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7 BEST Central Park Tours + 7 Things to Know BEFORE Booking!

7 BEST Central Park Tours + 7 Things to Know BEFORE Booking!

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New York City’s Central Park is a HUGE park right in the heart of Manhattan. It truly is an oasis in a concrete jungle! Of course, you have to visit Central Park while in New York City. If you’ve only seen it in movies before, you might be surprised by just how much there is to do there. We certainly were!

Central Park covers 1.3 square miles (3.3 square kilometers), and there are a ton of attractions inside the park, including a castle, Sheep Meadow, and the Strawberry Fields Memorial to John Lennon. Trying to see it all by yourself feels near impossible, especially if you’ve only got one or two days in the city. 

Fortunately, after visiting NYC, we’ve discovered a ton of tours to help you explore the world-famous Central Park and see its top sights in just a couple of hours. From romantic horse and carriage rides to electric scooter adventures, there are a ton of fun ways to explore this iconic urban park!

If you’re hoping to book one of these tours, we’re here to help. We’ve found all the best tours of Central Park and put together all the information you need to know before you visit!

Don’t have time to read the full article? Central Park is giant, so a tour is the best way to see a lot in a short amount of time. For the romantics at heart, this 45-minute horse carriage tour makes you feel like you’re in a movie as you see the park’s highlights. Or we like this guided bike tour that moves at an easy pace, so it’s good even if you don’t ride a bike often.

1. About Central Park

Bailey and Daniel take a selfie in Central Park, New York City
Central Park!
Bailey walks through Central Park in New York City
The park is huge!

Central Park was inspired by the landscaped public parks of London and Paris, and it was the first park of its kind in the United States

In the mid-19th century, Manhattan’s well-to-do population began to argue that New York City needed a public park to rival European capital cities and cement the city’s reputation. They also wanted a green space where they could take carriage rides – a tradition that continues today! 

There was also another motivation behind the creation of the park, too. New York was becoming very crowded, and many people were living in cramped conditions. Politicians and philanthropists began to argue that the working class population needed a big open space to relax and an alternative to the city’s saloons. 

Construction began in 1858 and over the next 15 years, the park was opened to the public section by section, starting with the Lake

The park fell into despair in the 1960s, but was revived in the 80s thanks to local organizers, and over $1 billion dollars has been invested into it since then. 

Since then, Central Park has featured in a ton of famous movies and TV shows from Ghostbusters to Gossip Girl. There’s so much to do here, from relaxing in Sheep Meadow to strolling in the Ravine and visiting the famous Loeb boathouse. It’s just as much a part of New York’s landscape as the Empire State Building or the Brooklyn Bridge

2. When is the best time to visit Central Park?

People on boats in the lake inside of Central Park, NYC
It’s the perfect escape from the city!

We went to New York City during the summer, and it was definitely best to go in the morning when it was cooler! You can explore Central Park in the morning and then do some indoor, air-conditioned activities during the hottest part of the day. 

During the spring and autumn, you can go at pretty much any time of day, as this is when New York City gets the most mild and comfortable weather. 

Keep your fingers crossed for sunny weather! We got lucky when we went, but NYC is notorious for getting rain year-round. However, some of these tours are even suitable on rainy days in NYC, particularly the covered horse carriage tour.

Meanwhile, NYC winters are famously cold, and the days get pretty short, so it’s best to go during the middle of the day in the winter. The park looks absolutely gorgeous when it’s covered in snow, so you should still go during the winter, but midday will be much nicer.

Related Read: If you’re a foodie, you’ll want to check out the best food tours in New York City!

3. What are the best ways to get around Central Park?

People bike ride through Central Park, NYC
Riding is very popular!

Walking 

Walking around Central Park is super scenic and relaxing, not to mention a great way to get your steps in! You can either explore on foot by yourself or take a guided walking tour, depending on what you prefer. 

The downside of walking around Central Park is that you won’t see as much that way, as the park is huge. You can’t see the whole thing on foot – not in a single day, at least!

