Uncover Central Park’s Hidden Gems: 5 Must-Do Activities in New York City’s Iconic Park (2024)

Uncover Central Park’s Hidden Gems: 5 Must-Do Activities in New York City’s Iconic Park (1)

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You can spend multiple days exploring this legendary park in New York City, New York, and still find plenty of surprises.

There’s so much to discover in Central Park, a New York City icon and one of the most famous parks in the world. Each year, more than 42 million people explore this grand Manhattan oasis filled with attractions, culinary delights and green spaces. The park has had a massive impact on culture, popping up in artwork, books, music, video games and fan-favorite TV shows and movies. No trip to New York City is complete without some time spent in Central Park.

1. Take a Tour

To see the lesser-known treasures of the park, reserve your spot on a tour or two. Various vendors, from knowledgeable locals to professional tour guides, can take you by foot, bike, E-scooter, horse-drawn carriage or pedicab to all corners of the park. Tours cover an array of topics, from the park’s natural wonders and can’t-miss foodie spots to significant historical sites and locations seen in popular movies and television shows. Tours are offered in a number of languages. There are also accessible tour offerings for travelers of all abilities. If you prefer to explore at your own pace, self-guided tours are also available through numerous apps.

Aerial view of Central Park in the heart of Manhattan

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2. Have a Meal

There’s a variety of food and beverage options throughout the park, from food carts to sit-down restaurants. Dine alfresco at Le Pain Quotidien, sample elevated American cuisine at Tavern on the Green, or enjoy dockside dining at the Central Park Boathouse, notably a location featured in “Sex and the City” and “When Harry Met Sally.” The park is also the perfect place for a picnic. Take advantage of the wide range of award-winning eats found throughout the city, and find a spot to dine in open fields, wooded areas or ornate plazas. Some favorite picnic spots include the Great Lawn, Belvedere Castle and overlooking Bow Bridge.

Bow Bridge, a favorite view for picnickers in Central Park

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3. Get Active

Why not get some exercise while taking in the impressive views and electric feel of the city that never sleeps? There are more than 93 kilometers of paths throughout Central Park. Take a lap on the Shuman Running Track along the Onassis Reservoir, made famous as the location for numerous TV shows and movies including “Marathon Man” and “Ghostbusters II.” If exploring on two wheels is more your pace, multiple vendors provide bike rentals at hourly or daily rates. During the warmer months, open-air yoga classes are offered at numerous locations throughout the park. Wollman Rink is a can’t-miss ice skating rink during winter, as seen in romantic films “Love Story” and “Serendipity.” In the summer, the rink transforms into 14 pickleball courts.

Wollman Rink filled with ice skaters during winter

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Julienne Schaer

4. Explore with Family

Find kid-friendly experiences that will foster forever family memories. The Charles A. Dana Discovery Center, a community center and educational hub, hosts environmental programs and workshops, and provides free fishing pole rentals, as well as family-friendly lawn games likes bocce ball, horseshoes, cornhole and ring toss. The Central Park Zoo, depicted in the animated film “Madagascar” and showcased in “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” houses more than 130 different species. It features a Children’s Zoo, hands-on classes and a 4-D theater. The park is also home to over 20 playgrounds with activities for all ages and accessible features.

A seal in its habitat at the Central Park Zoo

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5. Enjoy Nature

Consisting of 340 hectares and extending for 4 kilometers from 59th to 110th streets, Central Park has plenty of space where you can find a little peace and quiet in nature. Hundreds of bird species, from owls and hummingbirds to eagles and egrets, call the park home at various times throughout the year. Check with the Early Birders Group or New York Companion Bird Club for guided, group birdwatching tours. Test your patience while trying to hook pickerel, bass, carp and bluegill at approved spots for catch-and-release fishing like Central Park Lake, Harlem Meer and Central Park Pond. Approximately 18,000 trees grow in Central Park, too. Wander paths through the Hallett Nature Sanctuary, and stroll the grounds of the Conservatory Garden where colorful cherry blossoms bloom each spring.

Cherry blossoms in Central Park’s Conservatory Garden

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Getting There

Fly into John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in Queens, New York, or Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) in New Jersey. Once you’re settled into the city, New York’s public subway system and buses are the most convenient ways to navigate the city. Take the A, B, C, D, 1, 2 and 3 trains for direct stops along Central Park.

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