This walking tour takes place in Central Park, which is probably the most famous park in the world. The tour is approx. 5 km long and you will experience, in my opinion, some of the best places in the park.
The tour is divided into five sections. If you walk all five sections and at the same time, you will see a lot, but it may take a whole day.

Section 1


Section 2


Section 3


Section 4



Section 5



 

Central Park is located in the middle of Manhattan and is approx. 843 acres large.
The park is by no means a natural park, but 100% designed and opened to the public in 1858.
They can read more about the park’s history on the park’s own website and on Wikipedia that has an excellent article.
New York City has a myriad of parks that act as “green lungs” for the People in this concrete world.
Central Park is one of my favorite parks and every time I am in New York, I visit the park at least once.
Someone wants to say that it’s just a giant lawn, but this is a wrong assumption. Central Park is surrounded by atmosphere and history, just like the city itself.
New York may at times (often) be noisy and overwhelming, but if you just go to Central Park, soon you will hear the birds singing, squirrels playing and maybe a raccoon in search of something to eat.

All this at the same time, and you can still see the skyscrapers around the park. It is absolutely unbelievable that in 5 minutes you can come from the noise of the street and into a quiet breathtaking landscape.

This is just one of the things that makes New York City a fascinating metropolis, that everyone should experience at least once in a lifetime. – LOL
Try to lay in the middle of one of the big lawns. For example, Sheeps Meadow, and look up in the air. It feels like you are in a completely different world, far from the big city.

The park was made as a park for all the city’s citizens, regardless of rank and wealth. It was a people’s park, which is still the case today. You meet people from all levels of society. Regardless nationalities etc., who just wants to get a little away from the big city or have lunch here. Of course, there are also many tourists here.
The park is visited by approx. 42 million people every year, making it the most visited major city park in the United States.
In summer, there are always many activities in the park, e.g. a lot of concerts, of which many are free.
Although my suggested route is approx. 5 km long, you will not reach the whole park, but you will pass some of the places I appreciate. Exploring the whole park will take several days. My tour is only intended to inspire you to explore further from here.
Central Park is not owned by the city as many other parks. It is an organization, Central Park Conservancy, that runs the park based on donations from companies and individuals.
Start the walk in the Southeast corner of the park just across from the famous Hotel Plaza.
In fact, Plaza is not a hotel anymore, as the building has been completely renovated and most of it has been converted to private apartments. In the basement there is now shops and restaurants and it is open to the public.
Enter the park at the entrance, which is just across from the Plaza.
In the southeastern corner of the park there are a lot of idyllic places to explore. Here you will also find Central Park Zoo, which is an exciting place to visit. It is not the world’s largest zoo though.
In this area you will also find “The Pond” which is a central park 7 lakes. At the split second, you’ve gotten away from the noise of the city and you can sit on a bench and enjoy the view of the famous Gapstow Bridge, which is featured in countless movies.
At the center of the bridge you have a perfect view of Plaza.
The stone bridge is the second bridge in this place. The first was of wood and was replaced in 1896 by a more durable granite bridge.
Walk north at the start of the bridge. Do not walk over. You are now heading towards the famous Vollmann Ice rink, which is also known from countless films.

In several places you will notice the large granite rocks, made of Manhattan Schist. It is one of the strongest forms of granite found on earth. Most of Manhattan’s underground is made of this kind of granite several million years ago.
The granite underground is the reason why you can build the tall skyscrapers without having dig several kilometers down.
Inside the park itself, you walk along many gravel paths that do not have names. Therefore, I cannot provide precise guidelines, but print the map and bring it with you on the walk. Alternatively, you can buy a card at the many information stalls inside the park. You can also (maybe very best) download the park’s APP, if you have cell phone connection.
Head over to the Central Park Carousel.
You get past The Dairy Visitor Center, which is a nice wooden lodge.
This is Central Park’s main visitor center.
The Dairy
Find information on Park events and programs at the Dairy, one of the Conservancy’s five visitor centers. Maps, guides, and gifts are also available, all of which support the Conservancy’s mission. Park architect and designer Calvert Vaux originally created this charming Victorian cottage as a quiet retreat for children and their caregivers. In the 19th century, the Dairy became a source of fresh milk and snacks. Families came to drink milk and enjoy pastries and ices under the loggia and enjoy the cooling breezes coming from the nearby pond.
By the 1950s, the building had become dilapidated. The Parks Department tore down the decrepit loggia and turned the building into a maintenance shed. Then in 1979, the new Central Park administration cleaned up the building and turned it into the Park’s first visitor center. A year later, Central Park Conservancy was founded and the loggia, recreated from historic photographs, was completed.
(Source: Central Park Conservancy)
Continue over to The Carousel.
The Carousel
The famed Carousel, with its sweet calliope music and 57 magnificent horses, is the fourth to stand in Central Park since 1871. It is one of Central Park’s most popular favorite attractions. It is said that a live mule or a horse, hidden beneath the Carousel platform, powered the original amusement ride from 1873 until 1924. The animals were taught to start and stop when the operator tapped on the floor.
The next two Carousels were destroyed by fire, the first in 1924 and its successor in 1950. Searching for a replacement, the Parks Department discovered the current vintage carousel abandoned in an old trolley terminal on Coney Island. The Brooklyn firm Stein & Goldstein crafted the piece in 1908, and it remains one of the largest carousels in the United States and finest examples of American folk art. In 1990, Central Park Conservancy restored the Carousel landscape and surrounding plaza. Each horse is also being restored.
(Source: Central Park Conservancy)

