New York City's Central Park Visitor's Guide
Whether you are looking for views of the New York City skyline or want to find a quiet escape from the intense daily life in the City, Central Park is a beautiful place to explore. In the southern part the Park, Wollman Rink and Sheep Meadow feature romantic views of the New York City skyline. In late October and early November, visitors can catch a colorful display of fall foliage throughout the park, and especially along the Mall.
The north end of the Mall leads to Bethesda Terrace overlooking the Angel of the Waters Fountain, one of the most photographed spots in the world. From there, visitors can walk around the Lake, passing Bow Bridge, Hernshead, the Ladies Pavilion, and end up at Cherry Hill. Alternatively, if you walk north from the Lake, you will reach the charming and romantic Shakespeare Garden, located between Delacorte Theater, Belvedere Castle, and the Swedish Cottage. From Belvedere Castle, visitors can enjoy beautiful views of the Great Lawn and the City. The park is a great place to take the kids, offering a collection of playgrounds, a historic carousel, model boat pond and a zoo.
Romantic Spots in the Park
Central Park is a beautiful park to explore, featuring classical sculptures, groomed pathways, secluded coves, lakes, and great views of the New York City skyline. There is an abundance of playful things to do, from riding the Carousel to cheering on model boats racing at Conservatory Water and watching polar bears at the Zoo. A romantic carriage ride through the park is also a city classic. During the warmer months, go on a romantic gondola ride on the Lake and top it off with a lunch at the Boathouse overlooking the Lake and the city skyline. After lunch, stroll around Bethesda Terrace and down the Mall which is lined with huge trees providing plenty of shade. Often there is a musician providing ambiance music.
If you are looking for privacy and seclusion, take a walk across Bow Bridge and through the Ramble, looking out for rare birds and ducks. At the northern end of the Lake, the path opens up to some of the best views of the City. In the winter, rent skates at the scenic Wollman Rink and glide across white ice accompanies by music. Even if you return to the park day after day, you will discover a hidden spot, charming statue, pond and beautiful flowering trees. Here are some of the top attractions to look for. Romantic hotels near the park include the Plaza, Dream and The Mark.
Lakes, Fountains and Bridges
- The Pond: Located in the southeast corner of Central Park, the Pond is a calm and romantic getaway from the fast pace of New York City. The picturesque Gapstow Bridge, covered with plants, provides scenic views of the Pond, the Plaza Hotel and other Central Park South buildings. The Central Park Conservancy completed a reconstruction of the Pond, as well as the paths and the flower beds that surround it. They also added a new island habitat for birds and turtles, and a waterfall. To the north of the Pond lies Wollman Rink which offers ice skating, the Central Park Visitor Center and the Central Park Zoo.
- Bow Bridge: Bow Bridge is one of the most romantic spots in Central Park, overlooking the Lake and the New York City skyline. The bridge is located west of Bethesda Terrace connecting Cherry Hill and the Ramble, at mid-Park at 74th St. The 60-foot-long cast iron bridge was designed in 1862 by Calvert Vaux, Frederick Law Olmsted's partner. Nearby, visitors can dine at the Central Park Boathouse and enjoy a romantic walk through the Ramble.
- Wagner Cove: Wagner Cove is a small wooden structure hidden in one of the coves of the Lake. If you are exploring Central Park, stop at Wagner Cove for a romantic chat surrounded by ducks, birds and flowers. The cove is a memorial to the late New York City mayor Robert Wagner. Wooden shelters used to be landing sites for rowboats crossing the lake, picking up and dropping off passengers at one of six shelters around the Lake.
- The Ladies Pavilion: The Ladies Pavilion at Hernshead is a romantic Victorian vintage structure overlooking the Lake at West Side between 75th and 76th Streets. The Ladies Pavilion was at first used as a bus shelter in Columbus Circle, but was moved to the Park in the early 1900s. It features Victorian ornamental details and a bench where visitors can rest in the shade the Pavilion provides. A visit to the Ladies Pavilion will give you a sense of stepping back in time. In the spring, the area around Hernshead is famous for its blooming flowers.
- The Pulitzer Fountain: The Pulitzer Fountain is the centerpiece of the southern part of the Grand Army Plaza, located at 59th Street and Fifth Avenue. Donated by Joseph Pulitzer, the fountain features round granite basins that catch cascading water, and a bronze statue of Pomona, the Roman goddess of abundance. The fountain, created by Karl Bitter, was placed in the Grand Army Plaza in 1916. The Pulitzer Fountain is surrounded by famous buildings, including the FAO Schwartz and the Bergdorf Goodman. Central Park is located to the north of the Grand Army Plaza.
