Whether you are going to be visiting New York City as a family or you are raising your kids in the Big Apple, there is arguably no better place to bring them than Central Park.
No matter where you go in Central Park, you are surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery anywhere in the city, and your kids will have plenty of room to run around and play.
But did you know that Central Park boasts a number of sites and activities which are aimed in full or in part at children? Let’s explore a few of them now so that you can plan the perfect day with your kids in Central Park!
1. Visit any of Central Park’s playgrounds
Central Park is home to a number of really cool playgrounds. Some of these include:
- Heckscher Playground: You’ll find this playground between 61st Street and 63rd Street. This park offers swings and slides, sand to play in, and water to splash around in. This makes it an ideal choice for the hot months of summer.
- Ancient Playground: Look for this playground at Fifth Avenue and 85th Street. Located right next to the Met, it is a lot like Heckscher Park both in terms of its appearance and its features.
- Tarr-Coyne Tots Playground: Head to Central Park West and 68th Street if you have toddlers—this playground was built specifically for the very young. It features a lot of sand.
- Tarr-Coyne Wild West Playground: At Central Park West and 93rd Street, you will find a unique playground with an Old West theme and a lot of shade from the surrounding trees.
This isn’t a full list. There are a number of other playgrounds scattered throughout Central Park as well. Be sure to drop by at least one of them during your visit.
2. Tisch Children’s Zoo
Those who love animals will not want to miss out on the chance to visit the Tisch Children’s Zoo. Here, kids can see snow leopards, sea lions, grizzly bears, penguins, and other critters. They can watch staff members feed the sea lions and penguins, and can attend a film at the “4-D Theater.” There is a petting zoo as well where children can get to know pigs, cows, sheep, and goats.
3. Adventure Theater for Kids
The Adventure Theater is not a traditional theatrical experience on a stage. It is an immersive interactive experience which ranges across the park. Kids become part of the story, solving puzzles and exploring. This is the perfect activity for children who love to use their imaginations and play make-believe games to have an adventure like no other.
4. Friedsam Memorial Carousel
There has been a carousel in this spot in Central Park since 1871—but not the same carousel which is standing today. Reportedly there have been three or four different carousels here in the past, but they burned down.
The present carousel has been here since 1950, but it actually dates back to 1908. It used to be located at Coney Island. The colourful horses are a major draw kids and an interesting bit of Central Park history for grownups.
5. Enjoy a fairytale at the Hans Christian Andersen statue.
This statue can be found at 74th Street close to Fifth Avenue. Kids who love fairytales will be excited to visit the statue at any time of day, but for a real treat, stop by around 11 in the morning during the summer months. At that time, children can gather round and listen to the HC Andersen Storytellers as they share one of Andersen’s famous tales.
6. The Henry Luce Nature Observatory
You will find this exhibit inside Belvedere Castle. The castle itself will captivate kids’ imaginations with its beautiful architecture and astonishing views of the surrounding park. But the exhibit offers more in terms of being an educational experience.
At the Observatory, kids can find out more about the plants and animals they will see as they explore Central Park. There are telescopes and microscopes in the Observatory for children (and adults) to use to see the natural world in a whole new way.
Kids also can borrow Discovery Kits which they can bring with them as they roam around. Thee include maps, binoculars, and supplies for note-taking. The Observatory is open every day of the week except for Mondays.
7. Go for a boat ride.
Most kids will be excited by the thought of climbing into a boat. So drop by the Loeb Boathouse and rent a rowboat with your children. Not only will kids have fun learning to row, but they’ll also be able to see ducks, swans, egrets and herons up close on the water.
8. Go skating
Visiting Central Park during the winter? While a lot of the activities on this list are ideal for the warmer months of the year, there is still fun to be had when the temperature drops. Rent some ice skates or bring your own and go out with your kids on the Lasker or Wollman Rinks.
You won’t want to miss this area during the rest of the year either. After the ice melts, the space is converted to serve as a summertime attraction called Victorian Gardens. Here you will find a mini-coaster, a slide, and a variety of fun rides and games in a carnival atmosphere.
9. Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre
Near West 79th Street, you’ll discover a delightful little theatre where you can bring your family to enjoy a marionette show. Kids will love watching classic stories brought to life on the stage by the amazing puppets.
10. Take a swim.
While the fountains and streams at some of Central Park’s playgrounds can be refreshing, on a really hot day, nothing beats an actual dip in a swimming pool. Take your family to the Lasker Pool to cool off. This place is huge—up to 1,824 people can swim at a time!
11. Let kids explore the Alice in Wonderland sculpture.
Usually, sculptures are to be admired from a distance, not touched and interacted with. But the Alice in Wonderland sculpture was placed at East 74th Street with kids in mind. Children are encouraged to climb up on the mushrooms with Alice and her friends.
12. Visit Turtle Pond.
Do your kids love wildlife? Drop by Turtle Pond, and they will have a chance to look for some of the numerous turtles which live there along with other reptiles, fish, insects and birds.
13. Enjoy the Delacorte Music Clock.
One more sight to add to your bucket list for a family visit to Central Park is the Delacorte Music Clock. It is conveniently close to the Children’s Zoo. Each hour, mechanized bronze animals put on a musical performance, rather like a giant cuckoo clock.
14. Go on a Central Park pedicab tour.
Finally, one more fun activity to do with your kids in Central Park is go on a pedicab tour. This is a lot of fun in its own right, since children can ask questions of the tour guide and see the park in comfort (getting little ones off their feet for a bit can help you enjoy a longer day out).
It is also a wonderful idea because it can help you to do more of the activities above. Your tour guide can plan an efficient route which can take you and your kids to experience as many of these sights and activities as possible.
Whether you just have an hour or two to spend in the park or all day, you’ll be able to get the most out of your visit.