The Carousel is also “famous” (but less known) in another way.
The famous Beatles singer John Lennon’s murderer David Chapman sat on a bench for 2 hours just across the carousel before he went to The Dakota and shot John Lennon in the gateway to the building.
Section 2 starts here at the carousel and goes up to the very famous Bethesda Fountain.

Walk north.
On the left side you have Sheeps Medow, which is a fantastic open lawn where you can have a picnic or just lie on the grass and relax. You have a fabulous view of Time Warner’s iconic towers over at Columbus Circle.
The lawn is called Sheeps Medow because earlier sheep grazed here.
Sheeps Medow
Sheep Meadow is the best example in today’s Park of the pastoral vision that Olmsted and Vaux intended for Central Park’s meadows. Their design called for peaceful expanses of green that inspired calm and refreshing thoughts just by looking at them, not necessarily walking upon them. The fifteen-acre meadow holds true to this intention today as Central Park’s largest lawn without ballfields and as a designated quiet zone. No organized sports or gatherings are allowed on Sheep Meadow to preserve the space for quiet picnicking and relaxation.
Originally a rocky and swampy terrain, Sheep Meadow was the most expensive landscape in the Park to construct. Its transformation to a pastoral meadow required the blasting of rock outcrops and the installation of four feet of soil. The landscape was first known as “the Green” or “the Commons,” but became known as “Sheep Meadow” in the early twentieth century due to the ever-present flock of pedigree sheep that grazed the meadow. For nearly fifty years, the sheep spent their days on the meadow and their evenings in the nearby Sheepfold, which is now the landmark Tavern on the Green restaurant.
In the 1960s, Sheep Meadow became the iconic gathering spot for New York’s counterculture, including anti-War protests, peace rallies, love-ins, be-ins, draft card burnings, Earth Day celebrations, and popular concerts. These events, and the lack of management and proper maintenance, led to severe damage and erosion on the lawn. By the late 1970s, it was a virtual dustbowl.
The restoration of Sheep Meadow was one of the first projects undertaken by the Central Park Conservancy in 1980. The newly lush and well-managed lawn was the first green space that many New Yorkers had ever seen in Central Park. Public excitement over the newly opened lawn inspired and outpouring of support for the nascent Conservancy that empowered its first decade of success.
Please note: Each winter, Sheep Meadow closes for the season. This allows our turf crew to provide much-needed care for the landscape, ensuring that it will be ready for the influx of visitors come spring. For specific information about when Sheep Meadow will re-open in the spring
(Source: Central Park Conservancy)
Walk a little farther North and pass the Central Parks Volleyball Courts.
Turn right towards The Mall.

