Whether you're a New York City newbie or a seasoned local looking to spice up your family's holiday season, you're in for a treat.
With an abundance of iconic landmarks, historic locales, and classic NYC backdrops, Central Park offers endless opportunities for exploration. But the Central Park Conservancy—the nonprofit that cares for the Park year-round—is here to help with a round-up of the best winter spots to visit in Central Park.
Take the Ice at Wollman Rink
Ice skating has a long-standing history in Central Park. The Lake was the first landscape in the Park to open to the public in winter 1858. On Christmas morning of that year, an estimated 8,000 people showed up to skate. The promise of this recreational activity excited New Yorkers, as it was growing in popularity but not yet widely accessible.
Skating continued to be one of the most popular recreational activities in Central Park. Since it was built in 1950, Wollman Rink has remained the premier spot for NYC ice-skating enthusiasts every October through April. Today, it is one of the most recognizable ice rinks in the United States.
Wollman Park Partners manages the rink, and visitors can purchase a ticket and rent a pair of ice skates as well as a locker for personal belongings. Stay tuned for the rink at the new Harlem Meer Center, which will be operated by the Conservancy and offer year-round programming.
Warm Up at the Dairy Visitor Center & Gift Shop
The Dairy is one of the Park's five visitor centers managed by the Conservancy. This Victorian cottage–inspired structure is nestled in the Children's District and once offered fresh milk to children and their families. Now, this beautifully restored site is the perfect spot to kick off a winter adventure with our expert tour guides, grab a map, or browse the best Central Park holiday gifts in our shop.
Visit the Animals at the Central Park Zoo
Featured in movies such as Madagascar and Hitch, the Central Park Zoo is home to animals from tropical, temperate, and polar regions. Visit various exhibits and meet snow leopards, penguins, sea lions, and more. Although a zoological garden or menagerie—as zoos were typically called in the 19th century—wasn’t part of the original plan for Central Park, animals have been on display in the Park since the 1870s. Today, the Wildlife Conservation Society manages the zoo.
If you’re visiting the Park with kids, stop by the Tisch Children’s Zoo where they can feed goats, sheep, pigs, and even a cow! Nearby, you can hear the Delacorte Clock going off every half hour from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm as five bronze animal statues “dance” around the famed timepiece.
Ride the Iconic Central Park Carousel
The Central Park Carousel is a popular family attraction in the south end of Central Park and one of several features that make up the Children’s District, an area designed for children and their caregivers. Ride on its 57 horses or two chariots and gallop along to the sweet sound of a mechanical organ. The Carousel was installed in the Park in 1951 but was created in 1908 and originally installed in a trolley terminal in Coney Island.
The current carousel is the fourth in this location. To the Park’s designers, commercial amusements such as carousels conflicted with their vision of the Park as a peaceful retreat from urban life, but one was nonetheless installed by a rival administration in 1871 and has remained a beloved addition.
Pay Your Respects at the Imagine Mosaic
Strawberry Fields is a memorial to the rock musician, member of the Beatles, and peace activist John Lennon—a living landscape in the heart of Central Park across from the Dakota building where he and his wife, Yoko Ono, lived. Since the memorial was created in the years following his passing in 1980, visitors from around the world have gathered to pay tribute to Lennon in the spot he once loved to walk.
Don’t forget to look down and appreciate the intricate beauty of the Imagine mosaic installed in the pavement. Surrounded by benches, the area provides a focal point and gathering space for visitors. A plaque inset into a rock outcrop acknowledges the countries that made contributions.
Capture Winter’s Beauty
The Park might host its brightest colors in the fall and spring, but don’t let that fool you into missing this season’s photo potential! Winter transforms Central Park into a haven for photographers. As the trees shed their leaves, the Park unveils vast, open vistas—providing some perfect opportunities to capture breathtaking seasonal moments. Remember to share your best shots on social media and tag @CentralParkNYC.
Join an Official Central Park Conservancy Tour
Want more of our expert guidance to help you make the most of this special season in the Park? Our walking tour guides have a wealth of knowledge to share about the Park’s history and the creatures living in it, as well as tips for winter sightseeing, recreation, and entertainment. Join the adventure on an Official Central Park Tour—the only tours that directly support the care and maintenance of these 843 acres.
About the Conservancy
There are an estimated 600,000 dogs in NYC and 1.5 million dog visits to Central Park each year! We consulted the experts to learn more about the impact of dogs in the Park and how their owners can foster a positive experience for their dog, as well as the Park’s wildlife, landscapes, and community.
Tags: Conservancy Staff / About the Conservancy / Park Experts / Lawns / Landscapes
Programs and Events
Experience the magic of movies in Central Park! Explore our favorite Park locations made famous on film. Then go even further behind the scenes on our Central Park Summer Movies Tour led by expert Conservancy guides.
Tags: Tips for Visiting / Highlights / All Ages / First-Time Visitors
About the Conservancy
Feeding urban wildlife may seem like a kind gesture, but it can often do more harm than good. Learn why offering food like bread, crackers, and nuts to Central Park’s wildlife can cause malnutrition, disease, and injuries, and the other ways humans impact our feathered and furry neighbors.
Tags: Conservancy Staff / Pollinators / Nature Lovers / Landscapes
Things to See and Do
With fewer crowds and a tranquility not found in other seasons, winter is an ideal time to photograph Central Park. Brave the cold and visit the Park this season—no filter needed.
Tags: Tips for Visiting / Winter / Highlights