A magical respite in the middle of Manhattan where the noise of the city vanishes — Central Park is one of the most remarkable places in all of New York City. Read on to find out all the best things to do in Central Park from our local Flytographer, Amanda. What’s the next best thing to being a local yourself? Booking a stay at a hotel in NYC and setting off to explore the city by foot.
Central Park is massive, running from 59th Street to 110th Street (that’s 2.5 miles/4.0km tall)! The Park includes a zoo, castle, carousel, theaters, ice skating rinks, playgrounds, a swimming pool, sculptures, restaurants, lakes, ponds, a reservoir, gardens, meadows, lawns, sporting fields & courts, waterfalls, trails, wildlife, and somehow, a whole lot more. 🌳
It’s easy to get lost, and impossible to take it in all at once. Central Park is a backyard to New Yorkers and a wonderland to visitors. The juxtaposition of this giant gem 💎 of solitude right in the middle of one of the loudest, most chaotic cities in the world makes it a must-see.
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Central Park Photo Spots & Tips
There are zero bad spots to take photos in Central Park, and countless incredible options to choose from! Bethesda Fountain and Bethesda Terrace which are right by The Lake are central, and likely the most iconic symbols of the park itself. Nearby is Loeb Boathouse where you can grab some food, or (weather permitting) rent a rowboat (which is also one of the best deals in the city!). ⛵ The classic Bow Bridge and beautiful tree-lined Mall are in this same area. If you’ve seen one of the hundreds of films shot in New York City, chances are they were filmed right here. Rain or shine you can pull off a dream photo shoot in this area with ease. ☔🌤
A favourite photo tip for Central Park (and New York City in general) is to embrace the people. Crowds are plentiful, so although those dream shots of solitude are picturesque, remember that often these iconic spots are busy—so lean into the chaos! Another amazing thing about Central Park is no matter how busy it may be, there are always quiet spots. Your Flytographer will know where these hidden gems are and will help find a balance between capturing the crazy and the calm.
Best Central Park Activities All Yearround
The best thing about Central Park is you can see it all for free. Like the rest of the city, walking is the very best way to get around, and it’s possible in any season! You’ll always find New Yorkers drinking their coffee and walking their dogs, runners and bikers on the 6-mile loop, and tourists posing for photos at the Imagine mosaic in Strawberry Fields. 🍓
Traveling with kids? There are 20+ playgrounds in Central Park, and they’re fantastic any time of the year! Some favorite playgrounds are Heckscher (the views are top-notch) and Billy Johnson (featuring granite slides and a mini Gapstow Bridge). No matter the season, playgrounds in the city are a must with kids. 🎠
If you decide to visit the Central Park Zoo, or even if you’re just walking by, wave hello to the sea lions since you can see them without zoo admission! Try and time your visit to catch the beautiful music of the Delacorte Clock every half-hour between 8:00 – 18:00.
Spring in Central Park
Spring in New York City is a favourite among New Yorkers who turn into human-lizards descending from their tiny apartments and filling the streets, outdoor cafes, and sun-drenched rocks in Central Park. 🌸
Trees and flowers in Central Park are some of the first to bloom come spring — white, yellow, pink, purple — peaking before most of the trees begin to fill in the parks’ fluffy green canopy. If you are venturing near the North Meadow, the Central Park Conservancy takes care of the park and does an outstanding job to help spring feel like a real new beginning each year. Spring is when the park (and the Conservatory Garden) really show off. Wherever you roam in the park, a beautiful body of water is usually nearby. Harlem Meer is the Conservatory water right by the garden and is teeming with life.
Biking in the spring is a great choice because the weather feels just right. 🚲 Central Park has some very generous hills (if you’ve biked the loop before, you know the hill near the Harlem Meer being referenced right now! It is a doozy), so be prepared! There are tons of great options for bike rentals throughout the city.
Summer in Central Park
Summer in Central Park feels different than any other time of the year. You can see, hear, and feel the pulse of the city rise along with the summertime heat and humidity.
