Spending a day in Central Park on your next trip to New York City is highly encouraged. I mean common, what’s not to love? There are some fantastic restaurants, miles and miles of pristine greenery and activities to keep you busy all day long. Last summer when Ben and I traveled to New York City for a long weekend we spent a day in Central Park and it was probably the best day of our trip. We were far enough away from crowds, the sun was shining and there were some pretty interesting people we could sit and watch.
I would recommend before you spend a day in Central Park, that you do your research. While the park is very large and there are lots of things to do, it can get a bit overwhelming and I can imagine you can get pretty lost inside if you don’t have any idea where you’re going.
You should also look ahead at the weather. If you find that it’s not going to be a nice day, skip the park and save it for a nicer one. I couldn’t imagine anything worse than getting to the park and having it be a rainy or really crappy day! The best resource we were able to find to help us plan our day in Central Park was the interactive map on the official website. I would highly encourage you to use it as a resource.
We started our day coming from the South side of New York City as we were staying at the Library Hotel. For the sake of this itinerary and your knowledge we entered Central Park at the corner of 5th Avenue and West 59th street. Here is how we spent our day in Central Park:
The little oasis seems so out of place as you enter into it from the bustle of the city. It’s one of 7 natural water bodies in Central Park and the perfect spot to start your tour. It wasn’t too busy of a day when we were there which was ideal because you could really feel the quietness around you. Climb up the cluster of rocks nearby for the perfect lookout onto the pond, the infamous bridge and the cityscape beyond. Here you’ll also find the Hallett Nature Sanctuary which surrounds the pond, in total it’s 4-acres.
Central Park Zoo
As you climb down from above the rocks and continue your walk you won’t have to go far before you pass the Central Park zoo. You will have to pay extra to step inside the grounds, and while we didn’t do this on our day in Central Park I have heard it’s well worth it. The zoo was built in 1984 and is home to some pretty spectacular tropical and exotic animals.
Continue along and you’ll come to probably the most photographed section of Central Park, the Mall. This long strip is probably most beautiful in the fall with the changing leaves but it also makes a great place for photos in the summer months. You’ll find plenty of vendors along here selling souvenirs and trinkets to take home. You’ll also find a number of sculptures here like; Christopher Columbus, Indian Hunter, William Shakespeare and Robert Burns.
As you walk along The Mall, you’ll pass the Sheep Meadow. This is the largest space in Central Park without any ball fields. Originally the field was used to house, you guessed it, sheep from 1864 until 1934. The now, Tavern on the Green building is the home of the shepherd at the time. If you have some time while touring around you should definitely bring your lunch and have a picnic in the field, it has some great views of the city landscape.
As you near the end of The Mall you’ll find the beautiful bandshell, Naumburg. Still used today for outdoor concerts, make sure to do some research before your trip to see if there will be anything good playing while you’re there. You’ll also find some other statues like Mother Goose in this area.
Another infamous spot in Central Park is the Bathesda Terrace. The arched staircase you walk through to get to the fountain makes for a beautiful photo. If you’re lucky enough to have a musician practicing below the staircase you’ll be in for a treat as well, the acoustics are amazing.
From there it’s a short walk to Strawberry Fields. Don’t be fooled by the name, it’s not a field nor is it filled with strawberries. This spot is actually a monument and living memorial of the world-famous singer, songwriter and member of The Beatles, John Lennon. You’ll likely see many flower bouquets and tokens of appreciation gathered around the memorial.
Model Boat Sailing
You’ll have to do a bit of back tracking to get to this point but I promise it’s worth it. Located directly on the other side of Central Park from Strawberry fields you’ll find the Model Boat Sailing pond. This picture-perfect spot is a great place to grab lunch or a coffee and watch the world go by. Kids and adults alike take part in the sailing past-time, which you can rent nearby if you so wish.
As you make your way North through Central Park, pass through the Azalea Pond on your way to Belvedere Castle. Created in 1869, this ‘miniature’ castle was intended as a whimsical building that looked out onto the reservoir and the Ramble. You absolutely must take a walk to Turtle Pond. There were so many turtles and they are adorable! While we didn’t get the chance, you can also wander through Shakespeare Garden.
Our last stop before the end of the day was the Great Lawn. We visited in the middle of the day during the week so there weren’t any baseball games happening but I can only imagine how cool of a spot this would have been to sit and people watch. Walk over to the Reservoir for a glimpse at the best running track ever!
Have you spent a day in Central Park? What sights would you recommend visiting?