Central Park was the first landscaped public park in the United States. In 1853 the state legislature authorized the City of New York to use the power of eminent domain to acquire more than 700 acres of land in the center of Manhattan.
An irregular terrain of swamps and bluffs, punctuated by rocky outcroppings, made the land between Fifth and Eighth Avenues and 59th and 106th Streets undesirable for private development. The extension of the boundaries to 110th Street in 1863 brought the park to its current 843 acres.
In 1857, the Central Park Commission held the country’s first landscape design contest and selected the “Greensward Plan,” submitted by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. The designers sought to create a pastoral landscape in the English romantic tradition. Open rolling meadows contrasted with the picturesque effects of the Ramble and the more formal dress grounds of the Mall (Promenade) and Bethesda Terrace.
The Park’s 843 acres include: 150 acres of water, 250 acres of lawns, and 136 acres of woodlands. There are 26,000 trees, 270 species of migratory birds, 8,968 benches, 36 bridges and arches, and 21 playgrounds in the Park.
Today, Central Park has more visitors in a year than the combined attendance of Yankee Stadium, Shea Stadium, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Bronx Zoo.
Free to all public areas. Charges apply at restaurants, zoo, children’s zoo, Wollman Ice Skating Rink, carousel, tennis courts, renting rowboats, skates, bicycles, and for gondola rides, carriage rides, at the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre, and Victorian Gardens Amusement Park.
59th St to 110th St between Fifth Ave & Central Park West (Eighth Ave).
Telephone: Visitor Information Center, (212) 794-6564
Bus: M1, M2, M3, M4, M5, M6, M7, M10, M18, M104, Crosstown buses M68, M72, M79, M86 and M96.
Subway: (Click a subway icon below for more attractions along selected line)
Wildlife Center and Children’s Zoo
Today, this zoo attracts nearly 1 million visitors a year. Its full history stretches back to the last century. The evolution of this city landmark launched the modern trend in urban zoos around the nation: the transformation of cages and menagerie-style zoos into natural habitat exhibits that educate, involve, and connect people to our natural world. The Tropic Zone recreates a rain forest. The Polar Circle features animals from both the Arctic and Antarctic. The Temperate Territory contains outdoor habitats for Asian and North American animals.
Location: East Side between 63rd and 66th Streets
Hours:: April-Oct. Monday – Friday 10 am – 5 pm, Weekends 10 am – 5:30 pm; Nov.-March Daily 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Admission to Wildlife Center includes admission to Children’s Zoo: Adults $6.00; Seniors $1.25; Children 3-12 $1.00; Children under 3, Free.
Telephone: (212) 439-6500
The Dairy serves as a general visitor center with information on the history and design of Central Park, as well as current Park events and programs. In addition, The Dairy serves as the official Central Park gift store with maps, guides, history books, and a line of mugs, key chains, T-shirts, and caps especially designed for the Central Park Conservancy.
Location: Mid-Park at 65th Street
Hours: 10am-5pm Tuesday through Sunday
Telephone: (212) 794-6564
Belvedere Castle is perched on Vista Rock, the second highest natural elevation in the Park. You can look down into the Delacorte Theater, home to summertime Public Theater productions of Shakespeare-in-the-Park. Straight ahead is the 55-acre Great Lawn, offering softball fields, basketball courts, and plenty of room for sunbathers. Below the castle is Turtle Pond. Belvedere Castle has been the site of the U.S. Weather Bureau since 1919.
Location: Mid-Park at 79th Street
Telephone: (212) 772-0210
Hours: 10am-5pm, Tuesday- Sunday
The Carousel in Central Park is one of the largest in the United States, with 58 hand-carved, painted horses. It delights almost 250,000 riders a year, This Classic Childhood Memory is further enhanced by the calliope which provides the traditional soundtrack.
Location: Mid-Park at 64th Street
Telephone: Information: 212-879-0244
Hours: Open daily April–November, 10:00am-6:00 pm, weather permitting Open weekends November-April 10:00am-4:30 pm, weather permitting
Named after the song “Strawberry Fields Forever” in honor of John Lennon (1940-1980), the musician and member of the internationally famous Beatles. His widow, Yoko Ono, donated $1 million to the Central Park Conservancy to re-landscape and maintain the 2.5-acre tear-drop-shaped parcel of the park. There have been attempts to grow strawberries here but they’ve been largely unsuccessful thanks to birds. However, the garden is planted with 161 plant varieties, one for each nation of the world recognized by the United Nations.
The black-and-white mosaic is a reproduction of a mosaic from Pompeii; fashioned by Italian craftsmen and was a gift from Naples, Italy. Its single word IMAGINE, the title of a popular Lennon song is the only specific tribute to Lennon.
Location: West Side between 71st and 74th Streets
The six-acre Conservatory Garden is Central Park’s only formal garden. It takes its name from the huge glass conservatory that once stood on this same spot, built in 1898. In 1934, when maintenance of the facility had become too costly, the conservatory was demolished and replaced with the present Garden, which opened to the public in 1937. The Conservatory Garden is, in fact, three gardens representing different landscape styles: Italian, French, and English.
