You may think you know Central Park, but venturing beyond the tree-lined paths reveals a whole new world of secrets and surprises.

As you cross Gapstow Bridge towards The Pond, the sounds of the city fade away. You find yourself transported into a peaceful oasis right in the middle of bustling Manhattan.

This is just one of the many hidden corners of Central Park waiting to be explored. At 843 acres, there is far more to it than the parts seen on postcards.

Venture further and you’ll discover secluded gardens, quirky statues, forgotten landmarks and more. This guide takes you away from the crowds to uncover some of the park’s best-kept secrets.

Southern Section

The southern part of Central Park has some delightful areas where you can escape the hordes of tourists.

Gapstow Bridge & The Pond

This iconic bridge is one of the first sights most visitors see when entering the park at 5th Avenue and 59th Street. But few take the time to explore the tranquil pond it arches over.

Central Park Zoo

Of course you’ll want to see the sea lions and snow leopards, but don’t miss the petting zoo housed in an enchanting cottage.

Central Park Zoo
Marmoset sitting on a tree branch in Central Park Zoo

Central Park Carousel

As you watch children gleefully ride this 1911 carousel, see if you can spot the meticulously hand-carved cat peering out of the tent overhead.

Carousel
Carousel in Central Park

Sheep Meadow

Today people toss frisbees on these 15 acres of lush grass. But the name reveals its past as a home for sheep until 1934.

The Mall & Literary Walk

The Mall is one of few straight pathways in the intentionally “natural” layout of Central Park. Lined by mature American elm trees, it invites peaceful contemplation.

Center Section

Some of the most photographed sights are found around Central Park’s center. But venture off the paved paths to find secrets such as a whimsical garden and an eerie cave.

Bethesda Terrace & Fountain

Angel of Waters crowns this stunning fountain best seen at night when colorful lights illuminate the sculpture and nearby Bethesda Arcade ceilings.

Conservatory Water

You’ll surely see model sailboats skimming this pond by the Alice in Wonderland statue. But peek behind the Boat House to find a hidden garden with ornamental plants tended by volunteers.

Alice in Wonderland Statue

Kids clamor over this 1959 bronze statue by Central Park West and 74th Street. If it looks like the creatures are real, that’s thanks to the Delacorte grandchildren who modeled during the unveiling ceremony!

Loeb Boathouse & The Lake

While rowboats dot the shimmering lake, the Boathouse often pops up in rom-com proposal scenes. The pricey restaurant inside has hosted celebrities for decades.

Strawberry Fields

This peaceful memorial to John Lennon often has buskers playing Beatles songs on guitars decorated with peace signs.

Northern Section

As you explore the wooded landscapes up north, it’s easy to forget you are in the middle of a metropolis. That is until the skyscrapers come into view again.

The Ramble

These 38 acres of forested hills and streams look like they belong in the mountains. Follow the paths to find secluded spots like the Gill where you can picnic next to azaleas and rustic stonework seemingly from another century.

After exploring the Ramble’s secluded trails, make your way over to Sesamo restaurant on the edge of the park near 65th Street. This Italian eatery spreads out onto a gorgeous garden patio, the perfect spot to unwind over wood-fired pizzas, fresh pasta dishes, and Italian wines.

Belvedere Castle

While this “castle” looks medieval, it was actually built as a decorative structure in 1869, true to the park’s artificially naturalistic style.

Hidden castle
Hidden castle in Central Park, NY

Turtle Pond

Of course you’ll see turtles sunning on logs, but peer closer and you may spot terrapins and the elusive Eastern box turtle among lily pads by this secluded pond.

Shakespeare Garden

Within this delicate oasis, you’ll find roses, lavender, columbine and other plants mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays, each labeled by its corresponding quote.

Conservatory Garden

You’ll be wowed by the splendor of the Vanderbilt Gate as you enter this formal garden. But don’t miss the off-the-beaten-path North Garden with its magical canopy of crab apple trees that bloom into a tunnel of petal-pink confetti each spring.

Other Hidden Gems

Beyond the well-known sites are a menagerie of quirky things tucked into the park’s corners.

Harlem Meer & Lasker Rink

In winter, lace up your skates at this rink on the shore of the meer (Dutch for lake). Spot hawks diving for fish if you visit between April and October when fishing is allowed.

Butterfly Gardens

This flowering oasis on the east side of the North Meadow has attracted over 50 butterfly species, including the brilliant red admiral and the aptly named mourning cloak.

Delacorte Clock

You’ll hear this clock before you see it. Every half hour, whimsical animal animatronics parade to chime melodies from classic and contemporary musicals.

Conclusion

Beyond Central Park’s popular sights, there is a living history and vibrant wilderness waiting to be discovered.

Wander beyond pavement to find weather-worn statues with untold secrets, caves echoing jokes of bygone eras, gardens tended by ghosts.

Around each corner are stories and surprises that reveal themselves only to those who take the path less traveled in America’s most famous green space.