My personal Central Park map: A complete guide to one of New York City’s most beloved sights
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In the middle of the concrete jungle of New York City lies Central Park, a beautiful green lung loved by both tourists and locals. No trip to NYC is complete without a visit to this lovely park, there is simply too much to see and do. The only downside to this is that Central Park can seem overwhelming, especially for first timers. After all, the park is enormous.
Within its impressive 843 acres you’ll find nothing less than two museums, a zoo, an amusement park, numerous baseball fields and volleyball courts, a pool, a high number of sculptures and architectural gems, more than 20 playgrounds, a castle, several restaurants and two skating rinks in winter. Sounds like a lot, right? Well don’t you worry. I’ll tell you everything you need to know before visiting, even sharing my very own Central Park map.
Table Of Contents
- Things To Know Before Visiting Central Park
- How To Get Around Central Park
- My Central Park Map | Places You Cannot Miss
- Free Printable Guide: Self-Guided Walking Tour
- Fun Things To Do In Central Park
Things To Know Before Visiting Central Park
Central Park is huge. 843 acres to be exact. In other words, this is not the type of park where you’re able to see absolutely everything in 30 minutes. Heck, I’ve been there more times than I can count and I still have unfinished business in Central Park. If your time is limited you need to prioritize what you want to see and do the most.
Wear comfortable shoes. Doing a walking tour of Central Park will take a toll on your feet and legs at some point, so make sure your shoes are comfortable. This is not the park for fancy heels, guys (unless you bring a pair in your purse for photos, that is).
Bringing cash is a good idea. Street vendors and food trucks usually only take cash.
Bringing water is also smart, especially during the warmer months. I’m a big fan of reusable bottles in the city, as the tap water is safe and tasty, but make sure it’s filled prior to your Central Park adventure. I mean, I’ve seen people let their dogs lick all over the water fountain spout in Central Park one too many times..
Respect the wildlife. Please don’t bother the birds, squirrels, turtles and other cuties in Central Park. Its their home.
Central Park Parking. If you’re driving into New York City to experience the park you have some great options depending on where you want to begin your adventure.
How To Get Around In Central Park
Walking is without a doubt the best way to see and experience the best Central Park has to offer. Even though the park is huge and the distances are big, there is just nothing like strolling around the park and exploring all of the tiny trails among the trees and leaves. Pure magic!
Renting a bike is a great way to get around Central Park, especially if you want to see more of the park in a shorter amount of time. I recommend booking in advance with Central Park Bike Rental. It’s a serious company with high-quality equipment; nothing like some of the sketchy bikes you’ll see for rent in the park. They have several types of bikes for rent, including tandem. Central Park bike rental includes a helmet, chain-lock, basket and a map of NYC. Baby seats and trailers are also available, which is perfect for families. Free cancellation up to 24 hours before your booking.
Central Park Carriage Rides. I know, I know, Carrie & Big make it look super romantic in Sex And The City. But if you really think about, how likely do you find it that the horses who are used in Central Park carriage rides are treated well? If you care even a little bit about animals, please avoid doing Central Park carriage rides. Don’t believe me? Hang out at Central Park South & 5th Avenue a few days in a row in mid-July and I can almost guarantee you’ll change your mind.
Other options. Walking and biking not your cup of tea? No worries, there are plenty of other ways of getting around in Central Park. How about renting an electric bike instead of a regular one? You can also do a guided Pedicab tour of the park or even rent roller blades if you’re the active type.
My Central Park Map | Places You Cannot Miss
Even though I’ve been to Central Park more than 30 times over the last 13 years, I still discover something new each time I visit.. But I have also found myself a few favorite spots that I keep going back to! I have included them all in my Central Park map & guide for you here:
CLICK HERE TO SEE FULL MAP
1. Grand Army Plaza & The Plaza Hotel
At the corner of East 59th Street & 5th Avenue lies Grand Army Plaza, the most decadent of all the Central Park entries. It is also the best place to start your Central Park adventure! Across the street from the beautiful bronze William Tecumseh Sherman Monument this spot is famous for, you’ll see another New York City icon: The Plaza Hotel. I’m sure you recognize it from movies and tv shows like Home Alone II, The Way We Were, Sex And The City and Gossip Girl.
2. The Pond & Gapstow Bridge
The Pond is nothing else than, well, a pond. But despite it’s extremely unoriginal name it is actually a very lovely spot in the park. It’s where concrete jungle meets quiet (ish) nature, and while crossing the famous Gapstow Bridge you get one of the greatest views of the New York City skyline. I’m sure you recognize this spot from Home Alone II and Gossip Girl as well. A must in Central Park!
