Central Park Highlights – Our Top 10 Spots
Central Park is New York City’s back yard and is so popular that over 40 million people visit it annually. It’s not just a tourist attraction as locals flock to the park as well. It is one of the favorite places for many locals to relax, catch some sun, or do some physical activity. The park is located and stretches from the upper part of Midtown, Manhattan all the way to the southern part of Harlem. It covers 1.4 square miles, all the way from 59th Street (Central Park South) to 110th Street (Central Park North). From baseball fields & bike paths, to a zoo, Central Park truly has it all. It would take ages to explore all of Central Park, so we have made a list of all of our favorite spots that we think you need to check out.
Due to the fact that the park is huge, there is a lot to see. Many tourists enter the park through the well-known gate at Fifth Avenue, near the Plaza Hotel. We have some spots for you however that are not flooded with tourists so you can enjoy Central Park in some of its intended tranquility.
1. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir
This man-made lake is a popular destination for jogging and was once Mrs. Kennedy’s favorite running route (hence the name). While you are in the midst of the city, it feels as though you are miles away from the skyscrapers that you can catch a glimpse of now and again between the trees. If the route around the reservoir isn’t quite enough to get you tired out, why don’t you try the 7 mile jogging route up East Drive and back down West Drive? Beware however, the hills are quite a challenge! To find out more about possible running routes check them out here. Central Park is also filled with places you can bike, if that’s more your cup of tea – you can check out where to rent bikes here.
2. Sheep Meadow
Sheep meadow is a beautiful green spot in the center of the lower half of Central Park. Its relaxd atmosphere with the faint echoes of city sounds in the background make it a perfect place for taking a break from the bustling city. Its iconic views have been featured in many films and pictures due to the contrast of the tall skyscrapers poking out behind the greenery of the trees. This is definitely one of our favorite spots in Central Park especially during summer. One of our favorite things to do is grab a few sandwiches, or lunch from one of the nearby cafés and have a simple picnic on sheep meadow.
3. Strawberry Fields
Near 72nd Street on the western side of Central Park, you will find Strawberry Fields. Here, fans of John Lennon meet at the Imagine Mosaic and sing together. The memorial is located not far from the Dakota Building where John Lennon was assassinated on December 8, 1980. His wife still lives in the building and comes to the memorial on a regular basis to place flowers there. Not only is there history to this spot, it also instillls a quiet and peaceful atmosphere. This is definitely a sight to see when you are in central park.
4. Renting a row boat in Central Park
Another great activity in Central Park is renting a rowing boat to cruise around the Central Park Lake. This is the second largest body of water in Central Park spanning 22-acres, and offers a wide variety of views from a rowing boat. You can rent a boat at the Loeb Boathouse and enjoy a leisurely or even romantic cruise for $15 per hour. Get more information about prices for the for boats here.
5. The Bridges of Central Park
You can admire 13 beautiful bridges in Central Park. Most of you will recognize the beloved Bow Bridge as it has featured in many films. It is a popular spot for marriage proposals and a favorite motif for photographers. Bow Bridge is located in the center of the park near 74th Street and is one of the oldest in the city. Read more about the bridges of Central Park here.
6. Weddings in Central Park
With a little luck, you will be able to witness a wedding during your visit to Central Park. The park is one of the most popular places for people around the world to get married or propose. Are you interested in this spot for yourself? You can check out your options of getting married in Central Park here.
7. Visiting the Central Park Zoo
A visit to the Central Park Zoo is fun for everyone in the family. The zoo is located directly at the park gate on Fifth Avenue (corner of 63th Street). Read more about Central Park Zoo here.
8. The Harlem Meer
Completely removed from the masses of tourists is the Harlem Meer located in the district of Harlem. This is a great spot to relax next to the water. However, it is also a popular spot for fishermen and nature lovers because this area of the park has the most variety of trees and other plants (check out the beautiful rose blooms in spring). Click here for more information about the Harlem Meer.
9. Le Pain Quotidien in Central Park
This is our favorite café in Midtown Manhattan. Le Pain Quotidien in Central Park is located just north of the Sheep Meadow. Here you can relax with a cup of coffee, a delicious piece of cake, or a refreshing Brooklyn beer while sitting in the midst of the greenery. You have to try a piece of the Chocolate Bombe Cake, which is one of their specialties and my personal favorite! The café is near 69th Street. Additional restaurants in Central Park can be found here.
10. In the winter months: ice skating at the Wollman Rink
This scene could seem familiar to you as it has also featured in several films. The Wollman Rink is one of the most popular public ice rinks in the city, and, given its beautiful backdrop in Central Park, we can understand why. Central Park offers many things to do even in winter. Click here for information about New York’s most popular ice rink. You can also read more about additional winter activities in Central Park here.
Popular spot for film scenes
Numerous film scenes have been shot here. Scenes from, When Harry met Sally, Manhattan Love Story, Kevin Alone in New York or more current films such as The Other Woman included a Central Park backdrop. Many literary scenes (for example “Catcher in the Rye”) have also featured Central Park.
Your tour through the park
Those of you who like to have professional guides will get your money’s worth with the Walking Tour of Central Park. Tour guides share a lot of background knowledge and show you all highlights of the park from the point of view of a true New Yorker.
The Central Park Photo Tour is popular with professional and amateur photographers also. In addition to the many unique bridges, the tour will also show you the best photo opportunities the park has to offer. The tour guide is a professional photographer who knows the park and its highlights like the back of his hand.
Bottom line: Central Park provides an excellent opportunity to escape the stress and noise of Manhattan, regardless of the weather. Taking a stroll will give you a better idea of how big the man-made park really is. If you don’t want to walk through the entire park, take the subway to Harlem, where you will find much less crowded spots. Have fun exploring!
UPDATE: Central Park and Coronavirus
The majority of parks in NYC are open even though there is a pandemic going around. This obviously includes Central Park. However, there are restrictions put into place if you decide to visit the park. Visitors are strongly encouraged to practice social distancing by keeping at least 6 feet away from each other. A lot of facilities will be closed such as basketball courts, volleyball courts, and other sporting sites. The dog run will be closed as well and owners must have dogs maintained on a leash. More information about rules and guidelines can be found on the Central Park website.
I'm a true New York fan! Not only have I visited the city over 20 times but also have I spent several months here at a time. On this blog, I want to share everything I have learned and discovered, so you can have the best time in the greatest city in the world!