CENTRAL PARK

Central Park is full of delightful surprises throughout its 840 acres - some of the best playgrounds, interesting structures and gorgeous greenery. Visit the Central Park Conservancy website for maps, historical info and lots of great tips.

Also see our guides to other urban oases Prospect Park and Brooklyn Bridge Park in Brooklyn, Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens and Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx plus escapes beyond NYC.

PLAYGROUNDS

Billy Johnson Playground

This rustic playground hosts an amazing 45-foot granite slide nestled into a rocky hill, bucket and tire swings, and an amphitheater and miniature stone bridge made of natural materials like plants, stone, and wood at a child’s scale.

Heckscher Playground

Central Park’s largest playground features a shaded area with swings and slides, a large, maze-like climbers, seasonal water features, sloped turf, a large sandbox area, low monkey bars, tunnels, ramps and (our favorite) giant rocks to climb. Plus a spacious bathroom.

Face painters, musicians and giant bubble makers often congregate at the entrance.

Take a spin on nearby Wollman ice rink.

Closes at dusk.

Ancient Playground

This big playground invokes Egyptian themes with climbable pyramids, a large sand lot and a spray shower that represents Egypt’s Nile River in reference to the ancient Temple of Dendur at the Metropolitan Museum of Art next door.  Lots of slides, tunnels and concrete bridges plus bucket, tire and strap swings are perfect for adventurous fun and imaginative play.

ATTRACTIONS

Conservatory Gardens

Enter the magnificent 1894 Vanderbilt Gate to Central Park’s only formal garden, a six-acre oasis within an oasis with European charm.

Climb onto the wisteria pergola in the Italianate Center Garden overlooking a yew hedges-bordered large lawn and 12-foot jet fountain. To the north, the French-style garden offers spectacular seasonal displays of tulips and Korean chrysanthemums and a fountain featuring the Three Dancing Maidens sculpture.

In intimate English-style South Garden, Mary and Dickon from Frances Hodgson Burnett’s beloved children’s book The Secret Garden stand at the end of a small waterlily pool, bordered by trees, shrubs, and perennial and annual flower beds.

Friendly gardeners are often planting and happy to chat with young nature lovers.

Belvedere Castle

One of the most iconic features in Central Park, this miniature castle is located atop the huge rock outcrop known as Vista Rock, the second highest natural point in Central Park.

The whimsical structure, designed by Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted in 1869, provides the highest and best views of the Park and the adjacent cityscape – plus has bathrooms, water fountains, some informational displays plus medieval-esque staircases and doorways for playing princess/knight.

Central Park Carousel

Choose from 57 horses and two chariots on a charming carousel built in 1908 (but installed in the park in 1951). Look for fun art throughout including silly clowns. Covered by a lovely brick structure with side openings but still closed on rainy days.

Interesting history: the current carousel is the fourth in this location. To Central Park’s designers, commercial amusements such as carousels conflicted with their vision of a peaceful retreat from urban life, but one was nonetheless installed by a rival administration in 1871 and has remained a popular addition. The first carousel was powered by a large horse or mule, while later models were electric.

See our guide to Central Park.

Horse-Drawn Carriages

See Central Park via carriage in a 170+ years tradition. Sit in colorful velvet seats as friendly drives lead informative guided tours. Be sure to meed and pet your horse in colorful feathered tack

Feel free to bring snacks and beverages. Warm blankets and covers available for iffy weather.

There has been some controversy over the treatment of the horses, but protections include not being allowed to work when it’s above 89 degrees or below 19 degrees and other care standards.

Currently reservations must be scheduled online in advance (though you can always try to negotiate with a driver). Reputable operators include NYC Horse Carriage Rides, NYC Fancy Rides and Central Park Sightseeing,

Maximum riders is 4 adults, 3 adults & 2 children per carriage, 2 adults & 4 children or 1 adult & 6 children (good luck the last one). Multiple carriages can travel together and stop for photo-ops.

The Loeb Boathouse

Weather permitting, rent classic rowboats, available April through November, 10 am until dusk. Boats are $20 per hour (cash only), $5 for each additional 15 minutes with a $20 cash deposit. Each boat holds up to 4 people. Life jackets provided. Ot take a romantic ride with Gondola rides ($50/half hour).

Dine overlooking the lovely lake on a breezy. covered terrace at this elegant yet relaxed iconic restaurant (Monday – Friday: 12 pm – 4:00 pm, brunch available Saturday & Sunday, 9:30 am – 4:00 pm). Or pick up burgers, salads, soups and more to go at the Express Cafe in the back (8 am – 5pm).

Listen for the calls of many indigenous birds and look for butterflies. See other Central Park highlights.

