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Central Park Conservancy Blog


Kid-Friendly Adventures in Central Park


It’s nearing the end of summer, and you know what that means — it’s back–to–school time for more than one million New York City kids. If you’re one of them, show this list of kid–friendly Park adventures to your favorite grown–up!

Whether you spent these past few months at camp, on vacation, or just lounging around, there are endless adventures waiting for you in Central Park. Bring your family and friends and explore all the fun activities and ideas that we recommend.

If you’re an artist looking for inspiration: Conservatory Garden is Central Park’s only formal garden. With a wide variety of plants throughout its three European–inspired gardens, there are so many beautiful flowers, trees, shrubs, and more to draw. Bring your sketchbook and pencils, watercolors, markers, or crayons to depict some of the Garden. Or download a Discovery Journal for fun activities that investigate the connections between the design, plants, wildlife, and people in the Park!

Love to draw flowers? Spark inspiration by visiting Central Park’s only formal garden, Conservatory Garden. Its huge chrysanthemum display each fall is particularly colorful.

If you love the water: One of the most well–known spots in the Park, Bethesda Terrace, has the towering Angel of the Waters statue (did you know it’s a tribute to the Croton Aqueduct, New York City’s first water supply system?). While you’re visiting here, take in the view of the Lake and tell a story about a magical creature that lives in its waters. Is it a mermaid or a monster? You decide!

Feeling restless? Safari Playground lets you take the trip of a lifetime without even leaving the City. Imagine you’re on a safari while running around hippopotamus sculptures and among canoes, sprinklers, and climbing mounds. If you’re interested in exploring more playgrounds around the Park, our playground map helps you find the perfect place!

If you’re a Bard aficionado: Where art thou, Shakespeare Garden? On the west side between 79th and 80th Streets! Our Discovery Walk for Families: Shakespeare Garden highlights flowers and plants mentioned in Shakespeare’s writings. Don’t miss the fun Whisper Bench hidden within the Garden, too. Speak softly into one corner of the bench, and the sound of your voice will travel to the other side.

If you’re a merry–go–rounder: Take a ride on the Carousel! It features more than 50 individual horses. See if you can count them all — or draw a picture of your favorite to commemorate this lively display of American folk art. Call 212.439.6900 for hours, admission fees, and more information.

Central Park’s famed Carousel features calliope music and more than 50 individual horses.

Love to seek out wildlife? There are five different species of turtles that live at Turtle Pond year-round. Explore this area on a free Discovery Walk for Families: Turtle Pond. Learn why turtles love to bask in the sun on flat logs or rocks (which makes the base of Vista Rock the perfect spot for their sunbathing activities) and get a complimentary Discovery Journal to draw and write about your exploration. While you’re here, make sure to check out the newly restored Belvedere in all its magnificent glory!

If you want to brush up on history: Time–travel to the Obelisk, which is more than 3,500 years old. Also known as Cleopatra’s Needle, this monument features hieroglyphics. Write a story in pictures like the ancient Egyptians used to and see if someone else can translate it.

Dreaming of a trip to the country? The North Woods is the largest of the Park's woodlands, offering a 40-acre forest retreat in the middle of the City. Explore this serene landscape on a Discovery Walk for Families: The North Woods. This spot is a beloved area for birdwatchers — try to spot a bird species you’ve never seen before!

On a Discovery Walk for Families, you’ll learn about the architecture, landscapes, and ecosystems of the Park through hands-on exploration using Discovery Kits — rugged backpacks filled with kid-friendly binoculars, field guides, and hand lenses.

If you love sports: Stop by the North Meadow Recreation Center, which has basketball and handball courts. You can also borrow a basketball here — try to shoot 10 hoops in a row! Just west and north of the Recreation Center, there are also baseball, softball, and soccer fields. If you’re in the south end of the Park, be sure to visit Heckscher Ballfields. Hundreds of baseball and softball games are played each season at the six fields here. Run the bases at each empty ballfield — ask your grown-up to time you to see how fast you go!

Looking for rustic–inspired adventure? Billy Johnson Playground provides an imaginative space to play and explore. Make your own obstacle course with the playground’s wooden structures, bucket swings, tire swing, and more. Take a ride down the 45–foot granite slide that’s set into a hill. (The smaller, accessible slide is perfect if you’re younger!) Once you’ve perfected your original obstacle course, see if you can finish it in less than a minute.

Billy Johnson Playground’s one–of–a–kind rustic net climber features climbable cables and nets on sloped embankments, with stairs, platforms, slides, and a rope bridge.

If you’re interested in art, nature, adventure, or all of the above, there’s always something for you to do in Central Park. No matter the time of year, you can find something fun and family–friendly within the Park’s 843 acres. This back–to–school season, look at the Park with fresh, imaginative eyes and creatively explore the many ways you can enjoy this amazing green oasis right in the heart of New York City.