To enter the six-acre Garden from Fifth Avenue and 105th Street, you must pass through the Vanderbilt Gate, which originally stood before the Vanderbilt Mansion at Fifth Avenue and 58th Street, the site of today’s Bergdorf Goodman store. Wheelchair access at 106th St. gate inside Park
Location: East Side from 104th-106th Streets; Enter at Fifth Avenue & 105th Street, or 106th St. gate inside Park.
Hours: 8am to dusk
The Delacorte Theater is the summer home of Shakespere-in-the-Park. Free tickets are distributed at 1pm on the day of the performance. The line starts forming around 10 am. The Public Theater also distributes tickets from 1-3pm from its Astor Place home at 425 Lafayette Street.
Location: Mid-Park at 80th Street
The Wollman Rink was a success from the day it opened in 1950. Over 300,000 skaters glided across the ice in its first year of operation. Today over 4,000 use the Rink daily. Ice Skating November through March. Skate Rental, Lockers, and Lessons available. For information on hours and admission fees call 212-439-6900.
Location: East Side between 62nd and 63rd Streets
Victorian Gardens Amusement Park (May 19 to September 12)
Wollman Skating Rink is transformed into a family amusement park featuring rides, games, classic concessions, and entertainment for the entire family to enjoy. Open weekdays 11:00 am – 7:00 pm and weekends 10:00 am – 8:00 pm. Pay one price and ride all day! Available for birthday parties, corporate and family outings, fundraisers, and special events. Phone: 212- 982-2229
East Side between 62nd and 63rd Streets
Central Park Lake and the Loeb Boathouse
One of the park’s original 19th Century offering that is still available today. Rowboats can be rented at the Loeb Boathouse daily, (April through October, weather permitting) 10:00 am to 5:30 pm (last rental). The boats must be returned by 6:30 pm. Rentals cost around $10 for the first hour, and $2.50 each additional 15 minutes; $30 cash deposit required (Prices subject to change). Up to five people per boat. No reservations. Gondola rides on the lake also available.
Location: Mid-Park from 71st to 78th Streets
On the lower Terrace is one of the most photographed fountains in the world, “Angel of the Waters.” Bethesda Fountain, as it is often called, was the only sculpture commissioned as part of the original design of the Park. The sculpture, dedicated in 1873, is a neoclassical winged female figure who symbolically blesses the water of the fountain.
Location: Mid-Park at 72nd Street
Bow Bridge, completed in 1862, has been the romantic setting for wedding proposals, classic film shoots, and the choice of many photographers who want to capture one of the signature design features of Central Park.
Location:Mid-Park at 74th St., west of Bethesda Terrace connecting Cherry Hill and the Ramble.
Alice in Wonderland
Sculptor José de Creeft, closely followed the whimsical Victorian illustrations from the first edition of Lewis Carroll’s 1865 classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The sculpture attracts children to climb its many levels, and to explore the soothing textures of its surfaces. The bronze’s glowing patina, polished by thousands of tiny hands, testifies to the popularity of this Central Park landmark.
Location: East 74th Street, north of Conservatory Water
Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875) is best known throughout the world for his tales for children including “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” “The Little Mermaid” and “The Ugly Duckling.”
Location: West of Conservatory Water, 74th Street near Fifth Avenue
Obelisk aka – Cleopatra’s Needle Monument
The oldest man-made object in Central Park is the Obelisk, located directly behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Nicknamed “Cleopatra’s Needle,” the dedication of the obelisk, in fact, has nothing to do with Cleopatra but was a tribute to Egypt’s Thutmosis III. The obelisk was erected in Heliopolis around 1500 BC, moved to Alexandria, and from there to the United States in 1879.
Location: East Side at 81st Street
In 1925, a life-or-death race to rescue the children of Nome, Alaska, from a potentially deadly diphtheria epidemi made an international hero of one sled dog — and eventually led to the creation of Alaska’s Iditarod sled dog race.
The statue of Balto, commemorates the Nome Serum Run. The inscription reads: Dedicated to the indomitable Spirit of the sled dogs that relayed the antitoxin 600 miles over rough ice, treacherous waters; through Arctic blizzards from Nenana to the relief of stricken Nome in the winter of1925. Endurance. Fidelity. Intelligence.
Location: East Drive at 67th Street
Central Park Bike Tours
Experience a memorable journey through Frederick Law Olmstead’s masterpiece in the heart of Manhattan in New York City. Your experienced tour guide will provide you with background information, historical facts and point out some of the best photo opportunity spots. More.
Horse-Drawn Carriage Rides
One of the most romantic and popular ways to see Central Park is from a horse-drawn carriage. Visitors enjoy this year-round, even during the winter months. The carriages can be found lined up along Central Park South (59th Street) between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, at the southern end of Central Park across from the Plaza Hotel. Rides cost around (subject to change) $34 for the first 20 minutes and $54 for a 45 to 50-minute tour.
Most Central Park Conservatory walking tours are free and take place rain or shine except in extreme weather conditions. No reservations are required. Call 212-360-2726 Tuesday through Saturday for additional information.
Interactive Central Park Map: Central Park map.
Allow a minimum of 3 hours to explore the park. Longer if you dine in one of the restaurants or devote time to a particular activity. Free Central Park walking tours are approximately 1 to 1½ hours.
Nearby Places of Interest:
- Upper East Side
- Upper West Side
- Central Park Bike Tours
- Central Park Zoo
- Central Park Carriage Tours