Explore New York City

Ask the Expert: Top Three Picks for Activities in Central Park

Where to go in Central Park, from the zoo to Shakespeare in the Park performances.

New York City boasts several green spaces, but nothing compares to Central Park. And, with these grassy grounds spanning 843 acres from 59th to 110th streets, between Fifth Avenue and Central Park West, there are tons of activities to discover in every corner of the nation’s first public park. Kevin Howard should know. The 17-year concierge currently works as assistant chief concierge at the Hôtel Plaza Athénée New York (37 E. 64th St., 212.734.9100), only a few blocks away from the world-famous attraction. Here, he recommends his top picks for things to do in the park.

Kevin Howard of Hôtel Plaza Athénée New York
Kevin Howard of Hôtel Plaza Athénée New York (Courtesy Hôtel Plaza Athénée New York)

“My personal favorite is Shakespeare in the Park,” Howard says. The annual event, which is managed by the Public Theater, takes place during the summer season at the Delacorte Theater off Central Park West and 81st St. and “there's nothing quite as enjoyable as sitting outside under the stars watching the stars of film, television and Broadway perform these great classics by the master himself,” Howard continues. Although tickets to performances are free, Howard advises waking up bright and early to stand in line at 6 a.m. to score tickets at noon when the Shakespeare in the Park staff starts to distribute tickets for that evening’s show. For those that would prefer to sleep in “a second option would be to contact the Public Theater to become a ‘Summer Supporter.’ Membership starts at $200 and you are promised one reserve seat to these plays—not bad and no queue!” From July 23 through August 23, theatergoers can see the Shakespearean fairy tale "Cymbeline," starring Lily Rabe of "American Horror Story" fame, Raúl Esparza, of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," and "Scandal’s" Kate Burton, among others.

Shakespeare in the Park's Delacorte Theater
Shakespeare in the Park's Delacorte Theater (©Joseph Moran)

Those parkgoers with a green thumb might want to head to the Conservatory Garden. The garden, with the main entrance on Fifth Avenue between 104th and 105th streets, “is a very beautiful and enchanting section of the park that doesn't get enough attention, in my opinion, from visitors or residents,” Howard says. “I highly encourage taking the opportunity to explore the well-manicured grounds and enjoy the many blooms and scents of this cultivated paradise.” After a visit to the 6-acre formal garden, which is divided into three smaller Italian-, French- and English-style gardens, Howard recommends a visit to the nearby Harlem Meer—a man-made lake on the east side of the park spanning 106th to 110th streets. “It offers a relaxing and tranquil atmosphere, with big leafy trees and people lounging around enjoying themselves,” Howard describes. “It feels like you've stepped into the country!”

Central Park Zoo
Sea lion at the Central Park Zoo (©Julie Larsen Maher)

Families traveling to NYC this summer should jump at the opportunity to visit the Central Park Zoo, near the southeast corner of the park, and the Victorian Gardens at Wollman Rink. The latter of which is an amusement park that visitors can get to by entering the park at 59th Street and Sixth Avenue and then walking north. “These are great outdoor options and another fantastic reason for spending the day in the park,” Howard exclaims.