Heading to New York City’s Central Park? Make Sure You Dedicate An Entire Day!
Central Park is a juggernaut of a place with an incredible array of activities to suit all members of the family. It wouldn’t be possible to visit all the attractions in a short period of time. Here is a comprehensive list of things to by location (north end, mid-park, south end and throughout the park) and its relevant street coordinates so you can plan your visit if you’re confined by time.
CENTRAL PARK TIP #1
Playgrounds by Location
- Rudin Family Playground. Tire and bucket swings, a water feature, multiple rings for the acrobatic and a chess and checkers table. Location: West Side at 96th Street.
- East 96th Playground: One of the largest playgrounds in Central Park with picnic tables. Consists of climbing structures with poles, slides, sandbox swings and bridges. Location: East Side at 96th Street.
- Robert Bendheim Playground. Suitable for young children and children with disabilities. Play area has ramps, mini slides, a sandbox, a small water feature and swings. Location: East Side at 100th Street.
- Bernard Family Playground: Bucket swings, sandbox, play structure with a bridge, slides, climbing poles, multiple platforms. Location: East Side at 108th Street.
- East 110th Street Playground. Central Park’s northernmost playground. It has a water feature which shoots water from the floor and seats in the perimeter. Location: East 110th Street at Lenox Avenue.
- Tarr Family Playground. Net and conical climber, windy slide off multi-level platforms, a wooden tree house, water feature, a concrete maze and swings. Location: West Side at 110th Street.
- West 110th Street Playground. Water feature, bucket and tire swings, a sandbox, climbing structures and plenty of park bench seats. Location: West Side at 110th Street.
CENTRAL PARK TIP #2
Charles A. Dana Discovery Center. A gorgeous center located whimsically on the waters of Harlem Meer, this building offers free community programs and holiday celebrations such as the Halloween Parade and Pumpkin Flotilla in autumn and the annual Holiday Lighting event in winter.
Location: Inside the Park at 110th Street between Fifth and Lenox Avenues
CENTRAL PARK TIP #3
Fishing at Harlem Meer. Would you like to go fishing in the middle of the city? Fishing at Harlem Meer is free for families and you can borrow fishing poles from the The Charles A. Dana Discovery Center. According to the official Central Park website, Harlem Meer is a thriving aquatic ecosystem that supports a wide variety of fish, waterfowl, turtles, plants and microorganisms. Some of the fish living in the Meer include largemouth bass, pumpkinseed sunfish, bluegill sunfish, carp, and chain pickerel. This popular pastime is a catch and release activity and there are numerous rules and regulations one must abide by.
Location: East Side just west of the Dana Discovery Center at 109th Street.
CENTRAL PARK TIP #4
Playgrounds by Location
- James Michael Levin Playground. Houses the Sophie Loeb spray fountain where kids are encouraged to take full advantage of it! Location: East 76th Street.
- Ruth and Arthur Smadbeck-Heckscher East Playground. Showcases the Three Bears sculpture, has swings, slides and a sandbox. Location: East Side at 79th Street.
- Diana Ross Playground. Funded by Diana Ross after her concert on the Great Lawn. Contains climbing nets, bridges, fire poles, ladders and slides set in a large area of sand. Location: West Side at 81st Street.
- Mariner’s Playground. A nautical themed playground consisting of steering wheels, decks, slides, and ladders. Also has a wooden “boat” platform that sways. Location: West Side at 85th Street.
- Ancient Playground. Inspired by the Egyptian Art, it features pyramids, an obelisk water feature, bridges, tunnels and a sundial. Location: East Side at 85th Street.
- Abraham and Joseph Spector Playground. One of the largest playgrounds in Central Park. The play structure is built over an enclosed sandbox and has stairs, slides, poles and wooden platforms. Location: West Side at 86th Street
CENTRAL PARK TIP #5
Alice in Wonderland. Sitting whimsically atop a giant mushroom, Alice in Wonderland attends a tea party hosted by the Mad Hatter. This bronze statue is synonymous with Central Park and has been so since 1959. Alongside Alice is the White Rabbit holding is enormous pocket watch and a door mouse nobbling at Alice’s feet. The statue is engraved with lines from Lewis Carroll’s poem, The Jabberwocky. Make sure you don’t miss it! A great photo opportunity for the family.
