Central Park, New York City is one of the best city parks in the world. In the fun Vlog you can join us exploring and finding the best things to see in Central Park, the city’s ‘backyard’. I have also written a comprehensive guide on all of the things to see in Central Park and what we thought of them and when is the best time to visit Central Park and why.
The park covers over 150 square blocks so it is big enough to keep you busy for hours. It started out as an uninspiring site of quarries, pig farms, swamp land and shacks. It took 16 years to transform it into a beautiful park. It’s easy to forget you are in a busy city when birds tweet all around. It is Americas first landscaped park meaning some of the facilities have a historic feel. With so many things to see in Central Park it is a must-do destination when visiting New York city.
When is best to visit
During the week
If you like it quieter head there during the week.
During the weekends
I actually prefer the park during the weekends in the quieter part of the year. This is because rather than tourists meandering quietly through, you’ll get generally very friendly local New Yorkers walking their dogs, playing baseball, getting married and bird watching. You get to feel what it is to be a New Yorker!
The parks Cherry Blossoms transforms the park with spays of pink before the leaves are out. A famous red tailed hawk ‘Pale Male’ nests on the roof of 927 Fifth Avenue – sit by Conservatory Water for the best view. Shakespeare’s Garden is particularly pretty.
There are often free concerts and theatre productions (line up early for tickets to Shakespeare in the Park). Laying out in Sheep’s Meadow on a hot, sunny day with a book, a picnic and a bottle of wine while gazing towards the New York City’s skyline. It can get very hot tho’. The French garden is especially beautiful with a brilliant display of annuals.
Spring to the early fall
There are free guided walks run by the parks service on Saturdays at 11am during this time. The carousel is open during this time. You can hire the little sail boats on Conservatory Water.
Ice-skating. Whether you watch or take part. It has become an iconic part of the Central Park scene.
Enjoy taking in the atmosphere of Central Park in this VIDEO as we explore the best things to see.
(Comprehensive list of all there is to see below)
Things to see in Central Park
Alice & Wonderland
A big bronze statue just north of the conservatory water standing 11 feet tall. It’s a popular statue to sit or climb on for family shots. It is allowed and you’ll see some parts are worn smooth with the hands and feet of 1000’s of visitors.
This is a bronze sculpture of a noble sled dog that delivered medicine through a blizzard. Find it near the Children’s Zoo. It’s a park favourite. Spot the worn ears and back where people ‘pet’ him.
A place where free classical concerts are held. But also, as we discovered, bands of all sorts who are after recognition can get up and do their thing. The more music in the park the better as far as we are concerned. You’ll find buskers everywhere and generally they play very well. Remember to drop them a few coins so the tradition carries on.
Belvedere means ‘beautiful view’ has two terraces with lovely views. But don’t get too excited as it is more of a ‘jolly’ (as us Brits’ call it). That is to say it is a mock castle that holds the visitor centre and The Henry Luce Nature Observatory. It does provide interactive nature exhibits inside the castle as well as bird-watching kits, which can be used throughout the park.
For something more historical head to the Blockhouse, which is a remaining fort from the War of 1812 located at the northern end of the park.
Bethesda fountain, terrace and arcade
A great part of the park. Always a hub of activity with some of the best buskers in the park there and when we were there a man was blowing giant bubbles that billowed through delighted crowds (toilets are found on the stairs between the two levels).
The fountain is one of the largest in New York and is usually very pretty. The angel of the fountain’s statue is often a backdrop for wedding photos (you’ll see many weddings in the park at weekends).
You get a view across the lake and over to the trees of the Ramble from here.
The arcade is stunning with it’s golden tiled ceiling and atmospheric arches. You will often find singers there making the most of the wonderful sound allowed by the arcade.
Bridges and arches
There are bridges all over and they are all different except to say they were all built during the 1800’s. They are great places to visit for views but also because you’ll see all walks of life enjoying a break. Expect to be asked to take photos for family groups and couples!
