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The best things to see and do in Central Park

The best things to see and do in Central Park

In a city that’s chock-full of world-famous attractions, it’s hard to pick out those that are quintessentially New York. However, you can’t get more ‘New York’ than the city’s 843-acre landscaped park that’s featured in more films and sitcoms than you’d care to remember.

Home to a variety of famous landmarks and playing host to events and live performances throughout the year, Central Park is a hub of culture and natural beauty. In this impressively large space, it’s not surprising that there’s such a vast array of things to do.

Not sure where to start? Don’t worry, we’ve carefully selected 10 of the best things to see and do in Central Park for the classic New York holiday. 


Belvedere Castle

Translated from Italian meaning ‘beautiful view,’ this fantastical miniature castle provides exactly what the name suggests. It’s the perfect spot for visitors to survey the scene, as it’s built on the highest point and is a brilliant lookout position.

You’ll love the breathtaking panoramic views of the park, set against the backdrop of one of the most famous cityscapes in the world.


Alice in Wonderland

Central Park has been home to Alice and her friends since 1959. If you’re in the Big Apple with the family, then pay a visit to this magnificent bronze statue, which was dedicated to the children of New York City.

You won’t find any ‘keep off the sculpture’ signs here either – it’s become a favourite climbing space for children. In the years since American sculptor José de Creeft created it, thousands of children have come to play and hide. 


Strawberry Fields

Probably one of the most famous landmarks in Central Park, Strawberry Fields is dedicated to former Beatle and singer/songwriter, John Lennon. Named after the song, ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’, it was created by Yoko Ono and landscape architect, Bruce Kelly.

Dedicated on 9th October 1985, Strawberry Fields is one of the park’s designated Quiet Zones – ideal for watching the world go by. It’s endorsed by 121 countries as a Garden of Peace, making it the perfect place to escape the hubbub of Manhattan.

You’ll also find the beautiful black and white ‘Imagine’ mosaic here. Created by a craftsman in Naples, Italy, it was donated to the park as part of the memorial and has seen many a Beatles fan stop by to pay their respects over the years. 


Central Park Zoo

Animal lovers and families alike should definitely pay the Central Park Zoo a visit. If you’re on holiday with your little ones, then Tisch Children’s Zoo –next to the main zoo – gives kids the opportunity to pet some of the animals up close. The Enchanted Forest is located in the centre of the Children’s Zoo, home to one of Central Park’s two theatres.

The main zoo is home to a whopping 130 species, and you’ll easily spend several hours here watching the snow monkeys playing, and the sea lions performing during their feeding times – something that always proves popular with the millions of visitors.


Shakespeare Garden

There are numerous gardens named Shakespeare’s Garden throughout the US and Britain devoted to the playwright. However, the Bard’s yard in Central Park is by far the most famous, and for good reason!

Filled with a variety of beautiful flowers and plants – most of which have featured in Shakespeare’s works – it’s a stunning place for a romantic stroll. This four-acre garden will really test your literary knowledge, but there are plenty of plaques to help you along the way!

In the summer, the nearby Delacorte Theatre stages its annual Shakespeare in the Park event, where a series of the Bard’s plays are performed.


The Lake

This epic man-made 18-acre lake is truly stunning; no matter the time of year you visit. Throughout spring and summer, you can hire a boat and row across the water to take in the views. If you’d rather avoid upper body exercise while you’re on holiday, hire a gondola and relax in true Venetian style.

If you haven’t got your sea-legs (or indeed, man-made lake-legs) on, then a walk around the lake is just as beautiful. Alternatively, head to the Central Park Boathouse Restaurant and enjoy the spectacular views with a slap-up meal!


Wollman Rink

If you want that classic wintry experience of ice-skating in Manhattan (a New York tradition), then head to the Wollman Rink.

Open from late October to early April, this 33,000-square foot ice rink is set against the stunning backdrop of Manhattan’s cityscape, and is the ultimate romantic and magical experience. 


The Mall and Literary Walk

The iconic Literary Walk has featured in numerous Hollywood films and TV shows. Flanked either side with grand American Elms, this is known as ‘the only straight line in Central Park’. These trees create a dramatic green canopy overhead in spring and summer, and look truly stunning as the leaves turn in autumn.

This stretch of the park is roughly a quarter of a mile long, and is lined with statues of famous authors and poets – hence the name. It’s considered one of the most photographed areas of the park, so have your camera ready!



The vintage carousel is the fourth of its kind in Central Park. Open seven days a week (weather permitting), it remains one of the park’s most popular attractions, well-loved by little ones and big kids alike.

You don’t need the kids in tow to awaken your inner child: the cheery organ music and waft of fresh popcorn will fill you with a warm sense of nostalgia.


Bow Bridge

Another landmark that you’ll recognise from countless New York-based movies, Bow Bridge above the lake is one of the park’s most famous romantic spots. If you’re holidaying with your beau, then be sure to bring your selfie-stick and strike a pose on Bow Bridge.

This stunning cast-iron bridge is the second oldest in America, offering truly breath-taking views of Cherry Hill and the Ramble. It is a popular spot for photographers as well as loved-up couples looking to take in views and watch the peaceful waters below. 

With so much to see and do, Central Park is well worth the visit at any time of year. For that classic New York experience, be sure to plan out your visit before you go to make sure you catch all those iconic Manhattan hotspots.


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Tagged in:

  • Travel tips
  • USA
  • City and shopping breaks
  • New York
  • Off the beaten track
09 Jun 2016 | Virgin Holidays