Central Park 1-hr Walking Tour (Free Guide)
Perfect Little Planet
💸 FREE for 2023!! If you found this guide valuable, you can always leave a tip or a comment (at the bottom of the guide). Want to experience Central Park but you only have an hour to do it? I'll show you how to see the top highlights in Central Park in 1 hour. You'll see the zoo, the mall, the lake, Bow Bridge and Gapstow Bridge, the Imagine mosaic at Strawberry Fields, and so much more!
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Getting here

The easiest way to access Central Park is from the N/R/W line at the 5th Ave/59th Street stop. This is also the corner you'd enter from if you were hanging out at Rockefeller Center or doing some window shopping on 5th Avenue. Because it's the most popular and tourist-friendly entrance into the Park, let's start here. We'll also end here so you can get right back to what you were doing before the 1-hr tour.

This walking tour is 2.37 miles, so you'll need to cover a mile in about 25 minutes. That's a leisurely pace, not a New Yorker pace. 🏃 Take your time and enjoy it!

Watch the video

I put this entire tour on YouTube so you can follow along. Keep reading for more details and directions.

Download the map

This link is a downloadable map with the complete route so you can see it all, start to finish. You can also use the map button at the top right to choose any spot and then navigate directly to it using the [➡️Go] button.

59th St and 5th Ave

(You'll start and end here)

Grand Army Plaza
@perfectlittleplanet
You'll know you're in the right place when you see the giant gold statue of a man riding a horse. That's Union General William T. Sherman on his horse, Ontario, being led by Victory. The iconic Plaza Hotel towers behind you. This is one of the most popular entry points to Central Park. Interestingly, Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted (Central Park's designers) hated the idea of having a grand entrance to the Park. They wanted it to feel more quaint and rural. But the people of New York wanted something more elaborate, so now we have General Sherman on his horse.
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Walk to the back of the statue and face away from it. Now walk through the trees and across the street (watch for vehicles!) Once you cross the street, take a moment to admire the art in Doris C. Freedman Plaza.

Doris C. Freedman Plaza
@perfectlittleplanet
The art here changes seasonally. I recommend reading the sign. It's always more interesting when you understand the context and the intent. The art is always something “new” (think modern art) as opposed to the “old” classic sculptures and fountains you just saw in Grand Army Plaza. It's fun to compare the two installations and think about the past and present versions of what public art looks like.
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Keep walking straight past the art for about 2 minutes (follow all the people) and you'll walk into Central Park.

Central Park Zoo

Central Park Zoo
@perfectlittleplanet
You can walk straight through the Zoo without a ticket and you can see a few animal habitats, most notably the sea lions which are almost always active. To enter the zoo and see all the exhibits and animals, you’ll need to buy a ticket, of course. Time: 10 minutes to walk through, 1.5 hours if you go in
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The zoo is a fun stop, but it would take an hour by itself, so let’s keep walking.

At the end of the main part of the zoo you’ll see a few arches with animal sculptures and a clock with a big bell on top. This is the Delacorte Clock.

Delacorte Clock
@perfectlittleplanet
The show happens every half hour from 8am to 6pm. The monkeys clang the bell and the animals rotate around the clock, like a giant cuckoo clock. It’s worth seeing if you are there around the right time. Side note: George Delacorte, who came up with the idea and funded it, also gifted a couple other very popular attractions in Central Park: the Alice in Wonderland sculpture by the Conservatory Water and the Delacorte Theater next to the Turtle Pond (where Shakespeare in the Park plays for free every Summer.) Thanks, Mr. Delacorte!
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Walk through the clock’s arches and past the children’s zoo. You’re heading for Balto, and you’ll need to turn left at the fork in the road just past the tunnel, and then right at the next fork.

Balto

Balto Statue
@perfectlittleplanet
Go ahead and climb up. It's ok! Balto was part of the dog-sled relay team that brought the diphtheria vaccine over 700 miles through blizzard conditions to save the people in the Alaskan town of Nome. If you have children, this is a great sculpture to climb on.
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Go under the tunnel and turn left at the fork. You’re heading to the base of the Mall, called the Literary Walk. You’ll know you’re in the right (write?) place when you see Shakespeare.

Remember you can also download the full walking path (scroll back up to the top for that link) if that might help you be more confident in your directions.

