Central Park (West)
GOOD FOR: All Ages

Source:Outdoors with Kids New York City (AMC Books)
Address:96th Street and 8th Avenue, Manhattan, NY
Hours:6 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily
Fee: Free

centralparknyc.org; 212-310-6600 or call 311

Bathrooms: Tennis courts; Delacorte Theatre
Water/Snacks: Vendors throughout park

USGS Central Park; centralparknyc.org/maps

The western section of New York’s famous Central Park offers differing terrain for walks or bicycle rides, plus plenty of room for picnicking in beautiful landscapes.

Central Park West.
Photo by: Cheryl and William de Jong-Lambert

The first public park built in America, Central Park receives about 35 million guests per year. At 843 acres—or 6 percent of Manhattan’s total acreage—it offers room for everyone, and a great variety of outdoor activities. Bike routes wind throughout the park, and on weekends, the roads and parkways located inside park walls are closed to motor traffic so visitors can freely skate, bicycle, and ride scooters.

Starting at the West 96th Street entrance and heading south, you will soon encounter the Seneca Village Site, which was home to the first predominantly African American community in Manhattan. The village once stretched from West 89th and West 81st streets but was demolished in 1857 to make way for the park. A decade-long archeological dig that ended in June 2011 unearthed much evidence of the community’s existence. Contact the Central Park Conservancy for free periodic tours of this area.

Continuing south, you will enter Naturalists’ Walk, an outdoor classroom— complete with split-log benches—for teaching students about nature. A network of paths, which run from about West 81st to West 77th streets, takes you through a range of landscapes, from rocky outcroppings to a verdant valley.

Near the park entrance at West 72nd Street is the legendary Strawberry Fields, a memorial to singer-songwriter John Lennon. It is located across from the Dakota Building where he resided.

Sheep Meadow, a 15-acre preserve that is open from May to mid-October, rounds out the walk through Central Park West. To give the park an English feel, sheep were maintained in this area for about seven decades, ending in 1934. The former sheepfold building became the renowned Tavern on the Green restaurant, which closed in 2010. The building is now an information center and gift shop.

Numerous themed playgrounds are throughout this area. From the north heading south, they include the Rudin Family Playground, the Wild West Playground, the Safari Playground, the Diana Ross Playground, the Abraham and Joseph Spector Playground, the Mariner’s Playground, and the Tots and Adventure Playground.

Remember: Strawberry Fields is a quiet zone, so postpone your visit if your children are rambunctious when you are in this area.

Plan B:

For an abundance of activities, diverse landscapes, and great walking trails, visit the south, north, and central areas of the park. The American Museum of Natural History at 79th Street and Central Park West is also a wonderful place to learn about outdoor, underwater, and space environments.

Where to Eat Nearby:

Several restaurants and grocery stores one block west of Central Park West on Columbus Avenue


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