Location: East Side at 75th Street
CENTRAL PARK TIP #6
Belvedere Castle. Need a little bit of Europe on your city visit? Head to Belvedere Castle, a structure built in 1869 and now renovated and reopened in 1983 as a visitor centre and gift shop. The castle sits majestically on the banks of the water with its tower providing the highest vantage point in the park. A great spot for the budding photographer!
Location: Mid-Park at 79th Street
CENTRAL PARK TIP #7
Conservatory Water. The Conservatory Pond is a well-known for model boats in the summer and ice skating in the winter. Its versatility makes it a popular destination all year round. Located next to the water is the Boathouse which has an abundance of benches and outdoor tables, conducive for a family picnic.
Location: East Side from 72nd to 75th Street
CENTRAL PARK TIP #8
Great Lawn. The Great Lawn is the epicenter of Central Park and spans 55 acres in area. This is one of the most famous and utilised lawns in the world with New Yorkers finding respite from the hectic city. The lawn is closed during the winter months so that some much needed landscaping may take place. With the concrete jungle looming in the distance, the lawn is also home to many music events.
Location: Mid-Park from 79th to 85th Street
CENTRAL PARK TIP #9
Hans Christian Andersen. A popular statue of this great Danish children’s author by the Conservatory Pond should be included in your Central Park itinerary. The sculpture sees the author seated on a stone bench with his hat off and an open book as the Ugly Duckling is seen listening to his stories with great anticipation. During the summer months at 11.00am on Saturdays, New York children gather around the statue to hear his stories being told by prolific storytellers.
Location: 74th Street near Fifth Avenue west of Conservatory Water.
CENTRAL PARK TIP #10
Swedish Cottage. The Swedish Cottage houses the oldest operating marionette companies of its kind in the country. Hundreds of thousands of children and families from around the world have enjoyed marionette productions such as Peter Pan and Cinderella as well as puppet making workshops.
Location: West Side at 79th Street
CENTRAL PARK TIP #11
Turtle Pond. Home to 5 different species of turtles that are notorious for sun basking on the flat rocks, Turtle Pond is a quiet zone. Music cannot be listened to without earphones and musical instruments may not be played. Dogs on leashes are permitted whilst fishing in the pond or feeding of nearby wildlife is not. Surrounded by luscious trees on the embankment, this is the perfect spot for some quiet time, away from the hustle and bustle of New York City life.
Location: Mid-Park between 79th and 80th Streets.
CENTRAL PARK TIP #12
Playgrounds by Location
- Heckscher Playground. Consists of a stone pyramid, large sandbox with a climbing net, a complex of tunnels, moats and bridges, slides and swings. Location: Mid-Park from 61st to 63rd Streets.
- Adventure Playground. Features a conical climber with tunnels and a slide, a fortress, maze-like structures, a circular water spray feature, sand play areas and safety carpet. Location: West Side at 67th Street.
- Bill Johnson Playground. Constructed primarily from natural materials, the playground has bucket swings, granite slide a concrete fortress-like water spray feature. Location: East Side at 67th Street.
- Tarr-Coyne Tots Playground. One of the best playgrounds for toddlers. Features sprinklers, sandboxes and elevated sand tables, swings, and land forms. Location: West Side at 68th Street.
- East 72nd Playground. Features a granite-faced climbing pyramid with slides and tunnels, tire swings and a sand table. Location: East Side at 72nd Street.
CENTRAL PARK TIP #13
Delacorte Clock. Inspired by European bell towers and chimes, George T. Delacorte contributed this clock to the delight of many visitors and families. The carousel of animals, which includes two bronze monkeys banging hammers against a bell; a penguin on drum; a hippo on violin; a bear and his tambourine; a concertina-playing elephant; a goat with pipes; and a kangaroo on horn, is kept at a level where children can see. The clock chimes on the hour and the half hour from 8am to 6pm daily.
