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Fun Things to do in Central Park with Kids

A trip to Central Park with kids is a must if you’re traveling to New York City. Central Park has so many things to offer families, and you’ll constantly be discovering a new hidden gem. In this post, I’ll share our favorite family activities to do with kids in Central Park.

Central Park With kids
Great Lawn

New York City

We’ve lived in NYC for almost two years now, which has given us plenty of time to explore and find all the best spots to enjoy Central Park with kids (or without!). If you are planning a trip to New York City, you’ll want to read this to the end to find all our favorite spots, along with the ones we think you could skip.

If you’re not familiar with New York City, it is made up of 5 boroughs (or distinct towns):

  1. Bronx
  2. Brooklyn
  3. Manhattan
  4. Queens
  5. Staten Island

Central Park is located in the famous Manhattan, which is right across the bridge from Fort Lee, NJ.

Central Park

Central Park is an 843-acre green space in the center of Manhattan, featuring bridges, ponds, fountains, statues, gardens, a zoo, and a skating rink. It runs from 59th Street to 110th Street and from Central Park West to Fifth Avenue.

Central Park is a popular tourist destination. Before moving here, all I heard was how beautiful it was and how you are “not supposed” to roam it after dark.

Although I do largely agree with not wandering Central Park after dark, I have done it, and I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re super familiar with the area (and there are certain areas you’d want to avoid).

If I had to choose a “favorite” part of New York City, it would be Central Park, no questions asked. It is a beautiful spot to wander, full of life, playgrounds for the kids, and a way to “escape” the city.

I was beyond excited to move to NYC just to explore Central Park, but I wasn’t prepared for the “big city life.” After two years of living here, I’ve adjusted and learned a thing or two about the area. Central Park will be one of the things I miss the most about NYC when we move.

During the day, Central Park comes alive. It’s full of vibrant personalities and wonderful sites to see.

I should warn you: Central Park is huge, and if you want to explore all it has to offer, you’d need several days. You can find the map of Central Park here with all the points of interest.

Are you ready to learn about the best spots in Central Park to visit with (or without) kids?

Let’s explore them.

Central Park with Kids

Central Park with Kids Tips

  • If you only have one day to explore Central Park, I recommend focusing on the center or south Side. My biggest piece of advice would be to pick one place you really want to see and explore that area leisurely. For instance, we had the Bethesda Fountain/Terrace on our list, and while there, we ended up exploring Bow Bridge, The Boathouse, The Ramble, and even catching a glimpse of the Belvedere Castle.
  • Keep in mind that you will be walking a lot. If you have smaller children, you will probably want to bring a stroller or, my personal favorite, a baby carrier. If you are local, consider bringing their scooters to help them get around.
  • Restrooms: Central Park has restrooms throughout the park, but make sure you are aware of where they are. You can find a map of them here. We were once caught in the middle of Central Park with a 5-year-old needing to use a restroom when the closest one was almost a mile away. Fun times.
  • Snacks & Water: Although you can purchase food from food trucks around Central Park, I recommend bringing snacks and water. The items tend to be pricy, and you’ll be doing a lot of walking.
  • Horse and Carriage Rides: It was always a dream of mine to do a horse and carriage ride through Central Park, but beware, they are expensive! Most of them charge by the minute, and you’ll be paying a small fortune. Every trip we take to Central Park, the kids beg to ride one, and I have to dodge them because I’m not paying that much. If you book through the Central Park site, it is $275 for a 45-minute ride. They sure are dreamy, though, right?

Fun things to do in Central Park with Kids

1. Playgrounds:

Usually the only thing on my kids minds when we’re out at a new area is “where are the playgrounds?,” which is why I have playgrounds as one of the fun things to do in Central Park with kids. The best part is that there are so many to choose from!

There are actually 21 playgrounds in Central Park, you can find a full list of all the playgrounds here.

Some of our favorite playgrounds have been:

  1. Heckscher Playground: Restrooms available, swings, slides, splash area, & Umpire Rock (Mid-Park between 61st and 63rd Streets)
  2. Ancient Playground: An Egyptian-themed playground, restrooms, and water feature (85th Street & 5th Avenue)

Locals Tip: If you’re visiting in the summer and want to enjoy the splash areas, pack extra clothes and water shoes. The concrete can get really hot on those bright summer days.

Also, don’t be alarmed that some of the playgrounds may not look like your average brightly colored playgrounds. This is one of my favorite things about playgrounds in Central Park. They all have a little historic charm to them.

2. Central Park Zoo (& Tisch Children’s Zoo)

If your kids love animals, make sure you add Central Park Zoo to your list! Although not a large zoo by any means, the Central Park Zoo is enchanting. The center of the zoo is home to the Sea Lion Pool. Grab a bite to eat and sit by to watch the sea lions swim by or put on a show. If you purchase tickets to the zoo, you also get free entry into the Tisch Children’s Zoo, which the young kids love because they get to interact with the animals. You can read all about the Central Park Zoo in my post, A Day at Central Park with Kids.

