Central Park Travel Guide

Central Park, New York City, draws around 40 million visitors per year, making it the most frequented city park in the entire United States. It is also familiar to many who have never stepped foot in the park since it is also among the most frequently filmed locations on earth. Central Park is located in the middle of Upper Manhattan, in the heart of New York City.

History

Central Park was first created in 1857 as a municipal park of New York City, which at the time, included only the present-day borough of Manhattan. The following year, architect Calvert Vaux and landscaper Frederick Olmsted went to work on improving the park. The first portion of Central Park was open to the public late in 1858. In 1873, the park’s boundary was extended southward, bringing it to its current size of 843 acres. In 1962, Central Park was declared a National Historic Landmark.

Central Park, New York

New York City skyline aerial view with Central Park in foreground and Manhattan cityscape skyline in background.

Things to see and do in Central Park

Central Park is a microcosm of nature, surrounded by skyscrapers. There are over 25,000 trees to be seen in the park and dozens of species, including the dogwood tree and a grove of American Elms, which is one of the last remaining groves in the whole Northeastern U.S. And be sure to stop by the famous “Strawberry Fields.”

Also look for any of over 235 bird species, such as the red-tailed hawk and the warbler. And keep your eyes open for raccoons, gray squirrels, chipmunks, opossums, and long-horned beetles as your stroll down the park’s many paths.

Central Park, New York

New Yorkers hanging out in Central Park on a sunny weekend.

Take a horse-drawn carriage ride through or around the park. Carriage horses have been a feature of Central Park since 1935, and “horsing around” the park is now a classic activity. You may notice see some police officers traveling the park by “horse power.”

Stop by the Central Park Zoo, which actually a group of four zoos and one aquarium. There is a polar bear pool, a penguin house, an indoor rain forest, and much more. You can also see wildlife in Hallett Nature Sanctuary near “The Pond” at the park’s southern end.

Go out on “The Lake” in a rented rowboat or kayak. You can rent from Loeb Boathouse, where you can also grab a bite to eat at their on-site restaurant.

Lake – Central Park, New York

People enjoying themselves in a rowboat on the Central Park lake on a warm summer’s day.

Climate conditions

Central Park, and Manhattan in general, enjoy a milder climate than upstate New York, but 25 to 35 inches of snow can still fall during the winter. Winter is also the rainy season, making any time from April through November prime touring season, though Central Park is open year-round. The park is also a great escape from the “heat island” effect of the surrounding urban sprawl during the hot summer months.