- For other places with the same name, see Central Park (disambiguation).
A vast green swath of open space in the heart of Manhattan, Central Park is a district in its own right, neatly separating the Upper East Side from the Upper West Side, stretching from Midtown at the southern end to Harlem to the north. The park is a convenient oasis for New Yorkers escaping from their skyscrapers and is well-known globally after its appearance in many movies and television shows, making it one of the most famous city parks in the world. Here you will find calm lakes, babbling brooks, quiet woods, hidden meadows and lush lawns full of sunbathers and picnickers, in this welcome respite from the bustle of the island.
Central Park is bordered on the north by Central Park North (110th Street), on the east by Fifth Avenue, on the south by Columbus Circle and Central Park South (59th Street), and on the west by Central Park West (which is called Eighth Avenue south of Columbus Circle and also often north of Central Park, where it is officially named Frederick Douglass Boulevard). The entire park is 2.5 miles long by one-half mile wide (or 4 km × 800 m).
In the 1850s, realizing the need for a large public green space for New Yorkers to get away from the chaos and noise of the city, the New York legislature set aside a vast swath of land in Upper Manhattan. Landscape designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux developed the winning design for the park, influenced by naturalistic landscapes which were popular in park design at the time. Any architectural features and roads were to be visually integrated into the surrounding landscape, to maintain the "rustic" feel of the park. The park was officially completed in 1873, with more than 500,000 cubic feet of topsoil brought in from New Jersey and millions of trees, shrubs, and other plants laying the foundation of the park.
Through the early 20th century the park fell into a decline due to a lack of maintenance, with dead trees, worn-out lawns, and much litter and vandalism. The park received a major boost in the 1930s, when these issues were finally addressed, but the park once again fell into a decline later in the 20th century, becoming increasingly run-down and crime-ridden through the 1960s and 70s. In 1980, the Central Park Conservancy was founded under contract from the city to restore and maintain the park. Today, the violent night crimes of previous decades are all but gone, and common sense is all you really need to stay safe in the park today.
Central Park is accessible by subway, with the A, B, C, D, and 1 trains stopping at Columbus Circle (on the southwest corner of the park), and the B and C local trains continuing along Central Park West, with stops at 72nd St., 81st St. (under the Natural History Museum on the Upper West Side), 86th St., 96th St., 103rd St., and 110 St. Somewhat further west, the 1 (local) and 2/3 (express) lines travel up Broadway, though that avenue angles further and further to the west northward from Columbus Circle. The 2/3 also stop at 110th St. and Lenox Ave., near the northeast corner of the park. On the Upper East Side, the park can be accessed by taking the 4, 5, and 6 lines along Lexington Avenue and walking 3 blocks west. There is also a stop on the N, Q and R lines at 5th Av. and 60th St., and a stop on the F train at 57th St. and 6th Av., both near the southern limits of the park.
The park is crossed by several bus routes that travel east-west along the transverse roads (the M106, M96, M86, M79, M72, and M66, all with subway connections), as well as the M1, M2, M3, and M4 bus routes along 5th Avenue/Madison Avenue, and the M10 along Central Park West.
Central Park is divided for convenience into four "quadrants". From south to north:
The South End runs from Central Park South to the Lake, just north of Terrace Drive (72nd Street).
- Arsenal, 64th Street and Fifth Avenue. M-F 9AM-5PM. A picturesque brick building that actually predates the park. It was built in 1851 to serve as a munitions supply depot for the New York State National Guard, and was designed to look like a medieval fortress, with battlements overlooking the area. Today the building holds a refreshment stand and WPA murals depicting park activities. Free.
- Balto Statue, East Drive at 67th Street. A popular monument to the famous sled dog who successfully led a sled team through a treacherous blizzard to deliver medicine to Nome, Alaska, thus ending an epidemic.