Sheep Meadow is a favorite summertime destination and features a massive lawn of green space flanked by the beautiful architecture of the city to the south, west, and east. Sunbathers and picnickers fill the lawn, and you’ll always find people playing games in the grass. Although dogs aren’t allowed in the meadow, you will frequently see a leashed cat, ferret, or turtle — it’s one of the best places in the entire city to people-watch! Speaking of people-watching, head north into the Ramble to get a glimpse of the birds and birdwatchers! 🐦 Birding is a big deal in Central Park, and with 260+ species of birds recorded, the Ramble is a haven.
The Great Lawn, along with the nearby Belvedere Castle and Shakespeare Garden, are less visited by tourists, but sitting just east of (and a close walk from) the American Museum of Natural History, they’re also easy to access. If you like spotting critters in the wild, head to the nearby Turtle Pond!
Wondering about those theaters in Central Park? 🎭 Seeing a show at the open-air Delacorte Theater is truly a special experience. In the summer the Delacorte is home to the Public Theater’s free Shakespeare in the Park productions! The Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater features puppet shows that are a delight for kids. Be sure to check their websites for current shows, dates, times, and ticketing information.
Fall in Central Park
It’s hard not to dream of fall in New York City. Central Park is the city’s stage for the changing of the seasons. For an extra special view of the leaves and Manhattan skyline, head to Hernshead Rock near the Ladies Pavilion on the west side of the park at 75th Street. 🍂
While most people assume October is peak fall awesomeness (be sure to check out more about October in NYC here), remember that fall colours roll brilliantly into November —another exciting time in the city! Both the New York City Marathon and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade happen this month. If you happen to be in town for the marathon (the first Sunday in November), be prepared for road closures throughout all 5 boroughs, and make sure to give yourself time to watch and cheer along the route; it’s an exhilarating, emotional, exciting day that feels much less arduous for enthusiastic observers than it does the 50,000 runners! If you’re coming to the city for the parade, you can attend the balloon inflation on Thanksgiving Eve (be prepared for massive crowds since it has grown tremendously in recent years), and/or wake up early and line the streets to catch the balloons, floats, bands, and more as they march down Central Park West, finishing on 34th Street. 🎈
Winter in Central Park
The best thing about Central Park in the wintertime is that the lush blanket of green foliage gives way to bare trees and a 360-degree view of the neighborhoods and architecture surrounding the park itself — from the Upper West Side straight across to the Upper East Side and, and depending on where you’re at in the park, the tall skyscrapers to the north or south as well. 🏙
Feeling cold? It’s a quick and easy walk to the east side of the park to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art! Be sure to go to the Temple of Dendur and look at the park through the incredible windows for a “pinch-me” New York City moment.
A common misconception about New York City is that wintertime brings constant blankets of beautiful white snow, but snowfall typically only happens once or twice a year. ⛄ If you do happen to catch a snowstorm, visit one of the many hills in the park — Cedar Hill is a sledding favorite. Since most New Yorkers don’t have space to store sleds, cookie sheets, boxes, and bins become sleds, and that means you can join in by grabbing a discarded “sledding vehicle” for an unforgettable ride.
Snow or no snow, ice skating at Wollman Rink is always a great idea! ⛸ If you happen to be in New York City in December, skating followed by a walk across the nearby Gapstow Bridge, past the Plaza Hotel and down Fifth Avenue toward Rockefeller Center will remind you why a December visit is a literal holiday classic. December in NYC is something everyone should experience at least once.