When the park opened in the 1860’s there were 6 boat landings built around ‘The Lake’. Look out for these wooden structures because they have shaded benches and are beautiful places to sit and gaze over sparkling waters. They are quite popular tho’ so get there early or expect to share!
Built in 1871 and is open April – November (although it does depend on the weather). This is a famous ride and is very popular.
Cherry Blossom Trees
There are 2 species that burst into bloom between late April and May. It really transforms the park, when the parks leaves have barely started to open. They are found in clusters all around the park.
Pretty with the cherry blossoms and lake views, but mainly the place to head to if you want a ride in a horse drawn carriage. Find the surrounding the Cherry Hill fountain, where the horses are allowed to drink.
Chess and Checkers House
This can be great fun to visit when there are games taking place. We visited early in the morning recently and nothing was going on, but in previous years we have watched some great chess matches. It opens at 10am. Chess and checkers are played in many parks in New York, but here you get to borrow the pieces, so you can join in even as a tourist!
It’s a great little zoo and well worth a visit. There are 150 species from 3 climate zones. It’s open all year round. You can also feed some of the animals in the petting zoo. There are plenty of guides to talk to you about the animals, decent places to snack and toilets. Our favourite parts were the grizzly bears and the tropical bird enclosure.
Conservatory Water and Gardens
You can hire little sail boats during April to October. It’s a nice place to sit and people watch. It’s right by the Alice & Wonderland, Hans Christian Anderson and the Ugly Duckling statues. So, it’s a great spot for youngsters.
These are the only formal gardens in the park and are made up of Italian, English and French style gardens. They are quieter and calmer as there are no cycling or jogging allowed. It’s very popular for weddings. Find it by going through the Vanderbilt Gate.
It is a reproduction of one of the oldest structures in Central Park. It is basically a wooden shelter, but it is lovely. It’s placed on a high spot looking towards the Balto statue – the name means ‘little house on the crest of the hill’ in Scottish. It’s sheltered by trees allowing for some shade in the hotter months. Because it is pretty and shelters up to 30 people it is another spot where you’ll see weddings taking place.
A cute looking information centre and gift shop. There used to be a small herd of cows in a meadow in front of the Diary. So, it used to supply milk and snacks for children during a time when milk was difficult to find and desperately sought for by New York parents. Opens at 10am.
Is made up of 3 tiers including whimsical dancing animals. It chimes every half an hour during the day time and plays music which changes with the season. You’ll find it near the zoo and it plays nursery rhymes most of the year (although it sounded like a pop song when we passed underneath!) and Christmas carols before Christmas.
Grand Army Plaza
A large and busy plaza which has been recently given a face lift with new benches, lamps and London plane trees. There is a statue of a Union General and the Pulitzer Fountain which features the Roman goddess of abundance. It’s another place to pick up a horse drawn carriage and art is often displayed there.
This large 55 acres lawn is found at the centre of the park. It’s very popular in Spring and summer for picnics and sun bathing. It’s not open all year tho’, just from mid April to mid November. During the Great Depression it served as the home for displaced residents. Surplus supplies and materials leftover from the construction of a subway line and Rockefeller Centre were taken here. Today it is a vast and generally peaceful green space.
Hallett Nature Sanctuary
This is a nature reserve. Expect to have to visit with a tour guide and it isn’t always open as it closes for various events. It is a pretty spot and a bird reserve but you can also spot racoons and rabbits.
Hans Christian Andersen statue
A relatively new addition but much loved.The large, bronze statue shows Andersen seated upon a granite bench, reading from his book The Ugly Duckling and is meant to be climbed all over. We have seen the story times that take place here, where children sit crossed legged whilst being read to. It’s a lovely scene on a warm summers morning.
This is a pretty stretch of water. Worth visiting during the spring when the roses blossom and summer when the hydrangea bloom. Look out for majestic looking herons.
These are the baseball and softball fields. I love watching locals play their national sports. The atmosphere is often great. There is a café in this area, so you can stay longer.
This is a pretty and secluded spot near The Lake. It’s very pretty, made in an antique style and is therefore a popular spot for special occasions. It’s a lovely spot for a photo if you find it quiet.
