Central Park Sports
Central Park offers many sports opportunities to participants of many ages, skill levels, and backgrounds. In a city that can be hectic and fast-paced, outlets for physical activities are important – and although it is well-known that walking is the unofficial sport of Manhattan, more exciting diversions are available. As the largest park in the city, Central Park is a natural choice for residents and visitors who want to unwind with organized or unofficial sports.
Young players can enjoy Central Park's youth sports, such as soccer. The Central Park Conservancy offers soccer clinics to its youth members, and two fields on the Great Lawn are used by city youth teams. There are plenty of unorganized sport activities for children to enjoy in Central Park, as well. The park’s wide open spaces are ideal for games of catch, soccer scrimmages, and Frisbee. Children can take lessons through the Central Park Conservancy at the park's North Meadow Recreation Center.
Even in the winter, Central Park offers many options for New York City residents and visitors to get active. During the winter, the Lasker facility turns from a pool into a skating rink. Manhattan residents who are daily walkers or runners can be seen in almost any weather enjoying the landscapes of Central Park, especially when the trees are capped with snow. Some Central Park locations are optimal for sledding – an activity not often associated with city life. For those in search of an aerobic workout with beautiful views, cross-country skiing may be of interest – the Sheep Meadow is one popular spot for this classic winter sport.
New Yorkers looking for a little healthy competition can visit the many facilities around the park dedicated to organized sports. Some spots are available on a first-come, first-served basis, while others require reservations. The handball courts at the North Meadow Recreation Center are open for games; also in the park are basketball courts, baseball diamonds, and tennis courts. Adventurous Central Park visitors can try bouldering, an off-the-beaten-path sport that involves scaling massive rocks.
Central Park features a host of sports-like activities that are suitable for people of any physical ability. Low-impact yoga is available at locations in the park; classes vary in style from relaxed and restorative to challenging and aerobic. For those who prefer spectator sports, model boat racing at Central Park's Conservatory Water is a longstanding city tradition. Fishing is available at the Harlem Meer, though all fish caught must be released. Even chess, a challenging workout for the mind, can be found at 64th Street in the park. Bird watching is available to individuals; however, guided tours may provide the best viewing opportunities.
Because of its status as Manhattan's backyard, Central Park is often the site of large sporting activities. In 2010, a large, public yoga class was held on the Great Lawn, with thousands in attendance. Most famously, the annual New York City Marathon route ends in Central Park at the Tavern on the Green.
Thanks to Central Park's variety of sporting activities, any visitor can find a compelling, entertaining, exhilarating, or even relaxing sport to enjoy at any time of the year. The activities, which run the gamut from lawn bowling to hockey, are generally free or very low cost.