Restaurants Near Central Park
There are a handful of spots to grab a meal in Central Park itself — Tavern on the Green is the most iconic, situated on the western edge of the park at 67th Street. The main entrance is often flanked with horse-drawn carriages, while the east side patio twinkles with outdoor lights strung above the tables, drawing your eye toward the cityscape. ✨
Concession stands (many featuring those classic striped umbrellas) serve hot dogs, pretzels, ice cream, roasted nuts and more, and are sprinkled around the park for a quick bite. (Note: most are cash-only.) 🌭
To get food outside of the park, you’ll have to walk a couple of blocks east or west. Some of the best restaurants can be found nearby on the Upper West Side along Columbus or Amsterdam Avenues. Be sure to check out Jacob’s Pickles, The Smith (they have a photo booth downstairs!), or grab a slice of pizza at one of the many pizza joints. 🍕
Cafes & Bars Near Central Park
Cafes, coffee shops, bars, and bodegas are the lifeblood of food in the city and are ideal for grabbing something quick while staying on-the-go (also providing fuel to make it to your next NYC eatery, obviously). ☕
Some hot spots near the park are Epices Bakery, Zucker’s Bagels, Levain Bakery, Orwashers, or Chalait for delicious treats, drinks, and/or some quick mid-size bites to keep your energy up as you explore! Two hot tips: 1. Sarah Jessica Parker recently filmed a scene for “And Just Like That” at Chalait, so grab a matcha and feel extra chic while you sip, 2. Levain Bakery is known for its cookies, and 3. Do yourself a favour and grab a second cookie from Orwashers to conduct a very important taste test! They’re quite different, and you’ve definitely earned both after all the walking you’ve done. 🍪
Other NYC Tips
The southern and middle sections of Central Park are the busiest and most frequented by tourists. If you’re looking for a bit more nature and quiet, try entering the park above 81st Street. The landscape of the park varies tremendously depending on where you’re at, and there is absolutely something for everyone. 🌿
Feeling overwhelmed? Avoid spending too much time in Midtown. Although visiting Times Square is a must, plan to explore other neighbourhoods, particularly if you feel like you want to write-off NYC for being too crazy, noisy, or dirty. Make sure you’ve done a good sampling to find an area that resonates with you!
Perhaps the best tip when you’re visiting New York City? Don’t bring brand-new shoes. Nothing gives tourists away like shiny new shoes. However much you think you’ll walk, double it! New Yorkers are notoriously practical and hard on their shoes! Cute shoes are saved for taxi rides and special events. Bring shoes you know you’ll be comfortable in, and shoes that are ready to brave lots and lots of dirty ground! 👟
Capturing Memories in Central Park
A helpful reminder if you have (or even if you haven’t!) booked a Flytographer shoot in Central Park: cars are not allowed in the park. This means there will likely be a short walk to get from the nearest entrance of the park to your meeting point. (For example, the walk from the entrance of Central Park at 72nd Street and Central Park West, or 72nd Street and 5th Avenue to Bethesda Fountain is about 7-10 minutes.)
A trip to New York City wouldn’t be complete without checking off your big city bucket list with all of the interesting and unique neighbourhoods that this amazing city has to offer. Whether you are in the mood for an afternoon in Brooklyn, window shopping in SoHo, a historical walking tour through Greenwich Village, or the hustle and bustle of Midtown and Times Square, our local photographers have you covered.
Booking a shoot in Central Park is a win-win when you’re visiting New York City. Whether you want city or nature, or 30 minutes or 3 hours, let your Flytographer be your unofficial tour guide as you explore the beauty of Central Park! 📸
“Amanda is AMAZING! She was early, outgoing, funny, professional but felt like a longtime friend at the same time. We met her in Central Park, she knows it so well. She was terrific with my girls and captured the most amazing photos for us. She had us laughing and made it so much fun. We weren’t having the best time in NY, she really helped us out a lot and made our trip so much better. I can’t wait to print every photo and put them all over our house and my office. Definitely going on our holiday cards. I will tell everyone I know that goes to NY to book with Amanda!”
“Sehee was sweet, flexible and amazing to work with! She made us feel very comfortable in front of the camera and gave clear instructions and guidance. She helped us pose but also let us take a few silly photos. She knows all the best spots to shoot and worked so efficiently. Thank you so much, Sehee!”