16 Amazing Things To Do In Central Park Worth The Money

The largest green space in Manhattan at 843 acres, Central Park is an iconic New York location you have to visit while you’re staying there!

Purely because there are so many things to see and do there.

16 Amazing Things To Do In Central Park Worth The Money

From stunning architecture, unique sculptures, and wide-open spaces to do a bunch of activities, Central Park is a tranquil and beautiful escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

In our article, you’ll find 16 amazing things to do and see in Central Park worth the money (see also “Amazing Things To Do In Lake George“). Let’s get into it! 

1. Bethesda Terrace And Fountain

The Bethesda Terrace is a beautiful piece of architecture in the heart of Central Park and gives you incredible views of the best parts of the park.

The open-air arcade has a grand staircase and is beloved for its gorgeously colorful ceiling made up of 16,000 patterned tiles.

Once you’re done marvelling at the beauty of the terrace, you can then head to the Bethesda Fountain, one of the biggest fountains in New York.

It’s an amazing spot for photos! The Angel of the Waters statue sits atop the fountain, and she is meant to represent health, peace, purity, and temperance.

There is an amazing atmosphere around the fountain, but we particularly love the atmosphere in the early morning once the sun is up and the park is populated with runners and dog walkers.

2. Shakespeare Garden

A haven of tranquillity and peace in Central Park, Shakespeare Garden – as the name would suggest – is inspired by the English countryside and contains hundreds of plants that were referenced in the work of The Bard. 

It’s a quiet section of the park and after spending a few minutes strolling the paths of the garden you may just forget you’re in the middle of one of the busiest cities in the world.

3. Belvedere Castle

Visiting Belvedere Castle is one of the most popular things to do in Central Park! Hundreds of visitors head to this mystical castle straight out of a fairytale where you can enjoy panoramic views of the park.

Belvedere is found on Vista Rock, with its name translating into ‘Beautiful View’ in Italian. It’s the perfect name for the castle, considering it provides breathtaking views of the verdant Central Park woodlands and the Great Lawn.

Before it became a visitor’s center, the castle was originally constructed as a lookout tower before it was promoted to weather station. If you’re in NY in October, head to the castle to take part in their Halloween Haunted House.

4. Alice In Wonderland Statue

New York is the city of dreams, and this Alice in Wonderland statue hidden away in the park symbolizes the craziest of dreams.

Alice, the Cheshire Cat, the Dormouse, the Mad Hatter and the March Hare are all here, and the statue is yet another whimsical aspect of Central Park. 

This is a great attraction for families, and many children climb on the statue to hang out with Alice and her buddies. 

5. Rowing A Boat On Central Park Lake

Central Park is home to a 100-boat fleet that you can rent from the Loeb Boathouse. When it’s a nice day in the city, it’s the perfect, laid back activity.

The lake gives you stunning views of the New York skyline, and there is plenty of lake to explore. 

If you would rather not row a boat yourself you can also hire Venetian Gondolas and get a guided tour.

6. Strawberry Fields And ‘Imagine’

In a tribute to John Lennon, you can find the Strawberry Fields memorial between 71st and 74th on Central Park West, where Lennon once lived with Yoko Ono in the Dakota Apartments across the way.

The archway of the Dakota Building was where John Lennon was murdered in 1980. The tribute is of course named after the iconic Beatles’ song ‘Strawberry Fields Forever,’ which was one of Lennon’s favorite songs. 

The iconic ‘Imagine’ mosaic can be found in the middle of Strawberry Fields, and the musicians who often gather to play Beatles’ songs make the memorial even more poignant. 

7. Hans Christian Anderson And Ugly Duckling

Another statue celebrating iconic children’s literature, this one celebrates the beloved fairy tale author Hans Christian Anderson, reading one of his most iconic tales – the Ugly Duckling – to the small duckling at his feet.

Like the Alice statue, children are allowed to sit by Anderson’s side. 

If you’re visiting the park in the summer then free storytelling sessions are held on Saturday mornings.