The Mall
The Mall, a quadruple row of American elms, is Central Park’s most important horticultural feature, and one of the largest and last remaining stands of American Elm trees in North America.
The elms form a cathedral-like canopy above the Park’s widest pedestrian pathway. and are one of the Parks most photographed features. The quarter-mile pedestrian path is the only intentional straight line inside the Park’s walls.
Taking care of these trees is a full-time job for the Central Park Conservancy’s tree crew. Each of the Park’s thousands of trees are entered into a database, so they can be monitored by the Conservancy. The trees of Central Park have an important impact on the urban environment. They improve the quality of our air and water; reduce storm water runoff, flooding and erosion; and lower the air temperature in the summer. This is why Central Park is called the lungs of New York City.
The southern end of the Mall is known as Literary Walk. The statue of Christopher Columbus is the odd man out, since 4 of the 5 tributes here depict prominent writers. Nearby are Scottish poet Robert Burns and his compatriot, Scottish novelist Sir Walter Scott. A little farther north is Fitz-Greene Halleck, the first statue of an American to be placed in the Park. Ten years after his death, he was still so beloved that over 30,000 adoring fans came to the unveiling of his statue by President Rutherford B. Hayes and his entire cabinet. Today hardly anyone knows his poetry or his name, but everyone remembers their visit to the Mall.
If you look down, you’ll see engraved granite paving stones lining the southern end of Literary Walk in order to commemorate each endowed tree in the Park. To support Central Park Conservancy’s efforts to care for the Park’s trees
(Source: Central Park Conservancy)

Personally, I love going on this stretch down towards Bethesda Terrace, located at the end of The Mall.
I have been here countless times and almost every time meet the same black guy who is playing Saxophone.
Wondering if he has been here since the opening of the park – LOL.
Bethesda Terrace is the very heart of Central Park. At the top of the terrace there is a plaque where the center is marked.
Bethesda Terrace
Bethesda Terrace is considered the heart of Central Park. In their original plan, Park designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux envisioned a sweeping Promenade (the Mall) that led to a grand terrace overlooking the Lake. The magnificent carvings represent the four seasons and, on the side facing the Mall, the times of day.
Today, Central Park Conservancy employs a sculptor to care for the sandstone carvings and sculpture and a zone gardener and their crew to take care of the landscapes. In the summer, aquatic plantings such as water lilies and lotus are placed in the fountain, reviving a 19th century tradition.
(Source: Central Park Conservancy)

Bethesda Fountain
Rising from Bethesda Terrace is Bethesda Fountain, with the famous Angel of the Waters statue atop. The statue references the Gospel of John, which describes an angel blessing the Pool of Bethesda and giving it healing powers. The fountain commemorates the Croton water system, which first brought fresh water to New York City in 1842. The angel carries a lily in her left hand — a symbol of the water’s purity, very important to a city that had previously suffered from a devastating cholera epidemic before the system was established. The piece is the only statue that was commissioned for the Park. Created by Emma Stebbins, it also marked the first time a woman received a public art commission in New York City.
(Source: Central Park Conservancy)

Here at Bethesda Terrace and Fountain there is always a lot going on. Under the terrace plateau, there are often Jazz musicians playing and outside you can experience a lot of different artists mixed with numerous tourists.
It is really a nice place overlooking The Lake, where you can rent small boats and sail around or rent a guide to row the boat for you. On the other side of the lake you will see the famous restaurant “Loeb Boathouse” which has featured in countless movies.
Section 3 starts here at the fountain.
Walk left over the lake and head towards Bow Bridge.
The first cast-iron bridge in the Park (and the second oldest in America), the bridge was built between 1859 and 1862. Bow Bridge is named for its graceful shape, reminiscent of the bow of an archer or violinist. This handsomely designed bridge spans the Lake, linking Cherry Hill with the woodland of the Ramble. When the Park was first planned, the commissioners requested a suspension bridge. The designers compromised with this refined, low-lying bridge.

Bow Bridge

Today, Bow Bridge is one of New York’s most romantic settings and a muse for photographers. Rising from the bridge are eight cast-iron urns, installed by Central Park Conservancy in 2008 as replicas of the originals that had disappeared by the early 1920s. A skilled team of Conservancy craftsmen used historic images and took cues from an urn thought to be an exact model of those that originally adorned the Bridge.
(Source: Central Park Conservancy)
As the Park writes, this bridge is a well-known romantic symbol of Central Park and I can only agree entirely. Here you can get some beautiful pictures or videos of the many people sailing around in the small boats. It is also a good place for lovers to take selfies – LOL.
On the other side of the bridge starts a section of Central Park, called “The Ramble”.
It is the only place in the park where everything (almost) grows wild and is a symbol of the untamed nature.
One must remember that Central Park is 100% man-made after careful plans, but this area of the park symbolizes the wild nature. The Ramble consists of a myriad of small trails and you can easily get lost. It sounds odd, but it’s a good idea to have Google Maps at hand – LOL
Here is a rich bird and wildlife, and it is not uncommon to encounter a little cute raccoon or the numerous big squirrels that plays in the trees.
Walk north and find Belvedere Castle if you are not lost – LOL