Bike

A bike is a fantastic way to explore Central Park because you can easily cover a lot of ground. You can take a guided tour or rent a bike and go on your own. There are also e-bikes available for an easy ride. There are fewer limitations with cycling, too, as you can always lock up your bike for a while and walk on foot. 

Horse carriage

A horse carriage ride is a super historic and charming way to explore Central Park. It’s a lot of fun, but there are limited areas where horses can visit, so you don’t see as much this way. It’s more about the ride! 

With a horse carriage ride (and pedicab tours, which we’ll talk about in just a moment), you’re much better off booking them online than trying to arrange one on the day. If you don’t have one booked in advance, you’ll find yourself in the midst of a swarm of fellow tourists while you try to haggle for a decent price. 

When you book in advance, you can just head to the meeting point, safe in the knowledge you’re going with a reputable provider and aren’t about to be ripped off! 

Pedicab

We think that pedicabs are a ton of fun! You still get the experience of being driven (or pedaled) around, but pedicabs can visit more areas than horses can, so you have more freedom to explore the park. Plus, it’s a great way to cover a lot of ground without having to do any of the work! 

Electric scooter

Zipping around Central Park on an electric scooter is a blast, and you can cover a lot of ground in just a few hours! And just like with a bicycle, you can lock your scooter up to explore certain areas on foot, so you get a lot of freedom, too. You can rent an electric scooter for 1 to 5 hours, so this is a nice, flexible option that works for pretty much any NYC itinerary

4. What are the best tours in Central Park?

A horse carriage in Central Park, NYC
A horse carriage in Central Park, NYC

Long Loop Horse Carriage Ride in Central Park

Horse carriage rides are a long-standing Central Park tradition. We think they can be super romantic or make a great family day out! 

This 45-minute horse carriage tour takes you on a 2.5-mile (4-kilometer) loop around Central Park, hitting all the best sights. You’ll pass famous spots like the iconic Wollman Ice Rink, Cherry Hill, Sheep Meadow, and the Bethesda Fountain

Tours are offered every day, with many start times, so you’ll have no issues fitting it into a NYC itinerary. The ride begins at the José Julián Martí Statue, where you’ll hop aboard and get comfy!

This is such a classic NYC activity and a really relaxing way to see Central Park. It makes you feel like you’re in a movie! I mean, just imagine taking a horse carriage tour at Christmastime in New York City. How romantic!

A carriage ride costs $195 USD and can accommodate up to 4 adults at a time. You get blankets to keep you warm in the winter, and the carriages also have roofs to protect you from the elements. This means you could even do it on a rainy day in New York City. And best of all, you get treats that you can feed to the horse!

Be sure to book your carriage ride in advance so you don’t have to deal with the crowds of visitors trying to get one last minute.

Inside Central Park Bike Tour

Cycling is definitely one of the best ways to explore Central Park because you can cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time. We think that this guided bike tour is perfect if you don’t have long to spend in New York City and want to see as much of Central Park as possible!

We like the fact that this is a small group tour with a max size of 8, so it’s easy to stick together and just feels more intimate.

We also think it gives a really comprehensive overview of Central Park in just 2 hours, taking you to famous spots like the beautiful Shakespeare Garden, the Jackie Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, Strawberry Fields, and Cleopatra’s Needle (aka the Obelisk). This obelisk was created around 3,500 years ago in Egypt and moved to New York in the 19th century.

This tour is great for all fitness levels, and you go at an easy pace rather than racing through the park, so you don’t need to worry about keeping up. It costs $48 USD, with tours leaving from the meeting point at 10 am, 1 pm, or 4 pm, so it’s easy to fit into your day. Of course, you’ll also be provided a helmet and a bike basket or bag to store your stuff in.

To see as much of Central Park as possible in a short time, book this guided bike tour here.

Central Park Pedicab Guided Tours

A pedicab is a bicycle-powered cab, and this pedicab tour is a really fun way to get around Central Park. It’s perfect if you want to experience those quintessential New York vibes!