- Jog Around The Reservoir: The Reservoir stretches from 85th to 96th Streets. It is best known for its spectacular views of New York and the running track that surrounds it. The track measures 1.58 miles in length and surrounds a 106-acre body of water. In the summer heat, the area around the Reservoir is often the coolest in the city. Although the Reservoir no longer provides fresh water to Manhattan residents, it provides water to the Pool, Loch, and Harlem Meer in the northern part of the Park. The Reservoir is a great place to spot birds. Sightings have included five different species of gulls and over 20 species of waterfowl, grebes, cormorants, and loons.
- Angel of the Waters Fountain at Bethesda Terrace: Angel of the Waters Fountain at Bethesda Terrace was placed in the Park in 1873. Today the fountain is one of the favorite places in Central Park for wedding pictures and romantic walks. The fountain features bronze figures in the middle, surrounded by a blue stone lower basin. Sculptor Emma Stebbins who created the fountain was the first woman to receive a sculptural commission in New York City. The Central Park Conservancy installed two banner poles bearing gonfalons by the edge of the Lake at Bethesda Terracein 1987.
Statues, Scenic Walks and Monuments
- Strawberry Fields: Strawberry Fields in New York City's Central Park at West Side between 71st and 74th Streets was dedicated in 1981 in honor of John Lennon (1940-1980), a musician who belonged to the famous Beatles. When the sinter lived in the nearby Dakota, this was his favorite area in the park. The area was named Strawberry Fields Forever after the famous song. The musician's widow Yoko Ono later made a donation to maintain the 2.5-acre piece. Today, numerous visitors come here to pay tribute to the artist, bringing flowers and candles. The black-and-white mosaic, a reproduction of a mosaic from Pompeii, is located near the west entrance. It includes a single word IMAGINE, the title of a popular song. The circular area surrounding the black-and-white mosaic has many benches where you can take a seat and rest before visiting other areas of the park and the city.
- The Dakota : The Dakota is a luxury apartment building on the Upper West Side which was made famous by the singer and his wife, who once resided there. When it was built in the 19th century, the Dakota was far away from the confines of the city. Today, surrounded by numerous other buildings, it is located in one of the residential areas of the city. The The building was designed by Henry J. Hardenbergh, who also designed the Plaza Hotel.
- The Mall: Stretching from 66th to 72nd Streets mid-Park is the 40-foot wide Mall flanked by quadruple rows of American elms which create a living ceiling high over the walkway. In the summer, the Mall is a cool shady area where visitors can escape the heat of New York City. In the fall, yellow and gold leaves create a magical display of color all the way down to the southern end of the Mall, culminating at the charming Bethesda Terrace. The southern end of the Mall is known as the Literary Walk which features statues of famous literary figures.
- Literary Walk: At the southern end of the Mall at mid-Park and 72nd Street, Central Park is dotted with sculptures of the following literary figures: William Shakespeare, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Burns. Other larger-than-life statues include Christopher Columbus, Victor Herbert and Ludwig van Beethoven. This part of Central Park is also known as Literary Walk. Composers Herbert and Beethoven are near the Naumburg Bandshell, the Mall summer concert area. Most of the sculptures were dedicated towards the end of the 19th century. The Olmsted Bed at the southernmost end of the Mall is a tribute to Frederick Law Olmsted, the creator of Central Park. The flower bed features seasonal pansies, impatiens, flowing groundcover, and American elms.
- Cedar Hill: Cedar Hill at East Side and 76th-79th Streets is an area with classical landscaping where people enjoy picnicking, reading, and sunbathing. It is located just south of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The area was beautifully restored in 1994 by the Central Park Conservancy. During the project, Cedar Hill received a new irrigation system. Nearby attractions include the Obelisk, the Great Lawn and Turtle Pond.