- Bethesda Terrace and Fountain, Terrace Drive (72nd St.) (mid-way through the park). One of Manhattan's favorite meeting points, the centerpiece of this Terrace is the Angel of the Waters fountain, dedicated in 1873 and an enduring icon of the park (featuring recently, for example, in the production Angels in America).
- Central Park Zoo, 5th Avenue and 64th Street, ☎ +1 212 439-6500. Nov-Mar: Daily 10AM-4:30PM, Apr-Oct: M-F 10AM-5PM, Sa-Su, holidays 10AM-5:30PM. Small and gem-like, New York's "oldest, newest zoo" opened in its current guise as recently as 1988, although animals in various zoo incarnations have resided here since the 1860s. This zoo is fairly small and doesn't have as many large animals as you might expect, but this zoo does include sea lions, penguins, polar bears, monkeys, red pandas, and exotic birds in pleasant exhibits. Next door is a children's zoo, covered in the cost of admission, which has a barnyard animals you can pet, a duck pond, and lots of play areas for kids. $12 adults, $9 seniors, $7 children, children under 3 free.
- Dairy, 65th St, ☎ +1 212 794-6564. Daily 10AM-5PM. Built in the 1870s as an actual dairy farm, with a structure designed to resemble a country church. Today it is a visitor center and gift shop for the park, housed in a beautiful structure. Next door is the Chess & Checkers House, another visitor center and the volunteer headquarters, with a number of chess and checkers tables under a shady pergola.
- Friedsman Carousel, 65th St, ☎ +1 212 439-6900 ext 12. Apr-Oct: Daily 10AM-6PM (weather permitting); Nov-Mar: hours vary, check ahead. A vintage carousel built in 1908 and situated on this spot since the 1950s, it's the fourth carousel to inhabit this location and is beautifully painted. $3 per ride; cash only.
- Grand Army Plaza, Fifth Ave (between 58th and 60th Streets). A public square at the southeast corner of the park which marks one of the primary entrances to Central Park. The square is named for the Union Army of the Civil War and sports a gilded bronze statue of Union General William Sherman and the Pulitzer Fountain, which is crowned with a bronze figure of Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit. Free.
- The Pond, Central Park South (between Fifth and Sixth Avenues). Near Grand Army Plaza, the Pond offers a tranquil setting just within the boundaries of the park. A rustic wood structure, "Cop Cot," overlooks the pond from an outcrop near the Sixth Avenue entrance.
- Sheep Meadow, west side of the park (between 66th and 69th Streets). A spacious green lawn that was originally home to a herd of sheep, which grazed in the meadow and tended to in their nearby pen - a Victorian style building which today is the Tavern on the Green restaurant (see Eat below).
- Strawberry Fields, Central Park West at 72nd Street. So named in 1981 in memory of John Lennon, the former Beatle, who was murdered close by outside his home in the Dakota building. Lennon's widow Yoko Ono, who still lives in the Dakota, subsequently donated $1 million to upgrade the area with hundreds of tree and flower species, including strawberries. The area serves as a Garden of Peace and includes a memorial floor mosaic (donated by the Italian city of Naples) that says simply "Imagine", referring to the title of one of Lennon's evocative songs.
The Great Lawn area runs from the Lake to the 86th Street Transverse Road.
- Belvedere Castle, 79th St, ☎ +1 212 772-0210. Tu-Su 10AM-5PM. Sitting on Vista Rock, one of the highest points in the park, the castle provides excellent views of Central Park, particularly to the north. It is a popular spot for photography and contains a visitor center and a nature conservatory. Just below the castle to the north is Turtle Pond, a small, swamp-like pond holding various fish, frogs, insects, and birds. Free.
- Conservatory Pond, east side of the park (between 72nd and 75th Streets). Most well known as the Model Boat Pond, visitors can often see a racing regatta between members of the Model Yacht Club, or rent a model boat from a boathouse and cafe on the pond. Just to the north of the pond is the Alice in Wonderland sculpture depicting the Tea Party scene, and on the west side of the pond is the Hans Christian Andersen sculpture, which shows the writer seated on a bench reading a book to his Ugly Ducking character.
