The 9 most relaxing areas to visit in Central Park
In Central Park, you’re able to find lots of fun activities, entertainment ánd peaceful areas without hardly anyone around. Are you looking to visit scenic quiet areas? Participating in relaxing activities? Or perfect places to read, have lunch or even take a nap? Let’s explore this fantastic 3,41 km² green oasis in New York together. During this tour I will show you the 9 most relaxing areas in Central Park!
1. Hallet Nature Sanctuary
The Hallet Nature Sanctuary is a gorgeous path away from the hectic central roads of Central Park. This area is great for a serene walk in-between high trees, flowers, and plants. And you’re able to find all types of insects, birds, raccoons, rabbits, woodchucks, and squirrels (do not feed them as they can be dangerous – best to keep a safe distance). This location feels like watching National Geographic in real life.
While you’re there also visit the Pond and watch ducks and turtles swim by. We even ran into a turtle twice and one of them was laying eggs, how cool! Cross the pond by walking over the graceful Gapstow Bridge to enjoy the views on New York (don’t be surprised to see a marriage proposal below the bridge!).
2. Cherry Hill
Cherry Hill is named after the lovely cherry blossom trees that bloom during the springtime. No wonder lots of newlyweds get their pictures taken at this wonderful site! We even ran into an adorable couple who just finished up taking their photos. I think this is one of the best places to have a picnic, read a book or just watch people go by. And don’t forget to take a photo of the lovely Cherry Hill Fountain.
3. Bow Bridge
The iconic Bow Bridge is definitely worth visiting, but be careful to visit it during the day. Go for a walk early in the morning or late in the evening to avoid most crowds. This bridge is great if you are into photography (look for reflections of the bridge in the lake!), perfect for a romantic stroll with your partner and a prime spot to see people rowing boats on the lake.
We visited Bow Bridge early in the morning and managed to take lots of photos (this bridge is also an awesome setting to take cheesy couple photos, but I will spare you those, haha). Please be careful when you climb on the side of the bridge to sit down on it (like I did below). I think this thing is polished or something and I nearly fell in the lake, oops!
4. The Lake
The Lake is Central Park’s largest naturalistic body of water, excluding the Reservoir, and offers a variety of activities. Rowboats are probably the best-known activity. Go for a walk around the entire lake and bring your own drinks/food, because the views are fantastic! Lots of green, cute cabins (to have lunch at!) and animals such as ducks and turtles found their home here. Behind the lake tall you will see all kinds of impressive buildings peaking from behind the trees.
5. Loeb Boathouse
Rent a boat or even a Venetian gondola at the Loeb Boathouse! Michel and I always enjoy being on the water, so of course, we needed to try a rowboat! Although lots of people had the same idea the lake is big enough for everyone to enjoy it. The trick is not to hang around for too long at the Bow Bridge or Bethesda Fountain. Just take some photos (if that was your goal) and then get away from there, haha!
Before you think I was just sitting down, and let Michel do all the work, I just wanted to clarify that’s not true, lol. I actually rowed half of our trip after the picture below was taken (yeah that’s what they all say right?). This activity is really fun and zen at the same time. We rented a boat around sunset and seeing the sun disappear behind all the New York skyscrapers was absolutely magnificent.
Bring your own lunch and eat aboard. At the Loeb Boathouse there actually is a cafe, restaurant and a bar but I would suggest skipping those, because they are very touristy and there’s often a line to get a table/order.
6. Sheep Meadow
The ever green Sheep Meadow is a huge lawn surrounded by trees and huge buildings in the background. This huge open field is very suitable for picnicking and most of all: snoozing. Bring your blanket and some sun lotion and have a relaxing afternoon nap. Into yoga? Join one of the classes to start your day totally zen!
The water reservoir takes up a large piece of your Central Park map and in real life, I can confirm it: this place is huge! I’ve never seen a reservoir of this size anywhere before. Take your bike for the quickest way around the reservoir. If you are looking for a quite place and the sounds of birds the reservoir is the place to go!
Feeling sporty? Go for a run on the legendary Stephanie and Fred Shuman Running Track that loops around the reservoir. Fun fact: step into the shoes of president Bill Clinton, Madonna, and Jackie Kennedy Onassis who all ran the 2,5 km track.
8. Bethesda Terrace
Visit the Bethesda Terrace early in the morning or evening to read, draw, paint or to do absolutely nothing! It’s also a nice place to watch live entertainment, such as musicians and dancers. Or chill by the lake and watch rowboats and animals passing by. Michel and I counted about 20 turtles swimming by (they were often quicker than most rowboats, haha)!
Our favorite spot at the terrace was sitting by the lake behind the charming Bethesda Fountain. This fountain is one of the largest in New York! The sculpture, also known as Angel of the Waters, features a huge bronze angel.
If you’re into music you have to see the Peace Industry Music Group perform at the Bethesda Terrace. Great live performers with warm soul voices. Michel and I sang along and had the best time. Probably I did more than Michel (haha). Did you know I used to sing at a pop choir? I don’t have the best voice (which never stopped me from pursuing it anyway), but when I hear music somewhere I need to check it out. That’s also how we found out about this group. They perform pretty regularly every month but don’t seem to have a schedule yet.
9. Heckscher Ballfields
The Heckscher Ballfields are perfect to watch a game (or more) of softball or baseball. I’m not a big sports fan, but attending a game while sitting in the players tribune is really fun. Get yourself a drink and a snack and see players in action right in front of your nose!
All kinds of levels and ages play at the Heckscher Ballfields. I thought all teams were extremely competitive which made all games interesting to watch. Of course we cheered for both sides! We noticed the teams really appreciate the extra support and they even tried to put on a bigger show, haha.
If you don’t feel like sitting on the tribune you can also lay down on the grass, but be careful of soft-/baseballs flying around!
How to get to these relaxing areas in Central Park?
My favorite way to explore Central Park is either walking or cycling. If your time is limited I would suggest renting a bike, because this place is BIG! Michel and I rented bikes and divided up our time during our two-week visit. In total, we visited Central Park three times on various moments of the day.
For the more quiet routes I would suggest to stay away from the concrete central roads (shown below). These are often very busy combining multiple forms of traffic on several lanes. However, they are really handy to get you quickly from one place to another.
Exploring Central Park is a piece of cake once you’ve gotten yourself a map. Pick up a free map at the park or download one from the website. An official park map makes finding all highlights really easy. And (this saved my life) all the restrooms are marked as well (with a park of this size you will need them for sure).
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