ny penn station

Near Penn Station: The Best of Central Park

Underneath Madison Square Garden, Penn Station is the major transportation hub in New York City and services over 600,000 people every day. It is close to many popular attractions like the Empire State Building, Times Square, Koreatown, Chinatown, and Madison Square Garden.

Another attraction near Penn Station is Central Park. The 843-acre park is known all over the world and has been featured in many movies and television shows. There is so much to do in Central Park, you could spend a week there and still not do everything. Pulling into Penn Station? Drop off your bags at a bag storage site near Penn Station on your way to Central Park.

Central Park Zoo

By far the most popular attraction in the park is the Central Park Zoo. Although it is only 6.5 acres, it boasts approximately 1,500 animals in 160+ species. Separated into seven sections, you can divide your time accordingly depending on what you really want to see first. The Children’s Zoo is popular with the kids, of course.

The Rainforest is full of tropical birds, lemurs, tamarins, and even some snakes. The Temperate Territory has red pandas, snow leopards, and snow monkeys around a central lake. The Polar Circle has five varieties of penguins, and the Grizzly Bear Overlook is very popular too. Be sure to check out the sea lion show.

Statues and Sculptures

metropolitan museum statue
Photo: Mattieu Joannon via Unsplash

Central Park has 29 sculptures and statues. The most popular is the Alice in Wonderland statue. It features Alice with the White Rabbit, Cheshire Cat, Mad Hatter, and Dormouse. Another favorite is the statue of Balto by the zoo. Balto was a Husky that helped save thousands by delivering the diphtheria antitoxin in 1925.

The oldest sculpture in the park is the bronze Eagles and Prey by Christophe Fratin, made in 1850 in Paris and set in the park in 1863. Nearby is 1883 Still Hunt of a crouching cougar waiting to jump on its prey. It is so realistic-looking that it has scared many joggers who spot him on their trek around the lake.


There are quite a few museums in Central Park, but the main ones include the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Museum of the City of New York. The Met boasts thousands of pieces including Nigerian masks from the 1500s, a Sphinx from 530 BC, and Roman statuary from 430 BC.  

The American Museum of Natural History has over 34 million specimens from human remains to fossils and meteorites. The museum is separated into 45 halls. Some of the best include the Mammals, Birds, and Human Origins. And the Museum of the City of New York features art and history from the city dating back to the 1800s. 

Water Features

The major bodies of water in the park include the Conservatory Water, the Lake, Harlem Meer, the Pool, the Reservoir, Turtle Pond, and the Pond. The Reservoir is the largest with 106 acres and more than a million gallons of water. The jogging track around the water has seen famous joggers like Madonna and President Obama.

The Lake is 18 acres and boasts skating in the winter and boating in the summer. The boathouse offers kayaks, rowboats, and even gondola rides. The kids love the Conservatory Water where you can rent model sailboats to use in the lake. And the Pond shares an area with the Hallett Nature Sanctuary for birds. 


The Conservatory Garden is the main garden in the park, and you can find it on the east side of the park between 104th and 106th Streets. Opened in 1937, it has six acres of flora from bushes to flowers and even some crabapple trees. There are three sections, each one featuring something special and spectacular. The South Garden is an English-style garden with a variety of annuals and perennials like roses, daffodils, and lilies. The North Garden is focused on Korean chrysanthemums, tulips, and the Three Dancing Maidens fountain. The Center Garden is an Italian Renaissance Garden covered in wisteria, crabapples, and yews.

Fun and Games

central park row boat

The carousel is one of the most popular features in the park and is loved by people of all ages. It is the fourth one in the park. The first was run by a horse and mule underneath the platform, the second and third burned down, and this one was built in 1908 and came from Coney Island with 57 carved horses. 

The Chess and Checkers House is another favorite spot, especially with the kids. Built in 1952, it has 24 game tables under a wood trellis of ivy and flowers. Learn how to play chess or checkers or challenge someone to a game. There is also a visitor’s center with a gift shop, picnic area, and a play area.


There are eight restaurants and dozens of concessions and kiosks in the park, including three major eateries. The Loeb Boathouse is the main restaurant with a variety of entrées like monkfish, halibut, short ribs, and pork chops. Try their strawberry shortcake, chocolate truffle cake, or NY cheesecake for dessert. 

Le Pain Quotidien at Mineral Springs by the Sheep’s Meadow serves salads, sandwiches, soups, and desserts as well as coffee, tea, and juice. There is another Le Pain Quotidien at Conservatory water that serves similar items. Public Fare and the Ballfields Café are also great places to grab a bite. 

You will want to remember your trip to Central Park so be sure to grab your camera out of your bags before dropping them off. You want to have plenty of photos to share on your favorite social media sites. And don’t forget to pick up your luggage on the way back to Penn Station.