The Mall

The Mall and Literary Walk
@perfectlittleplanet
The Mall is one of my favorite paths in Central Park in any season. It’s no wonder that so many movies and TV shows feature it. There’s just something magical about how the trees curve up and over you, like a vaulted ceiling in nature’s cathedral. It was designed as a straightaway formal promenade and meeting place. It is one of the only straight paths in the entire park. The entire mall stretches about a quarter mile. The Literary Walk is the informal name for the lower part of the Mall. It includes sculptures of some of Europe’s most prolific authors – Shakespeare, Robert Burns, and Sir Walter Scott. As you walk up the Mall, you’ll see the new Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument, the first monument to be added to Central Park in over 50 years. Time: 15 minutes
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Walk to the end of the Mall, past the Bandshell (a giant concrete half circle on your right), and you’ll find yourself at the top of some stairs. This is Bethesda Terrace.

Bethesda Terrace & Fountain

Bethesda Terrace
@perfectlittleplanet
One of the most picturesque and popular spots in the Park. Bethesda Terrace is two levels. The top gives you amazing views of Bethesda Fountain with the Lake behind it. During the summer, dozens of row boats will be meandering across the Lake. Terrace Drive cuts through here, so watch out for horse-drawn carriages and pedicabs. Definitely explore the tiled, arched arcade on the bottom level. There’s almost always a classical musician playing in here – remember to tip your street performers if you enjoy their music. Note: there are bathrooms at the mid-point landing in the center staircase if you need to use them, though they are closed in the winter. Time: 15 minutes
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You can walk down the steps if you’d like (there are bathrooms at the mid-point landing if you need them), but I prefer to stay up top for the view and then take the side stairs down.

Sit and relax for a minute here at Bethesda Fountain.

Bethesda Fountain
@perfectlittleplanet
The fountain is called the Angel of the Water, sculpted by Emma Stebbins. This was the first time a woman was commissioned by the Parks Department. This is a great place to people watch. There are often fashion photoshoots here, wedding parties, native New Yorkers and tourists alike, some street performers, and lots of happy people. This was originally designed to be a gathering space for Park visitors, and it still holds the same purpose today. Time: 5 minutes
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Standing with your back to the Lake and staring at Bethesda Fountain, take the first path to your right and follow it to the Bow Bridge. The Lake should stay on your right side the whole time. This might be another time you use the [➡️Go] button in the place card below.

Bow Bridge

Bow Bridge
@perfectlittleplanet
The Bow Bridge is one of the most recognized and iconic bridges in Central Park. It's the most popular spot in the Park to propose. Maybe because of the beauty, maybe because the "bow" reminds you of "tying the knot." Or maybe because it's the longest span of any bridge in the Park, and you want your marriage to last a long time? My favorite time on the Bow Bridge is during the summer. I love to wave at the people in the row boats as they pass under you. They're always so happy to wave back. :) If you cross the bridge, you’ll wander through the Ramble and most certainly get lost – that’s kind of the purpose of the Ramble. Fun Fact: It's named the "Bow" Bridge because it's low, gentle curve is reminiscent of an archer's bow or even a violinist's bow. It has nothing to do with a bow that you tie into a ribbon or where in your hair. Time: 5 minutes
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Go ahead and walk out onto the bridge, but don’t go across it. When you’re done enjoying the bridge and the view across the lake (and waving to the row boaters if you're there in the summer), walk back to its entrance and take a right, following the pathway down to your right, with the Lake on your right.

This path will lead you to a great view of the Bow Bridge, as well as fantastic views of the San Remo (the iconic twin tower apartments in front of you).

Follow this path along the Lake. It will curve up a hill to the left and you’ll wind up in Cherry Hill.

Cherry Hill

Cherry Hill
@perfectlittleplanet
Cherry Hill is a beautiful lawn with gorgeous cherry blossoms in the Spring. It slopes down to the Lake, with a great view of the Bow Bridge. This is a nice spot to relax with a book on a blanket. The top of the hill contains an ornate fountain often mistaken as the fountain from the opening credits of Friends. For the record, it’s not the same fountain (the Friends fountain is from a Hollywood lot in California), but it resembles it enough that you can trick your friends if you want. This is also a spot where pedicabs congregate, so if you want a ride, you can almost certainly find an available one here.
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Before you move on, take a look at your watch. You should be about half way through your 1-hr tour of Central Park.

You're heading to the Imagine Mosaic next. You can follow the directions below, but it might be easier to use the [➡️Go] button in the place card below, and use your phone's map and GPS.

