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Whether you’ve come to New York for its amazing museums, or incredible music scene, or crazy cool bars and restaurants, there’s no doubt that at some point, you’ll spend some time wandering around Central Park. Though it’s one of New York City’s top attractions, even many locals are unaware of some of its most fascinating features. (Lampposts, for example, contain identification plates that act as orientation tools!) Whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned pro, here is what to see and do on your next Central Park visit. And, of course, don’t forget to book your hotel deal on!

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Paddle a rowboat

Central Park Conservancy

Aside from walking, biking, or running through Central Park, you can also opt to take a rowboat out on a lake. This 20-acre body of water connects the Ramble, Bethesda Terrace, and various west side landscapes. Not looking to break a sweat? You can also. opt to take a romantic cruise around the lake a gondoliers. Located along West 74th Street, the Loeb Boathouse offers boat rentals from April through November (weather. permitting). There’s also an onsite restaurant with a casual cafe.

Honor a rock legend

Central Park Conservancy

Fans of the Beatles and John Lennon can flock to this memorial to the late singer on the west side of the park, between 71st and 74th Streets. Four months after his December 8, 1980 murder, the City Council designated a 2.5-acre area in the park as Strawberry Fields, named after the 1967 Beatles song “Strawberry Fields Forever” and located near the Dakota where Lennon and Yoko Ono lived.

Do the Zoo

In the park’s southeast corner, at 63rd and 66th streets, the Central Park Zoo is made up of areas reflecting different climates, and the species who inhabit them, plus a 4D Theater and a children’s petting zoo. Be sure to catch the sea lions in their outdoor pool! Note that admission runs $14–$20 (and $9–$15 for kids).

Walk along the Mall

Central Park Conservancy

In the middle of the park, at 66th Street, this wide and straight path is adorned with American elms, which create a canopy above this pedestrian walkway. The southern section of the Mall is known as Literary Walk because of all the statues of writers you’ll find there, including Shakespeare, Robert Burns, and Sir Walter Scott, which were added in the 1800s.

In 2020, The Mall welcomed a groundbreaking statue—the first monument in Central Park to depict women. Located at 68th Street, the Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument has bronze statues of three New York state suffragettes—Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The installation was timed to the centenary of the ratification of the 19th amendment.

Take in terrace views

Central Park Conservancy

At the end of The Mall, you’ll arrive at the Bethesda Terrace (mid-park at 72nd Street), with its grand staircases descending underneath into an arcade with a beautiful  Minton tile ceiling featuring 49 panels and nearly 16,000 encaustic tiles handmade by England’s Minton and Company.

Seen from above or below the Terrace, the Bethesda Fountain is graced with a statue called “Angel of the Waters”—NYC’s first major piece of public art commissioned from a woman. The work of sculptor Emma Stebbins, it commemorates the 1842 opening of the Croton Aqueduct, which brought fresh water from Westchester County to NYC and ended the cholera epidemic.

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Dine at Tavern on the Green

Central Park Conservancy

This fine-dining restaurant at 67th Street and Central Park West has a neat backstory. Back in the 1880s, its building was originally designed as a sheepfold (a holding pen) to house sheep that once grazed at Central Park’s Sheep Meadow. Then in 1934, as part of a park renovation, NYC’s urban planner Robert Moses turned the place into a restaurant. Tavern on the Green closed for a while in 2009 but reopened five years later.

Visit a Castle

Central Park Conservancy

Perched atop Vista Rock at 79th St, the second-highest natural point in Central Park, resides a miniature castle. Constructed out of a type of rock called Manhattan schist, Belvedere Castle was designed as a place for taking in the views of the surrounding landscape.

Meaning “beautiful view” in Italian, The Belvedere provides viewpoints of the surrounding cityscape and other major park areas. including Turtle Pond, the Great Lawn, and The Ramble, a strolling area that’s also a nice spot for birdwatching.

See a Swedish Cottage

Central Park Conservancy

It wasn’t built for Central Park but the Swedish Cottage on West 79th Street is a neat import; it came from Sweden via Philly to NYC. It originally arrived in the U.S. in 1876 as part of the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition, to showcase traditional Swedish architecture. At the park, the Swedish Cottage would be used for many things, from being a toolshed to a restroom. It now serves as a performance space for NYC Parks’ traveling marionette theater.

Learn what existed before Central Park

A section between 82nd and 89th Streets on the west side marks the place where a thriving settlement called Seneca Village once existed before Central Park’s development. It was once a predominantly African-American community, alongside some Irish and German immigrants.

When the city decided to build Central Park, it used eminent domain to acquire the land, forcing the residents to leave by 1857. In 2011, the Institute for the Exploration of Seneca Village History collaborated with the Central Park Conservancy to conduct an excavation at the site.

Buddy up to the Bard

Central Park Conservancy

Shakespeare’s the thing in Central Park. On the west side between 79th and 80th Streets, the Shakespeare Garden is designed to evoke the feeling of the Bard’s native English countryside and contains plants mentioned in Shakespeare’s works. The garden is near the Delacorte Theater,  which is the venue for the Public Theater’s productions of “Shakespeare in the Park.” This series is a hot-ticket item, as New Yorkers line up early to get free tickets to these summer performances at the open-air theater.

Go for a really long run

Central Park Conservancy

Did you know that the New York City Marathon partly goes through Central Park? Traditionally, participating runners enter the park from 5th Avenue and 90th Street and head toward the finish line at West 67th Street and Central Park West. At this entry point near Engineers’ Gate, look for a bronze statue of Fred Lebow, creator of the New York City Marathon. Usually, he’s found here,  but on the day of the marathon, his statue is moved to the finish line.

Find forts

Central Park Conservancy

Central Park’s North End, above 106th Street, has ties back to the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.  British and American forces battled for control of this area, which lined up with the main passage connecting Manhattan and the Bronx. Today at 107th Street, the remains of Fort Clinton boast a recovered cannon that was discovered to still be loaded with a cannonball and gunpowder when it was being cleaned in 2013. At 105th, Fort Fish offers an open lawn at a high point in the park’s landscape that belonged to a larger fortification system that included Fort Clinton and Nutter’s Battery, now a scenic overlook.

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