Central Park, that bastion of woodlands located in the center of Manhattan, abounds with various points of interest within its boundaries. Check out some of the best things to do in the park while in New York City.
Probably one of the most well-known sites in the park, Bethesda Fountain sits squarely south of The Lake. The angel of the waters at the top of the statue is a reference to the Gospel of John and the healing powers that were bestowed upon the Pool of Bethesda. It is the only statue that was commissioned for the park and is a direct reference to the Croton water system that brought fresh water to NYC. An approach from Bethesda Terrace, down the stairs to the fountain provides a memorable introduction to it.
Picturesque and beautiful, tall American Elms arch over this pathway referred to as The Mall, which is flanked by benches on either side and runs from 66th to 72nd streets. It is what you might expect Central Park to look like before experiencing it because it has been used as a backdrop in many films. Due to its centralized location and flat landscape, one particular section of The Mall is a popular spot for roller skaters and other colorful performers to showcase their skills during the warmer months.
Standing, appropriately, behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art is The Obelisk, which is also known as Cleopatra’s Needle. This obelisk is one of a pair that originated in Egypt in 1450 BC. This one was given to the USA by the Egyptian Khedive in 1880 in exchange for funds to help modernize his country, and the other stands in London. It is compelling to see a monument so rich with history standing outside, exposed to the elements in a public park.
This is the only point of interest on this list where you will need to pay a fee for entry, but it’s definitely worth a visit, especially if you are visiting the park with children. As immortalized by the Simon & Garfunkel tune, the Central Park Zoo has various animals on exhibit, including snow leopards, sea lions, tropical birds and polar bears, and all in the middle of NYC. Take note, however, that the zoo is only open to visitors from April to November.
Nestled along the upper east side, close to the north east corner of Central Park, is the Conservatory Garden, which itself consists of three separate gardens landscaped in different styles: French, Italian and English. It’s a peaceful getaway enclosed by gates. The French garden has a fountain titled ‘Three Dancing Maidens’ created by German sculptor, Walter Schott. There is also a covered terrace accessible near the Italianate Garden, which provides both shade from the sun, or cover from the rain, and a great view overlooking the grounds.
As the name suggests, this surprisingly large body of water within Central Park was once a temporary water supply for NYC while the Croton system was shut down two weeks a year, although it is no longer in use. There are excellent views of downtown from the north side of The Reservoir, but from all around it offers a great sense of space and openness that is not easily found in NYC. The pathway surrounding the Reservoir is a very popular jogging destination.
Located at the northern end of central park, the Harlem Meer is a great spot for walks as there is an asphalt path around its perimeter. It is home to ducks, fish and turtles as well as a wide variety of plants and trees growing around its banks. In the summer a boat sails through the water, and horn players perform classical music. On the north side of the meer is the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center, which is a visitor center run by the Central Park Conservancy.
Located off of 100th street on the west side of the park, The Pool is one of the most idyllic locations in the park. There are weeping willows perched on its shore and sloping green hills leading into this small body of water. The water empties into a manmade waterfall, which continues on to the Harlem Meer through the North Woods. On nice days, benches available throughout the area are typically being utilized by people conversing or quietly enjoying the serene ambience.
This is a great place to see in the park simply because it’s a miniature castle. Belvedere Castle was created in 1869 by Calvert Vaux, co-designer of the park. It’s offers great views of The Reservoir and the The Great Lawn as it is the highest point in the park. It is also where the National Weather Service measures NYC’s weather. There is a visitor center and gift shop located within the castle.
Sheep Meadow is where an expansive lawn, people and the city’s skyline converge. It is, perhaps, the heart of Central Park. If throngs of people laying out sunbathing, picnicking or playing frisbee sounds appealing, then Sheep Meadow would be the place to go. Sheep Meadow, like The Mall, may appear familiar upon first sight as it too has appeared in several films.