- Maine Monument: Maine Monument in Columbus Circle is a colossal sculpture located at Merchants Gate, West 59th Street. The monument commemorates sailors who died on the battleship Maine when it exploded in Cuba in 1898. The monument marks the entrance to Central Park. It features a gilded bronze sculpture set on top of massive 44-foot limestone base with a fountain and figures portraying Victory, Peace, Courage, Fortitude, and Justice. Maine Monument was created by sculptor Attilio Picarelli and was placed in Central Park in 1913. Columbus Circle, located at the ends of Central Park South and Central Park West, is home to one of the main entrances to Central Park, the Trump International Hotel and the 80-story Time Warner skyscrapers. In the center of Columbus Circle stands a marble statue of the explorer Christopher Columbus, perched on top of a tall granite column. Visitors enter Central Park through Merchants' Gate which features the colossal Maine Monument and pedestrian paths leading into the Park.
- The Obelisk: The Obelisk is the oldest manmade object in New York City's Central Park. It is located behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art, at East Side and 81st Street. The Obelisk is also known at Cleopatra's Needle, although it does not appear to be related to Cleopatra. It was created for Thutmosis III in Heliopolis around 1500 BC, and arrived in the United States in 1879. There are benches and flowers around the Obelisk, which is now also illuminated.
- Grand Army Plaza: Grand Army Plaza is a large open area situated between the park and Midtown Manhattan at Fifth Avenue between 58th and 60th Streets. The Plaza features the Sherman Monument and the Pulitzer Fountain. Horse-drawn carriages line up in Grand Army Plaza year-round, offering New York City visitors romantic rides through Central Park. Grand Army Plaza is split into two parts by Central Park South, a design inspired by Place de la Concorde in Paris. The northern half features the Sherman Monument with a gilded statue of Union General William Tecumseh Sherman which was dedicated in 1903. The southern half of the Plaza is home to the Pulitzer Fountain. The fountain, reminiscent of Italian Renaissance, has six granite basins and a bronze figure of Pomona, goddess of abundance. To the north of the Grand Army Plaza is the Doris C. Freedman Plaza which is the site of rotating 6-month sculpture exhibits by the Public Art Fund.
- Hernshead: Located at West Side between 75th and 76th Streets, Hernshead is a rocky opening overlooking the Lake. The area offers romantic skyline views and is especially attractive in the spring with blooming azaleas, Virginia bluebells, Dutchman's breeches, and daffodils. The Ladies Pavilion at Hernshead is a white cast iron Victorian vintage structure which provides its visitors with shade in the summer. In the fall, Hernshead visitors can admire a playful display of fall colors on nearby trees and shrubs reflecting in the Lake.
- Wisteria Pergola: Wisteria Pergola is an overlook above the Naumburg Bandshell at the northern end of the Mall. In the summer, vines create a roof that provides a shady refuge to Park visitors. The Naumburg Bandshell presents a series of concerts during the warmer months, including those offered by Naumburg Orchestral Concerts. SummerStage, which presents jazz and multicultural performances, is located on the Rumsey Playfield behind the Wisteria Pergola.
- Cherry Hill: Located West of Bethesda Terrace mid-Park at 72nd Street, Cherry Hill offers beautiful views of the Lake and the Ramble.
- Summit Rock at West Side: Another beautiful area to visit nearby is Summit Rock at West Side between 81st and 85th Streets. This is the highest natural elevation in Central Park. The site used to offer views of the city. Today, however, it is surrounded by tall trees. At the top, there is a stone amphitheater with benches where visitors enjoy a quiet moment surrounded by trees and shrubs.
- The Ramble: The 38-acre Ramble is an artificially created wild part of Central Park in New York, featuring rocks, trees, and a stream the Gill which can be turned on or off with a water tap. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the Ramble was one of the first parts of the park to be built. The Ramble invites its visitors to experience nature, presenting hundreds of trees, shrubs, and wildflowers. The Lake, which borders the area in the south and the west, is the one of the best spots in the Park for birdwatching. As many as 230 species of birds have been spotted so far. Visitors and expert birdwatchers alike record their wildlife observation at the Boathouse. The Conservancy sponsors free volunteer-led walking tours through the Ramble which last approximately one hour. If you are interested, call 212-772-0210. The Lake is a 22-acre body of water, located at mid-Park from 71st to 78th Streets. The path that winds around the Lake is surrounded by lush vegetation and opens up in quite a few spots to reveal and romantic views of the city skyline. The Lake was created out of a large swamp by Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted. When the Lake was originally designed it was meant to be both for boating and ice skating. While boating remains, Wollman Rink has replaced the Lake as an ice skating venue. From March through October, visitors can rent boats at the Boathouse and row to the most hidden coves of the lake, inhabited by ducks, swans and birds. You can even go on a romantic gondola ride during the warmer months. Those who prefer to explore on foot can follow the path from Bethesda Fountain, across Bow Bridge, and through the Ramble. The circular path leads back over Cherry Hill to Bethesda Fountain. The loop takes about one hour to complete.
