24 Best Things To Do In Central Park, NYC In Each Season!
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Central Park is an oasis for New Yorkers who need to take a break from the stresses of the busy city and enjoy the calmness of nature.
But there is more to this iconic park than just nature, it turns out there are plenty of things to do in Central Park in all seasons, so no matter what time of year you visit, you can get respite from the concrete and chaos that reigns on the rest of the island.
Stretching three avenues wide from 59th Street all the way up to 110th Street, it’s 843 acres – or six percent of the entire island of Manhattan.
It’s the most visited urban park in America, a popular tourist destination and one of the most filmed locations in the world.
And it’s where locals walk their dogs, play sports, have picnics with friends and generally just enjoy the wonders of the outdoors without having to leave the city.
Central Park is worth a visit no matter what time of year you travel to New York City, but some things are better in certain seasons. Let’s take a look at what to do in Central Park in each season.
Things to Do in Central Park in Summer
Summer is one of the best seasons to visit Central Park as you can happily enjoy all of the outdoor attractions in the park. If you’re visiting NYC in summer, here’s some of the top things to do in Central Park this season.
1. Have a Picnic
Have a picnic in Sheep Meadow, the perfect picnic spot in the park. Load up on provisions at the Whole Foods on the corner of 59th Street and Columbus Avenue, and head to this open green space.
The city has also lightened up on drinking in public (aka you can’t get arrested, but you can still get a summons), so still be discreet if you pack any beers.
2. Play Beach Volleyball
Did you know that Central Park has a beach volleyball court? It’s right next to Sheep Meadow, so when you’re done with your picnic, pick up a ball and have a game.
You’ll find a row of sand volleyball courts which are free to use on a first come, first serve basis. You need to bring your own ball and a group of mates to play against.
Even if they are full, it’s fun to just to watch the super athletic people throw it down.
If you don’t like sand, there’s also two asphalt courts to the northeast of Great Lawn.
3. Take Out a Row Boat
One of the best things to do in Central Park. Image: Shutterstock.com
One of the most iconic things to do in Central Park is take out one of the row boats under Bow Bridge.
It has been romanticized by plenty of Hollywood movies, but for good reason. It’s one of the most romantic activities in New York!
You can rent a boat from Loeb Boathouse and lazily spin around the lake, Central Park’s second largest body of water.
Even if you don’t want to spend $20 per hour to row, walk over the gorgeous Bow Bridge for the best view of the boats.
Things to Do in Central Park in Fall
Fall is a great time to visit Central Park as you get to see the leaves change color from bright green, to hues of red and orange. It’s also one of the quieter times of the year, since most visitors prefer to visit during warmer climates.
If you’re visiting NYC in Autumn, here are some of the top things to do in Central Park in the Fall.
4. Check out The Fall Foliage
The best place to see the fall leaves change is around the Pool.
Although most tourists will stay in the southern end of the park, the west side of the park between 100th and 103rd Streets boasts some of the most beautiful foliage.
Don’t miss seeing the reflection of the trees in the Pool, the rustic stone bridge known as Glen Span Arch or the Loch, a somewhat hidden waterfall.
5. Race the Model Boats
Bordered by the Alice in Wonderland statue and Hans Christian Anderson statue, the Conservatory Water is a popular place for kids of all ages to rent a remote-controlled, wind-driven sailboat.
This is an activity you can only do between March and November, but since Fall brings fewer crowds than Spring and Summer, we think it’s the perfect thing to do in Central Park in Autumn.
Of course, if you have your own boat you are welcome to bring it, but if you don’t, rentals cost just $11 for 30-minutes. There’s only a short number of boats though, so come early to avoid disappointment. You can check the rental shop opening hours here.
6. Walk (or cycle) down the Mall
Lined with American elms, this wide walkway (originally intended for horse-drawn carriages) leads to the beautiful Bethesda Terrace, where the arcade is packed with street performers and musicians.
When the leaves are changing, it’s hard to find a more picturesque place in the city.
Of course, if you don’t feel like walking, you can hire a bike and cycle, which is another one of the top things to do in Central Park.
Be sure to head all the way to the Bethesda Fountain, which is said to be the place with the most elms in the park.
7. Walk the Literary Walk
The Literary Walk is located on the southern section of the Mall and features several statues of literary writers, such as William Shakespeare, Robert Burns, Fitz-Greene Halleck, and Sir Walter Scott.
They were places there in the 19th century, but in 2020, the first new monument in over 50 years was added to the walk.
The Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument, which is a bronze statue honoring Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
Wander along this notable stretch on the Mall and take the time to honor the legacy of some of the world’s most inspirational writers.
