Central Park is the largest green space in New York, with over 20 playgrounds, manmade lakes and ponds, arched bridges, and extensive walking paths. Established between 1857 and 1876, the 843-acre park is in the middle of Manhattan, between the Upper West and Upper East Sides.

Locals come to Central Park to escape NYC’s hectic (sometimes chaotic) pace. You can enjoy a picnic in Sheep's Meadow, go boating on the lake, and check out blooming flowers in the Conservatory Garden. You can bike or walk along winding paths around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, over Bow Bridge, and along grassy hillsides. Central Park is free and open to the public all year round.

Central Park in New York - one of the highlights of 10 Best Family Things to Do in New York and 10 Best Tours in New York (Read all about New York here)

What are the highlights and features of Central Park?

Many of New York’s family-friendly attractions are found within Central Park – most kids will enjoy the Central Park Carousel, Central Park Zoo, the Central Park Conservatory Garden, and Belvedere Castle. You can enjoy ice skating at Wolman Rink or Lasker Rink during winter. The Victoria Gardens Amusement Park provides traditional-style rides for all ages from spring through fall.

The Central Park Conservancy offers a free guided tour of Central Park’s North Woods for families. The 90-minute tour is inclusive of a complimentary Discovery Journal, kid-friendly binoculars, field guides, and hand lenses.

The Central Park Mall is a scenic area between 66th and 72nd Streets. The 40-ft-wide pathway is flanked by American elm trees and park benches, offering a relaxing atmosphere for those who want to enjoy a nice stroll in Central Park. The Literary Walk, which displays sculptures of literary icons, is at the southern end of the Mall.

Central Park is a hub for cultural events, activities, exhibitions, and concerts, especially during spring and summer. The New York Philharmonic often plays on the Great Lawn in July, while Shakespeare in the Park wows crowds with free star-studded performances at the Delacorte Theater.

In May and June, SummerStage hosts performances by local and national acts. Street performances by jugglers, skaters and musicians take place around Central Park Mall year-round.

Art in Central Park

One of the largest museums in the world, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is in Central Park, facing Fifth Avenue. The Met, as it’s commonly known, has a permanent collection that covers classical antiquity and modern American art. Just west of the museum, you can see Cleopatra’s Needle (The Obelisk). This red granite obelisk, which dates back to 1475 BC, was brought to New York from Heliopolis in 1881.

The park has more than 25 sculptures, many of which are of authors, poets, and historical figures. On Literary Walk (adjacent to Central Park Mall), you can see statues of literary icons such as William Shakespeare, Hans Christian Anderson, and Robert Burns.

Find statues of famous storybook characters near Central Park Zoo and Conservatory Water. There are also monuments such as the 107th Infantry Memorial, the Women's Rights Pioneers Monument, and the 7th Regiment Memorial. The 2.5-acre Strawberry Fields memorial is dedicated to The Beatles member, John Lennon, featuring a circular mosaic pathway with the word “Imagine” in its center.

What's good to know about Central Park?

Central Park is easy to get to from almost anywhere in New York City. Several subway lines serve the park – the IND Eighth Avenue Line (A, ​B, ​C, and ​D trains) stops on the west side, while the IRT Lenox Avenue Line (2 and ​3 trains) stops at Central Park North. The BMT Broadway Line (N, ​R, and ​W trains) stops at Fifth Avenue Station, close to Grand Army Plaza.

Within the park, you can find 5 visitor centres providing directions, maps, event calendars and volunteer info. They are the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center, the Dairy, Columbus Circle, Belvedere Castle, and Chess & Checkers House.

Central Park in New York

Location: New York, NY, USA

Open: Daily from 6 am to 1 am

Penny Wong | Compulsive Traveler