bring your kids or learn about the lives of these fascinating insects. The plants here are specifically chosen for the butterflies, but they are a treat for our eyes as well.
14 | Strawberry Fields | The Strawberry Fields memorial is a three-acre area of the park that pays tributes to one of the most legendary musicians of the 20th century, John Lennon. Its most famous attraction is the “Imagine” mosaic, a black and white circular piece of art that recalls one of the singer’s best-loved songs. You’ll often find it adorned with flowers.
15 | Shakespeare in the Park at Delacorte Theater | While it houses a number of performances, the Delacorte Theater is most famous for its productions of Shakespeare in the Park each summer. Two plays are put on each season, and they are completely free to attend, so long as you are willing to wait in line for tickets.
The theater itself is a thing of beauty too, with an open-air view of the New York City skyline. It’s the perfect place to catch some culture while exploring the park.
16 | Beach Volleyball | Sports fans should be sure to check out Central Park’s volleyball courts, where courts are available to anyone who brings their own ball. Sand courts make for a great summer activity, but asphalt courts are also available. It’s the perfect way to get exercise while exploring Manhattan.
Even if you don’t like to play, you can have a lot of fun watching those that do. Many talented players come out to have fun when the weather is nice.
17 | Bethesda Terrace | If you were to be dropped into Central Park without knowing where you were, you could be forgiven for assuming you were in Rome or Paris. This iconic Central Park landmark is well known for its old-world architecture and fanciful fountain. It’s a great spot to stroll along, enjoy street performers, and people watch.
18 | Sheep Meadow | Sometimes you need a break from the hustle and bustle of New York City, and there is no better place to do it than Sheep Meadow. This wide-open, flat stretch of grass provides a great spot to lay about and admire the Manhattan skyline. At fifteen acres, there is plenty of room for everyone who wants to come and relax or throw a frisbee around.
19 | Cleopatra’s Needle | If ancient history interests you, you must stop by Cleopatra’s Needle, an obelisk that still stands triumphantly after being constructed around 1450 BC. Pharaoh Thutmosis III had two of these obelisks constructed, which were later both moved from Heliopolis to Alexandria. In the 19th century, they were separated and transported to London and New York City.
Now located near the Metropolitan Museum of Art, this fascinating obelisk is the perfect sight to get you excited for the museum’s collection of Egyptian art.
20 | Ride a Bike | While bikes aren’t great for exploring most of Manhattan, but they are perfect for Central Park. The park is enormous, and if you want to see it all, you may find yourself wanting something a little more efficient than your own legs to carry you. Plenty of cyclists travel throughout Central Park each day, so you’ll easily find yourself at home on two wheels.
Last Tips: Other Things To Do in New York City
Don’t forget to check out the landmarks outside Central Park that make New York City so special. There’s no better way to enjoy your vacation than a stroll through Times Square or an afternoon spent at the Guggenheim Museum. In the evenings, grab dinner in Little Italy or Chinatown. New York City is a vibrant, exciting, and wonderful place. We hope you enjoy your trip.
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* Westgate Resorts is in no way affiliated with the attractions featured in this article. Items or places listed are current as of the publishing date of this article. Please call or visit the respective website for the most up-to-date offerings and details.