If you have a young family, definitely swing by to enjoy a reading of Hans Christian Anderson’s iconic stories like The Little Mermaid and The Princess And The Pea.

8. Central Park Carousel 

This gorgeous vintage carousel is an icon in Central Park that takes you back in time. Adults and children alike love the carousel and riding one of these vintage horses is guaranteed to lift your mood.

9. Bike Rental

Spanning 50 blocks and nearly 850 acres, Central Park is a massive place to explore and doing so on a bike helps you cover this ground and see the park from a new perspective. 

The Park Drive cycle loop has 5-mile, 6.1-mile, and 1.7-mile routes that allow you to see some of the most famous sights in Central Park such as Belvedere Castle, Loeb Boathouse, and Shakespeare Garden. 

We recommend reserving your bike from near the entrance to the park. The cycle route has a one-way system. However, cycling is prohibited on pathways and visitors on foot have the right of way. 

10. Go To A Concert

Central Park is home to concert venues such as the Great Lawn, the Naumburg Bandshell, and Rumsey Playfield, so it’s safe to say it’s no stranger to hosting concerns!

The New York Philharmonic played to around 800,000 people in 1986, one of the biggest crowds the park has ever seen. Stars like Diana Ross, Elton John, and Pavarotti have also performed at the park.

The SummerStage series of gigs is held in Rumsey Playfield during the summer and Good Morning America also record concerts during the summer on Friday mornings which you can watch live.

11. Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater

An icon in Central Park since 1877, the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre is a lovely Swedish Cottage that holds puppet shows in Central Park aimed at younger children. It’s an amazing place to see puppets bring fairy tales to life (see also “Amazing Places To Eat In St. George“)!

Tickets sell out fast, so if you plan to visit make sure you buy tickets online. 

12. The Mall At Central Park

The lush Central Park Mall is in the middle of the park from 66th street to 72nd street and is buzzing during the day with people watchers, skateboarders, street performers, and walkers.

The verdant pathway also contains statues of four famous authors. These are Fitz-Greene Halleck, Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and William Shakespeare.

The mall is great for photo opportunities, and features heavily on Instagram. 

13. Conservatory Garden

Once the home to a massive glass conservatory, the Conservatory Garden is 6 tranquil acres in Central Park. The garden is divided into English, French, and Italian-inspired gardens.

The English Garden that blooms all year round is particularly popular with visitors. 

Before you even get into the garden your breath will be taken away, as the entrance to the garden was the original entrance to the Vanderbilt Mansion and you access the garden via the old iron gate. 

14. The Dairy

First built in 1870, the Victorian Gothic style Dairy Building was built to give the children in the park fresh milk and snacks. This lovely Victorian cottage has been rebuilt and now acts as one of the five information centers in the park. 

15. The Great Lawn

The great lawn is a 55-acre communal space at Central Park and is the perfect place to enjoy a picnic. It’s also home to the annual Concerts in the Park event held by the New York Philharmonic.

What could be better than friends, a picnic and beautiful classical music?

The Great Lawn was once home to a massive reservoir until 1931, when it was drained and filled with the debris from the 8th Avenue Subway and Rockefeller Center. Part of the reservoir lives on today in the form of Turtle Pond. 

16. Beach Volleyball At Central Park

Lastly, another amazing thing to do in Central Park is to catch a game of Beach Volleyball on the sand volleyball courts close to Sheep Meadow. There is often a talented bunch of players on the court playing a riveting game!

If you would like to play rather than watch, courts are available on a first come first-serve basis and you will need to bring your own ball. 

Final Thoughts

We hope you enjoyed our round-up of 16 amazing things to do in Central Park worth the money (see also “Amazing Things To Do In Saratoga Springs“)!

But the truth is, there is so much you can do in Central Park for free and that’s what makes it such an important, beloved tourist attraction in NYC. If you’re in Manhattan, you can’t skip a visit to this iconic park!

Julia Wright
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