Central Park New York – Our 14 Best Things To Do In Central Park New York City

The top of Most people’s list of things To Do in New York is Central Park. Unintentionally is the most filmed location in the world and features in countless movies and TV Shows meaning tourists flock here in their droves to recreate their own New York Fairytale. But once you are there what is there to actually see and do?

Best Things To Do In Central Park New York City

Our 14 Best Things To Do In Central Park New York City Article is here to help. We show you the best things to see and do in the Park and show you where to find those Iconic Movie Locations. 

Some Fun Central Park Facts

Central Park

As most people at some point indulge in our Number 1 Activity (normally unintentionally) we thought we would give you some fun facts about the Park. That way you can regale these facts to your companions while you try and remedy the situation. 

  • The Park is 843 acres (1.317 sq mi) and is 2.5Miles Long and 0.5 Miles wide. It is only the 5th Largest Park in New York! (but the Largest on Manhattan)
  • If Sold as Real Estate the Park would be worth over $500Bn 
  • Despite its Natural Appearance the Majority of the park is Manacuresd and not left to nature at all. 
  • There are over 60 Miles of Pathways in the park and over 9000 Benches that would stretch for 7 miles if laid end to end.  
  • The Park is the 3rd most Visited tourist attraction with over 37.7 Million visitors annually! Only Times Square(39.2m) and the Las Vegas Strip(39.6m) beat it. With New York getting over 60Million Visitors that’s a lot of people NOT visiting the Park, what are they doing?
  • Hotdog Stands in the New York are all licensed and these are auctioned off every year. Some of the Licenses for Stands in Premium locations in Central Park can fetch up to $300,000! You have to sell a lot of Dogs to justify that…And they do! 

With all that Frivolity out the way, let us start our list!

1 – Get Lost

Pine bank Bridge

By far the most common thing people do in the park is to get lost. And not just first-time tourists. Experienced park-goers can still find themselves a bit spatially disoriented.  When experienced for the first time it can be a little alarming it’s all part of the charm of the Park. In fact, you haven’t really been to Central Park if you haven’t got lost!

New York’s Street System is incredibly well organized and as a contrast to this the park’s designers decided the park should be filled with curves and meandering paths to help counter the straight lines of the City. It was a place to go to get away from it all and get lost in Nature, Right in the middle of the world’s largest Metropolis! 

So we think that’s exactly what you should do just head in with no real aim but to wander. You will feel the hustle and bustle of the hectic city sidewalks melt as you explore the lakes, bridges, and pathways. Head to the ramble for a particularly hectic and disorientated network of paths that seemingly go round and round with no obvious way out. 

Of course, as much as we would like to spend forever walking in Circles in the Ramble at some point you may wish to join civilization again, maybe you have dinner reservations? Or maybe you were actually trying to find somewhere? At any rate at some point, you will wish to get “Un-Lost”

Well, the Good news here is you are not really lost at all. You know exactly where you are. You are in Central Park! At most points of the Park, you can see the City. so if you head for that you will get to the outside edge at least where you can then go about Re-orientating yourself

2 – Bethesda Terrace, Fountain, and the Mall

Bethesda Terrace, Fountain, and the Mall

Google Maps

If you have seen a movie or TV show that is shot in New York then you have probably seen scenes shot at the Bethesda Terrace, Fountain, and the Mall. These Iconic landmarks are the heart of the Park and where the majority of people head. 

The World Famous fountain is set on the shores of Central Park lake and forms a beautiful backdrop to one of the most famous locations in the world.

Starting at the Mall, This 500m Tree-lined walkway leads directly to the Bethesda Terrace. A Stroll down this bustling thoroughfare really feels like you have arrived in Central Park. It is rarely quiet and normally packed with thousands of sightseers, dog walkers, joggers, entertainers, and hawkers. It’s all part of the experience and something to be embraced. 

At the end of the Mall is the Bethesda Terrace that overlooks the Bethesda fountain and the lake. This is one of the most filmed locations in the world. Over 230 Films have been shot in part in Central Park and most take us to the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain. 

New York’s Movie Filming Locations

3 – Bridges

Home Alone Bridge nyc

There are between 31 and 50 Bridges and Arches to be found in Central Park, depending on your definition of a bridge. Many of these are famous landmarks in their own right.