It’s only you and your party in the cab, so you get a private tour and you don’t have to exert yourself at all – just sit back and relax! We really love this tour. In fact, we think it’s one of the best private tours in NYC!

Your guide will provide lots of entertaining commentary along the way as you pass by famous sights like the Carousel (which dates all the way back to 1908!), the Pond, Central Park Zoo, the Cherry Hill fountain, Loeb Boathouse, and the Lake. 

You can choose to do a 1 or 2-hour pedicab tour. The 1-hour tour costs $50 USD per person, while the 2-hour option costs $100 USD each. We think the 2-hour tour is definitely worth it because you get to see twice as much!

The pedicabs can fit up to 3 adults or 2 adults and 2 children. Bear in mind that you need to book for at least 2 adults at once. There are tour slots available every half-hour from 8 am to 8 pm, so it’s easy to work this tour into your plans. Tours meet in front of Starbucks, so you can grab a coffee before you go.

For an entertaining and relaxing time exploring the park, book this pedicab tour online here.

Bailey sits on a park bench in Central Park, New York City
Bailey sitting on a park bench.
A trail through Central Park in NYC
Explore the lesser-known trails on foot!

Central Park Walking Tour

We think that this small group walking tour is an awesome way to experience Central Park. It’s great to go with a local guide who knows their stuff and can tell you all sorts of stories about the park. Plus, they point out things that you might otherwise have missed. 

You’ll get such a great overview of Central Park on this tour because it covers the park’s history, movies filmed in the park, and its wildlife. It’s also a great way to learn more about locals’ relationship with the park and find the spots where real New Yorkers hang out! 

Once you meet up with your guide, the tour lasts around 2 hours. Our guide, Michael, seriously knew everything about the area! He was happy to answer all our questions, and his passion for the park was contagious. It really enhanced the overall experience.

The tour costs $44 USD and is offered at 10 am and 1 pm. It’s great for travelers of all ages, and we like the fact that there’s a maximum group size of 12 people. It feels personal and friendly – you’re not just being shepherded around!

If you want to explore Central Park with a local guide who is very enthusiastic about the park, book this small group walking tour here.

Central Park TV and Movie Sites Walking Tour

Hundreds of films have been shot in Central Park, so this walking tour is a must for movie lovers! 

It would be almost impossible to name all of the movies and TV shows that feature scenes in Central Park. But, off the top of my head, I can think of Breakfast at Tiffany’sHome Alone 2Sex and the City, and Law and Order

You might stumble across a filming location or two when exploring the park by yourself, but this tour will take you to more than 30 spots where famous scenes have been shot. We had lots of “a-ha” moments as we recognized the exact scenes in each location.

The guides are really knowledgeable, and you’ll even get a couple of behind-the-scenes secrets as you go. Plus, it’s just so cool to see all of these places in real life after admiring them on the big and silver screens! 

The tour lasts for 2 hours and costs $36 USD, so we think it’s good value for money. You’ll meet up with your guide right outside the park before the tour begins at 12 pm and end the tour on the other side of the park. Tours are offered on Thursdays through Sundays year-round.

If you’re a movie buff, make sure you reserve a spot on this TV and movie walking tour!

NYC Central Park Electric Scooter Tour

This fun and fast-paced tour starts at Columbus Circle and takes you zipping through Central Park to see top attractions like Cleopatra’s Needle and the Bethesda Fountain. You’ll also visit the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, which gives you amazing views of the skyline across the water.

The tour lasts for about 2 hours, but electric scooters go pretty fast, so you’ll see a ton during that time! It’s perfect if you’re looking for something fast-paced. There’s a minimum age limit of 14, but we think families with teens will absolutely love this tour! 

It costs $89 USD per person and includes a helmet and a safety briefing. It’s a fantastic way to explore the park in depth if you don’t have a lot of time. You also learn a lot about the park’s history and how it became the iconic urban oasis that it is today. 

Tours begin and end at the same point. You’re able to choose from multiple start times in the morning and early afternoon, so the tour is easy to fit around your other plans.

