Bow bridge in Central park on sunny day, New York City
Photograph: S.Borisov / Shutterstock

Central Park, NYC: Our ultimate guide

Discover everything you need to know about Central Park in New York, including hidden gems, can’t-miss events and more.

Rossilynne Skena Culgan

Map out your next trip to Central Park in New York with our handy rundown of the park’s must-see attractions. Whether you’re looking for free things to do, a serene picnicking spot, an off-the-beaten-path area, or a historical monument, we’ve got you covered. You’ll also find the lowdown on iconic attractions—like the Central Park Zoo, boat rides on the Lake, the Bow Bridge, Belvedere Castle—that are perfect for out-of-town friends and family.

No matter the season, there's plenty to do at Central Park.

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How big is Central Park in NYC?

Central Park is made up of 843 acres in the center of Manhattan. It includes sprawling lawns, rural woodlands, babbling brooks, and several lakes. The park also features running paths, walking trails, baseball fields, a skating rink, a zoo, formal gardens, theaters, a concert venue, and lots of commemorative art. 

Central Park. Image of The Mall area in Central Park, New York City, USA
Photograph: By spyarm / Shutterstock

How long does it take to walk around?

You can really choose your own adventure at Central Park. Whether you have just 20 minutes for a quick stroll on your lunch break or hours to meander on a weekend, it's all possible at Central Park. If you want to loop around the entire park, budget at least three hours.

Biking is another great way to see the park and to cover ground more quickly.

Why is it so famous?

As Manhattan grew densely populated in the 1800s, city planners wanted to build a park to offer a countryside respite for urbanites. It was intended as a place to escape the stresses of urban life and to commune with nature alongside fellow New Yorkers. True to its mission, the beloved park continues that role today, welcoming 42 million visitors each year, according to the Central Park Conservancy.

The park was designed by the famed duo of Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux whose characteristic winding paths and sweeping vistas made it a masterpiece of landscape architecture. Central Park is even a National Historic Landmark. 

This greenspace is one of the most visited urban parks in the country and one of the most popular attractions in New York City. 

Fall at Bethesda Fountain in Central Park. New York City
Photograph: By EastVillage Images / Shutterstock

What's the best way to see all of Central Park?

The best way to see the park is on foot. You can find a map online or at a park visitors' center. Central Park Conservancy staff also offer a variety of tours in the park, from the Iconic Views of Central Park tour to a Behind-The-Scenes tour. Also look for specialty tours, like the Signs of Spring tour and the Women of Central Park tour. Here's the whole tour list.

What animals live at Central Park?

Nestled among the park's 18,000 trees, you'll see squirrels, raccoons, turtles, rabbits, geese, ducks, and the occasional rat in Central Park. The park is also a haven for birds and birders. It's a crucial stopover for more than 200 species of birds migrating along the Atlantic Flyway. 

What else should I know about Central Park?

It's important to know the roots of Central Park. Long before colonizers arrived in America, the land was used by Indigenous people. In particular, Indigenous people forged a trail in the northern end of what is now Central Park around 92nd Street to 110th Street, per the Conservancy.

Just before Central Park was created, much of the park's land was home to Seneca Village, a community of Black New Yorkers. It was the largest property-owning African American community in New York City. The land, located along the western end of the park, was home to a school, three churches, and burial grounds. The people who lived in Seneca Village were displaced from their homes through the process of eminent domain. On the western side of the park (between 82nd and 89th Streets), look for signs that tell the story of these New Yorkers.

Things to do in Central Park, New York

Picnic spots in Central Park
Things to do

Picnic spots in Central Park

Pack up your basket with delectable treats and head to one of these secluded areas in Central Park in New York.

SummerStage Guide

SummerStage Guide

When the city heats up, so too does SummerStage, one of the most anticipated summer concerts known for its free tickets and stellar line-up.