Here are the 7 best picnic spots in Central Park, whether you bring your own food or purchase take-out at one of the local cafes. Just be sure to stay socially distanced and clean up after yourself and help keep the park clean.
Everybody’s favorite picnic area, especially for the free annual concerts each June by the New York Philharmonic, which were virtual in 2020 because of the Pandemic.
The Great Lawn is 55 acres of wide open space, and it’s at the geographical center of Central Park.
Originally, the site was a reservoir, but in the 1930s it was filled in with excavation material from Rockefeller Center. Today, the Great Lawn is a great place to chill out in any season.
- Mid-park between 79th St. and 85th St.
Be sure to visit the new statue commemorating the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote.
The statue of Women’s Suffrage leaders Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton is at Literary Walk.
The statue was unveiled in August 2020, the 100th anniversary of ratification.
The Women’s Suffrage movement began in Upstate New York, in Rochester, Seneca and Seneca Falls.
This 15-acre pasture was home to a flock of sheep until 1934, which is how it got its name.
Today, it is sprawling green lawn that is one of the most popular places in Central Park to relax and sunbathe or enjoy a bite to eat, second in size only to the Great Lawn.
Sheep Meadow also is one of Central Park’s eight designated “quiet zones,” which means that you cannot play any music while you are there (you must wear headphones), and dogs are not allowed.
In quiet zones, you are also not allowed to feed birds or other wildlife, so make sure to dispose of your crumbs rather than leaving them for the squirrels.
If you don’t want to bring your own picnic basket to Sheep Meadow, it is close to the Mineral Springs Pavilion and to Tavern on the Green, where you can buy food.
- Between W. 66th and W. 69th St., close to Central Park West
Located on a hill, mid-park at 79th St., the castle area offers one of the best views of both the park and the city skyline.
The castle was conceived by Central Park designer Calvert Vaux as a fanciful scenic lookout atop one of the highest points in the park, Vista Rock.
Set up your picnic blanket in one of the lawns near the castle for a romantic meal and a great photo op at the same time.
The 1858 landmark Belvedere Castle reopened in June 2019 after a $12 Million dollar restoration that took more than one year.
- Mid-park at 79th st.
This is in the heavily wooded, northern part of the park. Surrounded by elms, it is both shady and the only part of the park where you can enjoy your meal at a picnic table.
There also is a public restroom here.
- West side of the park, between 103rd and 107th Streets. Enter at Central Park West and 106th St.
The Bow Bridge is one of the most picturesque – and recognizable – spots in Central Park. It has been the setting for a many movies, including “You’ve Got Mail”, and it’s usually at the top of the list as one of the most romantic spots in the city. The bridge links Cherry Hill (with many flowers) to the Ramble (woodlands).
It’s best to picnic on the gentle slopes of Cherry Hill overlooking the bridge.
The iconic Central Park Bow Bridge was repaired and refurbished in 2015 and is now more beautiful than ever. It’s also the cover of my recent NYC guidebook, Peaceful Places in NYC.
- Mid-park around 72nd St.
It is a living memorial to John Lennon, who lived near here, at the Dakota, at the corner of Central Park West and 72nd St.
If you visit Strawberry Fields, make sure you keep your voice down, since it is one of the park’s designated quiet zones.
- West side of the park between W. 71st St. and W. 74th St.
The Pool in Central Park
Despite its name, this is not a swimming area, but rather a man-made lake created by damming up a natural stream in the park.
- Northwest area of the park between W. 100th and 103rd St. and provides an area of solitude in the hustle and bustle of the city.
What’s your favorite NYC picnic spot?
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NYCOTC Editor Evelyn Kanter is a native New Yorker who has written for the NY Times, NY Daily News, NY Post, New York Magazine, and is a former on-air reporter for WCBS Newsradio 88 and WABC-TV Eyewitness News.
Evelyn Kanter also is the author of several NYC and Hudson Valley guidebooks, including my latest, 100 Things to Do in NYC Before You Die.
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