In this article, we’ll tell you some of our favorite activities to do in Central Park, and cover every season. From ice-skating in winter to picnicking in summer, Central Park has tons to offer!
Winter Wonderland in Central Park
- Starting late October every year, two ice-skating rinks open in the park. In the north of the park you’ll find the Lasker ice-skating rink, which overlooks Harlem Meer. In the south of Central Park you’ll find the Wollman ice-skating rink. This rink is the more famous of the two, as it lies close to Midtown Manhattan and offers an amazing view of the Midtown skyscrapers. The Wollman Rink has even been featured in movies such as Serendipity and Limitless. Even if you don’t want to skate, you can have a great winter experience just standing in Central Park looking at the rink with a cup of hot cocoa to warm your hands. If you really enjoy hot cocoa, check out these other great hot chocolate spots in New York.If you want to go ice-skating at one of the two rinks in Central Park, you don’t have to bring your own skates as you can rent them at the rinks. Generally most rinks open around 10 am and close in the evening. For specific times and fees, check Central Park’s Wollman Rink. To get to the Central Park rinks, you can easily catch a subway. For the Lasker Rink, take a 2 or 3 train to the Central Park North/ 110 Street subway station and walk south to the park. For the Wollman Rink, take the N, Q or R train to 5th Avenue/ 59 Street and head northwest in the park.
- If you have a camera, another great activity is to shoot some winter pictures in Central Park. Especially when the snow is still fresh, the trees and lawns in the park are absolutely magical. You might also get a chance to photograph some of the winter birds that can be found in the park. If you shoot a picture of one of the more colorful birds against a snowy backdrop this will make for a great contrast.
- Winter of course also means holiday season in New York City. Take a walk in the park on Christmas morning, and make your way to the park again on New Year’s Eve. Every year on New Year’s Eve, a 4-mile midnight run is held in Central Park. People from all ages and in different costumes ring in the New Year by completing a run through the park. If you’re not much of a runner, you can also come just to see the fireworks in the park and to cheer on the runners. It’s sure to be a New Year’s Eve unlike any other!
Central Park in Springtime
- A great way to see The Lake and the trees around it in a different manner is to rent a rowboat at the famous Loeb Boathouse. Boats are available to rent from April through November. After exploring The Lake, treat yourself to a cup of tea at the Boathouse and watch the boats pass by.
- If you’re looking for more physical activities in Central Park, there are also a bunch of sports in the park you can partake in. For example, Central Park is famous for its jogging tracks. The Reservoir track circles the Reservoir and makes for a popular running track, as it’s precisely 1.5 miles long. In springtime, the blossoming cherry trees make this track even more beautiful! If you’re looking for a longer track, you can also choose to circle the entire park, which is a distance of about 6.1 miles.
- Springtime also means the beginning of the Central Park Dance Skating Season. The skaters bring music and their own skates to the so-called Skaters Road in the center of the park. You can usually find the dance skaters starting in April, or when the weather gets good enough. Bring your own skates and dance to the groove!
- For the photography lovers, springtime brings a wealth of new scenes to catch on camera. The blooming trees and fields of flowers make for beautiful nature shots. Spring is also a good time if you want to take pictures of the park without a lot of people in the shot, as it’s just before peak season.
Summer in Central Park
- In the summer, you’ll see people partake in even more sport activities. The Lasker Rink is transformed into a swimming pool, which is very popular with the kids when the weather turns hot; bikers explore the park from the Central Park drive; the several baseball fields in the park are put to good use, and you’ll see many American footballs and Frisbees flying over the lawns.
- On a sunny afternoon, pack a picnic basket and head out to one of Central Park’s meadows. Sheep Meadow in the south of the park and the Great Lawn in the north are both popular spots to have a picnic, or to just stretch out on the grass and work on your tan.
- In the summer there are also many cultural events held in Central Park. The park often becomes the venue of summer music festivals, concerts, and plays host to a well-known theater event called Shakespeare in the Park. Shakespeare in the Park is held at the Delacorte Theater in the center of the park every summer. For a few weeks in summertime, one or more of Shakespeare’s plays are put on in the theater, and you can see them completely free of charge. For more information about Shakespeare in the Park, see New York’s Shakespeare in the Park Turns Fifty.
- Another famous structure in the park is the Metropolitan Museum of Art. While you may not want to spend much time in a museum while the sun’s shining bright outside, there’s one specific attraction in the museum that makes this a hotspot in the summer. Namely, the Met has a rooftop bar called the Cantor Roof Garden. There’s nothing more relaxing after spending a day exploring the park than to sit in one of the lounge chairs of the Cantor Roof Garden with a nice cold drink in hand, and watch the sun set over the green treetops of Central Park. If you take a liking to NYC rooftop bars, have a look at our Top 5 Rooftop Bars in New York City.
Central Park in Autumn
- This is also a great time for bird watching and photography, as the park is less crowded than in summertime. Furthermore, the gorgeous colors of the fall foliage will make for absolutely entrancing pictures. The trees at the Lake will turn all kinds of shades of yellow, orange and red. If you pass The Lake and walk up through the Ramble, you’ll find Belvedere Castle at the top of the hill. From the castle you’ll have a magnificent view of the park and the Manhattan skyline.
- Another great destination in the park is the Central Park Zoo. The small zoo houses animals such as polar bears, penguins, red pandas, snow leopards and more. The zoo is featured in several movies such as Madagascar and Mr. Popper’s Penguins. At the zoo you can also see the Delacorte Music Clock with the moving animals. You don’t have to buy a ticket to the zoo to see the clock, as it’s part of a public path running through the zoo. The Central Park Zoo is open 365 days a year, and also includes a 4D theater.
- Autumn also means two of New York City’s biggest holidays are just around the corner: Halloween and Thanksgiving. Every year on or just before Halloween, a Pumpkin Sail is held at the Harlem Meer in Central Park. You can bring your own jack-o’-lantern and watch it float across the lake around twilight. A parade and live entertainment are also held to accompany the pumpkin sail. A more famous parade starts right next to Central Park at the American Museum of Natural History on Thanksgiving. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade features gigantic inflated balloons that are always a big hit with the kids!
If you can’t get enough of Central Park, consider staying in a vacation rental apartment for a New York City holiday close to the park! We have many vacation rentals available in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, which is located just west of Central Park. Imagine staying in an apartment that’s just blocks away from the park, so you can easily visit Central Park every day! To get a real sense of what it’s like to stroll through Central Park, have a look at our Central Park Video Tour.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our list of seasonal activities in Central Park. Did we miss any of your favorite spots in Central Park? Let us know in the comments below!