Central Park (East)
GOOD FOR: All Ages

Source:Outdoors with Kids New York City (AMC Books)
Address:East 66th Street at Fifth Avenue, Manhattan, NY
Hours:6 A.M. to 1 A.M. daily
Fee: Free

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

Bathrooms: Bethesda Fountain; Metropolitan Museum of Art; near Conservatory Gardens
Water/Snacks: Drinking fountains throughout park during summer; vendors throughout park

USGS Central Park; centralparknyc.org/maps

Paved roads link together a chain of manicured lawns that roughly corresponds to Museum Mile along Fifth Avenue.

Conservatory Water in Central Park East.
Photo by: iStock

Central Park’s eastern portion runs along Fifth Avenue between East 66th and East 97th streets. The area has easy, rolling hills that are well shaded by mature trees.

Entering at East 66th Street and heading north, you will first encounter the East Green, one of eight designated quiet zones in Central Park. Loud music, talking, and running are prohibited in quiet zones. Stretching to East 72nd Street, the East Green is most fragrant and colorful in spring when magnolia and cherry trees bloom.

Crossing over East 72nd Street, you will head into an area that we call the “children’s classics zone.” First is the Conservatory Water, where, from April through October, children can rent remote-controlled mechanical boats to guide over the water. The setting is so idyllic that E.B. White used it as a backdrop in his 1945 classic, Stuart Little. The location also served as the set for the book’s 1999 film version. In winter, the Conservatory Water is sometimes open for ice skating.

Continuing north, you will find an 11-foot-tall bronze statue of Alice and her famous entourage from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.The Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat, the Dormouse, Dina the cat, and the White Rabbit are present and accounted for. Children are invited to climb and crawl all over Alice and her friends, unlike other statues in Central Park (and most everywhere else). Owing to more than a half century of such activity, the statues remain smooth and polished.

This area is also popular with bird-watchers catching views of red-tailed hawks that are wont to take flight from high atop buildings along Fifth Avenue. Heading along East Drive or along the paved path that curves north, you will come upon the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This area has some terrific hills for sledding in winter. Destination playgrounds are on the north and south sides of the Met, in addition to playgrounds at East 76th Street and East 96th Street, the latter being one of the largest in the park.

Remember: Tempting though it may be on a hot summer day, you cannot wade in the Conservatory Water.

Plan B:

Central Park’s west, south, and north sections are all within an easy walk—and well worth the visit.


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