Central Park and the Museums
- Physical DifficultyThis is the average user-submitted rating on the physical difficulty of this route. In general, green is beginner, blue is intermediate, black is advanced/most difficult and double-black is expert-only. It is recommended that users build up to black and double-black routes.
- Technical DifficultyThis is the average user-submitted rating on the technical difficulty of this route. In general, green is beginner, blue is intermediate, black is advanced/most difficult and double-black is expert-only. It is recommended that users build up to black and double-black routes.
Dating back more than 150 years, New York’s Central Park is the most visited urban park in the US and a National Historic Landmark since 1962. With extensive walking paths, lush grassy areas, and several picturesque ponds and lakes, the Park provides the perfect respite from the city’s daunting skyscrapers and constant buzz of activity. Combine that with stops at some of the best museums on earth, including the Met, the Guggenheim and the American Museum of Natural History and it is one great day in NYC!
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Route Description for Central Park and the Museums
To begin this hike, enter the northwest corner of the park – the corner of Central Park North and Central Park West. The nearest subway stop is Cathedral Parkway 110th Street accessible from both the B and C subway lines. There is a main entrance in the center of Central Park North and Central Park West, but instead take the smaller path down a set of stairs to the right. Continue on this path for about 152 m until you reach a few sets of stairs. Go up the stairs until you reach an intersecting route and can no longer continue. Here, take a left to venture deeper into Central Park.
Continue on the new path, enjoying the lush scenery. Central Park is especially beautiful in fall, when all of the leaves are changing colour. This path runs next to a larger road, where you’ll notice some maintenance trucks, bikers, roller skaters and maybe some joggers. After roughly another 152 m, the path will merge with another coming from the left. Take a slight right to follow the merged path. Here the space in front of you will open up, offering beautiful park views with the city’s tallest buildings providing a dynamic backdrop.
After about 40 m, you’ll reach a large circle. This is Great Hill Central Park. If you like, stop and have a snack and relax on the grass if it’s allowed (sometimes there is fencing to keep people off the grass here). Continue around the circle, taking your second left and staying left to continue on the route. Follow this small path for about 46 m and then turn right. This will take you into a more wooded area, which you may find covered with leaves in the fall.
After about 61 m, you’ll reach West Drive and a pedestrian crossing. Continue through this, onto the smaller path on the other side of the street. Follow this trail to the right, called the North Woods Walking Path. The North Woods is the largest of the three woodland areas in Central Park. Continue on this route enjoying the scent and sounds of the forest. After about 61 m you’ll come to a small, unmarked path that veers to the left. Take this and continue down until you meet another path, the Loch Walking Path. Take a left on this path, continuing for roughly 30 m. You’ll come to a three-way intersection, crossing over a small rock bridge with a stream running underneath. Take a sharp right. Continue on this path with the sweet sounds of the stream bubbling to your right.
After about 183 m, you’ll come to a small wooden bridge on your right side. Continue past this for a short distance until the path takes a sharp right turn. Turn here and then take your first left. Continue on the trail until you come to a small bridge. Pass under the bridge, known as Springbanks Arch, and follow the path upwards where you’re greeted with a wide-open space and several baseball fields – watch out for fly balls! Follow this route for roughly ¾ of a mile, and if you’re feeling tired, stop and watch a ball game, especially on a warm spring day.
Towards the end of the path, there are also public restrooms on the right-hand side. The route will then curve to the left, continue for about 61 m and pass a bridge over a large street, the 97th Street Transverse. Continue hugging the path to the right and then take your first diagonal left-hand turn. Take a right onto Brindle Path after several feet and then another diagonal left towards the Shuman Running Path. Stay on this path, which lines the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. Enjoy this trail; it’s one of the most scenic in the whole park. You may also see the Central Park Tennis Club on your right-hand side.
After a little over a mile, take your fourth right, which connects to the Brindle Path. Take a left to follow this route, with the water still visible on your left-hand side. As you continue, you’ll move away from the Reservoir. Follow this route for nearly 1.2 km until you reach the water again. Take a slight right (this will be the second right on the path) on the new path and then take the first right off this path and then the first left to continue over the bridge across the 86th Street Transverse. Once crossing the bridge, continue on the small path. A larger one will be on your left-hand side. The smaller path will curve to the right. Continue on this route.
On your right you’ll notice the Abraham and Joseph Spector Playground. Here’s a great place to stop if you’re walking with kids. When you’ve hit the playground, the path will fork. Stay to the left here. You’ll come to another playground, Mariner’s Gate Playground. When you reach this point, turn left and then stay to the right at the immediate fork. At the next fork, turn left. There are some nice benches to sit and enjoy a sunny day.
The path will then curve to the right. Take your second left. Continue on this path as it curves left then takes a sharp right (there won’t be any turnoffs here, however). Continue past Diana Ross Playground on your right-hand side. When you reach the end of the path, exit the park. Cross over Central Park West (street). Here is the American Museum of Natural History. This is one of the largest museums in the world, housing millions of varieties of plants, animals, fossils, minerals, rocks, meteorites, human remains, and cultural artifacts. Definitely worth a visit!
