Central Park is one of the most historic destinations in all of the United States, and one of the hottest spots to visit whenever you come into New York City.
Stretching across more than 843 acres almost smack dab in the middle of New York City, this park is quite unlike any other urban park in the world and home to some of the most exciting destinations NYC has to offer.
If you’ve been thinking of touring Central Park and experiencing the kind of hidden gems that the city usually only shares with residents of New York, you’re going to want to pay close attention to the tips, tricks, and inside secrets we share with you below.
You’ll be amazed at all of the incredible spots Central Park calls her own and will be able to see a side of Central Park that you might never have been able to before.
Let’s dive right in!
Visit The Pond and The Gapstow Bridge
The southernmost body of water in all of Central Park, this 100% man-made pond is fed completely from the New York City water supply system and provides one of the most idyllic spots to sit back, relax, and enjoy all that Central Park has to offer when the weather is warm.
The Gapstow Bridge is one of the most famous landmarks in all of Central Park and a perfect place to snap some photos. This is one of the most popular locations in the park for marriage proposals, so don’t be surprised if you encounter a couple of romantic couples getting ready to plan their life here!
Check out the Central Park Zoo
Believe it or not, the Central Park Zoo was actually established almost completely by accident and wasn’t ever a part of the original Park plans.
You see, in the early days of the park, some New Yorkers decided to start abandoning some pretty exotic animals in Central Park. This was mostly done because it was the only solid stretch of wilderness in the city limits, and after Park officials started to track down these exotic animals and cage them they ended up with quite a collection.
In the late 1800s the Central Park community decided to put together a legitimate zoo and it’s been open for business ever since.
The zoo has been overhauled completely twice, once in the 1930s and later in the 1980s, and is today one of the most popular landmarks to visit.
Take time to explore The Dairy
It may look like a Victorian era cottage when you first come upon it, but this building was actually a completely functioning dairy when Central Park originally opened.
The structure can be found in the “Children’s District” of the park and is a focal point of this section of the park that has been established to provide plenty of entertainment to younger visitors. There was a lot of criticism about the early plans for Central Park revolving around a lack of things for young people and children to do. This helped to spur on the creation of The Dairy, a building that was originally erected specifically to serve milk and ice cream and to attract a younger crowd to this part of the park.
By the 1950s, this building had begun to fall apart, but in the late 1970s new initiatives in the park completely overhauled and restored The Dairy and it is now today a visitor center.
No visit to Central Park is complete without stopping by The Carousel
Far and away one of the most famous landmarks in the park, The Carousel is not the first (but actually the fourth) carousel to operate in Central Park.
The original was first opened up for business in 1873 and was powered by horses hooked up to the carousel underneath the ride itself. The original fell into disrepair in the early 1900s, was completely replaced in 1924, and then promptly burned down almost immediately after it was opened up for operation.
The third carousel was rebuilt immediately and existed until 1950 when it also burned down. And no carousel was in operation until the current one was discovered to completely abandoned in tucked away in a forgotten part of Coney Island.
This carousel was actually constructed in 1908 and is a picture-perfect example of American full art. More than 50 horses make up the carousel itself and it runs every day of the week, from sunup to sundown, throughout the summer.
Meet new people at the Sheep Meadow
When the weather starts to improve (after months and months of frigid cold temperatures) it isn’t at all difficult to run into new people, new friends, and familiar faces when you visit the wide-open spaces in Central Park that are named after the sheep that used to graze there in 1870.
Sheep actually work turned loose in this area of the park until 1934 (when they were moved on over to Prospect Park). This project was kicked off completely because NYC officials believed that the people of New York would start to eat the sheep because of the negative impact of the Great Depression.
This area can get pretty crowded when the summer sun is out and about, but if you can find a spot to hang out and relax you will be able to enjoy some great weather and entertainment with your fellow New Yorkers.
Head on over to The Lake
One of the few landmarks in Central Park that get plenty of action all year round, this is where you’ll find Central Park goers enjoy being rowing, sailing, kayaking, and canoeing activities in the warm seasons while enjoying time spent out ice-skating when the weather starts to turn a bit colder.
Boats are available to rent (for $15 per hour) with free lifejackets provided, though you can certainly bring your own and use the launch to enjoy everything that The Lake has to offer.
At the end of the day, your adventures while touring Central Park are going to be completely and totally unique to the adventures that anyone else enjoys – if only because there is so much to see and so much to do while you’re in the city.
Hopefully some of the landmark destinations we highlighted above give you plenty of ideas to fill out your itinerary and you get to adventure out into Central Park on your own as often as you get a chance to! Or you can take Best Central Park Tour to see all this highlights!