Walk down the path to your right, in the same general direction you've been walking, and connect into the busy road (busy with bikes and runners, not cars). This road is Terrace Drive, but everyone knows it as 72nd Street.

Side note: Cars were permanently banned from Central Park in 2018. The only vehicles you’ll ever see on the roadways belong to the NYPD, Central Park Conservancy, or the City’s Parks Department.

Walk along the main road here until you come to a large intersection with another major road. This is West Drive, part of a 6.1-mile loop that circles around the Park. Wait for the walk signal (bikes have the right of way here until you get a walk signal) and cross West Drive. Walk up the hill – listen for Beattles music and look for a bunch of people. This is the Imagine Mosaic at Strawberry Fields.

Strawberry Fields & Imagine Mosaic

Imagine Mosaic
@perfectlittleplanet
The Imagine Mosaic is an homage to John Lennon, who lived just a few steps from here in the Dakota at West 72nd Street and Central Park West. He was sadly killed in the entryway to the building, and this memorial and the surrounding landscape pay tribute to his legacy and ideals. Lennon used to walk this area frequently, so it’s fitting that we remember him has we stroll through this area. If you want this to yourself, be here by 8am. Time: 5 minutes
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Walk past the mosaic out toward the edge of the Park and you’ll see the Dakota.

The Dakota
@perfectlittleplanet
Home to John Lennon and Yoko Ono, across the street from Central Park where John used to walk.
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Take a left and you’ll see a tunnel covered in ivy that leads down a path. Take that path until it connects back into West Drive. Cross the street at the next crosswalk and head into the Sheep Meadow. This is probably another good time to use the [➡️Go] button in the place card below.

Sheep Meadow

Sheep Meadow
@perfectlittleplanet
The Sheep Meadow is one of the most popular open lawns used for relaxing, sunbathing, picnicking, throwing a frisbee, and meeting with friends. It was one of the most quintessential Central Park views, with the Midtown skyscrapers towering over the trees that line the south side of the area. It’s named the Sheep Meadow because up until 1934, sheep grazed the lawn and kept the grass short. Those sheep lived in the Sheep Fold, which is now the Tavern on the Green.
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Cross the Sheep Meadow by walking toward the large boulder on the southeast side. There’s an exit directly behind the boulder.

Once you’re out of the Sheep Meadow, turn to your left and then take a right. Continue down the hill to the right and you’ll walk into the Central Park Carousel.

Central Park Carousel

Central Park Carousel
@perfectlittleplanet
You're never too cool or too old to ride a carousel. This is the fourth carousel in this location, and this one dates back to 1951. The original was built here in 1871 and was powered by a real horse.
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Go ahead and take a ride, you can spare the 2 minutes.

Walk under the tunnel away from the carousel (called the Playmate Arch) and on the other side, you’ll see a cool building called the Dairy.

The Dairy

The Dairy Visitor Center and Gift Shop
@perfectlittleplanet
The Dairy is a visitor center and gift shop now, but it used to be a place where families could get fresh milk. Personally, I like it because it’s warm in the winter, and cool in the summer. It’s the best place to escape to when you need a break from the weather.
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If you're facing the Dairy, turn to your right and you’ll see the Chess & Checkers House on top of the hill.

Chess & Checkers House

Chess & Checkers House Visitor Center
@perfectlittleplanet
So many games and activities inside! The Chess & Checkers house has more than just those two games. It’s filled with board games, card games, and lots of other family entertainment to keep you (and your children) busy. My favorite are the discovery packs – backpacks filled with binoculars, crayons, field notes, and activities for kids to use as they explore the park.
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I'm starting to see a theme...

With the carousel, the Dairy, and now the Chess & Checkers house, you may be starting to see a theme. This area, below 65th street, was designed to be the children’s district. Lots of fun things for the kids to experience here, including playgrounds, ballfields, and large boulders to climb on.

Follow the path down the hill and you’ll run into Wollman Rink.

Wollman Rink

Wollman Rink
@perfectlittleplanet
Skating at night, under the skyscrapers, is a memory you will never forget. Wollman Rink is about as iconic as it gets in Central Park, especially in the winter. The platform above the rink provides a great view of the rink and the midtown skyscrapers.
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From here, you can see the Plaza hotel, so you know we’re almost back to where we started.

