December 18, 2020: Many Park activities and events are on pause this winter. Be sure to check our alerts page for updates on Central Park Conservancy programming.
Don’t let the cold keep you from Central Park this winter! With fun, year-round destinations like the Carousel and the Swedish Cottage—and snowy activities like sledding and ice skating—there is so much to see and do this season. Stumped about how to spend a winter day in the Park? We’ve got you covered.
1. Go cross country skiing or snowshoeing. Visitors can cross country ski or snowshoe through Central Park’s wide-open meadows or along the bridle path, which we leave snow-covered in the winter to protect its soft surface.
2. Explore the Arthur Ross Pinetum. In their design of Central Park, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux included a “Winter Drive” of pines, spruces, and firs from 72nd to 102nd Street. By the late 1800s, when these trees needed replacement, deciduous ones took their place. In the 1970s, philanthropist Arthur Ross set out to return pine trees to Central Park (with the goal of hiding buildings along the 86th Street Transverse Road). The Arthur Ross Pinetum now features 17 different species of pine trees.
3. Go ice skating. Take in the surrounding views while you skate in one of the Park’s ice rinks: Wollman Rink or Lasker Rink. Both offer skate and locker rentals. When conditions permit and the ice is consistently at least six inches thick, Conservatory Water also opens for free ice skating—just bring your own skates!
4. Visit the Central Park Zoo. Managed by the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Zoo is open year-round. Its residents include sea lions, penguins, seals, and snow leopards. Families with children can continue north to the Tisch Children’s Zoo, home to potbellied pigs, sheep, and the only cow in Manhattan.
5. Take a tour. From corner to corner, Central Park is filled with fascinating destinations and secrets. The best way to learn about the Park’s rich history is to take a tour. Browse our various offerings to find the ones that interest you most.
6. Ride the Carousel. Central Park’s famed Carousel features calliope music and 57 horses. NYC Parks discovered the current vintage carousel abandoned in an old trolley terminal on Coney Island before bringing it to its current location. It is the fourth carousel to stand in the Park since it opened in 1871 and remains one of the largest carousels in the U.S.
7. Go sledding. Grab your sled and enjoy fresh snow on the slopes of Central Park! Pilgrim Hill and Cedar Hill, two popular sledding destinations in the Park, are open for sledding when there is at least six inches of snow cover on the ground and conditions permit.
8. Take a self-guided walk. There are countless scenic routes to take through the Park. From north to south, the Park’s landscapes invite you to wander. Why not do it at your own pace? If you’re curious where to start (or where to end), our self-guided walks are a great resource.
9. Build a snowman. This classic snow day activity is easy with so much space in New York City’s backyard! Looking to build on Sheep Meadow or another large lawn? Though many lawns are closed in the winter to let them rest, we open them when there is more than six inches of snow on the ground (and conditions permit) because that’s enough snow to protect the lawns and still let them rest.
10. Go shopping. Stop by the Dairy Visitor Center & Gift Shop to browse our wide selection of apparel, books, and accessories—including sweatshirts and blankets for extra warmth! The Columbus Circle Holiday Market, at the Park’s busiest entrance, is also open through December 24.
11. Help keep the Park clean. Volunteering to Pitch In, Pick Up is a great way to help keep Central Park clean and beautiful. Visit one of our participating visitor centers to get started.
12. Relax in a boat landing on the Lake. In the 1860s, six boat landings were constructed along the shoreline of the Lake. Designed to complement the surrounding scenery, the small structures served as scenic lookouts and docks for recreational boaters. The landings were periodically reconstructed in the 19th century and removed throughout the 20th century due to deterioration. In 2016, we rebuilt the five boat landings standing today. They are recreations of the original 19th-century designs.
13. Borrow a Discovery Kit. Stop by a visitor center and borrow a Discovery Kit for an in-Park adventure! Discovery Kit backpacks are filled with kid-friendly binoculars, field guides, a hand lens, colored pencils, and sketch paper.
14. Explore a playground. With 21 playgrounds that are each unique in design and character, Central Park offers play options for children of all ages and interests. Find the perfect playground for your children’s personalities or passions this season.
15. See a show at the Swedish Cottage. Under the direction of the City Parks Foundation, the Swedish Cottage is home to one of the last public marionette companies in the country.
16. Admire the Bethesda Terrace Arcade. Watch the falling snow from this magnificent space between the Mall and Bethesda Fountain. Did you know that this is the only place in the world to find a Minton tile ceiling?
17. Listen to tunes at the Delacorte Clock. This popular clock near the Zoo rings seasonal chimes and nursery rhymes every half hour. The clock sits atop a three-tiered tower and features a band of animals including monkeys, a penguin, a hippo, and a kangaroo. The animals circle the tower to 44 tunes that change seasonally.
19. Play board games. Chess & Checkers House, one of the Park’s five visitor centers, features outdoor chess and checkers tables. Visitors are welcome to borrow chess and checkers pieces from Conservancy staff, or bring their own. A variety of other games, including Scrabble and Jenga, are also available to play inside.
20. Complete a Discovery Journal. Enhance your adventures in Central Park with a Discovery Journal, which includes activities that allow kids to investigate the connections between the design, plants, wildlife, and people in the Park.
Park HistoryThe land on which Central Park was constructed featured an unusually large amount of exposed bedrock, which heavily influenced how it was designed and built.
Tags: Park Design / First-Time Visitors
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