 

Central Park Zoo

Visit sea lions, snow monkeys, red pandas, turtles, bears and other animals at the cozy Central Park Zoo.

* Indoor areas are now open including the delightful penguins & sea birds exhibit and colorful tropic zone.

* See an Ice Age themed short film the 4D Theater, an immersive experience featuring the visual drama of a 3-D film with a variety of built-in sensory effects ($7).

* Climb, play and pet at the interactive children’s zoo across the path.

* Some food and shopping available but only accepting credit card/apple pay.

* Don’t miss the Delacorte Clock outside the zoo. The animals statues move and twirl at each quarter hour.

* Advance online ticket purchase and masks required. Consider an annual zoo membership that includes admission to the Bronx and other NYC Zoos.

EVENTS

Mozart for Munchkins: UWS Spooktacular

Celebrate Halloween with favorites by Bach and Grieg, plus spooktacular Halloween tunes, and sing-alongs. Costumes encouraged; little ghosts, goblins, and unicorns can march to Grieg’s “Hall of the Mountain King.”

Dance and clap at an outdoor, socially distanced, interactive concert curated for little ones and their grown-ups. Children of all ages are welcome to observe, explore, discover, crawl, sing and dance to their hearts’ content, while parents, grandparents, and caregivers sit back, relax and enjoy the concert.

Also at other locations on other days throughout NYC.

Halloween On The Harlem Meer: Scavenger Hunt

Come to Central Park dressed in Halloween costumes and join a scavenger hunt adventure around the Harlem Meer. Walk away with more than a few ghostly treats.

Halloween On The Harlem Meer: Pumpkin Flotilla

Celebrate Halloween in Central Park. Enjoy pumpkin carving, Halloween crafts, spooky stories, a costume parade, a festive pumpkin patch, and a Pumpkin Flotilla, which sets sail across the Harlem Meer at twilight. Drop off your carved pumpkin and find a spot along the edge of the lake to watch as the jack-o’-lanterns float by

NEARBY

American Museum of Natural History

Lovers of dinosaurs, sea creatures, outer space and more can get their animal & nature fix at this giant (45 fascinating halls) treasure trove of wonders.

* Favorite spots: Learn about moon rocks and meteorites in the stunning Rose Center for Earth and Space. Zebras, giraffes and other jungle animals surround a family of elephants in…

Cooper Hewitt

See gorgeous historic and contemporary design in a stunning 19th-century mansion turned into a high-tech, interactive dream for all ages.

* Go inside your design in the kid-favorite Wallpaper Immersion Room. Create digital wallpaper  – or chose from an amazing assortment in the museum’s collection – and project them onto the walls at full scale.…

The Met

Explore a vast collection that spans millennia and continents. You might get lost searching for iconic favorites in the grand halls and you’ll definitely discover fascinating art that appeals all ages.

* Advance timed tickets required. On crowded days (or any day), enter through the accessible Uris Center for Education entrance on 81st Street to avoid longer lines.

* Walk like an Egyptian inside the Temple of Dendur…

The Jewish Museum

Explore the global Jewish experience through works of fine art, Judaica, antiquities, folk art, ceremonial objects, and broadcast media intelligently organized in gorgeous galleries.

* The ongoing Scenes From the Collection features nearly 600 works from antiquities to contemporary art, a unique mix of artworks and ceremonial objects, including hundreds of stunning menorahs, presented…

Guggenheim

See exciting, well-designed exhibits in the striking Frank Lloyd Wright–designed landmark modern museum.

* Experience exciting colors, shapes. lines and feelings in Vasily Kandinsky: Around the Circle. Follow his work in reverse chronological order, starting with his late-life paintings in France and proceeding upward along the Guggenheim’s spiral ramp through experiments in painting, poetry,…

Museum of the City of New York

Explore the greatest city in the world at this small museum with a big collection of theater artifacts, furniture, toys, paintings, sculpture and photos arranged into exhibits that entertain and educate all ages.

* Favorite spots include an extravagant Gilded Age dollhouse, a dangling light installation above the stunning spiral staircase and the fascinating multimedia…

New-York Historical Society

Learn about the layered, diverse history of NYC at this fascinating museum.

* In the interactive Children’s History Museum, explore 350 years of New York and American history through character-based pavilions, interactive exhibits and digital games, and a charming library. Try cross-stitch, see historic baseball gear, ride an Orphan Train, play a newsies video game…

Guggenheim Saturday on the House

Enjoy free admission all day to the Guggenheim on select Saturdays.

See exciting, well-designed exhibits in the striking Frank Lloyd Wright–designed landmark modern museum and the exciting Vasily Kandinsky: Around the Circle in the iconic rotunda.

Capacity is limited and timed tickets must be reserved in advance. Sign up to receive…