Central Park, New York – Complete guide for first-time traveler

Acres of captivating green stretches in the heart of the concrete jungle, makes Central park, one of the most loved places in New York City. Central Park is a world in itself, waiting to be discovered. Visit this amazing place during any time of the year and it will enchant you.

Central Park tuned out to be our favorite spot in New York. Although by the end of the day we were tired of walking, we had a memorable time( including my 4-year-old son).  Know more about the best places to visit in New York city by clicking the link. Best Attractions in New York for the first time travelers

Children's play area, Central Park
Central Park, New York

A Complete Guide to Central Park, New York for the first time traveler

Given the enormous size and multiple attractions, a visit to Central park can be overwhelming for first-time visitors. This blog will provide you a complete guide to explore Central Park New York with Family and help you to make the most of your time.

The fountain central park, New york
Bethesda Terrace and Fountain, Central Park, New York

Central Park New York, Location

Located between the Upper Eastside and Upper Westside in Manhattan, New York, Central Park is the most visited and one of the most filmed locations in the world. Designated as National Historic Landmark, the history of this park dates back to 1853. Central Park is the 5th largest park in New York City,  spread over an area of  843 Acres.

How much time do you need to explore Central Park?

Since Central Park is packed with several attractions, you need a whole day ( morning to evening) to explore the park. However, if you are on a time crunch, I would suggest at least 3-4 hours (start early morning till noon) to glance through some of the best places that Central park has to offer ( excluding visit to Metropolitan Museum).

Central park timings

Park remains open on all days from 6 a.m. till 1.00 a.m.

Central Park Entrance tickets

Park is open to all, free of cost.However, you need to purchase entry tickets for attractions like the Zoo, Boating, Museum, etc.

Where to enter Central Park from?

It’s very confusing for the first time traveler as to which side of the gate you should enter the park from?

Central Part is divided into 4 quadrants from south to north. Most of the attractions that are suitable for the family and kids are located in the Southern end of the park. Enter the park preferably from the South end, to cover most of the attractions ( before kids get tired and cranky of walking around).

Best way to Explore Central Park?

Pick up a map of Central Park from Visitor Center and then plan out a walking route. You can also download the map and keep it handy on your mobile phone. Choose the attractions based on the time available. Here are the ways to explore the park.

On foot

Nothing can beat the pleasure of walking around and exploring the park. However sometimes times it becomes a challenging task, especially when you are traveling with kids. In that case, other options can be clubbed to get respite in between.

Bicycling and roller skating

Park Drives is the best place to bicycle or enjoy roller skating. Skaters can use any of the paved trails inside the park, however, the use of bicycles is prohibited on all pedestrian pathways. You can rent Bicycle from the parking lot of the Loeb Boathouse, Tavern on the Green and at Columbus Circle.

Horse-Drawn Carriage Rides

Available round the year, a horse-drawn carriage ride is one of the most popular ways to see Central Park. Although I am against the idea of using animals in any activity and do not promote it.

Pedicab Tours

2 seater, Pedicabs or bicycle rickshaws are considered eco-friendly transport and a fun activity. While tours vary from company to company, usually they last for one to two hours. All tours include visiting some of the park’s famous attractions in their itinerary.

Best places to visit in Central Park with Family

Here are some of the popular and worth visiting places in each section of the Central Park

South End

  • Central Park Zoo

This zoo is fairly small and houses few animals and birds including sea lion, penguins, grizzly bear, Snow leopard, Monkeys, snakes, etc. If your travel plan includes visiting any other Zoo in the USA, you can skip this one, as there is not much to explore here. If you have young kids they might enjoy watching sea lions etc.

Central Park Zoo, New york
Sea Lion at Central Park Zoo, New York
  • The Pond and Gapstow Bridge

Pond is located in the Southern part of the park and has a beautiful bridge arching over it. The Gapstow Bridge offers a magnificent view of New York skyscrapers. It’s a classic spot for clicking Instagram worthy pictures.

The Pond & Gapstow Bridge
The Pond and Gapstow Bridge
  • The Dairy

This Victorian-style cottage was a functioning dairy when the park opened. Located in the Children’s district, The dairy is now a visitors center.

  • The Carousel

This beautiful carousel is one of the major attractions in the park for kids. Constructed in 1908, the carousel is considered to be one finest examples of American folk art. It has 57 horses and plays beautiful calliope music.

  • Sheep Meadow

Originally a place for sheep grazing, the Meadows is a spacious green lawn meant to enjoy the sun and surroundings. You can observe many locals and tourists basking into the sun at the sheep Meadows, especially during the weekends. The famous Tavern on Green restaurant at the Meadow was constructed as Sheepfold in 1870

  • The Mall and Literary Walk

Contrary to the name, The mall is a walkway lined on both sides of American Elm trees. The mall is one of the most lively parts of the park and you can find vendors selling souvenirs, paintings, etc on both sides of the trail. Along the pathway is the literary walk which is a collection of statues of famous writers.We also enjoyed listening to music and other fun activities performed by many artists.

