Central Park: The Best Things To Do in Winter

5:41 pm  |  22.12.2021

When autumn in New York is replaced by the first snowflakes, a wonderful season begins in which you can discover a whole new side of Central Park. As soon as the treetops are covered in glittering snow and the water surfaces in the park begin to freeze, it is high time to rent ice skates and explore the winter highlights of the park.

Ice Skating in Central Park

The Wollman Rink ice rink in front of the Manhattan skyline

Ice skating in Central Park is a long and popular tradition in New York – almost as old as the park itself! Today there are two of the best ice rinks in the city in the park: the Wollman Rink in the south and, further north, the Lasker Rink. Both tracks offer an incredible view of the winter park landscape and the gigantic skyscrapers of Manhattan. Thanks to this unique setting, ice skating in Central Park is also a very popular activity among New Yorkers. And if the locals are already putting on their ice skates, you shouldn’t miss this experience in New York in winter either.

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While the Wollman Rink, in particular, is one of the most famous ice rinks in the city and has served as a romantic location in many Hollywood films, only a few people know that there is a third way to ice skate in Central Park. In the cold winter months, the water level of the Conservatory Water is often lowered so that the water there can freeze into a public ice rink. If the temperatures are cold enough, you can skate there for free. To do this, however, you have to bring your own ice skates.

Conservatory Water: East Side from 72nd to 75th Streets.

Wollman Rink: Entrance 59th and 6th Avenues or 59th and 5th Avenues.

Lasker Rink: Entrance 110th and Lenox Avenue.

Cost: Ice rinks $ 6-18, ice skate rentals $ 8.

Cross Country Skiing and Snowshoeing in Central Park

In winter, you can go cross-country skiing in Central Park

If you are lucky enough to experience fresh snow in New York, Central Park becomes a paradise for winter sports enthusiasts. As soon as there is at least 15 cm of snow, you can go cross-country skiing on the extensive meadows and the bridle path of the park or hike with snowshoes through the white winter wonderland in the middle of the city. The best way to do this is on Sheep Meadow or the Great Lawn.

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Unfortunately, there are still no ski rentals in Manhattan, so snowshoes are definitely easier to get for vacationers in New York.

Tobogganing in Central Park

Tobogganing in Central Park on Cedar Hill

Since there are few hills between the skyscrapers of New York, Central Park turns into a hot spot for sledding after a snowfall. As long as there is more than 15 cm of snow in the park, the toboggan runs are freely accessible to everyone. The most popular hill with the steepest slopes is Pilgrim Hill. You can find him from the park entrance on 72nd Street and Fifth Avenue.

But Cedar Hill is also becoming increasingly popular, especially among families with small children. The best way to get to Cedar Hill is through the entrance between 76th and 79th Streets on Fifth Avenue.

Sled rentals are not yet available, but New Yorkers are usually more than happy to share their sleds. 

Photo Tour in the Winter Park

In winter there are very special photo motifs in Central Park

Wrapped in the fiery colors of autumn leaves or the white blanket of snow in winter, very special photo motifs await you in Central Park during the cold season. Pack a few spare batteries and explore the park through the lens of your camera. Capture the golden Bow Bridge as a splash of color in the white park landscape, the reflection of the glowing Manhattan skyline on the frozen Central Park Lake, and the shimmering ice crystals on the romantic Bethesda Fountain.

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If you would like professional assistance with this, a guided photo tour through the park is just the thing for you. The tour guide is a professional photographer himself and knows the best photo spots and winter motifs in the park. It doesn’t matter whether you are a beginner or a professional, the tour is suitable for every level. You will also learn interesting background knowledge about the sights in the park and get support with your photos.

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Duration: 2.5 to 3 hours.

Price: from $ 92.

Address: Start in front of the Sherman Statue on the corner of 59th Street and 5th Avenue.

Swedish Cottage Puppet Theater

Children especially have fun at the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater

When it freezes and storms on the streets of New York, a small cottage in the park offers a cozy refuge from the winter temperatures. The old Swedish Cottage was designed as a schoolhouse in Sweden in 1875 and, after an exhibition in Philadelphia, found its way to New York City – in the middle of Central Park. It has been used there for a variety of purposes, but we still like the current use of the cottage best.

It has been the headquarters of the Park Department’s puppet theater since 1939 and inspires young and old with its amusing performances. The Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater is best known for its creative reinterpretations of classics such as Peter Pan and Puss in Boots, which always cause surprises.

The performances take place all year round, but in winter it is especially nice to be carried away by the puppeteers from Central Park to Neverland or to the fairy tale world of the Brothers Grimm.

Address: West 79th Street & West Drive.

Admission: $ 8-15 (best to reserve in advance).

Winter Jam in Central Park

Ice sculptures are made life at the Winter Jam

The City of New York Parks & Recreation has been holding a Winter Jam in Central Park for several years. At this free winter sports festival, you can learn to ski and snowboard, toboggan, go cross-country skiing, watch live how ice sculptures are created, or just enjoy the snow against the unique backdrop! There is also a small Christmas market where you can warm up with hot cocoa between all the winter activities.

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If the weather doesn’t play along, snow machines are used for the winter jam so that nothing stands in the way of winter sports.

When: at the end of January.

Address: Bandshell Area, it’s best to use the entrance on 72nd Street.

New Year’s Midnight Run

You can start the new year sportily in Central Park

Are you in New York on New Year’s Eve? Bingo! Put your resolution to do more sport in the New Year, but put it into practice right away and start the New Year sportily with the New Yorkers! The Midnight Run of the New York Road Runners (NYRR) club starts punctually at midnight in Central Park. The running route is just over 6 kilometers around the large lake in the park. Of course, the fun and the party mood are not neglected either.

Until the run, at midnight there is a big party with a live DJ, laser show, and a fun parade of costumed runners. Yes, you read that right, you can dress up colorfully for the run and the best costumes will even be awarded a prize! So there is also entertainment for the non-runners among you.

When the fireworks start in Central Park at midnight at the same time as the start of the run, it really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

More Central Park Tips

With our selection of the most beautiful activities in Central Park in the cold season, you should now be well prepared for your exploration of the park in autumn or winter. And if you still want to know more Central Park highlights, then just have a look at our great Central Park Insider Guide! There you will find the most important sights in Central Park, practical tips and an overview of all our articles about the park.

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