When exiting the museum, turn right and continue following Central Park West until the end of the block. Take a left to re-enter the park on West 77th Street. Take your second right (after Bridle Path). Continue on this path for about 91 m. Cross over the pedestrian crosswalk and take a right onto the small path that hugs the larger West Drive (the street you just crossed). Continue on this route. You’ll notice a large lake on your left-hand side – aptly named The Lake – making for a lovely, scenic route. Follow this path for about 198 m. The iconic Strawberry Fields will be on your right-hand side. Veer right at the fork. The Daniel Webster sculpture will be on your left.
You’ll quickly reach a large street, known as Terrace Drive. Cross this, turn right and follow the pedestrian path that hugs this larger street (which turns into West Drive). After about ¾ mile, the Tavern on the Green restaurant will be on the right side. This is a nice, albeit touristy, spot to stop for a drink or a meal. The food veers towards Japanese style and they have an extensive wine and Saki list.
From the restaurant, continue on the path you were originally on. Cross the bridge, then take a left as the path forks. Follow this route (there will be a baseball field to your left) and stay to the left at any turns. You’ll soon reach a three-way intersection with baseball fields on all sides. Straight ahead of you is the iconic Umpire Rock. If you like, take a break here, or continue left on the path for about 152 m. There will be baseball fields on your left-hand side. Follow the path underneath the bridge, in the direction of the Central Park Zoo. When the zoo is directly in front of you, take a left on the path besides East Drive (there will be cars here).
Continue straight. Here you’ll pass over the 65th Street Transverse. After you cross this, take your second left (after about 61 m) in the direction of the Olmsted Flower Bed. Circle around this and follow the route called The Mall to the right-hand side. Along this route there are many statues to literary figures such as William Shakespeare, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Burns.
Continue on this straight route and make sure to watch out for cyclists! On your right will be the iconic Naumburg Bandshell, which has been home to classical concerts for over 100 years. At the end you’ll reach the Bethesda Terrace. Go down the stairs and underneath the bridge. Definitely stop here and take some photos as well. Keep going straight until you reach the beautiful Bethesda Fountain, equipped with a bronze angel statue dating back to 1873. This is a great place to relax and unwind from the long walk thus far. From the fountain go right, hugging the large lake.
The Loeb Boathouse Rental will be on your left-hand side. On a warm day stop and rent a boat, a must-do activity for any visitor to Central Park. Continue towards the left. Next will be the Boathouse Outdoor Bar (a great place to stop for lunch and a drink). The view is spectacular, and the prices are reasonable. For something a bit fancier, continue a little farther to the Loeb Boathouse. It’s a great place to eat in all seasons – whether by sitting outdoors on a warm summer afternoon or inside on a cold snowy day.
Once you’ve hit the boathouse, take a right to cross over East Drive. Stay to the left as the path merges after about 46 m. When you reach another lake, turn left. After about 20 m, the Alice in Wonderland statue will be on your right. Continue straight on the path, taking the right at the fork after about 122 m. Don’t go under the arch; instead curve to the right directly before this. Follow this path, hugging the left until it ends. Turn right to exit the park, taking a sharp left onto 5th Avenue (don’t cross the street though).
The Metropolitan Museum of Art will be on your left-hand side. Make sure to stop in here. The museum features one of the largest collections of fine art in the world, featuring 5,000 years of art spanning all cultures and time periods. Once leaving the museum, take a left and re-enter the park on the small path directly after the 85th Street Transverse (this will be your third left turn after the museum).
Take a sharp right onto East Drive and make sure you stay to the pedestrian area all the way to the left-hand side. Follow this route for about 213 m, turning right to exit the park again on 89th Street. Cross 89th Street to enter the world-famous Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. The museum features a wide collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, early modern, and contemporary art.
Once exiting the museum, take a left and continue down 5th Avenue. Take a left on E 86th Street. As you continue on this route there will be a few more art museums worth checking out – The Neue Galerie New York and the Ippodo Gallery. You’ll soon cross Madison Avenue, one of New York City’s most famous shopping streets. Continue on E 86th Street taking in the sights and sounds until you reach Lexington Avenue.
From here, spend some time at the many shops, enjoy a coffee or hop on the Subway lines 4,5, or 6 to another part of the city.
Insider Hints for Central Park and the Museums
- Central Park is deceptively large! Bring some water and snacks, especially if you’re not interested in paying NYC prices for food inside the park.
- Definitely check out at least one of the major museums along the route of this walk.
- On a warm summer day, bring a basket and some picnic foods to enjoy a delicious and relaxed lunch on the one of the many great lawns.
- Watch out for cyclists inside the park – people get injured here often.
Getting to the Central Park and the Museums Trailhead
To begin this hike, enter the northwest corner of the park, the corner of Central Park North and Central Park West. The nearest subway stop is Cathedral Parkway 110th Street accessible from both the B and C subway lines.
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