Tomorrow, June 11, is National Get Outdoors Day! The perfect day to enjoy time outside with your family. Nature is closer than you think. Every neighborhood has a #Naturehood and DiscoverTheForest makes it easy to find them with its interactive map. It also features free outdoor activities to download and print!
We can’t think of a better park to feature for National Get Outdoors Day than one of America’s best city parks — Central Park in New York City:
With 42 million visits each year to its 843 acres, Central Park is the most frequently visited urban park in the United States. Growing up in Jersey City — just across the Hudson — my parents took me to Central Park often. We rowed boats on the lake, visited the zoo, and, mostly, just walked and enjoyed the surroundings. These days, I take my girls there as much as I can.
Here are some highlighted areas to visit:
First things first — borrow a Discovery Kit to start your park adventure! These free backpacks are filled with binoculars, field guides, a hand lens, and sketch paper and perfect for kids ages 6 – 10. Head to the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center, Belvedere Castle, or Chess & Checkers House to pick one up. Find your way around using this Map.
Central Park’s state-of-the-art Zoo was built when the Wildlife Conservation Society took over the management in 1984 (I was 11 and my parents took me to visit when it opened). It showcases animals from tropical, temperate, and polar zones around the world.The penguins are my favorite.
The Tisch Children’s Zoo is a favorite of families with younger children. Kids can get close (and even feed) goats, sheep, a cow and a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig. Interactive bronze sculptures of the animals are throughout the zoo, allowing kids to hear the animals sound, see how they see, and even smell them — the skunk, that is! When a child touches a sculpture it emits the appropriate cry or squawk. There are climbing structures and more to play on as well.
There is an admission fee: Adults $12 / Children 3-12 $7 / Under 3, Free
On your way to the Central Park Zoo, stop and listen to the melodies of the Delacorte Musical Clock. The beautiful timepiece, created by sculptor Andrea Spadini, sits on a tower along with bronze animal sculptures that include a goat playing the pipes, a kangaroo playing horns, a penguin on drums, a bear with a tambourine, and a hippo playing the violin. Listen for Three Blind Mice and other nursery rhymes every 30 minutes between 8 am and 6 pm.
Located just north of the Conservatory Water at East 74th Street, the Alice in Wonderland bronze sculpture stands eleven feet tall and includes the Mad Hatter, the White Rabbit and a few of Alice’s other friends. Kids will love sitting on a mushroom with Alice or climbing on this whimsical sculpture.
Kids will love visiting a real castle! Sitting high atop Vista Rock (the second highest natural elevation in the park) Belvedere Castle provides the best view of the park in almost every direction. You can see the Delacorte Theater, the 55-acre Great Lawn, Turtle Pond, and more.
Strawberry Fields is a living memorial to the world-famous singer, songwriter and peace activist, John Lennon. During his career with the Beatles and in his solo work, Lennon’s music gave hope and inspiration for world peace and his memory and mission lives on in Strawberry Fields. The iconic black and white Imagine mosaic, designed by a team of artists from the Italian city of Naples, lies in the center of Strawberry Fields and is a favorite spot for photographs.
Bethesda Terrace is considered the heart of Central Park. The magnificent carvings represent the four seasons and, on the side facing the Mall, the times of day.
Loab Boathouse stands east of Conservatory Water in front of the lake. It offers boat rentals and gondola rides, as well as a cafe.
- Rowboats (holds up to 4) : $15 per hour (cash only) + $3.00 for each add’l 15 minutes + $20 cash deposit
- Gondolas (holds up to 6) : $30 per 1/2 hour
A gentle slope overlooking the lake with gorgeous views, Cherry Hill offers a quiet space perfect for picnicking, reading, and laying in the sun.
The famous Carousel has been popular since 1871 when the original attraction opened. With its sweet music and 57 magnificent horses, it is one of Central Park’s most popular attractions.
Tickets: $3 per ride (cash only)
Skating on Wollman Rink is a winter tradition for both New Yorkers and tourists. Open from late October to early April, the rink is less than a five-minute walk from the south entrance of W. 59th Street and 6th Avenue.
- Adults: $11.25 Mon-Thurs / $18.00 Fri-Sun
- Children: (11 & under): $6 Mon-Sun
- Skate Rentals: $8 (tax included)
- Lock Rental: $5 (plus $6.00 refundable deposit)
In the summer, the rink turns into Victorian Gardens, Manhattan’s only outdoor amusement park. It offers rides for ages 2-12 years old, games, live entertainment, amusement park treats (cotton candy, anyone?) and lots of fun — all for an additional fee.
For another unique view of the park, pack your sleeping bags and stay overnight!
Open daily from 6 am – 1 am
From 59th Street to 110th Street between Fifth Avenue and Central Park West (Eighth Avenue).
FREE entry for everyone since 1858!