This is another one of the best things to see in Central Park because it is a beautiful spot with lots going on. Check out the boat boats at Loeb Boathouse.
Lasker Pool and Rink
This is a pool in summer and an ice rink in winter. It also has beautiful views of Harlem Meer. The pool is free but bring your own towel and lock!
Loeb Boathouse and Row Boats
This is one of our favourite places to eat. They do a great brunch and lunch. We haven’t eaten there in the evening yet, but we imagine it would be wonderful as the New York skyline lights up. In the warmer months you can eat alfresco style and if you are lucky enough to get a water side seat, you’ll be able to watch the turtles swim by.
Hiring one of the little row boats is one of our favourite things to do in the park. This is popular, but navigating around other happy folk is half the fun. You get some great shots of the New York skyline surrounding the park from the boats. Each boat holds up to four people. It is one of the fun things to see in Central Park.
This large 23 acre meadow which includes twelve fields used for soccer, touch football, baseball, and softball. A nice area to watch some competitive games.
North Woods and Loch
The North Woods is 90 acres and was modelled after the New York State Adirondacks. The Loch is a stream where you can find peace and tranquility in the this typically busy Park.
This is one of a pair that were made in 12th or 13th BC. It came to New York as exchange for aid to modernise Egypt in the late 19th Century. So it is the oldest public monument in Northern America. It’s 71 feet high.
21 are dotted all around and offering differing activities. They are of high quality and is opened daily, except during snow.
One of the less busy parks of the park, although you will hear the traffic as it is at the edge of the park. Get there for sunset as the views are meant to be really pretty at that time.
This is more of a wild area, criss-crossed by paths. It is popular by bird watchers. We spotted some bird feeders that attracted some exciting species – according to animated locals! We also saw a Woodpecker feeding from the hand of a local lady. Look out for the stream and racoons.
Officially the ‘Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir’ it’s famed for the 1.58 mile track that encircles the 106 acre body of water. It was a favourite jogging spot of Jackie O, Bill Clinton and a number of other influential people still today. It has one of the best views of the New York City skyline.
This garden is filled with beautiful plants and flowers mentioned by the famous playwright. It covers 4 acres. There are bronze plaques with quotations from his plays throughout the garden. It is serene and romantic and therefore it is used a lot for wedding ceremonies. Particularly pretty in Spring when it should be at the top of your list on things to see in Central Park!
We sunbathed here one baking hot summers day. It is full of kite flying, picnic eating and gentle ball games. It is also the site for protests and occasionally a big screen showing events such as the moon landing. We like it because it is close to the pleasant eatery by there.
It pays tribute to the late Beatle, John Lennon, singer, songwriter, musician and peace activist who lived in a nearby apartment. It is a rather simple plaque but the black and white Imagine mosaic has become iconic and represents a vision and hope for a world without strife, war and conflict. It is often surrounded by groups wanting photographs on the memorial. This tear dropped section of the park could be seen by John Lennon’s apartment and it was Yoko Ono who paid for it’s restoration as a tribute to his memory.
This is the tallest naturally occurring rock in the park and is a popular one to climb for it’s great views.
Rock climbing happens over the giant black boulders that protrude through the ground all over the park. Most are gentle but we did see a couple of lads with climbing equipment tackling a steeper edge.
The Swedish Cottage
Was once a real school house, but now holds parties and marionette shows.
A wide walkway where buskers, artists, rollerbladers, entertainers and joggers mix alongside the walkers. Statues of literary folk are found at the Southern end. It’s a lovely area as the trees are beautiful, especially when the sun is low.
This is found at the base of Belvedere Castle. It is a quieter spot where you can spot turtles (no surprise there!)
This is an amusement park containing about 12 rides and several classic carnival games. This is best for children under 12.
There are things to see in Central Park that aren’t on this list, such as all the cute local dogs you’ll get to meet on the weekends, the atmosphere of the early morning fitness folk and kids playing baseball, among other things.
Other things to do in New York
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