Skip to Content

15 Iconic Spots & Things to See in Central Park (+Map & Tips)

15 Iconic Spots & Things to See in Central Park (+Map & Tips)

Central Park, the green heart of New York City, offers a lush retreat from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan. But it’s so much more than that! Central Park is also an iconic landmark featured in countless movies and TV series. Some even say that it’s the most popular filming destination in the world!

Whether you’re a local seeking a moment of tranquility or a tourist eager to explore New York’s most iconic landmarks and filming locations, Central Park is a must-visit!

However, if you look at the map, you will quickly realize that Central Park is huge! Stretching from 59th Street to 110th Street and and between Fifth Avenue and Central Park West, the park is over 2.5 miles long and over 0.5 miles wide. Let’s just say that you would need more than an hour to walk from one side to the other at a rapid pace and you could easily spend an entire day here and still not see it all…

But worry not! With a bit of planning, you can easily see all the top spots and most iconic landmarks in Central Park in 1.5-3 hours.

This guide will take you through the best things to do in Central Park to ensure you don’t miss any of the musts. To help you plan your visit, we also created a map indicating the most iconic spots to see in Central Park.

What to see and do in Central Park in New York

Good to know: While Central Park is really big, most landmarks and top places are concentrated in the southern half of the park, more or less between The Plaza Hotel at the southeastern entrance and The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met). Still, prepare to walk a lot, and be sure to wear comfortable shoes!

TIP: If you are not keen on walking, or if you want to cover more ground in a short time, consider a private pedicab tour or a guided bike tour. You can also rent a bike, but keep in mind that navigating a new place while also looking at the map and trying to find the best spots may not always be easy, especially if you are visiting on a weekend when the park gets very busy. Carriage rides are also very popular.

MAP: To help you plan your visit, we created an interactive map indicating all the best spots to see in Central Park. You can find it at the end of this article and save it to your phone to use while exploring. You can also pick up a free paper map at various info points inside the park, e.g. at Belvedere Castle or Central Park Information Kiosks.

New York Central Park Carriages
Central Park Carriages.

Here are the best places to see in Central Park:

1. The Lake


The Lake is one of the most picturesque spots in Central Park. It’s amusing how they named this 20-acre water feature simply “The Lake.” I suppose they decided to let its beauty speak for itself. On the other hand, “Central Park” located right in the center of Manhattan is quite straightforward too…

Bordered by lush trees and winding pathways, the Lake provides stunning views throughout the year. You will instantly recognize it from countless films and TV series.

Boating is a popular activity here offering a unique perspective of the park’s landscapes and a romantic touch to your trip. But you can also simply enjoy a leisurely walk along the shores of the lake.

Good to know: Rowboats are available for rent at the nearby Loeb Boathouse. Just be prepared for a long wait, especially on warm and sunny summer weekends.

TIP: For some nice photo spots head to Oak Bridge and Ladies Pavillion on the northwestern side of the lake. Don’t miss the views from Hernshead, a large rock outcrop; you might also see turtles here.

The Lake - must see in Central Park, NYC
The Lake.
The Lake and Manhattan views from Hernshead in Central Park
The Lake and Manhattan views from Hernshead.
Turtles at The Lake in New York Central Park
We saw tons of turtles at The Lake.

2. Bow Bridge


No visit to Central Park would be complete without seeing Bow Bridge, one of the park’s most photographed landmarks.

This elegant cast-iron bridge, with its romantic curves, spans across the Lake and provides stunning views of the water and surrounding landscape. It’s particularly enchanting in the fall when the leaves turn vibrant shades of orange and red turning the scenery into a real-life postcard.

If you are looking for the most iconic filming locations in Central Park, this bridge has been featured in dozens of movies, usually in the most romantic scenes. Think of Autumn in New York or The Mirror Has Two Faces, to mention just a few.

Good to know: Bow Bridge is so popular that it can get really crowded here. So if you are planning to do a photoshoot (or if you simply want to see the bridge without a hundred people on it), avoid weekends and come early in the morning.

Bow Bridge - best places to visit Central Park NYC
Bow Bridge.
Central Park iconic places to see - Bow Bridge and The Lake
Bow Bridge.

