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Summer Fun in Central Park

No trip to Manhattan would be complete without visiting Central Park.  Summer in the Park means more activities, beautiful landscaping and gardens and a host of live concert and stage performances.  You can easily schedule a jam-packed day of sightseeing, participate in your favorite sporting pastime, or simply take a leisurely stroll and stop along the way to read a book.  Anything you decide will be a gratifying break from the typical New York pandemonium! 

Let us help you decide - here we've included suggestions in our sections for Live Performances, Attractions, Tours, Exercise and Relaxation.

Live Performances | Attractions | Tours | Exercise | Relaxation

LIVE PERFORMANCES

SummerStage
Rumsey Field
69th Street at Fifth Avenue
(212) 310-6600 | Twitter | Facebook

SummerStage is an annual event bringing a variety of concerts and other live performances to 18 parks in New York's five boroughs, with several held in Central Park's Rumsey Field.  All concerts are presented free of charge and are held "rain or shine".  Take a blanket and picnic for an enjoyable outdoor experience; concessions are also available.  For the current season's lineup at Central Park, click here.  For the current lineup at all parks, click here.

Good Morning America Summer Concerts
Rumsey Field
69th Street at Fifth Avenue
Facebook | Twitter

Each summer, from May through August, Good Morning America's Summer Concert Series are held in Central Park.  These free live concerts are held on Fridays from approximately 7am - 9am (you should arrive by 6am to get a good spot).  What a great opportunity to see some of the biggest names in music!  Click here see the current lineup.

Shakespeare in the Park
Delacorte Theater
81 Central Park West
(212) 539-8500

Shakespeare in the Park is a free summer event featuring Shakespeare plays at the open-air Delacorte Theater in Central Park.  There are typically two plays performed each summer.  Shows begin at 8:30pm on most days (no performances on Mondays).  Although there is no charge for these performances, you will need to secure a ticket by getting in line at the Delacorte Theater on the day of the performance.  Audiences have enjoyed classics such as The Merchant of Venice, The Taming of the Shrew, Hamlet, and The Pirates of Penzance.  For the current season's lineup, click here.  The Delacorte Theater is located mid-park, just north of the 79th Street Transverse Road.
NY Philharmonic Concerts in the Park
The Great Lawn
West 81st or 86th Street
East 79th or 85th Street
(212) 875-5656 | Facebook | Twitter

Each summer, the New York Philharmonic presents its free Concerts in the Park series throughout the city, with a couple being held at the band shell of the Great Lawn of Central Park (mid-park).  Pack a picnic and a blanket, then enjoy an evening of classical music.  At the conclusion of the concert, you'll enjoy a fireworks display.

Metropolitan Opera Summer Recital Series
Rumsey Field
69th Street at Fifth Avenue
(212) 362-6000 | Facebook | Twitter

The Metropolitan Opera performs its free Summer Recital Series concerts at parks throughout New York, including a SummerStage performance at Central Park.  
Naumburg Orchestral Concerts
72nd Street, south of Terrace Drive
(212) 501-7809 | Facebook

Since 1905, New York locals and visitors have been treated to outdoor classical Naumburg Orchestral Concerts at the Naumburg bandshell in Central Park.  Tickets are not required; seating for 900 is on a first-come basis. 
Harlem Meer Performance Festival
110th Street at Fifth Avenue
(212) 860-1370 |

The Harlem Meer Performance Festival is a weekly summer event, held Sunday afternoons lakeside at the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center plaza.  Enjoy a variety of genres, including jazz, Latin, gospel, blues and world music.  Tickets are not required; seating is limited so bring a blanket and a picnic.
New York Classical Theater
103rd Street West at Central Park West
(212) 252-4531 | Facebook | Twitter

Each season, the New York Classical Theater group performs popular classics in Central Park, Battery Park and at the World Financial Center.  These free events are attended by all ages and the audiences are active spectators in the productions.

Sandbox Program
Various Central Park Playgrounds
(212) 348-4867

The Sandbox Program is a unique kids program held at various playgrounds throughout Central Park, featuring music, dance, puppets and stories.  This free program is targeted to children 3 to 8 years and no advance registration is needed.  The program is held on weekdays from mid-July to mid-August.