Belvedere Castle

Belvedere Castle is one of Central Park’s five visitor centers. Calvert Vaux, co-designer of the Park, created the miniature castle in 1869 as a whimsical structure looking out on the reservoir to the north (now the Great Lawn) and the Ramble to the south. Belvedere provides the highest and best views of the Park and the adjacent cityscape. The castle’s name is fitting, because it translates to “beautiful view” in Italian.
“Right now, the temperature in Central Park is….” That information, heard frequently on radio and TV, originates here at Belvedere Castle. Since 1919, the National Weather Service has taken measurements of New York’s weather from the castle’s tower with the aid of scientific instruments that measure wind speed and direction. In a fenced-in compound just south of the castle, other weather data such as rainfall are recorded and sent to the weather service’s forecast office at Brookhaven National Library on Long Island.
After decades of deterioration, Central Park Conservancy renovated and reopened the castle in 1983 as a visitor center and gift shop.
(Source: Central Park Conservancy)

From the top of Belvedere Castle you have an outstanding view of Turtle Pond and The Great Lawn.
Section 4 and 5 starts here.
Walk down to the park again and continue North, left of Turtle Pond. You are now encountering the Delacorte Theater, where various concerts are held.
Walk on the North side of Turtle Pond and you have great views of the lake and Belvedere Castle. In good weather, here are always many school classes that are having lunch and hear the teacher talk about Central Park.
Continue East towards the Metropolitan Museum of Art. (MET)
Inside the actual park next to MET you will find the huge Egyptian obelisk. “This is the real thing!

Obelisk
The Obelisk, nicknamed Cleopatra’s Needle, is the oldest man-made object in Central Park, and the oldest outdoor monument in New York City.

It is one of a pair of obelisks that were commissioned for Heliopolis on the banks of the Nile circa 1450 BC by an Egyptian pharaoh who wished to celebrate his 30 years of reign. The monuments were then moved to Alexandria in 18AD. They remained there until one obelisk was moved to London in 1878. The second one, erected two years later in Central Park, was offered by the Egyptian Khedive to America in exchange for funds to modernize his country.

Transferring the 69-foot, 220-ton granite monument from Egypt to New York was an arduous and delicate process. It took 112 days from the time the Obelisk touched upon the banks of the Hudson River until it reached the Park. Laborers inched the monument on parallel beams, aided by roll boxes and a pile-driver engine. Thousands turned out on January 22, 1881 to marvel as the obelisk was turned upright.

A time capsule was buried beneath the Obelisk and included an 1870 U.S. census, the Bible, Webster’s Dictionary, the complete works of Shakespeare, a guide to Egypt, and a facsimile of the Declaration of Independence. A small box was placed in the capsule by the man who orchestrated the purchase and transportation of the Obelisk. He will probably be the only person in history ever to know its contents.

In 1989, the Central Park Conservancy restored the Obelisk’s terrace and landscape with new illumination, benches, and paving. From 2013 through 2014, The Conservancy completed a comprehensive project to clean and conserve the monument. Although the primary purpose was to enable further study of the monument and promote its long-term preservation, cleaning the monument had the most dramatic outcome, revealing its granite surface and hieroglyphs that had been obscured by decades of dirt and pollution.

The Obelisk landscape is particularly beautiful in spring when the monument is surrounded by flowering magnolias and crabapple trees.
(Source: Central Park Conservancy)

When we are at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The museum is really worth a visit. It is huge and you can easily spend a whole day here. In good weather, the rooftop is open, where you have fabulous views of the park.

Continue a little north and you will reach The Reservoir (Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir).

The Reservoir
One of the Park’s most picturesque landscapes, the reservoir is 40 feet deep and holds a billion gallons of water. It was built in the 1860s as a temporary water supply for New York City, while the Croton Water system was shut down for repairs two weeks each year. At the time, it was unthinkable that a billion gallons of water would last less than two weeks. Today, some speculate that the City would go through that supply in just four hours. The reservoir was decommissioned in 1993, deemed obsolete because of the Third Water Tunnel.
President Bill Clinton, Madonna, and Jackie Kennedy Onassis (for whom the reservoir was named in 1994) have all run on the 1.58-mile track. For years, an unsightly seven-foot-high chain-link fence obscured the view. But when scuba divers discovered a piece of the original fence at the bottom of the reservoir, Central Park Conservancy commissioned a steel fence with cast-iron ornamentation, closely resembling the original. The current fence was completed in 2003, stands four feet high, and has opened up breathtaking views of the Park and surrounding cityscapes.
(Source: Central Park Conservancy)

