Secrets of Central Park
By Alexandra Steinberg

Secrets of Central Park

Family Outings  

Stretching more than 800 acres in the center of Manhattan, Central Park offers so many fun things to do with kids, from boat rides and outdoor performances in the summer to ice-skating in the winter. Here, your guide to visiting this iconic park.

 

Central Park opened in 1853, after more than 750 acres were set aside for a public park. Throughout the 1960s and 70s, the once-beautiful park became home to graffiti, vandalism, and crime, with lawns and gardens becoming brown, lifeless, and dusty. In 1980, the Central Park Conservancy took over maintenance of the park, transforming the now 843-acre park into lush gardens, sprawling lawns, and stunning works of art. Today, Central Park is a hub of activities for all ages and interests, including boat rides, outdoor performances, and walking paths.

 

Year-Round Fun

penguin at central park zoo

Photo by Julie Larsen Maher

The Central Park Zoo (east side between 63rd and 66th streets) has been home to penguins, seas lions, and bears since 1984. Kids can get up close and personal with farm animals such as pigs and goats at the Tisch Children’s Zoo, which is included in the general admission ticket price.

The Alice in Wonderland statue (east side at 75th Street) takes inspiration from Lewis Carroll’s beloved story of the same name. Climbing the bronze statue of Alice and the Mad Hatter has been a rite of passage for kids since it was erected in 1959.

hans christian andersen statue central park

Kids can also climb on the Hans Christian Andersen statue (east side near 72nd Street) and stop by for storytelling sessions on Saturday mornings in the summer.

Stop by the picturesque Loeb Boathouse (east side at 72nd Street) to rent bikes for cruising the park or rowboats for the lake (at press time, the boathouse was undergoing repairs; check thecentralparkboathouse.com for updates).

belvedere castle

The whimsical Belvedere Castle (mid-park at 79th Street) offers the best views of the park from its towers (where, since 1919, the National Weather Service has taken measurements of New York’s weather). After your climb to the top, you can relax in the grass on the nearby Great Lawn or look for wildlife in Turtle Pond. The castle is open to visitors 10am-5pm daily.

If the kids need to run off some energy, visit one of the park’s 21 playgrounds. A few favorites include the Safari Playground (west side at 91st Street), with its hippo statues; the Ancient Playground (east side at 85th Street), which features pyramids and a climbable water structure; and the Tarr Family Playground (west side at 100th Street) where kids can explore a maze, net climber, and water features.

 

Annual Attractions

wollman rink central park

Forget about indoor rinks, Wollman Rink is the best place to skate in the winter. From November to March, families can lace up and skate on more than 33,000 square feet of ice outside.

In late May, Wollman Rink is transformed into Victorian Garden Amusement Park, which boasts 12 charming rides and many carnival games.

SummerStage, Central Park’s biggest annual event, runs from mid-May to early October. Although the summer concert series takes place in parks across all five boroughs, the bigger acts play on Central Park’s Rumsey Playfield.

shakespeare in the park central park

Budding thespians will love Shakespeare in the Park, which presents free performances of The Bard’s works throughout the summer at the open-air Delacorte Theater (west side at 81st Street). Free tickets are given away on the day of each Shakespeare in the Park performance, but they go fast! You might need to hop in line as early as 6am to secure yours.

Book lovers may recognize the Conservatory Water (east side from 72nd to 75th streets) from the book and 1999 film Stuart Little. Racing toy boats during the summer is a favorite pastime of kids across the city (boats are available for rental at the nearby Kerbs Memorial Boathouse).

 

Details

Address: 59th Street to 110th Street between Fifth Avenue and Central Park West

Hours: 6am-1am; individual buildings, attractions, and fields vary

Admission: FREE; individual buildings, attractions, and fields vary

For more information: 212-310-6600 or centralparknyc.org