ATTRACTIONS

While there is a multitude of attractions to visit in Central Park, here we'll mention just a few that we think are especially nice to visit in the summertime.

Central Park Zoo
64th Street and Fifth Avenue
(212) 439-6500 | Facebook

The Central Park Zoo, located near the southeast section of the Park, features over 150 species of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, including the polar bear, snow leopard, red panda, penguin and much more.  The key exhibits include Polar Circle, Snow Leopard Exhibit, Sea Lion Pool, the Tropic Zone Rainforest and Temperate Territory which features wildlife that must adapt to changing climates.  The Tisch Children's Zoo is a nature trail with sheep, alpacas, a pond and interactive play.  The Zoo also has a 4-D theater, featuring the beloved characters of Ice Age.  Note that the 4-D theater is recommended for children 6 and up.  You can check the Zoo schedule for Sea Lion and Penguin Feedings.

Central Park Zoo is open 365 days a year.  Rates are reasonable and you can save a little by ordering your tickets online.  Guided tours are available.  You can get a bite to eat at the Dancing Crane Cafe and pick up a souvenir at the Zootique.

Central Park Conservatory Garden
105th Street and Fifth Avenue
(212) 860-1382 | Facebook


The Central Park Conservatory Garden, located at the northeast section of the Park, is a beautifully maintained and tranquil garden consisting of three main areas.  The Italian Garden at the entrance area is a large expanse with blooming trees, yew hedges, a canopy of wisteria and a 12-foot jet fountain.  The French Garden to the north features seasonal blooms and the Three Dancing Maidens fountain.  The English Garden to the south highlights the Burnett memorial fountain, surrounded by flower beds, perennial plants and border trees.  You can visit the Conservatory Garden from 8am to dusk and you may even witness a wedding here.  Note that the Conservatory Garden is a designated Quiet Zone of Central Park.
Central Park Carousel
Mid-Park at 64th Street, South End
(212) 439-6900

The Central Park Carousel, introduced in 1871, is a popular Central Park summer attraction.  The Carousel operates daily April through November, then on weekends only during the off-season.  There is a nominal cash-only fee to ride the Carousel.  The original Carousel was powered by an actual horse and mule housed underground.  The current Carousel was created in 1908 and is now one of the largest merry-go-rounds in the country, featuring 57 hand-carved horses with two chariots.

TOURS

Walking Tours
85th Street West & Central Park West
(347) 871-4499

Walking Tours in Central Park include an Arts & Architecture Tour and a Movie & TV Sites Tour, each offered daily.  For these tours, you can choose a one-hour, two-hour or five-hour tour.  Another offering is the three-hour Hidden Secrets Tour, which includes lunch and is offered on most days.  Note that the Hidden Secrets Tour meets at 79th Street West and Central Park West.  Custom tours are also available.  For all walking tours, make your reservations online.
Bike Tours
1710 Broadway
(347) 871-4499 | Facebook |Twitter


Bike Tours in Central Park include an Arts & Architecture Tour and a Movie & TV Sites Tour, each offered daily.  For each tour, you can choose between a one-hour and two-hour ride.  Tours include bike rental, along with a helmet, basket, lock and map.  Bike tours are conducted at a leisurely pace.  Make your reservations online.
Pedicab Tours
315 West 57th Street
(347) 871-4499

A pedicab ride is a unique way to see the sights of Central Park.  Choose a one-, two-, three- or four hour ride.  Check the website for details of what you will see on your tour and make your reservations online.
Horse & Carriage Tours
Central Park South between 7th and 8th Avenues
(347) 871-4499

For a special treat, tour Central Park by horse & carriage.  These tours generally range from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours.   While you can get a ride without a reservation, to ensure availability, it's a good idea to make an advance reservation online.  Add-ons are available, such as flowers, photography and custom pick-up location.