Bridges and walkways were integral to the design of the park and many used to hide the roads that traverse the park making the park seem like endless nature. Non were simply slapped in on a purely functional basis and each was uniquely and often intricately designed. The Gapstow Bridge, The Bow Bridge, the Pine Bank Arch, and the Inscope Arch have all been featured in many Films and Tv Shows.

Many an hour can be spent hunting out and photographing the many Bridges of the park. 

4 – Rowing on Central Park Lake

rowing Lake in Central Park

Google Maps

At the Loeb Boathouse, you can rent rowing boats for $15 an hour and start putting about on “The Lake”. During the summer when the heat is really turned up in the city this is a fantastic way to cool off and enjoy a relaxing hour and see new york from a totally different perspective. Perfect for a romantic date or just a way to escape the hustle.

Unfortunately, the Boat House Closes for the winter and you can no longer rent boats, however, the perfect antidote to this is our next item.

5 – Ice Skating at the Wollman Rink

ice skateing in the park

Google Maps

There are a few options to Ice Skate in New York during the winter period, we go into depth on those in our what to do in New York At Christmas article. But the Wollman Rink in Central Park is one of the biggest and most well-known. The rink opened in 1949 and has been allowing people to skate in the park ever since.

The rink is normally one of the quieter rinks. Due to its size, there is always a lot of space, this works well for everyone, from beginners to experts. Even if venturing out onto the Ice is not on your agenda you can still head to the rink just for the incredible view from the terrace and watch others glide around the ice.  

  • Monday – Thursday
  • ADULTS: $12.00
  • YOUTH: (11 and under)$6.00 
  • SENIORS: $5.00
  • Friday – Sunday and Holidays
  • ADULTS: $19.00
  • YOUTH: $6.00
  • SENIORS: $9.00
  • SKATE RENTALS: $10.00

If you are very serious about your skating however there is also the Lasker Rink. Situated in the northern part of the park very few tourists visit meaning it’s very quiet even at busy times The lack of tourists makes this a local’s favorite but it is in a much less picturesque part of the park and we would advise leaving it to the locals. 

6 – Belvedere Castle – The Best View in the Park

Google Maps

Right in the Center of the park and built on the second natural elevation the castle’s upper terraces provide the highest and most far-reaching views in the park. Overlooking the Turtle Pond, The Great Lawn, and the Delacorte Theater the elevation allows the city skyline to rise above the tree line giving the park a real sense of being in the middle of the city. It is one of the best views in the city.

The Castle was built for no real purpose at all, other than a decorative piece, in 1865 it later became a weather station before falling into disrepute and disrepair. When the Gentrification of the City and park began the castle was restored to its former glory.

7 – Central Park Zoo

Central park Zoo
Central Park Zoo by Alexandre Breveglieri on CC2.0

Google Map

Oddly enough we always end up at Central Park Zoo as part of No.1 in our list, I.E Getting lost. The path leading to the zoo always seems enticing and leads us down into the dead-end that is the Zoo’s entrance. And we seem to never learn from this error. However, if you actually intend to head to the zoo it’s far more rewarding.

Don’t expect a grandiose zoo such as San Diego Zoo filled with lions, elephants, and giraffes! The Central Park zoo is far more modest and only features a few animals in its fairly small grounds. An hour is all you need to take in the exhibits. Mainly focused on Creatures from colder climes (that can take the New York winters, such as bears, Red Pandas, Snow leopards, Sealions, and a host of penguins.) There is also a Tropics area featuring Snakes, Lemurs, and Birds. 

It is far from the greatest Zoo in the country but its charm is the location in Central Park and the history that goes with it. Pricing also reflects the fairly limited exhibits. 

  • Adult (13 & over) – $13.95
  • Child (3-12) – $8.95
  • Child (2 & under) – FREE
  • Senior (65+) – $10.95

8 – Hunt for Movie Locations

Home alone bridge

Central Park is the most filmed location in the world and features in over 230 films and counting. This has turned fairly innocuous “landmarks” into must-see locations due to their exposure in certain films. 

New York in general, is a mecca for Movie locations, see below for a full guide to movie locations that includes all of the park’s best spots. You can also join any number of tours that head into the park to get your selfies at your favorite movie filming spot.

