Central Park in NYC is one of the most famous public parks in the world. With over 800 acres of public park, Central Park receives millions of visitors every year from all over the world. The park is also an essential part of the lives of the people who call New York City home. I had the fantastic privilege of spending an entire month in New York City recently and my Airbnb was just 2 blocks from Central Park on the Upper East Side. Throughout the entire month of my stay, I spent the majority of my time exploring and falling in love with Central Park. While there are many guides on the internet about what to do at Central Park, my guide is all based on personal experience. Obviously there are countless things to do at Central Park, but here are 13 of my personal favorite activites.
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My Guide for What to Do at Central Park in NYC
1. Have a Picnic in the Park
In in park as large as Central Park, there are countless areas where you can enjoy a picnic. My visit to the city was for the month of August which is the perfect weather for a picnic in the park. My personal favorite area of the park to have a picnic is Sheep Meadow, located in the southwestern area of the park. From Sheep Meadow, you have incredible views of the skyscrapers on Billionaires Row as well as of the West Side of Manhattan.
You can make a picnic yourself with things you bring from the grocery store. Also, there are many companies in NYC that offer picnic services. They will setup an entire picnic spread for you with whatever you want, obviously for a high charge. No matter how or where you choose to have a picnic, this is definitely one of my favorite things to do at Central Park.
2. Rent a Bike and Ride around the Park
With a park as large as this one, you definitely will have a hard time seeing the whole thing just on foot. Bike rentals can help you get around easier. Along with private bike rental companies you can rent from a Citi Bike stand. The most popular bike sharing service in the the city are the Citi Bike stands found all over New York. Here, you can rent these bikes from a number kiosks located on the outskirts of the park.
They have two different bike options, manual or assisted. The manual bike is a standard bike and is cheaper. The assisted gives you some extra help with peddling. So, I always opt for assisted but it is a personal choice. There is a bike lane that goes around the entire park and you can pull off wherever you’d like. Just be aware that you can only ride bikes in permitted areas. Along with renting a bike alone, you can also find many bike tours with a guide to take you throughout the park. They will provide an educated tour of the many famous areas of Central Park in NYC.
3. Visit the Met-The Metropolitan Museum of Art
As one of the most famous museums in New York City, The Metropolitan Museum of Art is a must visit when in Manhattan. Located on the Upper East Side of Central Park, this huge museum showcases classic art from all different areas and time periods all over the world. You can find everything from Egyptian art to Medieval armor to Greek and Roman artwork.
My favorite part of the Met is actually the rooftop. During non-COVID times, there is a cafe on the rooftop with some of the best views of the city that you can find. At the current time, it is just an observation deck. It is one of the less known areas of the museum and can sometimes be one of the less crowded areas of the museum. The Met can get pretty busy during peak times so if you can try to avoid visiting on the weekends. Even if you don’t care much for museums, this is a fantastic one of many things to do at Central Park.
4. Walk/Run around the Central Park Reservoir
For some of the best views of the city, be sure to pay a visit to the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, also known as the Central Park Reservoir. Around this large reservoir of water is a large running/walking path that is definitely worth a walk. I personally enjoy my morning runs around the reservoir as it is a perfect daily running distance. Just 2 laps around is a little over 3 miles. If you’re looking for what to do at Central Park, this is a great walk. Be sure to check it out.
5. Visit Bethesda Fountain
One of the most iconic images of Central Park is definitely the Bethesda Fountain and Terrace. The incredibly beautiful fountain known as the Angel of Waters is one of New York’s City’s largest fountains. An ode to the cities clean drinking water, this beautifully landscaped terrace surrounds the beautiful fountain. You will often hear live music vendors on the terrace, see street performers, and maybe even see a tv show being filmed. A visit to the fountain is an absolute must when in Central Park. This is one of the best areas in Central Park in NYC to just people watch. There is always something interesting happening here.
6. Visit the Central Park Zoo
Did you know that there is a zoo in the middle of Manhattan? The Central Park Zoo may not be the biggest zoo in the world, but it certainly is unique in old world charm. Don’t expect to see every animal on your list here, but they certainly have a nice variety of animals. This is a great place to take children when looking for what to do at Central Park. Along with the main zoo there is also a children’s zoo with smaller animals. At the main zoo you can expect to see animals such as sea lions, penguins, snow monkeys, grizzly bears, lemurs, and more. Be sure to listen out for the Central Park Zoo clock tower song and dance that goes off every half hour.