Facing the rink, walk to your left. You’ll see some stairs and a fork in the path, stay to your right. Keep following this path until you come to an intersection. If you take a right, you’d walk out onto Gapstow Bridge.

Gapstow Bridge

Gapstow Bridge
@perfectlittleplanet
One of the most picturesque bridges in the Park, the best place to view it is from the small rocky outcropping on the water's edge path along the Pond. Approaching it from the other side used to get you a good view of the Bridge with the Plaza Hotel in the background, but the surrounding trees and foliage have grown so much in recent years that you can't see it as well. Crossing the bridge is the main way to get to the Hallett Nature Sanctuary (follow the path until you see the very discreet entrance on your left). Time: 5 minutes
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Go ahead and walk out onto the bridge if you want – it has a great view of the Pond and the Plaza hotel. Personally I like the view of the bridge itself better, so I recommend you go through the intersection and take the next path on your right down to the Pond.

The Pond

The Pond
@perfectlittleplanet
The Pond is one of the most iconic and beautiful landscapes in all of Central Park. Bordered on the south by the skyscrapers of Billionaire's Row, on the north by the picture-perfect Gapstow Bridge, and on the west by the idyllic Hallett Nature Sanctuary, this is the absolute best thing to see as your first introduction to Central Park. Although you can walk completely around the Pond, I recommend you stay on the path along the east side, from the entrance at 59th Street and 5th Ave, along up to the Gapstow Bridge. Those are your best views. Time: 10 minutes
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The Pond is one of my favorite places in Central Park. There’s just something magical about it. It’s so serene, so beautiful, and so energizing all at the same time. It’s a great place to end your tour of Central Park. Soak it in, and when you’re ready, continue down the path, keeping the Pond on your right.

You’ll see a path that cuts up the hill on your left, but stay to your right and continue along the Pond as long as you can. Pass the wooden benches under the shade trees on your right, then take the path on your left. Go up the stairs and you’ll come out in Grand Army Plaza, where you started.

I hope you enjoyed this tour of Central Park.

Remember to leave a tip of you felt like this guide was valuable to you. 💸 (The tip button is at the top)

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Central Park 1-hr Walking Tour (Free Guide)
Perfect Little Planet
💸 FREE for 2023!! If you found this guide valuable, you can always leave a tip or a comment (at the bottom of the guide). Want to experience Central Park but you only have an hour to do it? I'll show you how to see the top highlights in Central Park in 1 hour. You'll see the zoo, the mall, the lake, Bow Bridge and Gapstow Bridge, the Imagine mosaic at Strawberry Fields, and so much more!
19 Places • 30 Saves • ago
Free

Getting here

The easiest way to access Central Park is from the N/R/W line at the 5th Ave/59th Street stop. This is also the corner you'd enter from if you were hanging out at Rockefeller Center or doing some window shopping on 5th Avenue. Because it's the most popular and tourist-friendly entrance into the Park, let's start here. We'll also end here so you can get right back to what you were doing before the 1-hr tour.

This walking tour is 2.37 miles, so you'll need to cover a mile in about 25 minutes. That's a leisurely pace, not a New Yorker pace. 🏃 Take your time and enjoy it!

Watch the video

I put this entire tour on YouTube so you can follow along. Keep reading for more details and directions.

Download the map

This link is a downloadable map with the complete route so you can see it all, start to finish. You can also use the map button at the top right to choose any spot and then navigate directly to it using the [➡️Go] button.

59th St and 5th Ave

(You'll start and end here)

Grand Army Plaza
@perfectlittleplanet
You'll know you're in the right place when you see the giant gold statue of a man riding a horse. That's Union General William T. Sherman on his horse, Ontario, being led by Victory. The iconic Plaza Hotel towers behind you. This is one of the most popular entry points to Central Park. Interestingly, Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted (Central Park's designers) hated the idea of having a grand entrance to the Park. They wanted it to feel more quaint and rural. But the people of New York wanted something more elaborate, so now we have General Sherman on his horse.
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Walk to the back of the statue and face away from it. Now walk through the trees and across the street (watch for vehicles!) Once you cross the street, take a moment to admire the art in Doris C. Freedman Plaza.

Doris C. Freedman Plaza
@perfectlittleplanet
The art here changes seasonally. I recommend reading the sign. It's always more interesting when you understand the context and the intent. The art is always something “new” (think modern art) as opposed to the “old” classic sculptures and fountains you just saw in Grand Army Plaza. It's fun to compare the two installations and think about the past and present versions of what public art looks like.
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Keep walking straight past the art for about 2 minutes (follow all the people) and you'll walk into Central Park.

