Central Park (South)
GOOD FOR: All Ages

Source:Outdoors with Kids New York City (AMC Books)
Address:West 59th Street at Columbus Circle, Manhattan, NY
Hours:6 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily
Fee: Free; some activities require fees

centralparknyc.org; Central Park Conservancy, 212-310-6600 or call 311; Wollman Ice Skating Rink, 212-439-6900; Victoria Gardens Amusement Park, 212-982-2229; guided tours of Hallett Nature Sanctuary, 212-360-1471; Central Park Zoo, 212-439-6500

Bathrooms: Heckscher Playground
Water/Snacks: Vendors inside park; Sheep Meadow Cafe; Ballfields Cafe and Merchant's Gate Cafe (just outside park)

USGS Central Park; centralparknyc.org/maps

The southern end of Central Park is home to the park’s oldest and largest playground, as well as the Hallett Nature Sanctuary and the legendary Carousel.

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

The southern region of Central Park extends roughly from 59th Street to the 65th Street Transverse Road, between Central Park West and Fifth Avenue. Enter on the western side at Columbus Circle and head east to the Heckscher Playground, which is both the oldest and largest in the park. In addition to playground equipment, it features an extensive jungle gym maze built into a large rock-climbing area. Beyond the maze, the rock-climbing area is so extensive that professionals and amateurs use it for training and practice.

Continuing east will bring you to the idyllic Pond, one of seven bodies of water incorporated into the park’s design. To the north is the 4-acre Hallett Nature Sanctuary, which is open for guided tours only. The sanctuary contains several species of birds, along with raccoons, woodchucks, and rabbits.

The Central Park Zoo, which has an entrance fee, is farther along to the northeast. Animals that hail from an incredible diversity of climates call it home. You’ll also find a petting zoo, a cafeteria, and restrooms. Leaving the zoo and heading southeast, you will arrive at the shady, bench-lined Wien Walk, which brings you to the southeastern edge of the park across from the Park Plaza hotel.

Heading back west from the zoo, you will encounter the Wollman Ice Skating Rink, which is open October through April (there are fees to enter and to rent skates). In summer the rink becomes Victoria Gardens Amusement Park, which also has a fee.

Continuing west you will reach the fabled Carousel, which has a small fee. Merry-go-rounds have been located at this site for well over 130 years. The present one was constructed in 1908 and brought in from Coney Island to replace another, which burned in 1950.

Adult bicycles are available to rent at Columbus Circle. Pedicabs and horsedrawn carriage rides also await passengers, for a fee, along 59th Street.

Remember: Heckscher Playground is quite extensive, with a large variety of activities. It can be difficult for one adult to monitor children of different ages.

Plan B:

For more great places to explore, visit the west, east, and central areas
of the park.


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