7. Rent a boat at the Loeb Boathouse
For a romantic afternoon or evening in the park, rent a boat at the Loeb Boathouse. Offering both rowboats and gondolas, this is a fun way to spend the day. Albeit somewhat touristy, this is an iconic way to see the park. You can have a nice lunch the Loeb Boathouse restaurant after your time out on the water. There are breathtaking views from the water, you will definitely get a picture that is worth keeping for a long time. Prices can get a little expensive but I think it is worth it. You can find information about renting boats at the Loeb Boathouse on their official website here.
8. Walk through the Mall and Liberty Walk
One of the most famous areas in Central Park is the Mall, made famous through pop culture and movies time and time again. The Elm tree lined walkway leads to the Bethesda fountain and terrace and is absolutely beautiful walk any time of year. With vendors lining both sides of this walkway selling everything from art to concessions to caricatures, it is a real city experience. Many times of the year, you will hear lots of live music and street entertainment along the Mall. From jazz music to street dancing and everything in between, you can sure to be entertained when walking through the Mall. Be sure to add this to your list of things to do at Central Park during your next visit.
9. Watch Boat Races at Conservatory Water Pond
On Saturday mornings during the warm months of the year, head over the beautiful Conservatory Water pond to watch the Central Park Model Yacht Club members race their sail boats. Albeit not the most exciting of activities on this list, this can be a relaxing a fun activity if you are passing through. The pond here is also home to famous sculptures such as the Alice in Wonderland statue. A great way to spend a Saturday morning is coming to the Conservatory Water Pond, watching the sailboats race, and often you’ll be able to listen to live music from local artists.
10. Listen to Live Music in the Park
One of the amazing things to do at Central Park is to listen to live music. Whether official or not, there is always someone playing music in the park. During the summer months, you will often find many free live concerts in the park such as the GMA concert series. But other than that, you will hear people playing music with every turn you take in the park. There is no greater way to feel a part of the city than to sit and listen to some local artists play their music. Along with all of this, be sure to look into the Shakespeare in the Park series. During certain times of the year, you can get free tickets to watch performances of Shakespeare plays in the park. This is great if looking for what to do at Central Park.
11. Get Lost in All the Amazing Areas of Central Park in NYC
Most of all, just get lost in the park. There are so many fantastic things to do at Central Park with some many different areas. It’s truly amazing to go from such a crazy, bustling city street and within a few minutes be lost in the woods. From the Ramble to Sheep Meadow to the Mall and everywhere in between, there is nothing better than just going for a walk and getting lost in this beautiful park. In a city of millions of people, it is so easy to find a quiet private moment in this park. Finding a moment of solitude in a city as busy as NYC, Central Park provides a true oasis for a moment of solitude if you know where to look.
12. Go for a Run Around the Park
If you are an avid runner like me, then you certainly won’t want to miss the opportunity to run around the park. During my month stay I ran a half marathon around Central Park and I must say that it was one of the highlights of my trip. The biggest running trail in the park is just over 6 miles around, which is perfect for anyone training for longer races. There are many different running trails all throughout the park, all with different levels of difficulty and distance. You can find the map of the running trails here. Going for a run around the park with all of the other citizens of New York City is a great way to truly feel like a local. I highly recommend it for people looking for what to do at Central Park.
What to Do at Central Park in NYC Conclusion
In a bustling city like New York City, it is almost a requirement to have a place to escape all the noise. And that is where Central Park comes in. Without the park, I personally would find the city to be too much constant action to live here. While there are many other parks all throughout the city, Central Park is without a doubt my favorite. There is always something to do and something new to see. I think that the park provides a real melting pot for people from all over the city. There is no greater urban park in the United States in my personal opinion. I hope that you fall in love with Central Park just like I did when you visit. I also hope that you find these things to do at Central Park to be just as enjoyable as I did. It is all great fun in the park.
What are some of your favorite things to do at Central Park in NYC?
Thank you so much for checking out this guide for what to do at Central Park in NYC. What are your favorite things to do at Central Park when visiting? I would love to hear about it. I only was able to spend a month in New York City but I truly felt like I got the most out of the park. You can find more of my New York City travel guides here. If you found this content helpful, please consider sharing it with your friends and fellow travelers. Thank you so much!