Central Park Zoo

Central Park Zoo
@perfectlittleplanet
You can walk straight through the Zoo without a ticket and you can see a few animal habitats, most notably the sea lions which are almost always active. To enter the zoo and see all the exhibits and animals, you’ll need to buy a ticket, of course. Time: 10 minutes to walk through, 1.5 hours if you go in
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The zoo is a fun stop, but it would take an hour by itself, so let’s keep walking.

At the end of the main part of the zoo you’ll see a few arches with animal sculptures and a clock with a big bell on top. This is the Delacorte Clock.

Delacorte Clock
@perfectlittleplanet
The show happens every half hour from 8am to 6pm. The monkeys clang the bell and the animals rotate around the clock, like a giant cuckoo clock. It’s worth seeing if you are there around the right time. Side note: George Delacorte, who came up with the idea and funded it, also gifted a couple other very popular attractions in Central Park: the Alice in Wonderland sculpture by the Conservatory Water and the Delacorte Theater next to the Turtle Pond (where Shakespeare in the Park plays for free every Summer.) Thanks, Mr. Delacorte!
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Walk through the clock’s arches and past the children’s zoo. You’re heading for Balto, and you’ll need to turn left at the fork in the road just past the tunnel, and then right at the next fork.

Balto

Balto Statue
@perfectlittleplanet
Go ahead and climb up. It's ok! Balto was part of the dog-sled relay team that brought the diphtheria vaccine over 700 miles through blizzard conditions to save the people in the Alaskan town of Nome. If you have children, this is a great sculpture to climb on.
Add to
Details

Go under the tunnel and turn left at the fork. You’re heading to the base of the Mall, called the Literary Walk. You’ll know you’re in the right (write?) place when you see Shakespeare.

Remember you can also download the full walking path (scroll back up to the top for that link) if that might help you be more confident in your directions.

The Mall

The Mall and Literary Walk
@perfectlittleplanet
The Mall is one of my favorite paths in Central Park in any season. It’s no wonder that so many movies and TV shows feature it. There’s just something magical about how the trees curve up and over you, like a vaulted ceiling in nature’s cathedral. It was designed as a straightaway formal promenade and meeting place. It is one of the only straight paths in the entire park. The entire mall stretches about a quarter mile. The Literary Walk is the informal name for the lower part of the Mall. It includes sculptures of some of Europe’s most prolific authors – Shakespeare, Robert Burns, and Sir Walter Scott. As you walk up the Mall, you’ll see the new Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument, the first monument to be added to Central Park in over 50 years. Time: 15 minutes
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Walk to the end of the Mall, past the Bandshell (a giant concrete half circle on your right), and you’ll find yourself at the top of some stairs. This is Bethesda Terrace.

Bethesda Terrace & Fountain

Bethesda Terrace
@perfectlittleplanet
One of the most picturesque and popular spots in the Park. Bethesda Terrace is two levels. The top gives you amazing views of Bethesda Fountain with the Lake behind it. During the summer, dozens of row boats will be meandering across the Lake. Terrace Drive cuts through here, so watch out for horse-drawn carriages and pedicabs. Definitely explore the tiled, arched arcade on the bottom level. There’s almost always a classical musician playing in here – remember to tip your street performers if you enjoy their music. Note: there are bathrooms at the mid-point landing in the center staircase if you need to use them, though they are closed in the winter. Time: 15 minutes
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You can walk down the steps if you’d like (there are bathrooms at the mid-point landing if you need them), but I prefer to stay up top for the view and then take the side stairs down.

Sit and relax for a minute here at Bethesda Fountain.

Bethesda Fountain
@perfectlittleplanet
The fountain is called the Angel of the Water, sculpted by Emma Stebbins. This was the first time a woman was commissioned by the Parks Department. This is a great place to people watch. There are often fashion photoshoots here, wedding parties, native New Yorkers and tourists alike, some street performers, and lots of happy people. This was originally designed to be a gathering space for Park visitors, and it still holds the same purpose today. Time: 5 minutes
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Standing with your back to the Lake and staring at Bethesda Fountain, take the first path to your right and follow it to the Bow Bridge. The Lake should stay on your right side the whole time. This might be another time you use the [➡️Go] button in the place card below.