3. Wollman Rink / Victorian Gardens
A skating rink in fall and winter, amusement park in the summer – Wollman Rink in Central Park has figured out the perfect combo. Now’s the time to test those skating skills! Even if you don’t skate, Wollman rink is worth a visit as it’s got it’s own vibe that you can’t help but catch. The rink is popular amongst both tourists and newyorkers so beware of crowds.
4. The Mall
Follow a random path north from the rink and you’ll somehow end up strolling The Mall. It’s a beautiful walkway leading to Bethesda Terrace. This place is gorgeous in all seasons, but my favorite is fall when the orange leaves are spread all over the walkway. The Mall is a natural gathering place and along the path you’ll see loads of active locals doing their morning run, parents and nannies walking with strollers, talented street performers and people selling art and souvenirs.
5. Bethesda Terrace & Fountain
The Mall leads you straight to Bethesda Terrace & Bethesda Fountain, my absolute favorite spot in Central Park. I can almost guarantee that you recognize this place from movies and tv shows! There is just something very special about it all. The architecture of the terrace, the view of the Central Park Lake, the people.. Simply an amazing place I hope you’ll enjoy as much as I do.
On sunny days it’s usually packed with people, so I’m actually more fond of visiting this place on grey and colder days. Inside the lower terrace there is an amazing acoustic which makes it popular amongst talented street performers, so before you know it you’ve found yourself a new favorite singer.
6. Bow Bridge
If you follow one of the paths to your left once you leave the Bethesda Fountain, you’ll soon reach the iconic Bow Bridge. This spot has got the perfect backdrop for your Central Park photos and is known for being very romantic. Last time I visited this bridge in the winter season, there was a man playing «Moon River» on his violin, which was so beautiful that it made me forget I was freezing my butt of. I mean THAT’S talent.
7. My Favorite Picnic Spot
The lawn on the south west side of Bow Bridge, right below Cherry Hill, is my favorite picnic spot in Central Park. It is also perfect for photoshoots or just relaxing with a good book.
8. The Loeb Boathouse
Take a right turn once you cross the Bow Bridge and you’re on your way to The Loeb Boathouse. This restaurant is my favorite place to eat in Central Park in addition to random food trucks (my guilty pleasure thankyouverymuch), and it is the perfect place for lunch or dinner on the weekdays or a delicious weekend brunch. This place holds a special place in my heart and is def worthy of a visit. I recommend getting reservations. This is also where you can rent a boat to see Central Park from the lake, another must in Central Park.
9. The Ramble
The Ramble is a fascinating and beautiful web of paths you can get lost in (on purpose). Don’t forget to say hi to a few squirrels on your way!
10. Belvedere Castle & Turtle Pond
Pick a path from The Boathouse and head north, say hi to a few squirrels on your way and suddenly you’ll arrive at Belvedere Castle. This is a place I keep bringing firsttimers, as it has the most beautiful view, and it never disappoints. I took my cousin there last summer and I was SO sad once I discovered it was closed due to renovations. It still is, but make sure you pay it a visit once it opens. North of the castle you’ll find Delacorte Theater and Turtle Pond – a lovely pond where you can catch a glimpse of, you guessed it, turtles. SO cute.
11. Shakespeare Garden
Shakespeare Garden is a beautiful garden within Central Park worth walking through. It features flowers mentioned in William Shakespeare’s works, many of them accompanied with relevant quotes. I personally love it the most in spring and fall.
12. Hernshead & The Ladies Pavilion
Hernshead is a rock structure that resembles the shape of a heron. Its a quiet little spot by the like where I like to sit and enjoy the view while cute little turtles swim around next to me. It’s got an amazing backdrop of the city skyline as an added bonus. Next to Hernshead lies the Ladies Pavilion, a restored pavilion by the lake that is so picturesque I’m surprised to see how few photos there was from is on Instagram, haha. I’ll try to get a photo from there on my next NYC trip.
13. Strawberry Fields & The Dakota
Definitely stumble upon Strawberry Fields, a beautiful teardrop shaped area dedicated to the late John Lennon of The Beatles. In the center of the area you’ll find the «Imagine» mosaic, a lovely memorial that fans often decorate with flowers. Here you’ll often hear people singing Beatles tunes and playing guitar which is a lovely and peaceful tribute. John Lennon was shot dead walking into his home in The Dakota Building on December 8th 1980. If you exit the park next to the memorial, you can see the beautiful building located on Central Park West.