3. Delacorte Clock

Located right outside the Central Park Zoo entrance before you head over to Tisch Children’s Zoo, the Delacorte Clock chimes every half hour. The animals play music and dance around the clock. My kids thought this was such a neat thing to watch.

Local Tip: This area can become busy with people. If you’re looking to watch the clock and animals without crowds, you’ll probably want to visit in the off-season.

4. Bethesda Fountain and Terrace

Built in 1859, the Bethesda Terrace was one of the first structures in Central Park. You may also recognize the fountain from the movie Enchanted. You can sometimes find the “bubble man” here who makes giant bubbles around the kids! You’ll also find many musicians, singers, and dancers within this area, along with some food carts.

Local Tip: There are a lot of steps to get down to the bottom of the terrace by the fountain, but if you vear right, you can use a footpath to get to the bottom without carrying your stroller.

5. Central Park Boathouse

Although we’ve never actually been to The Boathouse, the best view is from the Bethesda Fountain & Terrace.

If you decide to head to The Boathouse, you can enjoy a meal here or rent a boat. It’s $25 an hour to rent, and children must be at least 3 feet tall to ride.

Local Tip: The edge of the water at the terrace is open (literally, the sidewalk ends at the water’s edge without a rail); if you have little children, keep a close eye on them. I tried to keep my children away from the open area and instead moved them to an area where it had more of a barrier/rail while looking across the water to the boathouse.

6. Bow Bridge

If you’re already at the Bethesda terrace, head over to see Bow Bridge. Built-in 1862, this Victorian-era bridge spans 60 feet across Central Park Lake and connects Cherry Hill and the Ramble.

7. The Ramble

Right across Bow Bridge is the Ramble, which is a lush 38-acre woodland with pathways. This is such a dreamy area to explore, and you feel like you’re not even in the city. It’s seriously so relaxing to explore.

8. Belvedere Castle

Although we’ve only seen the Belvedere Castle from a distance (and at night), it looks like a really neat experience! I mean, did you know Central Park had a real castle? The castle is perched on top of Vista Rock and overlooks Turtle Pond. If you love castles, you’ll have to stop by and check out this mini castle located right in New York City!

9. The Gapstow Bridge & Pond

The Gapstow Bridge was featured in Home Alone 2, but that isn’t why we love it. It’s the perfect place to take a stroll by the water, climb on rocks, and hunt for turtles.

10. Climbing Rocks

There are huge rocks all over Central Park. Our very first trip to Central Park was a memorable one because the kids immediately ran up to a huge rock and began climbing all over it. At first, I was concerned that they weren’t allowed to climb the rocks. Two years later I can confirm climbing rocks is allowed, and it’ll be one of your kid’s favorite activities.

11. Ice Cream

No trip to Central Park is complete without grabbing ice cream from an ice cream truck. You’ll find them all over Central Park, along with other food trucks.

12. The Great Lawn

The Great Lawn is a 55-acre greenspace surrounded by several playgrounds and baseball fields. It’s the perfect place to stop for a picnic and enjoy the views of the city. If you have art lovers in the family, grab some paper and crayons, enjoy your picnic, and then let the kids draw the view of the city as their keepsake!

Other Areas in Central Park (ones we haven’t personally tried)

13. Alice In Wonderland

If you are (or have) an Alice in Wonderland fan, you’ll want to swing by the large bronze statue of Alice surrounded by the book characters. Both parents and children love this spot. You’ll probably catch a kid climbing on the statues, too—don’t worry—it’s allowed!

14. Central Park Carousel

The carousel is a favorite of children, although we haven’t personally tried it. It’s $3.25 per person to ride and cash only.

15. Sheep Meadow

Sheep Meadow is another spot, just like The Great Lawn, where people can relax, picnic, and soak in the views of the city. We haven’t personally visited Sheep Meadow, but it’s on my list!

Don’t forget to pin this image so you’ll know all the best places to visit the next time you find yourself in Central Park.

Other Fun Things to Do in New York

There are so many fun things to do and see in New York City and close by.

If you’re exploring New York City, check out my tips for visiting the New York Aquarium. It’s located on Coney Island, and you can explore the boardwalk afterward!

If you are local to NYC and looking for a day trip, there are so many family-friendly activities in Mystic, CT, which is only a short 2.5-3 hour drive.

Keep in Touch!

Follow along for more inspiration on family travel experiences that feed your heart’s wanderlust and create cherished family memories. It’s one of our favorite things to do as a family!

Central Park, Gapstow Bridge with Grandma Tracy and Uncle Trenton.

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