How to Explore Central Park in One Day

You can’t see all of Central Park in one day. I’m lying. Maybe you can. But you would have to be there from the time they open at 6 a.m. to the time they close at 1 a.m. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

I have seen Central Park piece by piece over the years. One year I saw the Gapstow bridge, in another I finally visited the John Lennon Memorial, and this year I finally went to Belvedere Castle. Some don’t grasp the fact that Central Park covers the length of more than 50 NYC blocks, and only realize its massiveness when they get a couple of blisters mid-way through the park. Apart from the fact that it is pretty massive, here are 5 other random facts:

5 Facts about Central Park

1 – There is an array of sculptures in the park, which include Balto, Alice in Wonderland, Simón Bolívar, and many more.

2 – The park begins at 59th Street and ends at 110th Street.

3 – It was the first landscaped park in the nation. This means that the park isn’t natural and the trees and bushes were placed here…

4 – There is a carousel in the park, but it’s not open year-round.

5 – There are rats and mice that are not afraid of humans.


A Traveling Translator’s Map

Here is a map I made of my walk around Central Park. Note that the blue line is not the actual path we took, but it’s just to show the stops we took, beginning with the entrance and ending with Conservatory Water. Even though I had printed this map out, I forgot it at home and simply used Google Maps on my phone. Make sure you have a physical map with you if your phone has no access to data when exploring New York City… View and print the map below!

Entrance at 59th St East

As of October 2017, the entrance to the park has a sculpture that depicts a bird’s cage by Ai Weiwei. It’s a reflection of NYC, where you can walk down 5th Avenue but not be able to afford its stores and where there is a rigid construct of ideals that cages individuals who dare to enter. Pretty dramatic, right? You haven’t even entered the park and there is already art to admire. Once you walk in, people will try to convince you to buy some souvenirs, draw a caricature of you or take a picture for some bucks. Admire what’s going on but don’t get duped into spending money unnecessarily… Just continue until you reach the Gapstow Bridge.


Gapstow Bridge

One of the first stops will be to Gapstow Bridge, which has been in many romantic comedies. And rightly so. Sit down on nearby benches and embrace the view!

gapstow bridge

Whatever season you might end up in NYC, Gapstow Bridge doesn’t disappoint. I took the photo below back in winter 2010.

gapstow bridge


Cats Rock

The following place you need to check out is a rock. Yes, a rock. It’s called Cats Rock, and its has such amazing views that many people go there to get married or have an engagement photo shoot. You get a view of the Essex Hotel and the Wollman Rink. If you’re into rock climbing, you can actually go bouldering here. But if you are wearing a skirt like I was, have no fear, there is a “staircase” that can take you to the top. I visited the park in mid-October and it was 75 degrees out. People were actually ice skating at Wollman Rink wearing t-shirts.

cats rock Central Park

After taking in the view, continue towards The Mall. It’s filled with people selling different products and drawings. There might be a violinist or someone playing the drums in the area. Even though I went in October, none of the leaves had changed for fall. But in peak fall foliage, the surrounding trees are a beautiful sight.


Bethesda Terrace Arcade and Fountain

Bethesda Terrace Arcade connects The Mall and the Bethesda Fountain and is a dream for photographers and Instagram-crazed peeps. If you go to the terrace, you can take in views of the fountain and The Lake. Walk down the stairs to view the Arcade and check out the 15,000 tiles on the ceiling. According to the Central Park website, this is the only location in the world where tiles are used for a ceiling instead of the floor.

Bethesda Terrace Arcade in the background.

On this particular day, there were about 5 couples being photographed, some in their wedding attire, some with cute pregnant bellies and even a photographer with professional video lighting equipment. There were also artists drawing the arches. I doubt that you could ever get a shot without people walking by (unless you go at 6 a.m., of course). You know exactly what to do if you want to avoid photoshopping people out of your shot and if you want to take it all in without disrupting photography shoots.

Once you walk out of the Bethesda Terrace Arcade, you’ll see the fountain, which is one of the first works of art commissioned by a woman. It was completed by Emma Stebbins in 1868.

And just behind it, you’ll see The Lake. Sit down by the fountain, take in the view and don’t forget to head up to the terrace.


