Walk through the urban jungle that is New York City and all of a sudden, the skyscrapers and apartment blocks give way to a natural wonderland – welcome to Central Park. As New York’s lungs, this lush oasis is where tourists and locals alike come for a little green respite all year round.
Visiting here is a rite of passage for anybody on a city break in the Big Apple. It’s a playground for picnickers, joggers, nature lovers and architectural buffs, thanks to the range of attractions and facilities dotted among the greenery.
If you’re heading to New York, discover the top things to do in Central Park with our useful guide.
- Central Park Zoo
- Bethesda Terrace
- The Loeb Central Park Boathouse
- Carriage ride
- Shakespeare Garden
- Belvedere Castle
- Alice in Wonderland statue
- The Ramble
- Conservatory Garden
- Strawberry Fields
1. Central Park Zoo
Marvel at sea lions, red pandas, snow leopards and more in the middle of Manhattan when you take a trip to Central Park Zoo. Tucked into the south-east corner of the park near Fifth Avenue, this small but brilliant attraction is the perfect place to take little ones.
Wildlife watching aside, you can also feed the penguins, zipwire through the trees and take a seat in the 4D theatre. Skip the queue by purchasing tickets for the full experience online in advance.
2. Bethesda Terrace
Seek out the grand Bethesda Terrace in the heart of the park. This 19th-century architectural masterpiece covers two storeys, offering sweeping views of the beautiful Bethesda Fountain. The fountain is a focal point of the area, topped by the famous Angel of the Waters statue.
After admiring the nearly eight-metre-tall neoclassical sculpture, head below the terrace into the arches. Clad in 15,000 colourful patterned tiles, it’s a striking sight to behold.
3. The Loeb Central Park Boathouse
Book a table at the iconic Loeb Central Park Boathouse. This lakeside restaurant first opened its doors in the 1950s and is the ultimate place to lunch in the park.
Enjoy views across the lake as you dine on seafood – dishes range from succulent octopus carpaccio to seared sea scallops. Belly full, rent a rowing boat and take a postprandial paddle across the gleaming water.
4. Carriage ride
A Central Park carriage ride is a must-do while in New York City. Snuggle up in the back of a plush horse-drawn carriage and enjoy a different perspective of the green space.
You’ll weave your way past a number of the park’s top sights and stop off for picture opportunities. What you see will depend on the length of your tour, which can vary from 45 minutes to one hour.
5. Shakespeare Garden
Named after Blighty’s most celebrated bard, Shakespeare Garden is a quiet patch of Central Park. It’s found off the beaten track, making it the ideal place for a peaceful stroll.
Flowers and plants used in Shakespeare’s works feature in the four-acre space, evoking a quintessential English landscape scene. Weave among the flora, spotting quotes from the famous playwright along the way.
6. Belvedere Castle
You’ll feel like you’re fallen straight into the pages of a fairytale when you visit Belvedere Castle. Perched atop Vista Rock, the highest point in the park, this 19th-century folly also moonlights as a weather station. Venture up to its balconies to enjoy knockout views across the surrounding trees and water.
A visitor centre is also located inside the castle, one of five dotted around Central Park. You can browse the gift shop for souvenirs or pick up a field pack, stuffed with binoculars, reference materials, maps and a notepad.
7. Alice in Wonderland statue
Statues, monuments and sculptures are peppered throughout Central Park, but one of the most famous is that honouring Alice in Wonderland. Depicting the beloved character from Lewis Carroll’s classic tale, the bronze statue shows Alice sat atop a giant mushroom, surrounded by the White Rabbit, Mad Hatter and the Cheshire Cat.
This three-metre-tall feature was added to the park in 1959 after being commissioned by philanthropist George Delacorte and has become a firm favourite of visiting kids.
8. The Ramble
Enjoy meandering through Central Park’s The Ramble, a tranquil slice of woodland perfect for a long walk. It’s conveniently located close to other top attractions in the park, including The Loeb Boathouse and Belvedere Castle.
Winding paths twist and turn through the 38 acres of this beauty spot, which is designed to resemble a wild garden. Amble along and spot local birds flitting through the trees.
9. Conservatory Garden
Uncover the beauty of the formal Conservatory Garden. Six acres of manicured grounds are inspired by the botanical designs of three countries – Italy, France and England.
Embark on a globetrotting garden adventure through each of the sections. You’ll weave past flora, fountains, statues and a romantic pergola decorated with flowers.
10. Strawberry Fields
Close to the infamous Dakota Building you’ll find Strawberry Fields, the section of Central Park dedicated to Beatles legend John Lennon. After his untimely death in 1980, his ashes were scattered here, now where you’ll find the monochrome Imagine mosaic.
Strawberry Fields was designed as a meditative spot, so is a designated quiet zone in the park. It’s the ideal place to sit on one of the many benches and reflect.
With so many things to do in Central Park, you could visit multiple times during a city break here and have so many different experiences. Feeling inspired to plan a city break to New York?
Posted: 9th Sep 2019.