Great Lawn

Located at the precise geographical center of Central Park is one of the most well-known lawns in the world: the Great Lawn.

The 55-acre area hosts a great range of recreational activities and is a popular destination for picnicking, sunbathing, relaxing, playing and watching softball, and enjoying the scenery. The main oval lawn area is 13 acres and includes six fields for softball. (Heckscher Ballfields and the North Meadow are home to the Park’s other sports fields). All require a permit to play organized games. To the north of the main lawn are two additional fields for volleyball and basketball.

The Great Lawn is well-known as a place for concerts and performances, hosting the annual New York Philharmonic Concerts in the Parks performance and annual Global Citizen Festival. The Great Lawn landscape also includes important scenic destinations such as the Arthur Ross Pinetum and Turtle Pond.

Although it may resemble some of Central Park’s other famous lawns such as Sheep Meadow, the Great Lawn is a relatively recent addition to the Park. It was built in the 1930s to replace a large reservoir that pre-dated Central Park, once a key piece of the City’s water distribution system. Completed in 1842, the receiving reservoir was a huge stone tank for holding water from upstate New York before it was piped further downtown. When planning for the Park began, a new reservoir was created just to the north, now known as the Jackie Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, in order to expand the system. Both reservoirs posed an obstacle to Park designers.

When the original reservoir was deemed obsolete in 1917, ideas for new features to replace it flooded in from New Yorkers—including a World War I memorial, a sports arena, and an opera house. After the reservoir was drained and filled, plans materialized to create a large oval-shaped lawn for sports along with playgrounds on the northern edge and a small pond (now Turtle Pond) on the south. This was completed in 1937.

Like many areas of the Park, by the 1970s the combination of intensive use and inadequate maintenance led to the Great Lawn’s severe deterioration. Large concerts from the 1960s to the 1980s degraded the lawn and contributed to the area becoming known as “The Great Dust Bowl.”

In 1997, the Central Park Conservancy completed the restoration of the Great Lawn, a two-year, multi-million-dollar project that rebuilt infrastructure and restored the lawn to balance both active sports use and quiet relaxation.

Things you can do here

  • Daily Activities

    Kite Flying

    Looking to take advantage of a breezy day? Kite flying is allowed in Central Park on the large, open landscapes.
  • Guided Tours

    Discovery Walks for Families: Turtle Pond

    A Central Park favorite for young visitors, Turtle Pond is home to five species of turtles who live there year-round.

    Tags: Families / Best for Kids / Nature Lovers / Woodlands

  • Daily Activities

    Basketball

    Shoot some hoops, practice your jump shot, or play a full game at one of Central Park’s basketball courts.
  • Daily Activities

    Running Guide

    Runners new and seasoned alike enjoy a variety of loops and trails in Central Park.
  • Daily Activities

    Picnic Guide

    Central Park is home to lawns, benches, and picnic tables across its 843 acres, providing countless great picnic spots.

    Tags: Families / Tips for Visiting / All Ages / Nature Lovers

  • Self-Guided Tours

    Great Lawn Tree Walk

    Best known as a spot for picnics and people-watching, the Great Lawn is also home to scores of trees.

    Tags: Tree Walks

  • Daily Activities

    Winter Recreation Guide

    If you’re the outdoorsy type who loves to explore Central Park through all weather, there are plenty of ways to get active and enjoy the Park on a cold, snowy day.

    Tags: Winter

  • Self-Guided Tours

    Mid-Park Tour

    Explore the middle of Central Park with stops at the Park’s miniature castle, a popular turtle hangout, and the oldest outdoor monument in New York City.

  • Daily Activities

    Volleyball

    Volleyball courts for pickup games are available at two locations in Central Park.
  • Health & Fitness

    Baseball & Softball

    Head to one of Central Park’s 26 ballfields for a great game of baseball or softball with your friends, family, or colleagues.
  • Guided Tours

    Belvedere: A Beautiful View

    Enjoy the sweeping vistas of Central Park from the newly restored Belvedere Castle!

    Tags: History / Highlights / Architecture / Landscape Design

  • Read more

  • Q&As

    5 Questions with Phil Rosenthal, TV Writer and Producer

    Everybody Loves Raymond creator Phil Rosenthal shares his fondest memories of the Park, his idea of a perfect picnic there, and what he’ll do when the coronavirus pandemic is all over.

  • Park History

    Meeting New York City's Demand for Water

    The Croton Aqueduct system revolutionized the City. Did you know this remarkable piece of history also involves Central Park?

    Tags: History / Park Experts

  • Park Information

    10 New Year’s Resolutions for a Central Park Lover

    Here are 10 ways to combine a desire for a new you in 2020 with the joy of spending time in Central Park.

  • Park History

    A Look at LGBTQ History in Central Park

    Central Park has a long and storied history with the LGBTQ community.

    Tags: Conservancy Staff / Monuments

  • Q&As

    5 Questions with Anthony McGill, Principal Clarinet of the New York Philharmonic

    Anthony McGill, a world-renowned classical musician, has performed in Central Park multiple times as part of the Philharmonic’s outdoor concert series.
  • About the Conservancy

    Keeping NYC's Backyard Clean & Green: A Park Lover's Guide to Visiting Central Park

    As we experience one of the busiest years in Central Park history, let’s work together to tend to the Park we need, and that in turn, needs us. Read this checklist before your next visit and help us keep the Park healthy this summer and for seasons to come.

    Tags: Families / Summer / Conservancy Staff / Flowers / Tips for Visiting / Trees / Nature Lovers / Park Experts / First-Time Visitors