The Bow Bridge

After you’re done, take the path heading west. It will lead you to another recognized bridge that also appears in many movies: The Bow Bridge. If you pass it and take the path on your right, you can sit on the bench to take in the intricate design of the bridge. If weather permits and it’s not the middle of winter, you’ll see couple and families rowing canoes. Don’t laugh if they get stuck on a rock because they’ll start to panic even more. You can try rowing here as well, and let me tell you that it’s not at all like controlling a kayak…


Rent a Canoe at The Loeb Boathouse

Renting a canoe for one hour is cheaper than I had imagined. $15 for a group of up to 4 people. If you are here on a day when the weather is ideal, this is a unique activity you can do… But around noon the sun was powerful and the line was long. We decided to come back later around 5 in the afternoon. The Loeb Boathouse rents canoes from 10 a.m. to sundown, so I recommend you go very early or towards the end of the day. Don’t go smackdab in the afternoon because there are so many people that they tend to hit other canoes.

Press Play | Canoeing in Central Park


The Ramble

From the Bow Bridge we continued on the path of The Ramble, a section of the park made up of trails surrounded by lush greenery. If you go on a warm day as I did, you’ll probably see some mice or rats scramble across the grass and bushes. Locals and tourists can be seen laying down by some rocks while others were resting on the benches. There is also a section where you can feed birds…

The Ramble Central Park


Belvedere Castle

This castle was constructed in the 1800s and has been used by the National Weather Service for almost a century as a location to determine temperature and wind speeds. When you get to the premises, you’ll be greeted by a stone façade and an entrance with a dragon symbol… which is the closest I’ll ever get to feeling like I’m on Game of Thrones. The stairs to get to the top of the castle are tight, and you will have to wait until an entire group goes up or down. From the terrace, you will be able to see Turtle’s Pond, The Great Lawn and Delacorte Theater. If you’re feeling up to it, groups of tourists and locals meet at this location to clean up sections of the park through Pitch In, Pick Up. Care to visit Central Park and be an eco-friendly traveler? Here’s your opportunity.

Nerdy Translation Sidenote: Belvedere in Italian means “beautiful view.” Bel= beautiful and vedere= view.

View of the Great Lawn from Belvedere Castle


Obelisk – Cleopatra’s Needle

The Obelisk is right behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art and just some minutes from Belvedere Castle. Most people know that the Statue of Liberty was a gift from the French, but not a lot of people know that the obelisk in Central Park was a gift from Egypt. They gave it as a present back in 1881 but it was originally created hundreds of years ago in around 1450 BC at the request of Pharaoh Thutmose III. Egypt got a tad bit salty that such a historical gift was being neglected, and in 2011 they informed the city that they had better start taking care of it or they were taking their present back. All is good as NYC cleaned up their act and Cleopatra’s Needle. Go admire this piece of history in Central Park!


The Metropolitan Museum of Art

After roaming around Belvedere Castle, and by this time we had been around Central Park for about 3-4 hours, we decided to head to lunch about a block and a half away. Once finished, we headed back towards the park to visit one of the most emblematic buildings perched next to Central Park: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. As someone who has been to this museum a few times, I have to be honest with you… If you plan to see as much of Central Park as is in this itinerary, don’t plan on going to see most of the museum unless you are ready and willing to walk a lot. You will be exhausted. I had planned on this day to head straight to the rooftop exhibition by Adrián Villar Rojas, an Argentinean sculptor. **Note: I’m posting this after the exhibit ended, but know that each year the MET has a rooftop exhibit than you can visit throughout spring, summer and fall. Just hope that next year it will also include a bar!**

My husband and I entered the MET and gave our donation. The suggested donation to enter the Metropolitan Museum is $25.00. But it’s up to you to decide what you want to provide. There is talk about changing this policy to make it an obligational $25.00, so you might want to visit ASAP…

The Roof Garden Commission – Adrián Villar Rojas

The Cantor Roof held the Theater of Disappearance exhibition from April 24 to October 29, 2017. It was basically a trippy dinner party which contained replicas of art and sculptures within the rest of the MET. When you got close to the tables, chairs and bodies, you would see a thin veil of dust. It was only after that I learned that this wasn’t real dust, but that Villar Rojas created his artwork that way to make it look as if it had been abandoned.