3. Bethesda Terrace and Fountain


Located in the heart of the park a short walk from Bow Bridge, Bethesda Terrace and Fountain is one of the most famous landmarks of Central Park. It’s a must-see!

Dating from the 1860s, this architectural gem features intricate carvings depicting the four seasons and times of the day. The terrace overlooks the iconic Bethesda Fountain which is also known as the Angel of the Waters.

This majestic and timeless setting is a popular gathering spot for visitors, photo shoots, and street performers, making it a lively and enchanting place to pause and soak in the park’s vibrant atmosphere.

If you are wondering why it looks familiar, it’s likely because you have seen it in many movies, from Marathon Man and Home Alone 2 to Enchanted and The Avengers, to mention just a few.

TIP: Visit early morning or late afternoon for the best light for photography and a more peaceful experience. During the day, this place can be a real beehive (but that can be said about most of the iconic locations of Central Park…).

Bethesda Terrace - best things to see in Central Park New York
Bethesda Terrace.
Bethesda Fountain - must see in Central Park
Bethesda Fountain.

4. The Mall and Literary Walk


The Mall is a grand, tree-lined promenade south of Bethesda Terrace. It leads to Literary Walk where you can find statues of literary giants like William Shakespeare, Robert Burns, and Walter Scott.

This picturesque pathway lined with American Elms is the only straight path in the park. You will instantly recognize it as one of the most popular filming locations in Central Park. From Kramer vs. Kramer and Breakfast at Tiffany’s to Maid in Manhattan and Serendipity, The Mall has been featured in countless movies.

It’s the perfect place for a leisurely walk, offering ample benches to sit and people-watch. Often, you will also see street musicians who like to perform here as well.

TIP: Don’t miss the Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument.

The Mall, one of the iconic places to see in Central Park NYC
The Mall.
Women's Rights Pioneers monument, The Mall, Central Park
Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument.

5. The Pond & Gapstow Bridge


Speaking of straightforward names, if Central Park has “The Lake,” it’s only fitting it also has “The Pond.” Keeping it simple yet charming, The Pond offers a cozy, serene counterpart to its larger neighbor.

Located close to the southeastern entrance of Central Park, just near the iconic hotel The Plaza (that you’ll recognize from Home Alone 2), The Pond offers a picturesque retreat that feels worlds away from the hustle and bustle of 5th Avenue just next door.

One of the must-see spots in this part of Central Park is Gapstow Bridge. This elegant stone bridge provides a stunning vantage point for photographers and nature lovers alike. It’s beautiful at any time but is absolutely breathtaking in the fall when trees change color;

The combination of the serene waters and the city skyline peeking through the trees makes The Pond one of the most picturesque places in Central Park. It’s a must-see!

The Pond and Manhattan skyline - top spots in Central Park
The Pond.
Gapstow Bridge in Central Park New York
Gapstow Bridge.

6. Belvedere Castle


Sitting atop Vista Rock, Belvedere Castle offers nice views of the middle part of Central Park. This whimsical, fairy-tale-like stone structure with balconies and terraces may look like a medieval castle, but it was built in 1869. It serves as a lookout point, a visitor center, and a weather station.

Located near the Turtle Pond and the Great Lawn, and surrounded by the Ramble, it’s also a great spot for birdwatching and nature photography.

TIP: During opening hours, you can visit the rooftop terraces of Belvedere Castle (free of charge). The views are very nice and it’s just a few stairs, so check it out.

Belvedere Castle - NYC Central Park landmarks
Belvedere Castle.
Belvedere Castle - things to see in Central Park NYC
Views from Belvedere Castle.
Belvedere Castle, Central Park must-see
Belvedere Castle.

7. Wollman Rink


Wollman Skating Rink is one of the most iconic places in Central Park, best known for its picture-perfect ice skating against the backdrop of Manhattan’s skyline. From October to March, this beloved attraction transforms Central Park into a winter wonderland straight from a movie scene.

You will recognize it from the Love Story, Serendipity, Gossip Girl, Stepmom, The January Man, and many other films and series.

In the summer months, Wollman Rink evolves into a pickleball venue, offering diverse recreational opportunities in the heart of Central Park.

TIP: If you are visiting New York City in the winter, ice skating on Wollman Rink is one of those bucket list experiences that you really shouldn’t miss! See their website for practical information. You can also reserve the ice skating experience in advance (available during the winter season).

