The holidays are a magical time in New York City, and an especially wonderful season to visit Central Park! From ice skating in rinks with skyscraper views to ushering in 2020 with fireworks and a midnight run, here are some ways to make lasting memories in the Park during the final few months of the year.
Watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
This world-famous, annual tradition is held from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm on Thanksgiving. The parade kicks off at 77th Street and Central Park West, then runs south through midtown, ending on 34th Street at Macy’s Herald Square. If you want to watch from the Park, we suggest grabbing a spot between West 69th and West 72nd Streets. (Don’t forget: Many Park entrances will be closed on Thanksgiving until 1:00 pm! Visit our alerts and closures page for more information.)
Listen to holiday tunes at the Delacorte Clock
This popular clock near the Zoo rings seasonal chimes and nursery rhymes every half hour. Sitting atop a three-tiered tower, it features a band of animals including monkeys, a penguin, a hippo, and a kangaroo. In December, these marvelous musicians play holiday favorites such as “Deck the Halls,” “Jingle Bells,” and “Chanukah, Oh Chanukah!”
Shop for presents
In December, Merchants’ Gate Plaza transforms into a festive winter market, featuring aisles of gifts and jewelry from New York City designers as well as foods from local artisans. The Columbus Circle Holiday Market, a tradition for more than a decade, is open daily from December 4 to 24. Don’t miss the Conservancy’s booth—bring a piece of the Park home for the holidays!
Enjoy the Central Park Holiday Lighting
Celebrate the season at our free Holiday Lighting on Thursday, December 5 at the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center. Meet Santa and friends, watch a live ice-carving demonstration, sing carols on the Plaza, and warm up with hot cocoa and cookies. The event concludes with the lighting of a flotilla of trees on the Harlem Meer.
Celebrate 2020 with fireworks and a run
Each New Year’s Eve, the New York Road Runners hosts a Midnight Run in Central Park. The four-mile trek through the Park begins at the stroke of midnight. At the same time, fireworks light up the night, ushering in 2020.
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. See their original production, Yeti, Set, Snow!, from November 12 to February 23.
Go ice skating
Take in the views while you glide across the ice in Wollman Rink or Lasker Rink. Both offer skate and locker rentals and are open on holidays; hours and ticket prices vary. If you’re looking for a more old-fashioned experience, 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!
Befriend some animals
Managed by the Wildlife Conservation Society, the world-famous Central Park Zoo showcases animals from tropical, temperate, and polar zones around the world. At the Tisch Children’s Zoo, kids can interact with potbellied pigs, sheep, goats, and the only cow in Manhattan. Open on holidays, visit the Zoo’s website for more information and to buy tickets.
Warm up while playing board games
Want to slip away from the crowds and challenge your friends and family to some tabletop challenges? Chess & Checkers House, one of the Park’s five visitor centers, features—sticking to the theme—chess and checkers tables (visitors are welcome to borrow game pieces from Conservancy staff, or bring their own) and a variety of other games, such as Scrabble and Jenga.
Take an Official Central Park Tour
From corner to corner, Central Park is filled with beautiful destinations and fascinating secrets. Discover them on a tour—either one of the year-round offerings, or one of the special seasonal versions. Topics range from historical backgrounds on statues and monuments to learning more about the Park’s habitats. Visit our tours page to see our full listing and to register.
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 needed to be replaced, planners planted deciduous varieties instead. In the 1970s, philanthropist Arthur Ross set out to return pine to the Park, and the Arthur Ross Pinetum now features 17 different species. As winter settles in—and most of the other trees have lost their leaves—you can still find an abundance of green at the Pinetum.
Grab a bite or cup of hot cocoa
Looking for a quick snack or full meal? There are plenty of places in Central Park to find food and drinks. Concession carts selling snacks and beverages are also located throughout the Park.
It goes without saying, but a walk in the Park—especially if it snows—is a magical activity. Bundle up, take a stroll, and stop by one of our visitor centers to learn more from our friendly staff members!
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