Adrian Villar Rojas Theatre of Disappearance

Most of the sculptures were made out of foam and 3D printed. The creator wanted the sculptures to be linked to the museum itself, so he interviewed staff members before he executed his project. He created art based on art and made sure to gather the input of those who have dedicated their lives to the museum. Such depth. For the luck of visitors, he also decided to add a bar to the rooftop, which I wholeheartedly embraced after having walked so much…

I felt like the exhibit was like how I feel after eating a Thanksgiving Dinner with people I am forced to dine with. And the most interesting one for me is down below. A couple of teenagers kissing, but the boy is on top of the girl, and they’re wearing masks… I’m still trying to decipher it but I have a feeling Villar Rojas wants it to be whatever I want it to be, instead of what he intended it to be.

 

After we had a couple of drinks and walked around the rooftop, we decided it was time to go and canoe before the Loeb Boathouse closed. I was able to convince my husband to stop by a photography exhibit right before we left:


Conservatory Water

Once we finished exploring the museum, we walked back inside the park to go canoeing. As I mentioned earlier, although we passed the Loeb Boathouse around noon, it was too hot and there were too many people. It was the best decision to have gone towards the end of the day. After we were finished we walked to the Conservatory Water, where you can race model sailboats.

Photo taken in fall 2015

And that is how the day came to a close. The darkness was beginning to creep into the island, and people began to put on their sweaters…


Is this all of Central Park? No, not at all. There is a whole lot left out, such as:

The John Lennon Memorial

Alice in Wonderland Sculpture

Harlem Meer

Strawberry Fields

Shakespeare Garden

But these locations will be for a subsequent blog post! It’s not possible to explore everything in one day, but I hope this helps you plan a day exploring just a tad bit of Central Park.


Cost Breakdown for 2 people:

Metro North Train Tickets: $50, ($25.00 each for off-peak, round-trip) This may be cheaper or more expensive depending how far you’re traveling from.

Subway: $5.50 ($2.75 each)

Entrance to the Park: Free

Loeb Boathouse canoe rental: $15 for one hour

Lunch near the park: $50

Entrance to the MET museum: Suggested donation is $25.00 but Donate WHATEVER you can afford.

Total Cost: $145.50


 

Victoria Alicia

65 comments

  1. Great post with some good information. I like that you included some history. I’ve only been to NYC once and regret not getting to Central Park. Next time! And I’ll have your post to guide me!

  2. This is such a great guide! I’ve been to NYC 3 times now and I’ve been to Central Park each of those times, but always end up getting overwhelmed and only end up seeing one or two things at a time. Will have to refer to this next time I’m in NYC!

    1. I completely understand, Caroline! Same thing has happened to me. It’s definitely a location in NYC that needs to be planned out if you want to see the best spots. Let me know how it goes next time!

  3. Love the way you wrote this post! Humor and whit – and a lot of great tips to visit central park. Been once before but no where near saw everything you mentioned. Time to go back and revisit! 😀

  4. Very interesting read and beautiful photos. I’m happy you didn’t published photos of ‘fact no.5’, that’s the only thing I didn’t know about CP. 🙂

    1. Haha! I decided not to publish them on the blog but I did post some on the IG stories… to nobody’s delight, haha!

  5. Oh your post just woke up some sweet memories! Last year we spent an awesome day in Central Park for my birthday. Of course, we didn’t see everything, but a lot of it, as we walked down from around Jackie Onassis Reservoir down to W 59th St. I didn’t know that it was the first landscaped park in the USA though! Thank you for sharing the interesting facts!

    1. I think I’m a little crazy about facts and try to include them as much as I can! And you know what, I need to go to the Jackie Onassis Reservoir. Definitely a beautiful place to spend a birthday in!

    1. Yes, it’s definitely not a park that you can just stroll on by for an hours. If you dedicate an entire day to it, then you will be able to see a lot!

  6. The next time I go to New York I’ll definitely be following this guide! I’ve been to New York a handful of times and I feel like I’ve never really accomplished much in Central Park. This is such a helpful guide!

    1. Thanks, Hannah! And yes, I feel like I had to make it a goal to see as much as I could the last time I went or else you just end up seeing a bit of the park.