To zip around and see some of Central Park’s highlights, book this small-group electric scooter tour here.

Central Park Electric Bike Tour NYC

An e-bike tour of Central Park allows you to see a lot in just 2 hours, and you don’t have to get super sweaty by pedaling hard on a summer’s day! 

You’ll ride around the park’s beautiful trails with your guide, learning more about the things you see, including the Strawberry Fields memorial to John Lennon, which features a stunning mosaic from Italy. One of my personal highlights of this tour is a visit to Conservatory Water, an ornamental pond where people sail model boats (which is another thing that pops up quite often in movies!). 

There are only 10 people in a group so you have tons of chances to ask questions and you get a more personal experience. Our guide, Philip, was so much fun, too. He had everyone laughing and shared lots of interesting details throughout the ride.

This tour costs $89 USD per person and includes a helmet and a map of Central Park. Four tours run between 9 am and 3 pm each day, so you can choose the time that best suits you. It also meets and ends at the same spot near the park.

If you want to see a lot of Central Park in a short time, reserve your e-bike tour online here.

5. Can you rent a bike in Central Park?

Views of the city of New York as seen from Central Park
Views of the city of New York as seen from Central Park

Yes, you can definitely rent a bike and explore independently, but just be aware of the fact that a lot of the rental places are a 5 to 10-minute ride from Central Park through the city. Riding around Central Park is one thing, but cycling in New York City’s crazy traffic is quite another! Plus, if you’ve only got a short rental slot, then it eats into your time.

This rental shop is one of the best, and it’s only 3 blocks away from Central Park, so you can cycle there in no time! It’s really highly rated, and they have a ton of different options for the duration of your rental, from 1 hour ($8 USD) to the whole day ($30 USD). Rentals come with a helmet, lock, and map to make things even easier. They also have e-bikes, too, if you prefer.

Related Read: There’s no better place to be a foodie than in New York City! Read our guide to everything you need to know before visiting Chelsea Market.

6. How long do you need to explore Central Park?

The Mall in Central Park, NYC
Just stunning!

On bike

You need 2 to 4 hours to explore Central Park on a bike. In our opinion, 2 hours is the minimum time you need if you’re exploring by yourself. We think that 3 hours is the perfect amount of time, and 4 hours is great for an in-depth visit. 

On foot

If you’re walking around Central Park, try to allow at least 3 to 4 hours, and more if you can. This gives you enough time to see plenty of the park, stop and relax at some scenic spots, and get a bite to eat from one of the food trucks around. But if you want to visit attractions like the Central Park Zoo, allow at least 6 hours on foot. 

On a tour

If you’re taking a tour of Central Park, we recommend allowing an extra hour in addition to the length of the tour so that you have some time to explore on your own. That way, you get the best of both worlds and have some time to relax, people-watch, and grab a bite to eat. 

Money Saving Tip – Some of NYC’s best attractions unfortunately aren’t free. But that doesn’t mean you have to blow your budget to see them! We purchased a New York City attraction pass during our visit and it helped us save 30-40% on admission fees to top attractions like the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty. There are a few different options, but the top three are the New York CityPASS®, the New York Pass, and the New York Explorer Pass by Go City.

7. Is visiting Central Park worth it?

A lady walks under a bridge in Central Park, NYC
Yes!

Yes, absolutely. Central Park is so iconic, and no trip to New York is complete without exploring it! 

We loved visiting Central Park because there are so many famous and historic locations inside of it. There are so many different ways to explore, so you can really do it exactly how you want to. Honestly, we just think that it’s so cool that this huge, green park exists right in the middle of all of New York City’s epic skyscrapers! 

Other Things to do While You’re in New York City

Daniel with his pizza at the Chelsea Market on our food tour
This was one of the best slices we tried in NYC!
bailey walks along the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City
A must-do!

As the biggest city in the USA, there is no shortage of things to do in New York! I mean, you could spend weeks here and still not see a fraction of what the Big Apple has to offer. But if you only have a few days and want to see the highlights, these are other top attractions and activities we highly recommend checking out.  

