28 Fun Things to Do in Central Park

Andrew Rosenberg

(Updated 05/18/2021)

Nearly every NYC visitor heads to Central Park at some point, especially in summertime—and these days it takes on added allure for those looking for a mix of fresh air and some physical distancing. Use this list as a starting block for exploring the City’s favorite green space (though even if you do all these things, you’re still only scratching the surface). Check off those you’ve done, get out to try the ones you haven’t and let us know your favorites and what we missed.

Harlem Meer. Photo: Alex Lopez

Land a largemouth bass—but make sure to release it—in Harlem Meer. Fishing poles and bait are available at the nearby Charles A. Dana Discovery Center.

SummerStage, Rumsey Playfield. Photo: Will Steacy

Hear a new band at SummerStage, or catch one of your favorites there—plenty of well-known acts perform at Rumsey Playfield. This summer’s lineup should be announced soon.

Imagine Mosaic. Photo: Willy Wong

Commune with Lennonites at Strawberry Fields’ Imagine Mosaic, which honors the Beatle who lived across the street in the Dakota Apartments.

Belvedere Castle. Photo: Marley White

Get your steps in at Belvedere Castle. The panoramas from the viewing deck up high are more than worth ascending the tower.

Photo: Christopher Postlewaite

Row your way around the Lake, or opt for a more relaxing gondola ride, either of which can be done from the Loeb Boathouse. Whichever you choose, you’ll get to explore the park’s largest natural body of water.

Shakespeare in the Park, Delacorte Theater. Photo: Joseph Moran

Yell “Free Bard” at Shakespeare in the Park. OK, don’t actually yell that—you’d get a lot of odd looks—but do try to score tickets (which are free; keep checking the Public Theater website for updates) for a star-studded Shakespearean play at the Delacorte Theater.

Volleyball court. Courtesy, Central Park Conservancy

Play beach volleyball or croquet near Sheep Meadow. Bring a ball for the former and your own equipment for the latter.

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Conservatory Garden. Photo: Grace Tyson

Stop and smell the roses (and sage and catmint) at the Conservatory Garden. The blooms in the three European-style gardens that make up the Conservatory Garden change from season to season.

The Ramble. Courtesy, Central Park Conservancy

Spot a black-throated blue warbler in the Ramble—one of the prime bird-watching spots in the City.

Cleopatra's Needle. Courtesy, Central Park Conservancy

Decipher hieroglyphics at Cleopatra’s Needle. This obelisk, a few thousand years old, made its way from Alexandria, Egypt, to Manhattan in the late 1800s.

Bethesda Terrace. Photo: Grace Tyson

Admire the Minton tiles at Bethesda Terrace Arcade. Made in England, these ceramic beauties would typically be used to cover floors; here, they line the ceiling.

William Shakespeare statue, The Mall. Photo: Will Steacy

Find the odd man out on the Literary Walk, as you stroll along the Mall. Hint: he’s still pretty famous but happens to have been an explorer rather than an author.

The Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument. Courtesy, Central Park Conservancy

And look out for the latest monumental addition—the first in the park in more than 50 years. The Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument, on the Mall, comprises bronze sculptures of Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, paying homage to three trailblazers in the fight for equality.

Great Lawn. Photo: Christopher Postlewaite

Lay out a blanket on the Great Lawn to sunbathe. If you get restless, take a wander along the lawn’s Tree Walk to see a representative—though still comparatively small, in the scheme of things—number of the park’s nearly 20,000 trees.

Seneca Village. Courtesy, Central Park Conservancy

Learn about the history of Seneca Village, which in the first half of the 1800s was home to a sizeable free Black community. The site is near the West 85th Street entrance.

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Conservatory Water. Photo: Will Steacy

Race model sailboats at Conservatory Water. If it makes you want to reread E. B. White’s Stuart Little, consider that a bonus.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. Photo: Will Steacy

Circle the Reservoir on foot (just make sure to do so counterclockwise). The running track that traces its rim is 1.58 miles; a bridle path just outside it is the tiniest bit longer.

Central Park Carousel. Photo: Will Steacy

Spin round and round on a century-old carousel. This one was made in 1908, installed at Coney Island until the 1940s and transplanted to Central Park in 1951. [Note: the carousel is closed for the moment; check its website or back here to stay up to date.]

Meet monarchs in the North Meadow Butterfly Gardens. Summer is a good time to see some before they begin their migration south for the winter.

Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater. Photo: Marley White

Watch a puppet show at the Swedish Marionette Theatre. [Note: the theater is closed for the moment; check its website or back here to stay up to date.]

Tennis Center. Courtesy, Central Park Conservancy

Play on clay at the Tennis Center, and pretend that the French Open has relocated to Manhattan.

View of San Remo apartments from Cherry Hill. Photo: Molly Flores

Picnic on the gentle slopes of Cherry Hill. Gaze across the calm lake to the towers of the San Remo apartments from your perch.

Roller dance the weekend away with the Central Park Dance Skaters Association. DJs provide the soundtrack; you just need to show up Saturday or Sunday afternoon to the Skate Circle north of Sheep’s Meadow, strap on skates and let the good times roll.

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Huddlestone Arch. Photo: Grace Tyson

Huddle underneath a natural stone arch. There are around 40 bridges (and arches) in the park, most dating back to the early 1860s when the park was developed.

Swing, climb, crawl and slide your way through the park’s 21 playgrounds. The natural spaces of the Billy Johnson Playground, large climbing rocks in the Heckscher Playground and water features of the Toll Family Playground and recently refurbished Robert Bendheim Playground are perennial favorites.

Walk through a humid rainforest in the Central Park Zoo. You’ll be looking high and low for lemurs and ibises.

Reenact scenes from books, movies and television at Tavern on the Green restaurant—or a number of other park filming locations.

Bethesda Fountain. Photo: Christopher Postlewaite

Make a wish at Bethesda Fountain.


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