One of the best things to do on a warm spring or summer day is a picnic in the park.
Here are the best picnic spots in Central Park, whether you bring your own food or purchase take-out at one of the local cafes. Just be sure to clean up after yourself and help keep the park clean.
First, though, some rules about grilling or barbecuing in Central Park – which is permitted on three specific days of the each year.
These days are the only exceptions to the rules, which are strictly enforced in the park:
- Memorial Day*
- July 4th*
- Labor Day*
*Note: The three-day rule applies to the specific holiday date, not the holiday weekend.
Best Locations to BBQ in Central Park
The Central Park Conservancy recommends areas north of 96th Street to grill or barbecue.
Barbecuing is prohibited in the following areas:
Barbecuing is prohibited at all playgrounds, athletic fields, fenced-off landscapes, woodland areas, and the Conservancy Gardens.
Central Park does not have BBQ pits for use, so you must bring your own charcoal grill and equipment. Use of propane gas is not allowed anywhere at anytime.
Groups of more than 20 people require a special events permit, which must be applied for no less than 21 days in advance. Click here to apply for a permit.
Park Rules Prohibit
- Barbecuing in non-authorized areas (see above)
- Barbecuing next to trees, tree roots, or buildings. Please keep 10 feet or more away from any structures.
- Any type of open, ground, or camp fire. Please barbecue at least three feet off the ground.
- Barbecuing by anyone 18 years or younger
- Littering and dumping of debris
- All coal and matches must be disposed of in designated red barrels.
- Please do not place anything flammable in a regular litter barrel.
- Use water to extinguish hot coals. Improperly dumped coals or matches can do major damage to the park.
Find more information on the Central Park website.
Best Picnic Spots in Central Park
Everybody’s favorite picnic area, especially for the free annual concerts by the New York Philharmonic.
The Great Lawn is 55-acres of wide open space, and it’s at the geographical center of Central Park.
Originally, the site was a reservoir, but in the 1930s it was filled in with excavation material from Rockefeller Center. Today, the Great Lawn is a great place to sit back for a while.
- Mid-park between 79th St. and 85th St.
This 15-acre pasture that used to be home to a flock of sheep until 1934 – hence its name. Today, it is a quiet place to relax and sunbathe or enjoy a bite to eat.
Sheep Meadow is one of Central Park’s eight designated “quiet zones,” which means that you cannot play any music while you are there (you must wear headphones), and dogs are not allowed.
In quiet zones, you are also not allowed to feed birds or other wildlife, so make sure to dispose of your crumbs rather than leaving them for the squirrels.
If you don’t want to bring your own picnic basket to Sheep Meadow, it is close to the Mineral Springs Pavilion and to Tavern on the Green, where you can buy food.
- Between W. 66th and W. 69th St., close to Central Park West
Located on a hill, mid-park at 79th St., the castle area offers one of the best views of both the park and the New York City skyline.
Set up your picnic blanket in one of the lawns near the castle for a romantic meal and a great photo op at the same time.
- Mid-park at 79th st.
This is in the heavily wooded, northern part of the park. Surrounded by elms, it is both shady and the only part of the park where you can enjoy your meal at a picnic table. There also is a public restroom here.
- West side of the park, between 103rd and 107th Streets. Enter at Central Park West and 106th St.
The Bow Bridge is one of the most picturesque – and recognizable – spots in Central Park. It has been the setting for a many movies, including “You’ve Got Mail”, and it’s usually at the top of the list as one of the most romantic spots in the city.
It’s also pictured on the cover of my recent NYC guidebook, Peaceful Places New York City.
The bridge links Cherry Hill (with many flowers) to the Ramble (thick woodlands). It’s best to picnic on the gentle slopes of Cherry Hill overlooking the bridge.
The iconic Central Park Bow Bridge was repaired and refurbished in 2015 and is now more beautiful than ever.
- Mid-park around 72nd St.
It is a living memorial to John Lennon, who lived near here, at the Dakota, at the corner of Central Park West and 72nd St., and is popular with Beatles fans, who often leave flowers on the Imagine mosaic.
If you visit Strawberry Fields, make sure you keep your voice down, since it is one of the park’s designated quiet zones.
- West side of the park between W. 71st St. and W. 74th St.
The Pool in Central Park is not a swimming area, but rather a man-made lake created by damming up a natural stream in the park.
It is located in the northwest area of the park between W. 100th and 103rd St. and provides an area of solitude in the hustle and bustle of the city.
What’s your favorite NYC picnic spot? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was published originally on NYC on the Cheap, my website which was hacked and ransomed in Feb. 22 and destroyed by the hackers.
Some links are to the original site via archive.
ecoXplorer Evelyn Kanter is a journalist with 20+ years of experience as a newspaper and magazine writer, radio & TV news producer & reporter, and author of guidebooks and smartphone apps – all focusing on travel, automotive, the environment and your rights as a consumer.
ecoXplorer Evelyn Kanter currently serves as President of the International Motor Press Assn. (IMPA) and is a member of the North American Travel Journalists Assn. (NATJA).
Contact me at email@example.com.
Copyright (C) Evelyn Kanter