Many of the couples who get married in Central Park are visitors to New York. I find that lots of people who get married there might visit Central Park before their wedding, to have a look around and enjoy the space where they will be making some of the biggest promises of their lives. It is a popular place to get engaged, and many couples who have their wedding in Central Park also got engaged there. It is also a place that couples who married there like to return to, either on anniversaries or perhaps with their kids later on in married life. Here are a few of my ideas of what you can do when you visit Central Park, if you don’t happen to be getting married that day!
Take a Walking Tour
The Central Park guides offer many and varied tours all over the park, with the schedule differing each day. You can learn so much by being guided around the park and while listening to interesting facts, they might well point out something that you wouldn’t otherwise spot.
Visit the Zoo
In the South end of the park on the East side there is a small zoo. It’s not as big as the Bronx Zoo, but it’s a nice place to visit, especially with kids. There are indoor and outdoor attractions, a popular one being the sea lion pool in the center courtyard. There is an admission fee. Even if you don’t go inside, it is worth trying to get there around the hour or half past, to see the animated musical clock do its thing.
Go Ice Skating (in the Winter) or on the Carousel (in the Summer)
In the South-East corner of the park there is an ice rink, made famous by the countless films and tv shows it has been featured in. Skating there is a fun thing to do, with a stunning backdrop. We planned an engagement there a while back. The Carousel is in a plaza a little North of where the ice rink is in the Winter. There have been four on this site since Central Park was first created, the current one being a vintage carousel made in 1908 which ran in Coney Island until it was purchased for Central Park.
Go Boating on the Lake
You can either rent a rowboat from the Loeb Boathouse, or book a gondola in advance, which comes with a gondolier. I’ve seen many a rower struggle to get very far so I’d recommend paying a gondolier to do the hard work for you!
Run or Walk Around the Reservoir
I love running around Central Park, and the 1.58 mile track around the Jackie Kennedy Onassis Reservoir is a popular flat circuit for people to run or walk, with stunning views of the buildings surrounding the park.
The Tavern on the Green and the Loeb Boathouse are popular restaurants for our couples to go and eat after their wedding in Central Park. There’s also Le Pain Quotidien for a less formal meal, and lots of concession stands dotted all over the park.
Play a Board Game
The Chess and Checkers House is popular with locals in the summer. In fact, you’ll see lots of chess/checkers tables in many public parks in New York. You can borrow pieces from the visitor center and play outdoors like New Yorkers do. As far as I know, they will also lend backgammon and dominoes to play outdoors, too.
Watch a Ball Game
New Yorker kids’ and adults’ ball game teams and leagues meet regularly on Central Park’s ball fields. The state of the art playing fields in this part are a huge part of community life for the people who live nearby. It’s fun to stop and watch a little of the games when passing by, especially to see some American games that might not be so common in your own country.
Relax on the Great Lawn or Sheep Meadow
These are two large and wide lawns that New Yorkers love to relax on. Dogs are not allowed in either of these spaces. Take a picnic and lets any kids run around, or take a book and a coffee and relax like the locals do.
Explore the North Woods
The North end of the park tends to have far fewer tourists, and it is where the locals hang out. The woods are probably the most secluded part of the park, and you can almost forget that you’re in Manhattan when inside the area.
Take the Kids to a Playground
There are some amazing playgrounds dotted all over Central Park. For many visitors, we think of Central Park as a beautiful and tranquil rest form the city. But if you live near to Central Park in an apartment with small children, then the park is where you take them to burn off some energy. If you’re visiting the city with kids then taking them to a Central Park playground will give them a chance to enjoy the park just like local kids do.
Visit the Met
This just about counts as being inside Central Park, and the Metropolitan Museum is one of the wonderful museums along the Museum Mile of Fifth Avenue. It’s my personal favorite museum in the whole world, with something that should appeal to everyone. Right behind it, in Central Park is the Obelisk, the oldest outdoor monument in New York City; it was made in Egypt in around 1450 BC.
Have a look around Bethesda Terrace
No visit to Central Park is complete without seeing this beautiful and iconic piece of architecture. There is usually some musicians underneath Bethesda Terrace, because the acoustics are fantastic, and there is also a large public bathroom halfway up the stairs at the back of the terrace. The stunning tiles on the ceiling were made in my home town of Stoke on Trent, England in the 1860s, and when it was restored in 2004, replacements were made in the same factory. The fountain is lovely, and it’s a great place to people-watch.
Ride a Bike or Run Around the Loop
There is a 6.1 mile loop around the inside of Central Park with a bike lane and runners’ lane that will give lovely views of the whole park. It does go up and down hill quite a bit, though. If you don’t have your bike with you, there are plenty of places in the park where you can rent one from.
Sail a Boat on the Conservatory Water
During the Summer you can rent a model boat to take out on the small pond at the Conservatory Water, over on the East side of the park, around 75th Street. This is a lovely spot, with a small café and the famous Alice in Wonderland stature nearby.
Go to a Visitor Center
There are five visitor centers in Central Park. This is where you can pick up maps and guides and get information from the staff members. You can also purchase gifts, knowing that your money is going towards the upkeep of this beautiful park.
I’d love to hear any other suggestions in the comments!