The Mall, Central park
The Mall & Literary Walk, Central Park
  • Bethesda Terrace and Fountain

Bethesda fountain along with its “angel of the water” is an iconic spot. The terrace and fountain area overlooks the Pond and forms a perfect meeting point. We sat by the fountain for some time and enjoyed the live music played by some street artists.

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Angel of the Waters, Central Park , New York
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The Bethesda Terrace, Central Park
  • Strawberry Fields

Named in 1981 in the memory of John Lennon, the former Beatle member who was murdered close by his house. The area includes the Memorial mosaic flooring which mentions “imagine” referring to the title of one of Lennon’s evocative songs.

Great Lawn

The Great Lawn area runs from the Lake to the 86th St Transverse Rd. At the center of Central Park, the Great Lawn is a large clearing with lawns and ballfields, perfect for ballgames, sunbathing, and picnicking.

  • Belvedere Castle

Belvedere Castle is one of the highest vista in the park and provides an exquisite view of Central Park. Built-in 1869 and renovated in 1983, the castle looks magnificent and is a popular photography spot. Castle has a visitor center and a nature conservatory.

  • The Lake & Loeb Boathouse

Beautifully landscaped, the lake is a perfect spot to spend a pleasant afternoon. You can also enjoy the boat rides during summer, by hiring a boat from Loeb Boathouse. Boats are usually available from 10 a.m. till evening. The boathouse provides life jackets.

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The Lake and Loeb boathouse, Central Park
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The lake, Central Park, New York
  • Bow Bridge

One of the most beautiful and romantic spots in the park. The Bow bridge is the most photographed and filmed location in Central Park. From Bow bridge, you can enjoy a beautiful view of the pond and Loeb Boathouse. This ancient bridge was completed in 1862.

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The Bow Bridge, Central Park 
  • The Ramble

Built to resemble the wild forest, the ramble provides an escape from busy city life. This artificial forest is sculpted out of a hillside covered with woods, narrow paths, and streams. 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

One of the most popular museums in the city for art and world culture, the Metropolitan Museum has a collection of over 2 million items. The museum was opened in 1874 and was designed by Calvert Vaux and Jacob Wrey. Its collection includes thousands of art pieces from across human history and around the world, covering virtually every field of art in existence.

North End

  • Conservatory Garden

A 6-acre garden which is the only formal garden in Central Park. It represents Italian, French, and English landscape, with formal plantings and numerous sculptures.

  • Harlem Meer

This 11-acre lake is one of Central Park’s finest spots; surrounded by flowering trees and inhabited by several fish and turtle species.

  • The Pool

Tranquil Water body with its grassy banks and nearby waterfalls located in the northeast area of the park.

Where to eat?

You can enjoy a variety of delicacies right from popular street food to exotic dishes at Central Park

Pushcarts

One can find several pushcart vendors all over the park selling hot dogs, pretzels, churros, etc, along with ice-creams, popcorns, and other snacks.

Cafes

  • Kerbs Boathouse Cafe:  offers light snacks, you can also use their washroom
  • Dancing Crane Café: Located inside the Central Park Zoo, this café offers snacks along with fresh and healthy meals.
  • Ballplayers House:  If you visit Central park from any time between March to November, you can enjoy snacks like sandwiches, etc here.
  • Maoz Vegetarian: This café is for those who enjoy Vegetarians and Mediterranean street food.

Restaurants

  • Tavern On the Green:  Located in the Sheep Meadow this is one of the popular and iconic restaurants opened in 1934. Restaurant serves rustic menu shaped by local and seasonal ingredients.
  • The Lakeside Restaurant: serves lunch and weekend brunch year-round, and dinner in the spring, summer, and fall.
  • The Express Café Park: kiosk with shaded al fresco tables serving burgers, salads, soups & more from 8 am until 5 pm.
  • Le Pain Quotidien: European café the Offers organic, healthy meals and treats

 

 

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Central Park, New York

Central Park is a place where you can spend quality time with your family. Have you visited Central Park? Which are your favorite spots in the park. Do share in the comment box!

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20 thoughts on “Central Park, New York – Complete guide for first-time traveler

  1. Great post and fantastic photos! Central Park really looks amazing and I would love to explore in autumn when the leaves change the colours or in winter with freshly fallen snow on display. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 😀 Aiva

  2. Central Park of NY is so popular that I recognized it from many tv series. But deep down in my heart, I always wanted to visit NY someday. So reading your post have made that desire more strong.

  3. What a great breakdown of all what you need to know about Central Park. When I went for my first time, I went in kind of blindly without knowing much, and this would have been really helpful!

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