5 Wonderful Ways to Explore Central Park

Enjoy a New Take on Manhattan's Biggest and Most Beloved Park

Central Park
••• Photo credit: Buyenlarge / Getty Images

There’s more to Central Park than picnics, Frisbee tosses, and lawns for peaceful sunbathing. Manhattan's beloved backyard stretches from 59th Street up to 110th Street, with countless shaded paths, bridges and benches in between. While it’s always a good time for a solo wander through Central Park, if you actually want to learn about what you’re seeing, it’s time to join a tour. Here are our favorite ways to get out and explore Central Park.

1. Gotham City Tours: Central Park Bike Tour with Photo Shoot

Ambitious park visitors often have one goal: to explore as much of Central Park’s 843 acres as possible in one trip. The best way to cover serious ground is on two wheels. During this two-hour bike tour with Gotham City Tours, you’ll cruise along paved paths to see some of the park’s most iconic sights, from Bethesda Fountain to Strawberry Fields. There will also be time to hop off the bike, take in the views and pose with friends and family for the professional photographer who is tagging along.

Within a week of the tour, the photographer will share their snaps – over 100 HD photos will be delivered to you digitally via Dropbox. This is a family-friendly tour with kids’ bikes and baby seats available, so feel free to bring the kids along. Meets at 208 W. 80th St., btwn Amsterdam Ave. & Broadway; from $50/person; get tickets for this Central Park bike tour

2. Central Park Pedicab Tour with Central Park Sightseeing

For a bike tour where someone else does all the pedaling, hop in the back of a pedicab with outfitter Central Park Sightseeing. These tours travel along the shaded paths of Central Park for either one hour or two hours, covering more distance than you might on foot. Led by licensed guides, these pedicab tours are a crash course in all things Central Park, whether you’re interested in the park’s role in famous films, its history, or the animals and plants that live within its borders. This tour is focused on the southern half of Central Park, home to its most popular attractions, including the elm-lined Mall, the Carousel, and Strawberry Fields, a tribute to John Lennon.

This outing is a perfect fit for a romantic meander through the park or for multi-generational families with different mobility levels. Meets at 56 W. 56th St., btwn 5th Ave. & Avenue of the Americas; from $85/person, get tickets for this Central Park pedicab tour

3. Central Park Tour: Hallett Nature Sanctuary and the Pond

The Central Park Conservancy runs an excellent series of guided tours – including this one that grants access to a section of the park not normally open to the public. This 75-minute outing hits the trails of the Hallett Nature Sanctuary, closed to the public in 1934 and untouched until 2001. After an extensive renovation, conservancy guides now lead small groups along the wood-chipped trails to see one of the park’s three woodland landscapes. If you’re more interested in the nature of Central Park than its cultural landmarks, this is the tour for you.

The sanctuary is home to a variety of native plants that are known to attract wildlife and birds. Meets at the Jose Marti statue at Central Park South & 6th Ave; from $15/person; get tickets for this Hallet Nature Sanctuary and pond tour. (Tip: Check out even more Central Park Conservancy-hosted walking tours on offer via our Central Park Walking Tours feature!)

4. On Location Tours: Central Park TV & Movie Sites Tour

Walk through just about any nook of Central Park and you’ll be following in the footsteps of your favorite film and TV stars. With this two-hour walking tour, guides will point out where Carrie Bradshaw fell in the lake in Sex and the City, where Serena and Blair frolicked in Gossip Girl, and where Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan bantered in When Harry Met Sally. This tour begins at the southern flank of the park and visits iconic attractions including the Loeb Boathouse, Bethesda Fountain, and Strawberry Fields.

New York’s beloved green space is among the most filmed locations in the world, and along your stroll, guides will point out backdrops from Almost Famous, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and Home Alone 2. Who knows – you may even cross paths with a favorite star during your walk; many of them live nearby. Meets at 59th St. & 5th Ave.; from $20/person; get tickets to this Central Park TV & Movie Sites tour. (Tip: In the market for even more film tours? Read up on your options in 5 Best NYC Film Tours.)

5. Central Park Walking Tour with Central Park Sightseeing

Some of Central Park’s most impressive views are reserved just for pedestrians. Bikes and pedicabs are limited to specific lanes in one paved loop of the park, but beyond that loop, there are 58 miles of pedestrian paths spreading out to every last cranny of the park. Join this two-hour on-foot tour to explore some of the park’s lesser-known locations along with popular landmarks such as the Loeb Boathouse. Professional guides will put what you’re seeing into context, providing historical tidbits and cultural facts, including details on locations that have played a role in your favorite TV shows and movies.

The strolling tour makes plenty of stops for snapping photos. Meets at 56 W. 56th St., btwn 5th Ave. & Avenue of the Americas; from $18/person, get tickets for this Central Park walking tour