Central Park in Manhattan is the most visited urban park in the United States, with an estimated 40 million visitors every year. It covers a whopping 843 acres, making it the fifth-largest park in New York City. However, its central location, constant events, and famous image have led to it being the most popular park in the city.
As New York City expanded rapidly in the mid-19th century, citizens began to voice their desire for a quiet outdoor space where they could get away from the noise of the densely populated city. Influential residents cited London’s Hyde Park and Paris’ Bois de Boulogne as examples of urban nature centers. By 1853, the New York legislature approved a plan to designate 700 acres of land in the middle of Manhattan for the creation of the park. The Central Park Commission was formed in 1857, and the park’s first public area was opened in 1858. Construction continued throughout the Civil War, and the park reached its current size in 1873.
The park was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1963, and it remains one of the most popular tourist attractions in the United States to this day. The Central Park Conservancy cares for the well-being of the park and provides updates to keep it clean, fresh, and beautiful.
Fun Things for Families to do in Central Park
Central Park is one of the most kid-friendly areas in New York City, with plenty of entertaining and educational activities that provide fun for the whole family. Some of these include:
o Tisch Children’s Zoo – this is part of the main Central Park Zoo, and it contains a petting zoo, a theater, and an Enchanted Forest that offers an interactive experience for kids.
o Playgrounds – there are a total of 21 playgrounds located throughout Central Park, so there are plenty of opportunities for kids to stop and play at any time. Each playground has a different theme and a variety of playground equipment, so children can anticipate new, fun activities for each one.
o Central Park Carousel – every kid loves a carousel ride, and the Central Park Carousel is one of the most iconic around! There are food vendors surrounding the merry-go-round, making it a perfect time for mom and dad to stop for a bite to eat while the kids continue to play.
o Boat Rides – Canoes can be rented from the Loeb Boathouse on the Central Park Lake, which spans over 22 acres. This is an excellent way to get another view of Central Park and provides sightings of the park’s many beautiful water fowl.
o Ice Skating – Central Park’s ice rink is one of the most iconic in the world, with many movies filming there. Families can skate from October through March and settle down with hot chocolate and coffee from the adjacent café when they are finished.
Famous Central Park Locations
Central Park has been a backdrop for hundreds of movies throughout the years, and there’s good reason for it. It has beautiful natural scenery while offering an unobstructed view of New York’s magnificent skyline. Here are just some of the famous spots that you may recognize from a variety of movies:
o The Plaza Hotel – located just across from the Southeast corner of the park, this luxurious hotel has been a setting in many movies including Crocodile Dundee, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, and The Great Gatsby.
o The Bandshell – this famous outdoor music venue can be seen in the New York-centric classic film Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
o Tavern on the Green – the award-winning restaurant has made appearances in many films throughout the decades, including Ghostbusters, Wall Street, and even The Flintstones.
o The Loeb Boathouse – this is a major location in famous film When Harry Met Sally, setting up the premise of the entire movie.
Tips for Planning a Family Day in Central Park
Bringing kids to New York City can be a challenge, but there are plenty of steps you can take to ensure that everyone has an enjoyable day. If you are taking your kids to Central Park, consider some of these tips to keep things running smoothly.
o Pack snacks and meals. There are plenty of great restaurants and food vendors in Central Park, but your kids may get hungry for small bites amidst all the walking you will be doing. Pack some snacks to hold them over until your next meal, and make sure to bring plenty of water, especially in the summer.
o Make sure everybody has comfortable shoes. As mentioned, you could be walking for several hours, and nobody wants to be lugging around uncomfortable footwear on uneven ground.
o Make sure to bring a camera or to keep your phone camera ready. Central Park is loaded with great picture opportunities, and you won’t want to miss the chance to capture some of these precious memories.
o Let them play! With plenty of open space and multiple playgrounds, Central Park is a paradise within the city for your kids. Make sure to let them enjoy their time here and appreciate that they are playing in one of the most iconic locations in the country!
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