Central Park and Major Museums

Here's a great one-day or two-day tour that mixes the crown jewels of New York's museums along with the highlights of Central Park. It works for both adults and kids, and is handicapped-friendly. The route can be reversed, and is of flexible duration... more
Here's a great one-day or two-day tour that mixes the crown jewels of New York's museums along with the highlights of Central Park. It works for both adults and kids, and is handicapped-friendly. The route can be reversed, and is of flexible duration. If the weather is bad, eliminate the walk across Central Park and take the M86 bus or a taxi instead. Start this tour at 10 a.m., when the American Museum of Natural History opens. You'll be glad you arrived early, because the museum can really fill up. In addition to wonderful special exhibits, the museum has one of the finest permanent collections in the world. Highlights include the halls of meteorites, gems and minerals, ocean life and oceanic birds. Obviously dinosaurs are the major attraction if you have kids with you! Pace yourself, as there is so much to see, and have a late-morning coffee break if you choose. Then decide how much time you want to spend at the Rose Center next door. You might want to see an IMAX film or special exhibit. You definitely want to visit the gift store, which is one of the coolest in America. If you're getting hungry, let us recommend one of the most unique and longest-running establishments i... more
Here's a great one-day or two-day tour that mixes the crown jewels of New York's museums along with the highlights of Central Park. It works for both adults and kids, and is handicapped-friendly. The route can be reversed, and is of flexible duration. If the weather is bad, eliminate the walk across Central Park and take the M86 bus or a taxi instead.



Start this tour at 10 a.m., when the American Museum of Natural History opens. You'll be glad you arrived early, because the museum can really fill up. In addition to wonderful special exhibits, the museum has one of the finest permanent collections in the world. Highlights include the halls of meteorites, gems and minerals, ocean life and oceanic birds. Obviously dinosaurs are the major attraction if you have kids with you! Pace yourself, as there is so much to see, and have a late-morning coffee break if you choose. Then decide how much time you want to spend at the Rose Center next door. You might want to see an IMAX film or special exhibit. You definitely want to visit the gift store, which is one of the coolest in America.



If you're getting hungry, let us recommend one of the most unique and longest-running establishments in New York: Barney Greengrass a/k/a the Sturgeon King, located nearby at 541 Amsterdam Ave. Foodies Jane and Michael Stern have praised it as a slice of real New York, and their enormous bagel sandwiches are a legendary. You can eat in or take out to Central Park, where our tour continues.



From the museum (or restaurant) it's a short walk to Central Park. You can choose to walk directly across the park to the Metropolitan Museum, or perhaps you'd prefer the M86 crosstown bus or even a taxi? In the park, you might enjoy your lunch near the Swedish Cottage or Shakespeare Garden. (You can print maps of Central Park via the above link.) Walking past Belvedere Castle, perhaps you'll stop at Turtle Pond to admire the wildlife, both urban and waterfowl. It's an amazing place on a warm summer day, but equally fascinating during a winter snowstorm. Finally, you proceed slightly northeast, noting the high-rise apartment buildings of Fifth Avenue as orientation. Suddenly the exterior of the Metropolitan Museum comes into view, as does an extraordinary obelisk rising from the trees, called Cleopatra's Needle. This is also a good picnic spot. But fear not; if you haven't eaten yet, there are a few places inside the Metropolitan Museum to have a snack or full meal.



Entering the Met (as we New Yorkers refer to it) is a visual smorgasbord for the eye. You can choose either the grand staircase or enter through the small street-level handicapped entrance to the left of the grand staircase. Choosing the latter option, while less dramatic, gives you a chance to see a model of the Greek Parthenon, which most visitors never see.



The Met has so many permanent and temporary exhibits that you might want to plan your strategy in advance. There are several strategies. You might want a 30-minute overview by running through many galleries on the first floor, including the Temple of Dendur and Egyptian mummies; ancient Greece; and Africa and Oceania; and then on the second floor to Japan, China and Korea. Or maybe you want to stick just to American art and architecture? Perhaps you want to see only Italian Renaissance sculpture, or French impressionist masterpieces, or 18th century American furniture and silver? Or maybe you want to combine the American Wing along with a visit to the Costume Institute? When you buy your tickets, get a floor plan and museum brochure so you can mark those spaces you've already visited and save some for a return visit.



