New York City central park is one of the most beautiful and functional parks in the country. During its construction, Central Park was actually excavated down so that visitors cannot see the city when they are inside.
This “escape” feature makes Central Park the perfect place to picnic with the kids, and the following Central Park destinations are just five of my family’s favorite spots. Some are city staples, but a few are secret landing spots hidden in plain sight.
Subscribe to our newsletters to get stories like this straight to your inbox.
Walk the paths of Central Park to discover secret picnic spots.
The best attractions in Central Park
Of course, a picnic in Central Park is just the start of the action. Although we’ve outlined some of our favorite playgrounds near our best Central Park picnic spots below, we’d be remiss to invite you into New York’s backyard without mentioning a few other must-see destinations in Central Park:
The Great Lawn is an easy choice for a picnic in Central Park.
Central Park’s Best Picnic Spots for Families
1. The Great Lawn
where to find it: Mid-park between 79th and 85th streets
It’s a Central Park must-have that just keeps on giving. The Great Lawn is 55 acres of meadows prepared for the picnic. It’s also located right in the middle of the park, making it a great centralized location for getting to any of the park’s many attractions and activities.
Where to play when you’re done eating: Use the large lawn as a starting point to visit one of our favorite museums for children in New York. Right now, my eldest is obsessed with spaceSo hit the Hayden Planetarium at American Museum of Natural History is obvious. On the east side, the the treasures of the Met await you.
2. Conservatory gardens
where to find it: Fifth Avenue between 104th and 105th Streets
You’ll have to head further downtown for this gem, but the travel time is well worth it. Enter through the Vanderbilt Gate on 5th Avenue and you will find yourself in a peaceful oasis of manicured, formal garden. It’s a perfect place to put your picnic basket. Children will love the colorful flowers and fruit trees while you enjoy the sights and sounds of silence.
Where to play when you’re done eating: The north end of Central Park is a Mom Poppins favorite. Although there is a huge construction project going on at Lasker Rink and Pool, the Dana Discovery Center and a pair of playgrounds dot the perimeter of the beautiful Harlem Meer.
The lush grassland of Strawberry Fields is perfect for people watching.
3. Strawberry Fields
where to find it: Central Park West between 71st and 72nd streets
Being so close to the street, Strawberry Fields can be a bit more crowded than other Central Park picnic areas, but it also has some of the most eye-catching action. Pick Strawberry Fields if you want a bit of “theatre” with your dinner as there are almost always talented street performers waiting to serenade your supper.
Where to play when you’re done eating: Walk around the lake. Kids can have fun skipping stones and jumping off rocks as you ascend. This iconic man-made lake takes around 60 minutes to circle around, so have a bottle of water handy.
The Central Park Zoo is surrounded by small picnic areas.
4. Central Park Zoo
where to find it: Fifth Avenue at 64th Street
It might sound like a “gimme”, but there’s a reason for it. This is one of the best places to entertain and educate kids about animals that you won’t encounter in the rest of the city. It’s also laid out in such a way that you can feel comfortable taking in all the sights without having to feel overwhelmed. That you go to the zoo before, after or not at all, the surroundings of this lower part of the park are perfect for a picnic.
Where to play when you’re done eating: If the zoo hasn’t exhausted the cubs, then head west for Heckscher playground and the iconic boulders that could make them professional climbers by the end of the day.
Head uptown to picnic in the North Woods of Central Park.
5. The Northern Woods
where to find it: Mid-park from 101st to 110th street
It’s the secret spot that many picnickers most likely miss, as it’s in uptown and often only advertised as a hiking, biking, and birdwatching area. It is a mistake! This area will transport you out of the hustle and bustle of the city and into what may seem like uncharted territory. The best part of this place is the solitude. It’s just birdsong, buzzing bees and murmuring streams.
Where to play when you’re done eating: After getting your fill of nature, head east to 109th Street and get your fill of culture. The Africa Center is a perfect place to discover a continent and a culture that is still often under-represented. Be sure to check out his programming schedule to see what’s going on.
Unless otherwise noted, photos courtesy of Central Park