New York’s Movie Filming Locations

9 – Exercise 

Such a Huge green space in the middle of such a huge metropolis is always going to be a focal point for sports and activities for the local population. The Park is the perfect place just for a brisk walk or a morning jog. You can rent a bike, play frisbee, join a Yoga Group, or a Tai Chi class. The options are endless.

10 – DON’T Exercise

Great Lawn Central Park

Of Course, the park can equally be enjoyed by those of a less energetically minded ilk. The Park is littered with lawns, greens, and meadows where you can lounge around and just relax away from the City. It’s the perfect spot for a picnic or just a lazy afternoon.

Especially in summer when the heat of the City can really get oppressive, it’s fantastic to take an afternoon and head into the park to just while away the time with a good book or maybe just a little snooze.

11 – Get Shat on by a Horse

carriage Central park

You might guess from the title this is not really our favorite thing to do in the Park but it is certainly very popular with others. Horse Drawn carriage rides through the park are a Fairytale Fantasy for some. We tend to see the reality of slightly pungent horses and drivers who see may seem a little more intent on getting your dollar than a good experience.

We really prefer to power ourselves around the park or even jump in a Pedal Powered Tuck Tuck for about a quarter of the price.  

However, as we said many have really dreamed of this experience for years so don’t let us put you off. Prices are fixed by the City and you should pay $118.97 for a 50 Min Lake Ride, an Extended Ride (about 60 min) is $140.60 so it’s not cheap! Prices are per carriage not per person. 

We recommend the official Central Park Carriages site to get the best experience for your money. The industry is quite regulated but there are plenty of rogues out there overcharging for the same or lesser experience. Such as adding on Booking fees etc. Walk-ups are also available and you can get a cheaper fare of $54.08 for up to 20 mins in a carriage. Head to 50th Street between 7th and 6th Av and you will find plenty of Carriages waiting. Make a note of the Standard fares and don’t overpay.

It is worth noting that Carriages do not head into the park and are limited to the ring roads so you won’t get to see all the best sights and attractions in the park but it’s more of an experience as you relax on your journey around the park, hopefully with an engaging driver pointing out the sights and history that you do get to see.

12 – See a Free Concert 

The Rumsey Playfield offers a host of free concerts throughout the summer. Big-name Artists either play for free or offer Benefit performances throughout the summer on most evenings on the Summer Stage Festival dates. Check here for the line-up and how to get in.

Good Morning America also hosts some incredible acts on the Rumsey Playfellow on Friday Mornings. Tickets are free but it’s best to book in advance to guarantee entry. Full details here.

There are also shows by the New York Philharmonic, Opera Recitals, and Orchestral Concerts at the Naumburg Bandshell. That’s a lot of music all for free! 

13 – See a Shakespeare Play in the Park

Another Hugley popular attraction is the Shakespeare in the Park plays that are put on most nights throughout the summer. These fantastic open-air shows are a real culture hit and have become almost cult-like and a real must-see. They are no Amateur hour performances either with many of the shows and actors ending up on Broadway.

Incredibly this MUST-SEE cultural phenomenon is completely free. However the first come first served tickets are fairly hard to come by. There is a warning on the Shakespeare in the Parks website page explaining how to get tickets that tickets are handed out from 12 PM but suggests you get there early but warns the park does not open until 6 AM. This means that might actually be a good time to join the queue, 6 HOURS before the handout begins! 

The reality is you do not need to be there that early, an 8/9 AM start to your queue should be enough on most days and the queueing is as much a part of the experience as the show. There are a few other ways to get in such as the digital and in-person lottery or the borough distribution. But as a tourist, your best bet is in the queue. 

14 – Museums

The metropolitan museum of Art

Many of the City’s best Museums line the Park or are found within it. The World Famous Metropolitan Museum of Art is within the Park Boundary, while, the American Museum of Natural history, the Guggenheim, the Met Breuer, the Frick Collection, and many more are on the boundary roads of the park. We added the museums as the last on our list as we are not sure if they really count as a “thing to do in the Park” or not. They are all Top Attractions but deserve recognition themselves…See our Museum post here for more info on the Museums

Have Your Say

Let us know your favorite things to do in Central Park? Did we miss something you love? Do you want us to expand on anything we did mention? We intend to keep adding to this as 14 things are not really enough. So we would love to hear your ideas? As ever if you have any questions just drop us a comment below.

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