Since Central Park became America’s first major public landscaped park in 1853, it has been an integral part of New York City’s unique culture.
Today, the park has never been more active or beautiful. With extensive walking trails, historical sites, conservatories, and water features, as well as sporting activities, family attractions, and a zoo, Central Park has something for everyone.
Many who come to New York City choose to explore Central Park unguided by foot, but because of how extensive the 843 acre park is, taking a Central Park guided tour is the best way for visitors to ensure they see all that they came for.
Central Park tours are available from sunrise to late at night, and many options are available to fit many different budgets. As you plan your tour before your arrival, consider what kind of tour is best for you, and consider making a reservation. Whether you are looking for something inexpensive to do with a couple of free hours on a business trip, trying to make a fun afternoon for the whole family, or planning the perfect marriage proposal, there is a tour available that is perfect for you.
Belvedere Castle, Central Park, NYC credit: surangaw
Horse and Carriage Guided Tours
Before the days of cars, trains, and buses, horses filled New York City. New Yorkers had to utilise them, by horseback or carriage, to get to where they needed to go. Horses are now an iconic symbol of Manhattan.
Horse and carriage tours of Central Park can be more expensive than other options, but a unique, historical, romantic way to see the city, and very popular for marriage proposals. If you choose to tour by carriage, be sure to book ahead to reserve a spot, and always tip your driver.
Strawberry Fields, Central Park, NYC credit: shedwa02
Guided Bicycle Tours
Seeing Central Park by bicycle is a fun, active way to enjoy famous landmarks and attractions. While many visitors choose to rent a bike to explore the park on their own, guided bike tours are available in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.
Like carriage rides, visitors to the park can arrange bicycle rentals in advance. Both group and private tours are available in various lengths. All bicycle rentals come with a helmet, basket, lock, and map, and tourists will learn extensively about the architecture and history of the park. They will also get a chance to see where famous movies and TV shows like Ghostbusters and Gossip Girl were filmed.
Tandem bikes, baby trailers, and other accessories are available upon request.
Bow Bridge, Central Park, NYC credit: JaysonPhotography
If a bicycle tour sounds like too much work, letting someone else do the peddling in a pedicab might be a better option for you. Pedicab tours are casual and leisurely, and available in multiple languages. Your pedicab will have a capacity for 2 or 3 people.
Basic tours last an hour and cover ¼ of the park, including the Children’s Zoo, Sheep Meadow, The Mall, and more. A 3 hour tour will allow you to see all of Central Park’s major attractions, plus a tour of city landmarks and museums.
The Mall, Central Park, NYC credit: urbanglimpses
Exploring Central Park on foot is the least expensive and most diverse Central Park guided tour option. In fact, some guided walking tours are even free.
Walking is one of the slower ways to get around Central Park, which can be great for taking in all the sights, sounds, and smells, but not so great for exploring the entire park in one visit. If you are taking a guided walking tour, make sure to look for one that focuses on your interests, or a specific part of the park that you would especially like to see. You can always come back and explore another part during another visit to the city.
Basic tours that explore landmarks, history, and pop culture significance are always a good option, but specialised tours such as yoga walks, photography tours, gay history walks, and others allow tourists to customise a truly unique visit. If you have toured the park before, you might even enjoy a Central Park guided tour that focuses on the hidden gems and little known spots in the park that you might not have heard of before.