8. Watch an Outdoor Concert
At the northern end of the Mall you will find a Concert Ground, which was built in the 19th century as a space to enjoy music.
The Naumburg Bandshell still hosts classic music performances and pop concerts, as well as free concerts by Naumberg Orchestral Concerts every summer.
You can check the concert programming here.
Another popular spot to catch an outdoor performance is Rumsey Playfield, which is Central Park’s main music venue. Every summer, it hosts a performing arts festival called SummerStage.
SummerStage hosts everything from folk singers, pop concerts to theater performances.
For Shakespeare in the Park performances, head over to the Delacorte Theater.
9. See the Turtles in Turtle Pond
The Turtle Pond, is so named because it houses five species of turtles in the waters.
The turtles live in the waters all year round, but it’s best to visit in the summer when you can see them sitting on the banks, sunning themselves in the warm sunshine.
You can also see views of Belvedere Castle in the distance.
Turtle Pond lies between the Great Lawn and Rambles, next to the Delacorte Theater.
10. Ride on the Central Park Carousel
If you’re looking for things to do in Central Park with kids, then take them to ride the iconic Central Park Carousel, officially named the Michael Friedsam Memorial Carousel.
This vintage wood-carved carousel is the fourth carousel in the park, and sits on the same site as its predecssors. It was placed here in the 1950s, but dates back to 1908.
It costs just $3.25 per ride to ride the carousel, and you’ll find it at the southern end of the park, near Sheep Meadow and the
Chess & Checkers House Visitor Center.
11. Check out The Obelisk (Cleopatra’s Needle)
You wouldn’t expect to see obelisks from Egypt in New York City, but this is no ordinary obelisk.
It was placed in the park in 1881, after it was given to the City of New York by the Egyptian government, in commemoration of the opening of the Suez Canal. Its removal and transportation took over a year.
It comes from Aswan, and was thought to be one of two obelisks commissioned by Pharaoh Thutmose III, intended for the Temple of the Sun in Heliopolis outside Cairo.
It was originally discovered by the Romans who took it to Alexandria and installed it in a temple built by Cleopatra, which is where the name “Cleopatra’s Needle” comes from.
The obelisk weighs around 220 tons and is inscribed with Egyptian hieroglyphs. It is said to represent eternity and immortality, and connect the heavens to the earth.
12. Walk around The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir
If you’re looking for a quieter thing to do in Central Park, go for a stroll around the reservoir. This decommissioned reservoir stretches all the way from 86th to 96th Street, covering an area of 106 acres.
Not only do you get a good walk in, but you’ll find it to be much quieter around this side of the park compared to the South.
Things to Do in Central Park in Winter
You might be thinking Central Park doesn’t offer much in the winter, but this would be an unfair assumption. Although winter brings bare trees, snow and cold temperatures, there’s still lots of fun to be had in Central Park in winter.
13. Go ice skating
Wollman Rink – one of the best things to do in Central Park
For instance, ice skating is the number one thing to do in Central Park in winter. There are two rinks in Central Park, but the Lasker Rink is under renovation until 2024, so only the Wollman Rink opens every winter for skaters of all skill levels.
Although it’s understandably a tourist draw, it’s located in the heart of the Park with a backdrop of Manhattan skyline, making it a beautiful setting for those visiting NYC for the first time.
Wollman Rink also offers plenty of skating classes for local kids.
14. Go sledding
Pilgrim Hill is one of the steepest and most popular (aka most crowded) sledding slopes in Central Park, but I prefer Cedar Hill.
There are two portions to the hill, so you can warm up on the lower slope before heading to the top to speed down the more adventurous option.
It’s usually easy to borrow someone’s sled or use a discarded one, but they’re also easy to find at most drugstores or sporting goods stores close to the park.
15. Walk across Gapstow Bridge
Walking across Gapstow Bridge after a snowstorm blankets the city and the pond freezes over is one of the most incredible sites in Central Park in winter.
This little southeastern corner of the park is the best place to see the glory of a New York City winter (without having to venture too deep into the park).
Just make sure to wear boots!
Things to Do in Central Park in Spring
Ahh Spring, this is one of the best times to visit Central Park. The winter frost melts away leaving little drops of dew on the grass, and the flowers and trees start to bloom in fresh new colors.
If you’re visiting NYC in Spring, here are some of the top things to do in Central Park.
16. See the Cherry Trees Blossom
Although there are cherry and magnolia trees scattered throughout the park (and thus there are explosions of pink all over the place during late April and early May).
I especially like a little corner between the Mall and the Balto statue. There’s a little patch of green that’s just perfect for a break in the sunshine!
17. Stop and smell the roses
When New York City starts to bloom, there’s no better place to experience it than Shakespeare Garden.
