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.

EVENTS

The DiscOasis

Aug 13

Central Park’s Wollman Rink transforms into a glittering roller-disco paradise with art installations, photo ops, and soundscapes curated by Groovemaster Nile Rodgers. Skate and dance on a beautiful rainbow rink among pretty trees (though unshaded; bring water & sunscreen).

From 10:00am-4:30pm, book one-hour or three-hour open skating sessions. From 5:30-10:00pm, enjoy dazzling lights, live DJs, and a musical show with a cast of roller-skating performers. Tickets include 2 hours of skate time, plus live performances at 7:30 pm (also viewable from the bridge overlooking the rink). Talented skaters in groovy costumes dance on the rink throughout the evening. Come before or after your skate time for rinkside dance parties and lawn games like oversized Connect 4.

Prices vary depending on the time of day and day in the week (later evening times and weekends are more expensive than early evening times and weekdays). Skip the line and get some swag with VIP ticket.

Bring your own skates or blades or rent a pair from The DiscOasis for $10.00 + tax. Don’t forget socks. Free skating aids available.

🐛 On Mondays, instead of skating the rink hosts The Very Hungry Caterpillar puppet show (10am, 12pm & 2pm, $15).

🌳 Cool off after in the sprinklers and streams of nearby Hecksher Playground.

🍽 The Café, run by famed Melba’s Restaurant in Harlem, features an array of affordable menu items, including veggie flatbreads, pizza, tacos, french fries, hot dogs, chicken fingers, vegan options, slushees, a coffee bar and more. A pop-up from Harlem’s famous Melba on the upper deck serves signature dishes such as southern fried chicken wings & eggnog waffles.

SummerStage

Aug 13

Established and emerging artists present distinctly New York genres including salsa, jazz, hip-hop, indie rock, reggae, Afrobeat, soul, pop, global, contemporary dance, and many more in an outdoor arena in Central Park  (plus 12 local community parks across the city). Check out weekly free shows are splurge for tickts beneifta shows that support City Parks programming.

Seating is first come, first served with limited capacity. Start times range from 3 pm to 8 pm.

Doors open an hour before the show, so come early and bring a picnic. There are some chairs and bleacher seating in back or you can bring a blanket or chair.

🍽 Food and drink for sale in the venue includes pizza, burgers, beet salads, hot dogs, brownies, whoopie pies, IPAs and more. Restrooms available.

Free Shakespeare in the Park: As You Like It

Aug 13

Public Works’ joyful musical production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It is a treat for all ages. Catchy songs by Shaina Taub interspersed with abridged , well-acted excerpts from Shakespeare’s play tell the story of (modern-dress) aristocrats banished to the Forest of Arden, where they discover a community of acceptance and transformational love. A diverse ensemble of both professional actors and community members (including adorable kids) depict entertaining scenes including a hilarious wrestling match and boy-band tributes.

Free tickets are distributed on each performance day at noon via lines at The Delacorte Theater. Create a Public Theater Patron ID online before you get your ticket.  Each person (age 5+) can get two (2) tickets while supplies last. After the final ticket is distributed, anyone who did not obtain a ticket may wait in a standby line to maybe get tickets right before the show. We know of people who have hosed up at noon and 7 pm and gotten tickets both times; go now before word-of-mouth and reviews make tickets hard to get.

Some tickets will be distributed throughout the boroughs with locations changing by day. Skip the line and enter an in-person lottery at the Public Theater at 12 pm or a digital lottery on the TodayTix app.

Become a Supporter for $300 (tax-deductible) for a guaranteed seat.

Proof of a COVID-19 vaccination required.

⏱ 100 minutes with no intermission; use the bathroom outside the theater before you go through the security lines.

🍽 Concessions include popcorn, frozen lemonade and more substantial fare.

Catch-and-Release Fishing

Aug 14

Borrow fishing poles for catch-and-release fishing at the Harlem Meer. Try to hook largemouth bass, pumpkinseed sunfish, bluegill sunfish, carp, and chain pickerel.

Poles plus instructions and bait (corn kernels) available at the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center, on the north shore of the Meer.

See our guide to Central Park.

Central Park Youth Basketball Clinics

Aug 14

Free high-energy, interactive youth basketball clinics cultivate skill development, team play, and sportsmanship both on and off the court.