- Great Lawn. At the center of Central Park, the Great Lawn is a large clearing with lawns and ballfields, perfect for ballgames, sunbathing, and picnicking. Just to the east of the Lawn is the Obelisk, a 71-foot tall structure which is the oldest man-made object in the park, having been erected in Heliopolis, Egypt, around 1500 B.C.
- The Lake. The lake is a fine setting for a serene afternoon in the park. Rental boats are available from the Loeb Boathouse (on the eastern side of the lake) for a ride on the water. The Bow Bridge, a Central Park landmark, spans the middle of the lake. Free; boats are available for rental, $12/hour.
- The Ramble, 79th St (enter either from the Bow Bridge or the Loeb Boat House to the south or from Belvedere Castle to the north). A sort of mini forest, described by its designer as a "wild garden," the Ramble is sculpted out of a wooded hillside, with winding paths, rocky outcrops, secluded glades, and a tumbling stream. If one travels through the ramble when the trees are full, it is easy to lose sight of the city's skyscrapers; it's as if you're no longer in Manhattan. The Ramble is also an excellent place to bird watch, with over 250 species of birds that stop here on their migration.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Ave (at 82nd St), ☎ +1 212 535-7710. Tu–Th 9:30AM–5:30PM, F-Sa 9:30AM–9PM, Su 9:30AM–5:30PM, closed Mondays. Pay what you wish; includes same-day admission to the Cloisters Museum & Gardens in Upper Manhattan (suggested admission $20 adults, $15 seniors, $10 students, children under 12 free).
One of the world's largest and most important museums of art and world culture, you'll have to devote several hours; nay, an entire day (if not more!), if you want to do this place justice. This massive neo-Gothic building, originally opened in 1872 and with numerous expansions added on over time, holds literally hundreds of rooms on its two floors, containing thousands of art pieces from across human history and around the world, covering virtually every field of art in existence. Along with the numerous permanent exhibit halls mentioned below are several changing exhibit halls.
The first floor holds the American Wing, with period rooms and decorative arts from the 19th and early 20th centuries; the Arms and Armor hall, with suits of armor, swords, guns, and other arms from around the world; Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas; Egyptian Art, regarded as the finest collection of Egyptian works outside of Cairo, which features the Roman Period Temple of Dendur; European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, with numerous period rooms and Renaissance sculpture; Greek and Roman Art, with numerous examples of classical sculpture, vases, and bronzes; Medieval Art, featuring a cathedral-like room with numerous Romanesque pieces; and Modern and Contemporary Art, showcasing the works of some of the most famous artists of modern times, such as Balthus, Boccioni, Bonnard, Matisse, and Picasso.
The second floor holds a continuation of the American Wing; Ancient Near Eastern Art, showcasing some monumental Assyrian reliefs and statues; Chinese Art, which holds some exceptional Buddhist sculpture, jades, calligraphy, and period rooms; Cypriot Art, with ancient art from Cyprus; European Paintings and Sculptures, with masterworks from Cézanne, Monet, Renoir, Rodin, Van Gogh, and numerous old masters, including five paintings by Johannes Vermeer, the largest collection of Vermeers in any museum in the world; an extremely comprehensive Islamic Art collection; Japanese Art, with numerous prints and textiles; Korean Art, a continuation of the Modern and Contemporary Art halls; and South Asian Art, with works from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Tibet, and Southeast Asia.
The Reservoir area spans the area of the park from the 86th Street Transverse Road to the 97th Street Transverse Road.
- The Reservoir. Constructed between 1858 and 1862, the Reservoir is a vast urban lake that covers 106 acres of Central Park and is the largest body of water within Manhattan. Renamed the "Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir" in 1994, the Reservoir is probably best known for the 1.58 mile track that runs around its edge and which is a favorite for joggers, who can both run and enjoy the spectacular views of the city skyline.