  • Eat pizza! – New York was home to the first pizzeria in the US way back in the early 1900s, and it’s still something this city is known for. I dare say the pizza here is legendary! Top pizza joints include John’s of Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, Prince Street Pizza in Nolita, and we also loved 2 Bros Pizza. You can even eat pizza (and lots of other treats!) on a food tour of Chelsea Market, which is a foodie’s paradise!
  • Fly above NYC – Exploring on the ground is fun, but to truly appreciate the New York skyline, take to the air! Joining a helicopter flight in NYC gives you a front-row seat (or hopefully a window seat!) to all the iconic sights like the Empire State Building, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Statue of Liberty. We chose this 15-minute helicopter flight that flew over Manhattan, and it was a highlight, if not THE highlight of our whole trip!

Related Read: If you’re heading to Philly next, check out the best sightseeing tours in Philadelphia for first-time visitors! It’s a great way to get your bearings and see the top sites.

Where to Stay in New York City

the bed inside TBA Times square hotel in a modern room
The room we stayed in at Delta Hotels by Marriott New York Times Square– clean and comfy!

New York City is huge – there is just no other way to put it! Even Manhattan (the area you’ll want to base yourself in) is a lot bigger than you think. That’s why choosing the right hotel in the right location is so important during your stay in New York.

Below, we’ve simplified it all for you by choosing a couple of the very best hotels available in the city. All three of these options have ideal locations close to attractions and the subway system. They all have amazing reviews, too, so just choose the one in your budget category and you’ll be ready to pack your bags!

Motto by Hilton – $$$

Motto by Hilton is a gorgeous hotel located in the Chelsea neighborhood, only 600 meters from the Flatiron Building. It’s also just a 15-minute subway ride to Central Park. The hotel features modern decor that has “speakeasy vibes”. In fact, they have a beautiful bar onsite that looks like the perfect place to sip an Old Fashioned.

There are a variety of rooms on offer, including some that are a little more budget-friendly and some that are pure luxury with city views! Prices start from about $400 USD per night plus tax. You can check prices and availability for Motto by Hilton online here!

Delta Hotels by Marriott New York Times Square – $$

Delta Hotels by Marriott New York Times Square is where we stayed the last time we visited New York, and honestly, we loved it! This hotel is the perfect combination of comfort and value for money. It was clean, modern, and our room had all of the amenities we needed for an enjoyable stay (air conditioning, k-cup coffee maker, steamer, large shower, big windows, etc). Plus, the location is ideal, being a 12-minute subway ride to Central Park and only a couple blocks from Times Square!

Prices do range, but they do go as low as $200 USD per night plus tax depending on the time of year and day of the week. You can check prices and book online here!

Nap York Central Park Sleep Station – $

For those traveling on a tight budget, Nap York is a budget hostel that’s an ideal choice and it’s located right in Central Park! Although affordable, this property is immaculate and offers a ton of amenities for a great stay including air conditioning and a shared kitchen. The rooms are modern and the location is about as central as it gets! This property only offers dorm rooms, but they are affordable at as little as $50 USD per night per person.

You can check prices and book Nap York online on either Booking.com or Hostelworld.

Thanks for reading!

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie during a dinner cruise in New York City, New York
Thanks for reading!

Central Park is one of the best places to visit on a trip to New York City. There’s a reason the park is world famous, and you can easily spend hours there. Hopefully, these tips and tour suggestions will help you make the most of your time in Central Park.

If you found this blog helpful, read our other blogs on the USA, including lots about New York! We’ll help you discover the top sights and some hidden gems that the city that never sleeps has to offer. Here are a few of our popular blogs to get you started:

What is The New York Pass, and is it worth it?

10 BEST Tours in Philadelphia for Food, History, and Hidden Gems

13 Things to Know BEFORE Booking a New York City Dinner Cruise

How to Spend THREE DAYS in New York City: 3-Day Itinerary