In search of an easy, fun culture fix for the kids? Then look no further than Central Park. On a recent Saturday morning, I took my two daughters—Beatrice, 3, and Addie Elizabeth, 4—on a whimsical walk through their favorite outdoor playspace. With map in hand, we set out to find and examine child-friendly works of art: Some could be climbed, others made music, and still others were just plain silly. To replicate our itinerary, you'll need about $20 for distractions and treats.
We begin our excursion by watching a performance at the Delacorte Clock in the Central Park Zoo. On the hour, two sculpted monkeys use mallets to strike the bell that tops the clock tower; and every half hour a parade of bronze animals, all brandishing musical instruments, bang out the beat of a nursery rhyme tune played on a glockenspiel. The girls shout out to their favorites—the penguin, kangaroo and elephant—as the animals spin around in their carousel.
On the other side of the clock tower, we spy Honey Bear, a charming bronze niche sculpture dancing upright amid a group of frogs. The girls count one, two, three, four, five little frogs squirting water.
We march past the petting zoo and up the hill to Balto, a bronze sculpture of a heroic sled dog perched atop a rock just west of Fifth Avenue at 67th Street. My elder daughter climbs on his back, grabs his reins and giddy-ups away with him—at least in her mind. My younger one dances around the natural schist boulder before gently patting Balto in all the shiny, well-loved spots.
We head through the tunnel (where we shout out to hear our echoes) on our way to see Mother Goose, on East Drive at 72nd Street. The girls ogle the granite statue of a witch astride a goose, run their fingers along her cape, and sing out the familiar nursery rhymes depicted in the bas-reliefs: Humpty Dumpty, Old Mother Hubbard, and Mary and her little lamb. Directly beyond, at the entrance to Rumsey Playfield, my daughters pose like the stone Snow Babies, two bundled children on sleds who look at each other from atop their respective pillars.
At the much-filmed Bethesda Fountain topped with the soaring Angel of Waters statue, the girls run around the fountain, enjoying the sound of the water and admiring the sights from all angles.
Pit Stop We veer off course with a calming 30-minute boat ride ($12 per hour, cash only) on the pond. Time for a bathroom stop, too.
We three are soaking up the beauty of the park by the Conservatory Water, especially at Georg Lober's bronze statue of Hans Christian Andersen. Pit Stop As this is an ideal spot for reading, my daughters settle on Hans's hat and put their hands out for the Little Mermaid and a refreshing juice box.
Pit Stop We release two rubber ducks on the pond and splash in the cold water while watching an impressive boat race taking place across the way.
At the northern end of the pond is the pice de rsistance: Jos de Creeft's Alice in Wonderland. My younger daughter explores the mushroom's base while my older daughter climbs on Alice, the March Hare, the Mad Hatter, the Dormouse and the Cheshire Cat. Pit Stop We picnic nearby on a shady bench.
Leaving this whimsical sculpture, we head to Fifth and 79th. We can't resist buying ice cream, which we relish at the feet of the child-sized Group of Bears, our last stop.