The North End spans the area of the park from the 97th Street Transverse Road to Central Park North.
- Charles A. Dana Discovery Center, 110th St (between Fifth and Lenox Avenues), ☎ +1 212 860-1370. Tu-Su 10AM-5PM. On the north shore of the Harlem Meer, the Discovery Center holds education and community programs and seasonal exhibits, as well as offering a popular place for catch-and-release fishing.
- Conservatory Garden, 5th Ave (between 104th and 106th Streets). 8AM-dusk. A six-acre garden which is Central Park's only formal garden, representing Italian, French, and English landscape styles, with formal plantings and numerous sculptures. Free.
- Great Hill, west side of the park (between 103rd and 107th Streets). One of the highest points in the park, the Great Hill is a hilltop meadow surrounded by stately elm trees and serves as an excellent place to picnic.
- Harlem Meer, east side of the park (between 106th and 110th Streets). This 11 acre lake is one of Central Park's finest spots; surrounded by flowering trees and inhabited by several fish and turtle species.
- North Woods, west side to middle of the park, north of 101st St. None of Central Park is actual virgin forest, but this is the closest any part of the park gets to feeling like genuine forest. It is beautiful and cool in hot weather. However, like a real forest, it is a mosquito habitat, so make sure to use insect repellent before walking through this part of the park.
- The Pool, west side of the park (between 100th to 103rd Streets). One of the most idyllic and tranquil landscapes in Central Park, the Pool is an excellent spot for quiet contemplation, with its grassy banks and nearby waterfalls. A stream, The Loch flows northeast from the Pool, through a stream valley called The Ravine. A trail that follows the Loch, winding under a canopy of tall trees as the stream goes over several waterfalls and passes under a couple of stone arches.
Being the only large green space in such a densely populated area, Central Park is an extremely popular place for outdoor recreation. It's also a very pretty place to get outdoors, and you'll join numerous other New Yorkers as you explore the greenery of the park and take in views of the surrounding cityscape.
- On foot. Central Park is a paradise for people looking to walk, hike, stroll, or jog. The entire park is friendly for hiking and strolling, with many hidden corners and a variety of terrains to explore. Speed walkers and joggers have three ideal spots in the park: the Park Drives, which circle the park and have a special lane for joggers; the Reservoir, which has a very well-used trail surrounding it; and three separate Bridle Paths, one adjacent to the Reservoir, one at the North Meadow, and one at the southern side of the park, all of which are loops that extend about 1-1.5 miles. The Central Park Conservancy operates guided walking tours year-round, which are free and require no reservation; check the website for details.
- Bike Central Park (Bike and Roll New York City), Columbus Circle & Tavern on the Green, ☎ +1 212-260-0400, e-mail: email@example.com. 8AM-8PM (Summer hours) Call for winter hours. The Park Drives, which circle the entire park, are the best place to bicycle with a dedicated lanes for their use. Skaters can also use any of the paved trails running through the park, but bicyclists are prohibited on all pedestrian pathways. Bicycle rentals are available from the parking lot at Tavern on the Green, at the Boathouse, and at Columbus Circle. It is not difficult to distinguish between authorized vendors and illegal vendors in the park, if you know what to look for. Authorized vendors will have physical locations in the park, use credit card machines and offer helmets with the rental, whereas unauthorized vendors will walk customers off park property for their bikes or will have bikes chained to street furniture surrounding the park. Rates start at $14 per hour; day rates available; prices vary depending on equipment.
- Horseback riding, ☎ +1 914 633-0303. The Riverdale Equestrian Centre in nearby Riverdale, New York offers guided horseback rides through Central Park, but you must already be at an advanced riding level.