- Bethesda Terrace: Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux designed Bethesda Terrace as a gathering place in Central Park. Located at mid-Park at 72nd Street, Bethesda Terrace sits at the north end of the Mall. Bethesda Terrace offers beautiful views of the Lake and the Central Park Boathouse. It features the Bethesda Fountain, one of the most photographed sites in Central Park. Visitors stand on Bethesda's Upper Terrace which overlooks the Lake, row boats gliding across it, and the shoreline of the Ramble. A stone stairwell descends from Bethesda's Upper Terrace to the Fountain.
- The Dene: The Dene is a landscaped area of Central Park stretching from the 66th Street to the 72nd Street on the East Side. It features rolling hills, benches, flowers and trees. There is a rustic wood structure perched on top of giant boulders, surrounded with trees and flowers. In the summer, visitors can rest in the shade provided by the structure and admire views of the New York City skyline. The Dene is also home to the East Green meadow which is beautiful and romantic in the spring with blooming Kwanzan cherry trees, crabapples and magnolias. The Dene is bordered by the Central Park Zoo in the south and Conservatory Water to the north.
- Sheep Meadow: Sheep Meadow is one of the favorite spots for families, sunbathers, picnickers, kite flyers, and other visitors who come to admire the New York City skyline. Sheep Meadow was until 1934 just what its name implies - a meadow for a flock of sheep who slept, accompanied by their shepherd. The 15-acre Sheep Meadow is located at West side/mid-Park from 66th to 69th Streets and is open from May to mid-October dawn to dusk in fair weather.
- Tavern on the Green: Tavern on the Green, located in Central Park at West 67th Street across from Sheep Meadow, used to be a restaurant for over 80 years. In 2010, it became a Visitor Center and gift shop. Take a romantic walk past this historic landmark and stop in for some sightseeing ideas.
Horse-Drawn Carriage Rides
Central Park carriages are a New York City classic, featured in countless movies and shows. Available to visitors year-round, horse-drawn carriages can be found lined up along Central Park South, at 59th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. Marriage proposals are frequently made during a carriage ride in the romantic park. Ask to be taken to Bethesda Terrace, Cherry Hill and Bow Bridge. The Cherry Hill Fountain at Cherry Hill in Central Park was designed by Jacob Wrey Mould, Calvert Vaux's assistant, in 1860s. The fountain features a sculpted bluestone basin, frosted glass globes for lighting, and golden ornaments at the fountain's top. In the middle of the fountain, black and golden cups overflow with water. At the time of its creation, Cherry Hill was intended to be a scenic turn-around for carriages and the fountain a drinking fountain for horses. Today, Cherry Hill Fountain is surrounded by a circle of benches where visitors rest on their walk though the park. For special occasions, visitors can book various carriage styles, sizes and colors. Carriage rides are a romantic idea for honeymooners. For more information, call 212-736-0680 or visit www.centralparkcarriages.com. Hotels with rooms and suites overlooking the park include the Plaza Hotel, Jumeirah Essex House and the Mandarin Oriental.
Delacorte Theater - Shakespeare in Central Park
Delacorte Theater, located at mid-Park and 80th Street, is home to the Public Theater and the Shakespeare Festival. Every summer, the Public Theater offers open-air performances of Shakespeare plays free of charge. The only catch is that there is always a long wait for tickets. Tickets are distributed at 1 pm on the day of the performance. The line starts to form several hours before then. The theater was originally built in 1962. Ambiance is very unique with the City sky above, lights reflected in Turtle Pond and the magical Belvedere Castle. Two bronze statues decorate the entrance to the Delacorte Theater - the Tempest and Romeo and Juliet. The Tempest by Milton Hebald was placed in the Park in 1966. The bronze statue on granite pedestal depicts Prospero, the magician, sheltering his daughter Miranda with one hand and casting a spell with the other. The Romeo and Juliet statue, also by Milton Hebald, was added to the Park in 1977. The sculpture shows Juliet in Romeo's arms. For information about Shakespeare in Central Park summer performance schedules, visit www.publictheater.org. The adjacent Shakespeare Garden is a beautiful place with uniquely shaped benches and flowers inspired by the plays.