Be aware that there are many runners on the path around the lake and that the trail is kind of One Way. You must walk counterclockwise.
On the North side of the lake and at the northern end of the park, not so many tourists come here, but in my opinion this part of the park is as exciting as the rest of the park. There are not so many top attractions, but there are at least three beautiful places worth visiting.
The Ravine
Under the forest canopy of the Ravine, Manhattan’s skyline is hidden and the rushing sound of a waterfall drowns the city noise. When Park designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux created this area of the Park, they envisioned an urban escape, where visitors — particularly those who could not afford a vacation away from the City — could come and appreciate the wonders of nature. Though it was intended to resemble the wilderness of the Adirondacks, the Ravine, like all of Central Park, is completely manmade.
The Ravine, the only stream valley in the Park, is part of a 40-acre woodland called the North Woods. At its southwestern and northeastern borders are two rustic arches — Huddlestone and Glen Span. Huddlestone Arch is constructed of huge Manhattan schist boulders that are held together by gravity alone.
The Loch, a stream that flows beside the pathway under both bridges, is dammed in several places to create the cascades. The northwest slope of the Ravine is a true deciduous forest of oak, hickory, maple, and ash.
(Source: Central Park Conservancy)

Conservatory Garden
The Conservatory Garden is Central Park’s six-acre formal garden. It is divided into three smaller gardens, each with a distinct style: Italian, French, and English. The Garden’s main entrance is through the Vanderbilt Gate, on Fifth Avenue between 104th and 105th Streets. This magnificent iron gate, made in Paris in 1894, originally stood before the Vanderbilt mansion at Fifth Avenue and 58th Street.
The Italianate center garden is composed of a large lawn surrounded by yew hedges and is bordered by two exquisite allées of spring-blooming pink and white crabapple trees. A 12-foot high jet fountain plays on the western end of the lawn, backed by tiered hedges and stairs that lead up to a wisteria pergola. On the walkway under the pergola are medallions inscribed with the names of the original 13 states.
The northern, French-style garden showcases parterres of germander and spectacular seasonal displays of spring tulips, and Korean chrysanthemums in autumn, all within an ellipse of Japanese holly. In the center is the charming Three Dancing Maidens fountain by German sculptor, Walter Schott. To the south is the very intimate English-style garden. There are five mixed borders of trees, shrubs and perennial plants, and five seasonal beds featuring spring bulbs that are followed by annual flower displays. A slope of woodland plants lines the western edge of this garden. At the center is sculptor Bessie Potter Vonnoh’s lovely Frances Hodgson Burnett Memorial Fountain, a tribute to the author of the children’s book, The Secret Garden. The children — a girl and a boy, said to depict Mary and Dickon, the main characters from the classic — stand at one end of a small water lily pool.
The Conservatory Garden is an officially designated Quiet Zone and offers a calm and colorful setting for a leisurely stroll, and intimate wedding, or an escape with a good book.
For many years the garden was tended by volunteers from the Garden Club of America and in 1983 it was restored by the Central Park Conservancy.
(Source: Central Park Conservancy)
Harlem Meer
Central Park designers Olmsted and Vaux named this man-made water body “the Meer” — Dutch for “lake.” It memorialized the former separate village of Harlem that was settled in the 17th Century by European settlers and included the upper regions of Central Park.
Today, families flock to this area for catch-and-release fishing, skating and swimming at Lasker Rink and Pool, and exploration at two nearby playgrounds. The Harlem Meer is also a thriving wildlife habitat and home to fish, turtles, and waterfowl. Several varieties of trees, including oak, bald cypress, beech and gingko, surround it.
On the northern shore of the Meer stands the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center, a visitor center run by the Central Park Conservancy. The Center hosts free community programs, exhibits, and holiday celebrations including the popular Halloween Pumpkin Sail and winter Holiday Lighting. There’s also live music on the plaza in the summer at the Harlem Meer Performance Festival.
(Source: Central Park Conservancy)

My route started in the southeastern corner, wound up through the park and ends at the northeastern corner at Harlem Meer.
The route is by no means a complete review of the park, but represents the place that I love most.

This park has so many attractions and history that you can easily spend days here.
Every time I am in New York City, it’s a “must” to visit the park, where I learn something new every time and see places that I have not been before.

I also highly recommend “Free Tours by Foot”, which has some great walks in the park.
I will also recommend my blog with sound tracks at different places in the park.
Happy walking and exploring!

Read more