It’s filled with the plants and flowers that Shakespeare mentioned in his works – with helpful bronze plaques that identify the flower and the quotations that mention it.
18. Remember John Lennon at Strawberry Fields
The black and white Imagine mosaic was created in tribute to the musician and peace activist.
In the Spring, the memorial is lit up in soft hues from the natural sunlight, and it’s the perfect time of year to place some fresh memorial flowers.
Flowers are still regularly placed on the black and white tiles, in memoriam of the late Beatle as a symbol of peace.
19. Check Out the Alice in Wonderland Statue
One of the most iconic statues in Central Park is the Alice in Wonderland bronze statue by Spanish-American sculptor José de Creeft.
The sculpture features Alice, the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat, White Rabbit, Dormouse, and her kitten Dinah, sitting on top of a giant mushroom.
The statue was a gift to the city from philanthropist and publisher George Delacorte, who used to read Alice in Wonderland to his grandchildren.
You can find the statue on a terrace near Conservatory Water.
20. Head to Central Park Zoo
Spring is a great time to visit the zoo as the animals will be coming out of hibernation and are more active in the Spring sunshine.
You can see all kinds of animals at Central Park Zoo, from grizzly bears to snow leopards, seals to penguins.
Opening in 1861, it’s one of the oldest zoos in America and covers a space of nearly 7 acres. Although Spring is a good time to visit, the zoo is actually open all year round.
21. Walk through the The Ravine Nature Reserve
Another beautiful part of Central Park worth visiting in the summer is the Ravine Nature Reserve.
This 90-acre woodland was inspired by the Adirondack, and is made up of forest, streams and little waterfalls, with wooden bridges crossing them.
The highlight of the reserve is the narrow watercourse, named the Loch. It has three waterfalls, and trails meandering around the entire loch.
You’ll forget you’re even in New York City once you visit here!
22. Check out Belvedere Castle
Belvedere Castle is one of the most iconic monuments in Central Park, so you should make sure you visit here no matter what time of year you travel.
Sitting on top of the mighty vista rock, the second highest point in the park, this miniature castle looks like a fairytale come to life. It’s certainly one of the best places to find incredible views of NYC.
It was designed by Calvert Vaux and Jacob Wrey Mould, and built in 1872. It was designed to be a place where you can simply kick back and enjoy the views of the landscape.
In 1919 it was converted into a weather station, but when they moved in the 1960s, it fell into disrepair. Fortunately, in 2019, it was bought back to life and is now a great place to check out the views of the park.
23. Take a Movie Set Tour
If you’re looking for unique things to do in Central Park, consider taking a movie set tour. You can walk past the set of your favorite TV shows, including “John Wick” and “Gossip Girl.”
The park has over 45 filming locations, including the Plaza Hotel featured in Home Alone 2, the terrace featured in Sex and the City, the famous fountain used in the intro to the Friends TV series, and the lake from Where Harry Met Sally.
You’ll also pass by Central Park Conservancy Water where the iconic Central Park scene in Breakfast at Tiffany was filmed.
24. Check out the Conservatory Garden
This is the only formal garden in New York City and one of the most important gardens in the park. This carefully looked-after garden is split into three zones.
The South resembles a sophisticated English manicured garden, while the North features a French-style garden. In the center, you’ll find an Italianate Garden.
The entire space covers 6 acres, where in the spring it is awash with color from its tulip beds, lilacs, and crabapple trees.
In the summer, the perennials and chrysanthemums bloom in bright colors.
Because of its colorful floral backdrop, it’s one of the most romantic settings in NYC and is frequently used as the backdrop for wedding photos.
Where to Stay in NYC
We almost always stay at the INNSIDE New York Nomad.
We love it for its modern vibe, decent price, amenities and fantastic location in Chelsea near the Flatiron District. You can walk to many places and it’s right near the subway station.
It’s within walking distance of Madison Square Park, Madison Square Garden and the Empire State Building. Plus, each room has floor-to-ceiling windows so you always get an amazing view of the city.
If you feel the need to stay active, it has a 24-hour fitness center too.
You can find our full review of INNSIDE New York Nomad here.
Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Central Park
So there you have it, those are the best things to do in Central Park and as you can see, there is so much to do no matter what season you visit!
We hope this guide helped you plan your trip to Central Park in NYC and gave you some inspiration for what to do there.
If you need more inspiration, the Central Park website is a super helpful and detailed resource for all of the attractions within the park as well.
Video of Central Park, NYC
Want to see what a Central Park experience looks like? Here’s our video of our time visiting Central Park in New York City.
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New York Central Park Tours
Want to visit Central Park but don’t want to go alone? Check out these great Central Park small-group tours.
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