    1. I just googled “how to embed google map,” hahaha! Of course, I created the map itself first on google maps. It was the hardest thing about this post… So glad you like it, seriously, it was a paaaain.

  7. What a comprehensive guide! I love it. Also, it seems like indeed, it was written by someone who has been to Central Park many times. I loved the photos and the honesty (about the rats haha)

  8. Thanks for this post, this is so informative! I found it also helpful to rent a bike in order to be able to move around Central Park more quickly (at least where it’s allowed to cycle). Cheers, Dennis

  9. Ahah! I’d love to take up the challenge to explore it entirely in one day from 6am to 1am. Or maybe not. Is it worth exploring at night?
    Your itinerary already allows seeing so many things that more time may not be required. I had no idea we could rent canoe there. I love canoeing, it’s awesome to be able to do that in the city!

  10. The view from Belvedere Castle is stunning. I love the sculptures too. I have been ther in the summer but I would love to see Central Park all covered in snow – magical!

  11. What an amazing Central Park guide! I went multiple days and it felt so huge, and seeing the map, it really is HUGE! Even though I was here multiple days I still managed to miss things. I’ll have to check Cleopatra’s Needle out next time!

  12. I hadn’t realised how huge Central Park is! You’re right, I do recognise Gapstow Bridge from pretty much every film set in New York ever! Thanks for all the info, now when I go I’ll know exactly what to expect 🙂

  13. There are so many places to explore in Central Park, especially the further north you go. Most visitors tend to stick around the south end since it is closer to other tourist attractions, but the whole park is amazing and a welcomed green space in NYC. I used to play in my company’s softball league in Central Park every week, which always felt special, with the backdrop of the NYC skyline.

  14. Love how you’ve highlighted these spots and it’s a crack up about trying to do it all in a day! I’ve been in the park in early spring and did a tour of some movie locations (like the bridge.) It’s a wonder how it’s been preserved and brings so much quiet and sanity in the middle of the city.

  15. Fabulous guide. There are really so many things to do there. I rented a row boat rather than a canoe and it was a highlight. The weirdest thing I did was a night tour of the park. I was the only guest on the tour and was shaking in fright the whole time. It’s a different world in there.

  16. Whoaa I knew Central Park was big but didn’t know it was 50+ streets long! The map you included is super helpful too. I visited several years back during winter and this is for sure making me want to revisit during the warmer days!

  17. It’s so crazy how huge Central Park is! I never realized how big it was until we visited a few years ago and only saw a tiny portion of the park. It would be fun to check out some of the sculptures in the park, and the carousel would be fun to see too! The Gapstow Bridge and the Bow Bridge would definitely be on my list, as well! Thanks for a great breakdown of sights to see there!

  18. This make me wanna go to New York asap!Central Park location is just so perfect..every corner has something to learn or fun. I believe it would be much peaceful inside and great place to spend weekend. Wonferful pictures and great post.

  19. I guess whoever heads to NYC, at least for the first time, does want to visit central park. Thanks for this great piece of information on central park. Particularly the map. I am sure it is going to be of great help to first timers as well as seasoned visitors who want to take a round of the park in limited time.

  20. I have always known that Central park was huge but never once have I come across a post that demystifies it for me. I love the way you have taken us through the different entrances and the landmarks within. I love the Belvedere castle the most followed by those bridges. Beautiful pics accompanying the write-up. Thanks for that.

    1. Oh, I think that depends on what you like. Sometimes people go with their sleds down the many hills when it’s snowed or go enjoy the flowers bursting in the springtime. But any time of the year, it’s welcoming and beautiful!

  21. Awesome post! I only saw a glimpse of Central Park (the tip near the big Apple store) with the pretty horse carriage. The heavy snowfall made me cancel my plans to visit there then i ledt NYC the following day 🙁 I have pinned this for future reference! Thanks a lot!

  22. I wish I’d read this post before I was in NYC over Thanksgiving. We spent some time in Central Park, but missed some of these great stops. I got to watch dusk over Belvedere Castle though, and I really enjoyed that!

  23. What an excellent and organized post! I love all of the photos and selection of places you picked out! I will definitely be saving this for the future.

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