Ice skating in Central Park in winter - Wollman Rink New York
Wollman Rink in the winter.
City Pickle at Wollman Rink in Central Park NYC
Wollman Rink in the summer.

8. Conservatory Water


Conservatory Water, often referred to as the Model Boat Pond, is a charming spot that captivates young and old. Inspired by the boat ponds of Luxembourg Gardens in Paris, it’s famous for its miniature remote-controlled, wind-driven sailboat races. You may recognize it from the story of Stuart Little.

Good to know: In the summer months, on certain days, you can rent model boats from Kerbs Memorial Boathouse (more info here).

Designed as a reflecting pool, Conservatory Water is also very picturesque and well worth a visit even if you are not interested in model boats!

TIP: Don’t miss the statues of Alice in Wonderland and the monument to Hans Christian Andersen. They are both located just near the pond and are among the must-sees in Central Park.

Conservatory Water (Model Boat Pond) in Central Park
Conservatory Water.
Alice in Wonderland, Central Park sculptures, NYC
Alice in Wonderland.
Hans Christian Andersen statue at Central Park in New York
Hans Christian Andersen statue at Conservatory Water.

9. Strawberry Fields


Strawberry Fields is another iconic spot to see in Central Park. Named after the Beatles’ song “Strawberry Fields Forever”, this area is a tribute to John Lennon, reflecting his legacy and the peaceful spirit of the song.

The main landmark here is the Imagine mosaic, a symbol of peace and Lennon’s vision for a harmonious world.

This area is supposed to be quiet and serene, but it was really busy when we visited here on a Sunday afternoon in the summer. Someone was playing John Lennon’s songs and street vendors were selling all kinds of pacifist memorabilia. If you are looking for tranquility, visit during quieter times.

Good to know: Strawberry Fields is located near John Lennon’s former NYC residence, the Dakota Apartments, just outside the park entrance on 72nd Street.

Imagine Mosaic at Strawberry Fields in Central Park NYC
Imagine Mosaic at Strawberry Fields.
John Lennon memorabilia and NYC souvenirs for sale at Strawberry Fields in Central Park
Souvenir stands at Strawberry Fields.

10. Cherry Hill


Cherry Hill is a very charming, picturesque spot overlooking The Lake. Located about halfway between Strawberry Fields and Bethesda Terrace and a short walk from Bow Bridge, this lovely area is known for its lush landscapes and a Victorian fountain at its center.

Carriages like to stop here to rest and enjoy stunning views of the Lake. In fact, the fountain was originally designed as a drinking fountain for horses.

TIP: This area is particularly beautiful in spring when the cherry trees are in full bloom!

Interesting to know: Cherry Hill has been featured in many movies, like Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close or Little Manhattan, to mention just a few. The Cherry Hill Fountain is sometimes mistaken for the one featured in Friends. However, that ‘Central Park’ fountain is actually located at Warner Bros. Studios in Los Angeles

Cherry Hill, Central Park, NYC
Cherry Hill.
Cherry Hill fountain, Central Park, New York
Cherry Hill Fountain – nycruss/

11. The Ramble


The Ramble is a big woodland area that was designed to look and feel like a natural forest. Located north of the Lake and south of Belvedere Castle, it’s quite a large space with winding paths and secluded spots that feel a million miles away from the most popular places of Central Park.

A visit here offers a sense of wilderness right in the heart of the city. It’s also a perfect spot for nature enthusiasts and those seeking a quiet retreat.

Good to know: There is not one specific place that you have to see here, but the Ramble is just a small detour on the way to/from Belvedere Castle. Even if you explore just a small part, it’s nice to experience how unique this area is; completely different from the rest of Central Park.

The Ramble, Central Park New York
The Ramble.
Squirrel at the Ramble in Central Park NYC
We saw lots of squirrels and birds at The Ramble.

12. Sheep Meadow


Sheep Meadow is a huge lawn that covers a big part of southern Central Park. Once a grazing area for sheep, this open space is a great spot to unwind.

This is a perfect spot for picnicking, sunbathing, and recreational activities and is very popular with locals.

If you come here on a sunny warm weekend, the entire lawn will be dotted with (groups of) people sunbathing, reading, picnicking, playing frisbee, or even practicing yoga.