Bow Bridge

Bow Bridge
@perfectlittleplanet
The Bow Bridge is one of the most recognized and iconic bridges in Central Park. It's the most popular spot in the Park to propose. Maybe because of the beauty, maybe because the "bow" reminds you of "tying the knot." Or maybe because it's the longest span of any bridge in the Park, and you want your marriage to last a long time? My favorite time on the Bow Bridge is during the summer. I love to wave at the people in the row boats as they pass under you. They're always so happy to wave back. :) If you cross the bridge, you’ll wander through the Ramble and most certainly get lost – that’s kind of the purpose of the Ramble. Fun Fact: It's named the "Bow" Bridge because it's low, gentle curve is reminiscent of an archer's bow or even a violinist's bow. It has nothing to do with a bow that you tie into a ribbon or where in your hair. Time: 5 minutes
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Go ahead and walk out onto the bridge, but don’t go across it. When you’re done enjoying the bridge and the view across the lake (and waving to the row boaters if you're there in the summer), walk back to its entrance and take a right, following the pathway down to your right, with the Lake on your right.

This path will lead you to a great view of the Bow Bridge, as well as fantastic views of the San Remo (the iconic twin tower apartments in front of you).

Follow this path along the Lake. It will curve up a hill to the left and you’ll wind up in Cherry Hill.

Cherry Hill

Cherry Hill
@perfectlittleplanet
Cherry Hill is a beautiful lawn with gorgeous cherry blossoms in the Spring. It slopes down to the Lake, with a great view of the Bow Bridge. This is a nice spot to relax with a book on a blanket. The top of the hill contains an ornate fountain often mistaken as the fountain from the opening credits of Friends. For the record, it’s not the same fountain (the Friends fountain is from a Hollywood lot in California), but it resembles it enough that you can trick your friends if you want. This is also a spot where pedicabs congregate, so if you want a ride, you can almost certainly find an available one here.
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Before you move on, take a look at your watch. You should be about half way through your 1-hr tour of Central Park.

You're heading to the Imagine Mosaic next. You can follow the directions below, but it might be easier to use the [➡️Go] button in the place card below, and use your phone's map and GPS.

Walk down the path to your right, in the same general direction you've been walking, and connect into the busy road (busy with bikes and runners, not cars). This road is Terrace Drive, but everyone knows it as 72nd Street.

Side note: Cars were permanently banned from Central Park in 2018. The only vehicles you’ll ever see on the roadways belong to the NYPD, Central Park Conservancy, or the City’s Parks Department.

Walk along the main road here until you come to a large intersection with another major road. This is West Drive, part of a 6.1-mile loop that circles around the Park. Wait for the walk signal (bikes have the right of way here until you get a walk signal) and cross West Drive. Walk up the hill – listen for Beattles music and look for a bunch of people. This is the Imagine Mosaic at Strawberry Fields.

Strawberry Fields & Imagine Mosaic

Imagine Mosaic
@perfectlittleplanet
The Imagine Mosaic is an homage to John Lennon, who lived just a few steps from here in the Dakota at West 72nd Street and Central Park West. He was sadly killed in the entryway to the building, and this memorial and the surrounding landscape pay tribute to his legacy and ideals. Lennon used to walk this area frequently, so it’s fitting that we remember him has we stroll through this area. If you want this to yourself, be here by 8am. Time: 5 minutes
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Walk past the mosaic out toward the edge of the Park and you’ll see the Dakota.

The Dakota
@perfectlittleplanet
Home to John Lennon and Yoko Ono, across the street from Central Park where John used to walk.
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Take a left and you’ll see a tunnel covered in ivy that leads down a path. Take that path until it connects back into West Drive. Cross the street at the next crosswalk and head into the Sheep Meadow. This is probably another good time to use the [➡️Go] button in the place card below.

Sheep Meadow

Sheep Meadow
@perfectlittleplanet
The Sheep Meadow is one of the most popular open lawns used for relaxing, sunbathing, picnicking, throwing a frisbee, and meeting with friends. It was one of the most quintessential Central Park views, with the Midtown skyscrapers towering over the trees that line the south side of the area. It’s named the Sheep Meadow because up until 1934, sheep grazed the lawn and kept the grass short. Those sheep lived in the Sheep Fold, which is now the Tavern on the Green.
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Cross the Sheep Meadow by walking toward the large boulder on the southeast side. There’s an exit directly behind the boulder.