EXERCISE

Central Park Circuit
Delacorte Theater
81 Central Park West; or
The Great Hill - 105th Street West at Central Park West
(212) 310-6600

Central Park Circuit is a free exercise program offered by the Central Park Conservancy on a biweekly basis in two summer sessions.  The classes meet at either the Delacorte Theater or the Great Hill.  The workouts are led by certified personal trainers and include warm-up, weight resistance, cardio training and stretching using the natural features of the park, such as boulders, hills, trails and stairs.  Note that the classes are limited to 20 participants; Central Park Conservancy members can make advance reservations.  If you can't make it to a class, you can still try the workout using the detailed instructions on the Central Park Circuit website.

Open Air Yoga
79th Street East or 81st Street West
See contact below | Facebook | Twitter


Open Air Yoga offers 60-minute yoga sessions on the east side of Turtle Pond at Central Park.  No advance reservation is needed.  A complimentary refreshing juice drink is provided after the class.  Individual and group private sessions are also offered.  The $15 fee may be paid in cash at the class or in advance online via Paypal.  Bring a yoga mat, towel and water.  Contact Open Air Yoga at donna@openairyoganyc.com.

Another option for Central Park yoga classes is the weekend sessions offered by Central Park Yoga; they meet at 81st Street and Central Park West.  Individual classes are $20 each or you can get a discount by purchasing a multi-session package. 

Central Park Sports
Throughout the Park

Biking, rollerblading and running are very popular in Central Park, with its miles of trails and variety of scenery.  Bike rentals are available at Loeb Central Park Boathouse and Bike and Roll NYC.  Additionally, Central Park features 26 ballfields, 30 tennis courts (26 clay and four asphalt), five volleyball courts (one sand and four asphalt), two basketball courts and two lawn bowling and croquets fields.  Depending on the sport, permits to use NYC fields and courts are often required or recommended.  For more information on when permits are required and how to submit a request, check the NYC Parks Field and Court Permit Page or call (212) 360-8133.  Central Park also features the public Lasker Pool with free admission, but before heading out for a swim, be sure to check the rules regarding the pool facility.
Row Boating
Mid-Park from 71st to 78th Streets
(212) 517-2233

Whether for exercise or relaxation, row boating is available on the Lake, which is a 20-acre lake used for boating in the summer and ice skating in the winter.  From April through October, you can rent a boat for up to four people at the Loeb Boathouse.  Reservations are not necessary.

RELAXATION

Quiet Zones
Throughout the Park

The entire expansion of Central Park would seem a tranquil getaway from the surrounding Manhattan hustle and bustle.  But even within the Park there are areas deemed "Quiet Zones" where there are no runners, bike riders or rollerbladers, dogs must be leashed and music is not allowed.  These are spots for chilling out, reading a book or taking in the scenery. 
  • Bethesda Terrace is considered the "heart of Central Park", located mid-Park at 72nd Street.  It offers intriguing architecture, the 26-foot Bethesda Fountain and great park views.
  • As described above, the Conservatory Garden offers three unique areas for a peaceful stroll.
  • Shakespeare Garden, located at West Side and 79th Street, is a four-acre garden with pathways among a variety of plants, flowers and trees.  It is situated near the Delacorte Theater where the summer Shakespeare in the Park is held.
  • Strawberry Fields, located near Central Park West between 71st and 74th Streets, is a tribute to John Lennon.  He lived in a nearby apartment and Strawberry Fields was created here as this was the location where he was shot in 1980.  It is aptly deemed a "Garden of Peace".  This tribute is symbolized by the mosaic "Imagine" in the grounds at the center of Strawberry Fields.
  • Additional Quiet Zones include Sheep Meadow, Conservatory Water with model boat sailing, Turtle Pond near Belvedere Castle, and finally the East Green lawn.
Bird Watching

It may come as a surprise that Central Park is a wonderful place for bird watching, with its tranquil setting and 235 bird species.  You can join a tour with "Birding Bob"; check his website for schedule, cost and additional information.
Gondola Rides
Park Drive North at 72nd Street East
(212) 744-3949

Check in at the Loeb Boathouse to schedule a gondola ride!  It would be a good idea to call ahead, as the gondolier gets booked quickly.

Article on Central Park

A Walk in Central Park
A Spring visit to New York City's Central Park by Lisa Goodmurphy of Gone With The Family and her daughter. Gone with the Family is part of one parent's mission to show the kids the world - one trip at a time! Interesting article, worth a look if you plan to bring any children with you.



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