- Sports. A wide variety of sports facilities are available for use in Central Park. A large Tennis Center near West Drive between 94th Street and 96th Street has multiple tennis courts. Both the Great Lawn and North Meadow have basketball courts, baseball/softball and soccer fields, with additional baseball fields at the Heckscher Ballfields, at 63rd Street between the west and center drives. The North Meadow also has fields for touch and flag football and handball courts. Lawn bowling and croquet can be played just north of the Sheep Meadow. Volleyball courts are located at Sheep Meadow and the Great Lawn. Note that permits are required for all these facilities except those for basketball, handball, and volleyball.
- Water recreation. Catch-and-release fishing is available at the Harlem Meer, and a shop with bait and poles is located at the north end of the Meer. Swimming is offered at the outdoor Lasker Pool at the north end of the park; admission is free, but you are restricted to bringing only a towel, shoes, book, and water bottle and must bring a lock; no bags allowed. Boating is available in two kinds: row boating at The Lake (boats can be rented from the Loeb Boathouse daily 10AM-5:30PM for $12/hour; a $30 cash deposit required) and model sail boating at the Conservatory Pond.
- Winter sports. Ice skating is offered in the wintertime at two places in Central Park: the popular outdoor Wollman Rink near the middle of the park (which is turned into the Victorian Gardens Amusement Park in the summer), and the Lasker Pool, which is turned into an outdoor rink when the water freezes. Cross-country skiing is also a popular activity in Central Park and can be done in any meadow, although only when there are at least six inches of snow on the ground.
- Horse-drawn carriage rides, the carriages depart from a line-up along Central Park South (59th Street) (between 5th and 6th Avenues, opposite the Plaza Hotel), ☎ +1 212 246-0529. Available year-round (except in extreme weather), a horse-drawn carriage ride is one of the most popular (and some say romantic) ways to see Central Park. $50 for the first 20 mins and $20 for each additional 10 minutes. A park tour runs about 45 to 50 minutes ($110).
- Delacorte Theater. Home to the Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival in the summer.
- SummerStage, Rumsey Playfield (along the 72nd St. Transverse Road). A popular free concert series held in the summer.
- Central Park Conservancy Film Festival, Sheep Meadow. Held in mid-August, the festival shows cult classic films on an outdoor screen in Sheep Meadow.
There are 21 playgrounds in Central Park, with slides and swings for the kids and some with water sprays to cool off during the summer. Nearly all of them are on the edge of the park. Here are the most notable ones:
- Ancient Playground, 5th Avenue and 85th Street. Inspired by the nearby Egyptian Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, this playground contains several pyramid-like play structures.
- Billy Johnson Playground, 5th Avenue and 67th Street (just north of the Children's Zoo). A rustic-themed playground, with a stone bridge, a granite slide, a gazebo, a water feature, and playground equipment constructed of white cedar.
- Heckscher Playground. Central Park's largest playground, Heckscher is unique among Central Park's playgrounds in that it is not on the boundaries of the park. The playground has a range of play equipment, including a large water feature.
- Pat Hoffman Friedman Playground, 5th Avenue and 79th Street. A small toddler playground with some beautifully fashioned gates adorned with sculptures of animals. In front of the gates stands Paul Manship's Group of Bears sculpture.
- Safari Playground, Central Park West at 91st Street. A jungle themed playground with hippopotamus statues, a "canoe" play structure, and treehouses.
- Wild West Playground, Central Park West at 93rd Street. A western-themed playground with a wooded fortress-like setting, canals, sandboxes, and water sprays.
There are a few places to get souvenirs in Central Park. The visitor center at the Dairy, mid-park at 65th Street, has a gift shop open daily 10AM-5PM and run by the Central Park Conservancy, with lots of Central Park merchandise, like apparel, books, posters, mugs, and postcards. The Zootique in the Central Park Zoo has lots of plush animals, toys, and children's books, as well as zoo souvenirs. However, the most extensive gift shop is the one in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which not only has a large book selection but also sells jewelry, watches, prints, decor, apparel, and a whole kid's section with toys and games, all with an art or New York City focus.