Sheep Meadow Central Park NYC
Sheep Meadow.

13. Central Park Zoo


Located in the southeastern corner of the park, the Central Park Zoo is a delight for all ages but is an absolute must for families visiting Manhattan with kids.

Home to a diverse array of animals, from penguins and sea lions to snow monkeys and red pandas, the Central Park Zoo offers a range of exhibits and interactive experiences. It also gives you access to some of the most unique views in the park.

Don’t miss the daily penguin feeding and sea lion training/feeding sessions! Tisch Children’s Zoo just nearby is included with the same ticket; it has a petting zoo and is best suited for the youngest members of the family.

Good to know: The Zoo is open daily the whole year round. It’s relatively small and you only need 1-1.5 hours for a visit. Plan to spend about 2-3 hours if you also want to attend the feeding sessions and spend some time at the Children’s Zoo. For more information, see their website.

TIP: Don’t miss the Delacorte Clock near the Zoo (no tickets required). The clock features little sculptures of animals playing musical instruments and plays music every half hour between 8 AM and 6 PM. 

Red Panda in Central Park Zoo
Red Panda in Central Park Zoo.
Delacorte Clock in Central Park NYC
Delacorte Musical Clock near the Zoo.

14. The Great Lawn & Turtle Pond


The Great Lawn, somewhat comparable to the Sheep Meadow, is another vast green space. It’s located close to The Met, but further away from the other top attractions of Central Park. In addition to green spaces, it also has six baseball fields.

The Green Lawn is a popular spot for various events, including summer concerts and Shakespeare in the Park performances.

TIP: From the middle of the Great Lawn, you can enjoy great views of the park with Manhattan skyscrapers. And if you head to Turtle Pond, you have a really good view of Belvedere Castle. As the name suggests, there are also turtles here.

The Great Lawn and Turtle Pond in Central Park New York City
The Great Lawn and Turtle Pond.

15. Conservatory Garden


The Conservatory Garden is a hidden gem of Central Park. Located in the northeastern corner of the park, it’s a place most visitors don’t get to. But if you want to escape the crowds and have plenty of time, it’s a great place to visit!

Central Park’s only formal garden, the Conservatory Garden is divided into three distinct styles: Italian, French, and English.

TIP: The garden is particularly stunning in spring when the tulips, magnolias, and crabapple trees are in full bloom.

Burnett Fountain at Conservatory Garden in Central Park
Burnett Fountain at Conservatory Garden.

Map of Central Park’s Top Spots

To give you a better idea of where everything is located, we created a map indicating all the top places to see in Central Park – see below.

As already said, the majority of the most iconic spots and movie filming locations can be found in the southern part of Central Park.

You could start exploring either from the top, starting near The Met and moving down. Alternatively, start at The Plaza Hotel and walk northwards. If you also want to visit the northern part of Central Park, definitely consider renting a bike.

READ ALSO: NYC Itinerary for Up to One Week

How to use this map: Use your computer mouse (or fingers) to zoom in or out. Click on the icons to get more information about each place. Click the arrow on the top left corner for the index. Click the star next to the map’s title to add it to your Google Maps account. To view the saved map on your smartphone or PC, open Google Maps, click the menu and go to ‘Your Places’/’Maps’. If you want to print the map or see it in a bigger window, click on ‘View larger map’ in the top right corner.


So, this sums up our list of the very best places to see in Central Park.

In addition to the top spots mentioned earlier, Central Park is home to numerous other attractions, including the Central Park Carousel, countless sculptures and statues, playgrounds, and sports grounds.

No guide to Central Park would be complete without mentioning that it also houses the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is a must-see landmark in itself. Just outside the park, you will also find the American Museum of Natural History and the renowned Museum Mile.

TIP: Combine your visit to Central Park with a few hours at one of the top museums. Afterwards, go shopping on 5th Avenue and explore some of the landmarks of Midtown Manhattan. Top of The Rock, one of the most iconic observation decks in NYC is just nearby and offers a great elevated view of Central Park.

New York Travel Guides:

If you found this post helpful, don’t forget to bookmark it and share it with your friends. Are you on Pinterest? Pin this image!

Must see places in Central Park, New York City, USA

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.