A Guide to Summering Safely in Central Park

Central Park provides New Yorkers a welcome escape from the intensity of NYC summers, but Park-goers should still take necessary precautions to stay cool, healthy, and hydrated during their visits.

As much as the Park needs all of us to care for it, we need our visitors to stay healthy by caring for themselves and each other, too. By following these tips, you can keep yourself, your fellow Park patrons, and Park wildlife safe this summer.

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Regularly monitored by the City’s Department of Environmental Protection, Central Park’s water fountains are perfectly safe to drink from and are a welcome sight on warm days.

Hydration station

Water fountains are stationed throughout Central Park, ready to quench your thirst on a hot summer day. Next time you visit, bring your own reusable bottle to fill up and cool off—a great way to stay hydrated while preventing plastic waste and pollution.

Is the water safe to drink? Absolutely. The Department of Environmental Protection conducts over 600,000 tests of New York City's water each year to make sure it meets (or exceeds) all state and federal health standards. You’ll see blue stickers on the drinking fountains that let you know the water has been tested and approved. Our Conservancy staff also regularly power washes these fountains.

A child pets a turtle being held by a Conservancy guide

Woodland areas like the North Woods are the perfect place to immerse yourself in nature and enjoy a bit of forest therapy. But during the summer months, make sure to check for ticks once you’re done exploring.

Don’t get ticked off

Ticks are found around the world in hot, humid climates, which means they can also be found in Central Park, especially during the summer. As you enjoy exploring the Park’s woodlands—areas like the North Woods, the Hallett Nature Sanctuary, and the Ramble—take extra precaution by wearing light, long-sleeved shirts and pants, using insect repellent, and avoiding extensive time spent under dense foliage. Once you return home, check for ticks and remove any that you see. Got a fever or rash after a tick bite? Call your doctor and be sure to visit the NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene's website for more resources.

Turtles congregate on a rock amid a bright green algal bloom.

The sight of harmful algal blooms can be off-putting, but our Conservancy staff actively addresses the issue. Stay safe by never coming into contact with the water bodies in the Park

Enjoy flower blooms, not algal blooms

Harmful algal blooms—that murky layer of algae that looks like pea soup—are found throughout Central Park’s water bodies during the hot summer months. These are a common occurrence at the Lake, the Pool, and the Pond, but as their name suggests, they are indeed harmful. As always, Park visitors should never enter the Park’s water bodies or come into contact with the water. The toxins found in HABs can be harmful to dogs as well, so please follow all dog-walking rules and etiquette, as outlined by NYC Parks. Want to learn more about how the Conservancy handles these growths? Read our article here.

A raccoon peers down from a high, leafless branch.

It is perfectly normal to see healthy raccoons in the daylight. Not normal, however, is feeding them human food. Help us keep our wildlife wild by never offering them your snacks.

Let the wildlife stay wild

Feeding wildlife, however well-intentioned, can cost animals their lives, as they frequently become sick or injured from eating inappropriate foods. But saving your snacks for yourself also keeps you safe! Offering food to the Park’s furry and feathered residents can cause them to become overly tame and approach humans. Appreciate them from a distance (even raccoons...it’s perfectly normal for a healthy raccoon to be out in the daylight) and remember that NYC’s backyard is their home.

Park-goers enjoy the shade provided by a tree on Sheep Meadow.

On a sunny day, the most coveted spot at Sheep Meadow is underneath this sawtooth oak tree. The shade it offers significantly lowers the temperature and helps keep Park-goers cool.

Soak up the shade

Sunbathing is a popular pastime in Central Park, but how about shadebathing for a change? When the weather is especially hot, our visitors can keep cool by relaxing under the canopy of Central Park’s 18,000 trees. This coverage keeps shaded parts of the Park much cooler than their sunlit counterparts—see more about the urban heat island—and can protect visitors from direct sunlight, extreme heat, and exhaustion. Some great places to enjoy the shade are along the borders of the Great Lawn, Sheep Meadow, and by the Harlem Meer.

As always, please follow the advice of health professionals and stay inside on high-heat days. Loose clothing, a reusable water bottle, and lots of sunscreen are always helpful, too. Learn more through NYC Parks.

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There’s nothing more refreshing than a trip to one of Central Park’s splash pads. The Bernard Family Playground, at East 108th Street, is a perfect place for your child to unwind and cool off. Photo by Timothy Schenk

Make a splash

While the Park’s water bodies are off-limits for swimming, there are plenty of fountains and splash pads that offer the perfect way to cool off. Explore this list of our 21 playgrounds to learn which have water features designated for use and plan your next trip accordingly. Conservancy staff suggests visiting the Bernard Family Playground, Heckscher Playground, and the Tarr Family Playground to cool off.

Visitors should always wear shoes to protect their feet from hot surfaces and avoid injuries. For further guidance on staying safe while enjoying the Park's playgrounds, check out these tips from NYC Parks.

The Conservancy deploying a truck with a cherry picker to care for trees beside a park drive.

If you see cones, tape, or fencing while out in the Park, please help our Conservancy staff by staying out of that zone. You can also reference our alerts page for any other information on Park closures.

Stay alert

With 843 acres to care for year-round, the Central Park Conservancy staff sometimes closes off certain areas of the Park for scheduled or storm-related maintenance. When you see fenced-off areas—like along Literary Walk—or cones, please keep out of the designated space in order to stay safe. Planning ahead? You can check the Conservancy’s alerts page to learn which playgrounds, lawns, or other areas may be closed that day.

Central Park Summering Suggestions