Unofficial merchandise can also be found at certain places around the edge of the park. For instance, the walkway to Strawberry Fields is lined with vendors selling prints of the Beatles or little knickknacks like "PEACE" emblems.
Central Park is dotted with vendors all over. A quick hotdog, pretzel, soda, or ice cream is always available. There are several cafes in the park but, because there are no street addresses, you may have trouble finding them. Many of the cafes are seasonal and operate from about early April to late October. Most of them serve burgers (including veggie ones), sandwiches, coffee/tea and cold drinks. Cafes are located at the Columbus Circle entrance, at the northern end of the ball fields near the carousel (approx. 65th Street), in the Central Park Zoo, and at the Conservatory Pond near the Alice in Wonderland statue (approx. 73rd Street, on the east side of the park).
- The Boathouse, on Park Drive North on The Lake. Cafe: Daily 8AM–8PM (Winter 8AM-4:30PM). Outdoor bar: April–November Daily 11AM-11PM (weather permitting). Restaurant: Lunch M-F noon-4PM; Brunch Sa-Su 9:30AM-4PM; Dinner April–November, M-F 5:30PM-9:30PM, Sa-Su 6PM-9:30PM. Held in the Loeb Boathouse on the Lake, the Boathouse includes a sit-down restaurant with tables overlooking the lake, a sit-down bar area outside, and an express cafe with counter service for quick takeout and eat-in food.
- Le Pain Quotidien, in the Mineral Springs Pavilion at the northern end of the Sheep Meadow (west side of the park at approx. 69th Street). January–April: F-Su 8AM-4PM; April–January: Daily 7AM-9PM. A sit-down restaurant with organic options like handmade bread and vegan ice cream. Pre-packaged picnic boxes are also available.
- Tavern on the Green, 67th St & Central Pk W (W side between 65th and 66th streets), ☎ +1 212-877-TOTG (8684). M-F 11AM-1AM; Sa Su 9AM-1AM. This iconic restaurant has appeared in dozens of films as one of New York's most famous dining spots. The historic building once served as a sheep paddock before being converted to a restaurant in 1934, soon becoming a favorite destination for New Yorkers' special occasions. Although the setting is as lovely as it's always been, the restaurant itself has developed a reputation for providing overpriced food that isn't all that good.
There are lots of drinking fountains — approximately 150 — dotting the park, though they're only turned on from April to October. Most of the vendors and the cafes in the park serve coffee/tea and soft drinks, but alcohol is considerably harder to find. In addition, it is illegal to have an open container of alcohol anywhere in the city, and this rule is enforced; if the cops see you opening a bottle of beer or wine on the lawn, expect to get fined.
If you do want to have a drink in Central Park, you'll have to head indoors to one of the park's sit-down restaurants. Le Pain Quotidien in the Mineral Springs Pavilion on the north end of the Sheep Meadow sells organic beer and wine year-round, and the restaurant in the Loeb Boathouse has a much larger selection, with an extensive wine list as well as liquor and cocktails and an outdoor sit-down bar area that's open seasonally.
It is illegal to sleep overnight in Central Park. A great variety of accommodations, from hostels and budget hotels to really ritzy places, are located in the adjacent districts of Midtown and the Theater District to the south and the Upper West Side to the west.
Free Wi-Fi provided by AT&T is available in four spots in Central Park: the restaurant at the Mineral Springs Pavilion on the north end of Sheep Meadow, the Rumsey Playfield (from June to early September, in conjunction with the SummerStage concert series), the Central Park Zoo, and the Tavern on the Green restaurant. To log on, look for the network name “attwifi” on your computer and click on it; no username or password is needed. You can also find plenty of hotspots around the edge of the park operated by cafés or restaurants and certain other places, such as the Apple Store across 5th Avenue from the southeast corner of the park.
- North: Harlem
- South: Midtown, Theater District
- East: Upper East Side
- West: Upper West Side
- If you are interested in visiting another big, beautiful park designed by Vaux and Olmsted, consider Prospect Park in Brooklyn.