Activities & Resources
Central Park551in New York, NY 10024
about Central Park:
Entering from the southeast (corner of 59th and Fifth), you'll find a path that leads straight into "the children's section," which covers the east side of the park up to 74th Street. This is not to say that the ENTIRE park isn't for children, but this little area is extremely manageable and contains many of the attractions kids love best: The Wildlife Conservation/Zoo, The Tisch Children's Zoo and the boat pond, where the real magnets are the venerated statues of Alice in Wonderland and Hans Christian Anderson (big ears and all). Kids have been climbing these for decades, surprisingly without an overwhelming number of injuries. And lest we forget, the oft-searched-for statue of Balto is mideast park, at about 67th Street.
At the boat pond - not to be confused with the rowboat lake - kids can bring or rent model sailboats (remote controlled, please) and conduct races across the concrete-bound, murky water. Boat rentals are available daily, in season, from a booth in front of the cafe/concession stand.
This southern end of the park also houses The Wollman Skating Rink (which, during the months from May to September, is transformed into the Victorian Gardens mini-amusement park), the Heckscher Ballfields, the impressive Heckscher Playground, the Carousel and the Dairy, where school children once lined up for fresh milk and which now serves as the Park's information center (64th Street, mid-Park - open Tue-Sun: 10am-4pm in winter, 10am-5pm Apr-Oct, closed Mon). You can borrow chess and checkers pieces (you'll have to leave a $20 deposit, though) to use in the Chess and Checkers House just a short hike west. The Chess and Checkers House is also the site of the brand new Visitor Information Center and Volunteer Headquarters, open to the public Tuesday through Sunday, from 10am to 5pm. Stop by the center to pick up a free map.
As you head north, up the east side of the park, you'll also pass The Boathouse, where you can rent a rowboat or grab a sandwich wrap from the storefront outside The Boathouse Cafe (the restaurant is not recommended for children, despite gorgeous view; bring your own picnic or grab the aforementioned fast food instead), or rent bicycles. Mid-park at 79th Street you'll find Belvedere Castle and the Turtle Pond, then on, northeast, to The Metropolitan Museum and The Ancient Playground.
The Reservoir with its noted jogging track, runs up the east side of the park from 87th Street to 96th Street, then turns west and passes the tennis courts before heading back down the west side of the park.
Still farther north, you'll find the East Meadow (starting at about 97th Street), The Conservatory Garden and then The Harlem Meer, which is home to The Charles A. Dana Discovery Center, Duck Island and The Lasker Rink and Pool. The Peter Jay Sharp Children's Glade, at 103rd Street, hosts events for children ages four to 13 on summer Sundays.
Heading south, you'll find the Peter Jay Sharp Children's Glade, a "clearing in the forest" specifically designed as a venue for family programs (Great Hill, Central Park West between 103rd and 106th Streets) and the North Meadow Ballfields (mid-park, from 103rd Street to 97th Street), which borders The North Meadow Recreation Center, where you'll find public basketball and handball courts, in addition to indoor and outdoor youth activities (99th-97th Streets, mid-park).
Crossing the 97th Street Transverse, The Tennis Courts and the Reservoir come back into view, and as you continue south you'll find The Delacorte Theater, Shakespeare Garden and The Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater, where puppet shows can be seen for a fee, all nestled together in the mid-west section of the park at about 79th Street.
Stroll past the lake, where you'll see ducks and tons of people in row boats, and you'll pass Strawberry Fields, named in honor of John Lennon (whose home was just west of the Park) and the flowery inscription, Imagine. Continuing south, you'll pass Sheep Meadow, Tavern on the Green and then the Heckscher ballfields will lead you back out the south gates of the park.
Playgrounds: Central Park is awash in playgrounds, and the best can be found at 62nd/mid-park (Heckscher Playground), W. 67th (Lauder Playground and Adventure Playground), W. 81st (Diana Ross Playground), W. 85th (Mariner's Playground), W. 86th (Spector Playground), W. 91st (Safari Playground), W. 93rd (Wild West Playground), W. 96th (Rudin Playground), W. 100th, E. 108th (Bernard Family Playground), E. 100th (Robert Bendheim, which was designed for Special Needs children), E. 96th (complete with treehouse), E. 84th (Ancient Playground), E. 76th (James Michael Levin Playground), E. 72nd, and, finally, E. 67th (Billy Johnson/Rustic Playground) - home of the legendary granite slide.
In-Line Skaters can really go wild at The Bandshell, located mid-park at 70th Street, or West Drive at 67th Street, where the NYRSA has set up a slalom course. In summertime, Wollman Rink and Lasker Rink are also accomodating to roller blade fans.
Horseback Riding is permitted year-round during park hours. The bridle path is more than six miles long and loops the reservoir and The North Meadow.
Sledding in the winter is supposed to be best at Pilgrim Hill (just past the 74th Street boat pond) - but let us know your favorite spot by adding to our sledding poll!
Gifts: If you're looking for something special for the grandparents or relatives, warm days find the park literally crawling with artists, offering everything from caricatures to formal portraits for very reasonable prices. Find one whose work looks promising, sit the kids down and presto, a memory made.
The holidays come early at Wollman Rink in Central Park! Skate on over for free hot chocolate and ARTHUR CHRISTMAS giveaways and activities on November 16 from 3-6pm. Click here to find out more about the 12 days of fun family events nationwide leading to the release of ARTHUR CHRISTMAS, the new 3D CG-animated family comedy in theaters November 23, 2011.