The Met offers several new dining possibilities; decide whether you prefer coffee and cake with a view of Central Park, or the self-service cafeteria, or perhaps an aperitif while on the rooftop garden (currently featuring an exhibit of Sol LeWitt sculpture) with its breathtaking view of Central Park. Another nearby possibility would be to pick up sandwiches and gourmet delicacies at Eli Zabar's café E.A.T. nearby at 1064 Madison Avenue and have lunch on the grand staircase outside or in Central Park.


If you still feel energetic after your visit to the Met, take a stroll north on Fifth Avenue up what we call Museum Mile. This stretch of avenue has some of America's finest museums, not to mention opulent apartment buildings (Jackie Kennedy Onassis formerly lived just north of the Met). You might visit the Goethe-Institut, the Neues Museum, the Guggenheim, or even continue up to the Museum of the City of New York at 103rd Street. Our arts guide has information on many cultural attractions along Fifth Avenue.

Drag the street view to look around 360°.
Use the arrow buttons to navigate down the street and around the neighborhood!

Upper West Side Description

Central Park and Major Museums is located in the Upper West Side neighborhood of Manhattan. The home of diverse cultural attractions, the Upper West side is sandwiched between Riverside Park to the west and Central Park to the east. Both parks are excellent leisurely green spaces to spend a day. Central Park is especially notable, as it is New York’s "flagship" park. With over 843 acres of land, it is home to 275 species of birds. It’s quite easy to spend an entire day there too, as the park has several restaurants on its perimeter, a Boathouse, a Carousel, ball fields, a running track, reservoir, sculptures of Alice in Wonderland and Shakespeare, and a nearly endless list of events and other attractions.

In addition to being the most densely populated area of the United States, the Upper West Side is the home of several academic institutions and a litany of famous people too numerous to list here. The American Museum of Natural History is among the most notable museum in the neighborhood. This world-famous museum is comprised of several different Halls, each dedicated to a particular theme. The museum's exhibition-halls house a stunning array of artifacts and specimens from all corners of the world and all historical periods including some magnificent dinosaur fossils. Other nearby cultural institutions worth checking out include the New York Historical Society, and the new Rose Center for Earth and Space which houses the Hayden Planetarium; the most technologically advanced Space Theater in existence.

The Upper West Side also contains some of the greatest venues to hear classical music. There is the Metropolitan Opera House —one of the world’s leading opera companies since its opening in 1883—as well asAvery Fisher Hall, Alice Tully Hall and the renowned New York City Opera. Additionally both The Julliard School and Fordham University grace the area.

You’re bound to get hungry while visiting the neighborhood, but fear not -there are plenty of famous places to nosh or grab some classic New York smoked salmon in the Upper West Side. There’s Zabar’s—a heavenly deli if there ever was one; Fairway Market which has a huge, gourmet selection of just about everything; Citarella, with fresh fish and much more; and Murray’s Sturgeon Shop—just to name a few. If you're looking for a more substantial meal, head to Prohibition, an upscale restaurant and bar. The interior, which invokes the glamour and romance of the Prohibition-Era style of the twenties and early thirties, helps create terrific ambience. All of this has made Prohibition a mainstay on the Upper West Side. There's also the takeout booth at Carmine's. Carmine's simple and very popular concept is to serve every meal in the style of an Italian American wedding feast - which means large portions of homestyle antipasti, pastas, seafood and meat entrees served on large platters designed for sharing. And when we say large, we mean large; an entree here could easily feed three to four average eaters. After your weekend mid-day meal, take a walk back through Riverside Park or stroll down Riverside Drive and admire the impressive monuments, grand apartment buildings, and views of the Hudson River, all while burning off a few calories of course.

Given the number of attractions and cultural institutions in the neighborhood, the Upper West Side is an ideal location to spend your stay in New York. The charming Excelsior Hotel is located right near the Museum of Natural History and Central Park. Meanwhile, the cozy and reasonably priced Belnord Hotel is another conveniently located option for the budget conscious traveler, as is the Comfort Inn Central Park West.

Editorial Rating

Nearby Subway

  • to 81 Street
  • to 86 Street