Open to players of all levels. Saturdays & Sundays July 9–August 28. On-site registration each day on a first-come, first-served basis.

Ages 6–10
11:00 am–11:30 am: Check In
11:30 am–12:30 pm: Basketball Clinic

Ages 11–14
12:30 pm–1:00 pm: Check In
1:00 pm–2:30 pm: Basketball Clinic

Wake Up, Daisy!

Aug 14

The historic, cozy Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre is back in action with modern take on Sleeping Beauty. Marionettes and music tells the story of Daisy, a lively little girl living in the heart of New York City in an apartment overlooking Central Park. At Daisy’s much-anticipated birthday party, she encounters three special guests, known as her “Squad-parents”, from Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx who grant her the gifts of courage, knowledge, and a second chance. When an unwelcome guest shows up and casts a curse on her, Daisy’s life is forever changed, but through the support of her friends and an adventure throughout the city, Daisy’s strong self-determination and vivid imagination may be all she needs to break the curse.

Capacity is limited for social distancing. Unassigned seating on benches in a small theater (grown-ups are encouraged to sit in the back). Stroller parking available in the lobby. Near the lovely Shakespeare Garden.

Thursday-Sunday 11 am & 1 pm

Harlem Meer Performance Festival

Aug 14

These festive weekly summer lakeside concerts series featuring multicultural music and dance and family-friendly entertainment are back, from gospel to jazz to Afro Dominicano. Audience members are welcome to dance along, chill on (limited) provided chairs or bring-your-own blanket. All ages are welcome.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show

Aug 15

See faithful adaptations of author/illustrator Eric Carle’s Brown Bear, Brown Bear and The Very Hungry Caterpillar featuring fantastical larger-than-life puppets and audience participation. Bring a blanket to spread out on the rainbow DiscoOasis with the backdrop of Central Park.

Mondays 10am, 12pm & 2pm through August 29th

Central Park Conservancy Film Festival

Aug 16

See screenings of documentary films on a big screen in Central Park. Presented by by National Geographic.

Tuesday, August 16: The Territory (premiere screening)

Wednesday, August 17: America’s National Parks

Thursday, August 18: Fire of Love

Friday. August 19: JANE

Gates open at 6:30 pm. Pre-show programming and music from 6:30 pm until film starts at dusk. Bring your own blanket and snacks.

PLAYGROUNDS

Diana Ross Playground

Summit Rock, the highest natural point in Central Park, provides a shady (climbable) backdrop to this pretty playground. A large wooden climbing structure with multiple levels of platforms and decks links to ladders, slides, and tire swings, all set in a naturalistic sand area. Also enjoy toddler swings and spray showers in the summer.

Named after the  famous singer, who funded the construction of the playground following her concert in 1983 on the Great Lawn. No bathrooms, but across the street from the Natural History Museum (where all city kids should be member, not just for the bathroom usage).

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.

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.

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.

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.

Swedish Cottage & Shakespeare Garden

The only building in Central Park that was not originally created for the Park, the Swedish Cottage was built in Sweden and came to the United States in 1876 as part of the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition, the first World’s Fair in the U.S. An example of traditional Swedish architecture and wood craftsmanship, it now houses delightful marionette shows for kids.

In a nearby steep hillside with pretty wooden fences, Shakespeare Garden, a four-acre landscape named for the famed English poet and playwright, features shrubs, flowers, and herbs mentioned in William Shakespeare’s plays and poems. Look for bronze plaques with quotes from Shakespeare that reference plants throughout the Garden.

A little north, find the Delacorte Theater, the venue for the Public Theater’s summer productions of Shakespeare in the Park, with a striking Romeo & Juliet statue.

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.

Download the Belvedere Castle Audio Guide  (available in English, Spanish and American Sign Language for info about the architecture and history of the castle.

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.

Scheduled online in advance or approach a driver at the southeast entrance of Central Park. Reputable operators include NYC Horse Carriage Rides and NYC Fancy Rides.  Tours also available through 5th Avenue and Rockefeller Center.

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

* 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.

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.

Daily 10 am – 6 pm

NEARBY

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.…

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…

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. A 94-foot-long blue whale hangs over an assortment of sea creatures…

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…

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,…

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…