Central Park is one of my very favorite places in New York City, and visiting Central Park with kids has become one of my favorite things to do on our family trips to New York City. There’s something about a small haven of green nestled among the towering skyscrapers, where the noise and chaos of the city is muted, that makes my heart happy and there are so many things to do in Central Park with kids!
We spend time in Central Park every single trip we take to New York City, and every time I fall in love with it a little bit more. The park is actually huge, covering 843 acres and if you’re visiting New York City with kids, then Central Park is a must-do. It’s a place where kids can run around and burn off some steam, and there is so much for them to do, see, and explore. I’ve compiled a list of things that we love to do when visiting Central Park with kids.
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1. Playgrounds in Central Park
Central Park has 21 playgrounds in all, making it a haven for parents who want to let their kids run around and entertain themselves for a while. We’ve explored a few of these 21, but the one we return back to on every single trip to New York City with kids is Heckscher Playground in the southwest corner of the park.
It is the city’s oldest and largest playground with all manner of swings, slides, and play structures, as well as a really cool water play area and a huge sand box. There are different areas for different ages, which is great for keeping the little ones safe.
There are bathrooms located within the fenced in area of the park, and not only are there men and women’s bathrooms, but boys and girls just for the kids. This adds a layer of safety, and is more practical for kids.
Other favorite playgrounds include the Adventure Playground (the one in the picture above), Ancient Playground, and Billy Johnson Playground.
2. The Central Park Carousel
The Central Park carousel can be found at around 64th Street, and is open daily from April to October (weather permitting). It’s an undercover carousel that accommodates over 250,000 riders each year, and it is absolutely adorable.
A ride on the carousel costs $3 (cash only – don’t make our mistake and arrive with a credit card, your child will not thank you!) and we never saw the line get too long. The carousel has been in the park since 1871 and every single person I saw riding it was having a fabulous time (including all of the adults!)
3. The Ramble Woodland Walk and Belvedere Castle
The Ramble is a woodland walk made up of over 38 acres of walking trails, bridges, ponds, and places to just sit and take in the peace and quiet. It’s a great place to walk in the park away from the crowds and the traffic; the kids loved running along the trails without me constantly telling them to watch the cars!
The Ramble is a great place for bird watching, but you might find other wildlife too. We saw countless racoons on the trails and walking through the bushes.
If you walk North through The Ramble, you’ll eventually come to Belvedere Castle. I always think this place looks so out of place in Central Park, like it was just dropped in from a fairy tale! It houses an observatory within the structure, but we usually just climb the steps for the amazing panoramic views of the park.
4. Alice in Wonderland Statue
Found right around 74th Street, the Alice in Wonderland statue is somewhere I’d always wanted to visit. Constructed in 1959, the 11-foot bronze statue depicts Alice, the Mad Hatter, the Dormouse, the Cheshire Cat, and the White Rabbit and, unlike most statues or sculptures, you won’t find a ‘no climbing’ sign here; children are welcome to touch and climb over the statue.
I loved seeing the statue, and most kids are familiar enough with the story of Alice in Wonderland that they’ll get a kick out of it too.
5. Bethesda Terrace
Bethesda Terrace is located at 72nd Street, and was completed in 1863. The upper terrace leads out onto the Mall, and is joined to the lower terrace by a grand staircase. The architecture of the terrace is beautiful, finished off with the breathtaking Bethesda Fountain.
This is a great place for amazing views, and we always find something interesting going on here; on our last trip, there were couples having a dance lesson, and a man out “walking” his pet python! There are also turtles to see in the lake the terrace borders.
6. The Great Lawn
Not surprisingly the Great Lawn is in fact, a great big lawn! Located in the middle of the park, it is a huge expanse of green that is open from mid-April to mid-November each year. When we visited Central Park in July of this year, the weather was beautiful and the lawn just begs kids to kick off their shoes and socks and run around!
It is the perfect place for a picnic if the weather is nice; we picked up sandwiches, chips, and fruit from a nearby deli, and spent a very pleasant hour or two letting the kids run around while we ate. This was a beautiful area of the park in the summer, and I can imagine it is just as beautiful in the fall with the turning leaves, or blanketed in snow in the winter.
7. Climbing on the rocks in Central Park
Just about every child I know, but in particular my boys, love to climb. They see a rock, they must climb on it. There are big rocks and boulders to climb and sit on literally all over the park, and nothing thrills my kids more than wearing themselves out clambering up and down these things over and over again.
This is definitely an area to supervise little kids as the rocks can be large, and sometimes my kids would go up one side and them disappear over the top to come down a different side. But it’s a great way to tire them out and let them explore.
8. Wollman Rink
If you’re going to be in Central Park in the winter, I cannot recommend this enough: skip the ice skating at Rockefeller Center, and head here instead. The Wollman Rink is open from the end of October to mid-April, and is open to everyone from expert skaters to those who can barely stay on their feet, including kids of all ages.
Skates and lockers are available to rent, and you have the opportunity to skate under the stars as the skyscrapers of the city surround you. It really is an incredibly experience, and something we do on every Christmas trip to the city.
Oh, and if you’re worried about your little ones skating, I discovered – the hard and painful way! – that kids are a lot more stable on their kids than adults are! Learn more about the Wollman Rink and this year’s skating hours at their official website. Ice skating here is one of the things I recommend most for visiting New York City at Christmas with kids.
One of the last things to do in Central Park with kids (that is super fun!)
On our most recent trip to Central Park, I discovered the most fantastic thing. Celebrities have recorded guided tours to some of the most iconic Central Park attractions, and you can dial a number to listen to them! This was amazing! I got to hear about Strawberry Fields from Yoko Ono, about the carousel from Kelly Ripa, and the Rumsey Playfield from Neil Patrick Harris. Above is a map of the park, with the number and extensions for each attraction – give this a try on your next trip, it was so much fun!
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