Once you’re out of the Sheep Meadow, turn to your left and then take a right. Continue down the hill to the right and you’ll walk into the Central Park Carousel.

Central Park Carousel

Central Park Carousel
@perfectlittleplanet
You're never too cool or too old to ride a carousel. This is the fourth carousel in this location, and this one dates back to 1951. The original was built here in 1871 and was powered by a real horse.
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Go ahead and take a ride, you can spare the 2 minutes.

Walk under the tunnel away from the carousel (called the Playmate Arch) and on the other side, you’ll see a cool building called the Dairy.

The Dairy

The Dairy Visitor Center and Gift Shop
@perfectlittleplanet
The Dairy is a visitor center and gift shop now, but it used to be a place where families could get fresh milk. Personally, I like it because it’s warm in the winter, and cool in the summer. It’s the best place to escape to when you need a break from the weather.
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If you're facing the Dairy, turn to your right and you’ll see the Chess & Checkers House on top of the hill.

Chess & Checkers House

Chess & Checkers House Visitor Center
@perfectlittleplanet
So many games and activities inside! The Chess & Checkers house has more than just those two games. It’s filled with board games, card games, and lots of other family entertainment to keep you (and your children) busy. My favorite are the discovery packs – backpacks filled with binoculars, crayons, field notes, and activities for kids to use as they explore the park.
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I'm starting to see a theme...

With the carousel, the Dairy, and now the Chess & Checkers house, you may be starting to see a theme. This area, below 65th street, was designed to be the children’s district. Lots of fun things for the kids to experience here, including playgrounds, ballfields, and large boulders to climb on.

Follow the path down the hill and you’ll run into Wollman Rink.

Wollman Rink

Wollman Rink
@perfectlittleplanet
Skating at night, under the skyscrapers, is a memory you will never forget. Wollman Rink is about as iconic as it gets in Central Park, especially in the winter. The platform above the rink provides a great view of the rink and the midtown skyscrapers.
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From here, you can see the Plaza hotel, so you know we’re almost back to where we started.

Facing the rink, walk to your left. You’ll see some stairs and a fork in the path, stay to your right. Keep following this path until you come to an intersection. If you take a right, you’d walk out onto Gapstow Bridge.

Gapstow Bridge

Gapstow Bridge
@perfectlittleplanet
One of the most picturesque bridges in the Park, the best place to view it is from the small rocky outcropping on the water's edge path along the Pond. Approaching it from the other side used to get you a good view of the Bridge with the Plaza Hotel in the background, but the surrounding trees and foliage have grown so much in recent years that you can't see it as well. Crossing the bridge is the main way to get to the Hallett Nature Sanctuary (follow the path until you see the very discreet entrance on your left). Time: 5 minutes
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Go ahead and walk out onto the bridge if you want – it has a great view of the Pond and the Plaza hotel. Personally I like the view of the bridge itself better, so I recommend you go through the intersection and take the next path on your right down to the Pond.

The Pond

The Pond
@perfectlittleplanet
The Pond is one of the most iconic and beautiful landscapes in all of Central Park. Bordered on the south by the skyscrapers of Billionaire's Row, on the north by the picture-perfect Gapstow Bridge, and on the west by the idyllic Hallett Nature Sanctuary, this is the absolute best thing to see as your first introduction to Central Park. Although you can walk completely around the Pond, I recommend you stay on the path along the east side, from the entrance at 59th Street and 5th Ave, along up to the Gapstow Bridge. Those are your best views. Time: 10 minutes
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The Pond is one of my favorite places in Central Park. There’s just something magical about it. It’s so serene, so beautiful, and so energizing all at the same time. It’s a great place to end your tour of Central Park. Soak it in, and when you’re ready, continue down the path, keeping the Pond on your right.

You’ll see a path that cuts up the hill on your left, but stay to your right and continue along the Pond as long as you can. Pass the wooden benches under the shade trees on your right, then take the path on your left. Go up the stairs and you’ll come out in Grand Army Plaza, where you started.

I hope you enjoyed this tour of Central Park.

Remember to leave a tip of you felt like this guide was valuable to you. 💸 (The tip button is at the top)

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We are Brian and Isa. We share our experiences with you so you can feel confident when you visit. Our YouTube videos have amassed millions of views, and we've helped thousands in our community of over 40k subscribers know where to go, what to do, and how to do it.
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