Location: Inside the Central Park Wildlife Conservation Center at 64th Street and Fifth Avenue
CENTRAL PARK TIP #14
Carousel. This is one of the more popular attractions in Central Park. During the summer, the carousel is open for 7 days and the whole family can enjoy its 57 glorious horses.
Location: Mid-Park at 65th Street
CENTRAL PARK TIP #15
Central Park Zoo. The zoo is open 365 days of the year and the colder months are a great time to visit the zoo as there are lesser crowds. The zoo offers some unique experiences for children such as a 4D theatre, penguin feeding and sea lion feeding. Some of its more popular exhibits include the Allison Maher Stern snow leopard, grizzly bear and Teena’s overlook, polar circle and Tisch’s children’s zoo.
Location: East Side between 63rd and 66th Streets
CENTRAL PARK TIP #16
Chess & Checkers House. Yet another visitor centre, it is available for anyone who may wish to indulge in a game of chess, checkers, dominos or backgammon. You are more than welcome to borrow a set from the Conservancy staff or you may bring your own. Pergolas were erected on the outside of the house to allow for some shade for players in the warmer summer months. This is a great way for the bored teenager to head down for a game with some friendly local neighbours.
Location: Mid-Park at 64th Street
CENTRAL PARK TIP #17
The Mall and Literary Walk. Synonymous with Central Park, this is the most photographed feature of the grounds. Known for its only intentional straight line in the park, the quarter mile Mall is famously lined with a canopy of American elm trees. At the southern end of the walk, you are pleasantly greeted by sculptures of well-known writes such as Fitz-Greene Halleck, Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, William Shakespeare and the notoriously famous odd man out, Christopher Columbus.
Location: Mid-Park from 66th to 72nd Streets
CENTRAL PARK TIP #18
Victorian Gardens Amusement Park. This is perhaps one of the best used spaces in all of Central Park as it’s an amusement park by summer and skating rink by winter. The park caters towards younger children and includes colourful rides in crop duster planes, bumper boats on water, a mini roller coaster and hot air balloons. The amusement park also boasts live entertainment on the weekends to include magicians, comedy duos and jugglers. This is certainly one of the best ways to spend an afternoon with your children.
Location: East Side between 62nd and 63rd Streets.
CENTRAL PARK TIP #19
Wollman Rink. Ice skating in New York City is a must do activity in winter. Imagine the kids on the ice whilst it snowed a little against the city skyline as a backdrop. Skates are easy to hire at the rink and even if you’re not up for it, make sure to head down and have a look. It is breathtaking sight.
Location: East Side between 62nd and 63rd Streets
THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE PARK
CENTRAL PARK TIP #20
Bike Rides. One of the best ways to enjoy this vast park is to take a leisurely bike tour. These typically take about 2 hours over 3 miles with an abundance of bikes to suit all families as you cover some of the major attractions. Some bike companies even have tandem bikes whilst baby seats and baby trailers are also available. If you’re not interested in the tours, simply hire the bikes and explore at your own free will.
CENTRAL PARK TIP #21
Kite Flying in Central Park. Anyone can fly their kites without a permit in Central Park but one has to be respectful of park goers and quiet zones. No remnants from kit flying such as loose string are to be left behind for fear of endangering local wildlife.
CENTRAL PARK TIP #22
- Sledding. When it’s cold enough, you can take the kids sledding down Pilgrim Hill or Cedar Hill. With the city as the back drop, it would certainly make for a surreal experience!
- Cross Country Skiing. Yes, you heard me! You can go cross country skiing in Manhattan! This is a great winter activity for the whole family.
- Shoesnowing. When the larger lawns and meadows have about 6 inches of snow, you can go snowshoeing! Perfect way to enjoy the picturesque park in the cold!
Phew! Did you get all that? Central Park is a wonderful place to rejuvenate after being enclosed in by tall skyscrapers, confined subways and hordes of crowds. Space is a precious commodity in this vibrant city so be sure to take care of it when you visit.
Do you have any other Central Park tips to add to the list? Tell us in the comments below!
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