14. Sheep’s Meadow
Sheep’s Meadow is a great lawn that is perfect for sunbathing and picnics. Please keep in mind that the sheep can be quite aggressive so make sure you seek medical attention if they bite. I’m totally lying, there aren’t any sheep around to worry about. In winter, or if you don’t want to prep and carry your own food, you could give Tavern on the Green a try if you’re hungry.
15. Umpire Rock
The instaworthy spot known as Umpire Rock is one of those places in the park I just happen to stumble upon each visit. I didn’t even know it had it’s own name until last year! (probably should have figured though, because of all the signs and all.. whoops). It is a perfect example of where the lush green colors of the park meets the grey skyscrapers, so make sure you pay it a visit.
16. Columbus Circle
At the south west corner of Central Park (West 59th St & 8th Avenue) is Columbus Circle. Its a great spot to end your Central Park adventure, as its easy to navigate to wherever you want to go next in the city. The circle itself is actually really pretty too.
Free Printable Guide: A Self Guided Walking Tour
Want to see the highlights of Central Park in one visit? You should check out this self-guided walking tour guide I made for you. This guide allows you to see many of the park’s highlights in one go, which is especially great for any Central Park virgins out there. It can be completed in 1-2 hours if you’re in a hurry, or you can spend hours on it, depending on how much time you spend on each location. I recommend the latter if you have time for it, I promise you won’t regret it.
As you can see on the map I’ve focused on the middle and southern parts of the park in this guide. Central Park has so much more to offer than I could possibly include in one guide or even one visit, which is why I’m focusing on my personal favorites in this guide. The free printable guide is only two pages long and includes a map and a detailed description of each sight – perfect to print & put in your pocket!
>>CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE FREE PRINTABLE GUIDE<<
Fun Things To Do In Central Park
There is more to do in Central Park than to just see the best highlights. If you have the time and energy for it there is a lot of fun things to do in Central Park. Here are some ideas:
1. Do A Guided Walking Tour
Guided walking tours are great for experiencing a location from a local’s perspective, and in Central Park you have a variety of options. If you want to see the highlights of the park you should check out this «best of Central Park» tour. If you’re more into discovering secret and off the beaten path locations you should check out this tour instead. Movie geeks like me will love this guided tour, while the runner in the group will like this running tour instead. Those of you who like a fun challenge might enjoy this Central Park scavenger hunt even more!
2. Have A Picnic
Central Park is the ideal place for a picnic in the warmer months. Sheep’s Meadow, the lawn next to Bow Bridge and the Turtle Pond are my favourite picnic locations in Central Park.
3. Admire The Sculptures
4. Check Out An Event
There are often events happening in Central Park, especially during the warmer months. Check out Central Park’s event calendar and see if there is something fun going on when you’re planning on visiting. Maybe you’ll catch a concert, a play or a scavenger hunt?
5. Get Active
Central Park is the perfect place to get active. Take advantage of the facilities this park has to offer! Try a new sport like lawn bowling or croquet, go for a swim at the free outdoor Lasker pool, or maybe go for a run along one of the most beautiful running tracks in the city. Or maybe playing tennis or volleyball is more your thing? You can also practice ballgames like handball, baseball, softball, soccer or basket ball at Heckscher Ballfields or North Meadow Recreational Centre. In winter you can test your ice skating skills at Wollman Rink or Lasker Rink.
6. Catch A Ride
7. Visit The Museums In The Park
Central Park is the home of two of New York City’ most visited museums. On the west side you’ll find my favourite, the American Museum of Natural History. I mean, dinosaurs and space stuff in one building? Count me in! It’s pure heaven for geeks like me and every time I’m in New York I have to pay it a visit. The first time I was there my friends and I got tickets for the Space Show in Hayden Planetarium and it BLEW. MY. MIND. If you’re even the slightest interested in learning about stars and space you should definitely see it, too.
The second museum in the park is the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Its located on the east side and is the home of some of the greatest art collections in the world. It is definitely worthy of a visit, even if you’re not that into art. You should at least let your inner Gossip Girl have a seat on the famous steps. A few blocks north you can visit another world class art museum, The Guggenheim. Although its not technically in the park, The Guggenheim is located just right across the street on 5th Avenue (between 89th & 88th st). I highly recommend booking tickets to all three museums in advance.
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I hope you found my Central Park map and guide helpful, and that you’ll have an incredible time there! Pin it for later if you’d like – I appreciate every share.
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