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How Safe Is Central Park?

Updated: April 17, 2024

This post answers a frequent question from tourists, “How safe is Central Park?”

The short answer is yes, especially if talking about daytime. Nighttime requires some caution.

We understand that you might be unsure about the safety situation and this post addresses your concerns.

The safety recommendations below are based on my and my fellow local tour guides. We are very familiar with Central Park, not only from giving tours there but also from spending our free time there over the years.

To offer a perspective other than ours, I've included comments from members of our NYC Travel Tips Facebook group at the bottom of the post.

Our Facebook group has more than 230,000 members who are locals (including our tour guides), regular visitors to NYC, and newcomers to the city.

There's no need to join the group to read the comments and recommendations. So take a look at our group for more ideas!


Is Central Park Dangerous?

Every year over 40 million people visit Central Park. It's a must-see on a trip to New York City and a wonderful location for NYC photography!

Locals love Central Park as it is an oasis away from the hustle and bustle of life in NYC.

During the day, the park is filled with people and it's very safe at that time.

However, the park is very large and it is easy for anyone, even New Yorkers, to get lost. 

I've strayed from paths into less populated, densely wooded areas, like the North Woods and The Ramble, and found myself completely turned around!

These wooded areas are generally safe during the day, but a little less so than the wide-open spaces like the Sheep Meadow, the Great Lawn, or Belvedere Terrace.

One way to ensure you won't get lost is to join us on one of our pay-what-you-like guided walking tours of Central Park of both the lower and middle sections of the park.

We also have a GPS-led audio tour you can take at any time.


Central Park Hours

The park opens at 6 a.m. every day. Central Park closes at 1 a.m.


Is Central Park Safe At Night?

Even though the park is officially open until 1:00 a.m., I don't recommend spending time there after 9 pm, perhaps a bit later in teh summer months when it is light out later.

I make sure not to be among the last people in the park and and I always avoid the densely wooded areas after dark referred to above.

I also suggest that you don't wander into the northern section of the park above the Reservoir (96th Street). It's not as busy because it has fewer popular spots to visit.

Definitely steer clear of the North Woods at night, a wooded area located on the Northwest corner of the park.

One exception is if you are attending a special event at night, like SummerStage concerts or Shakespeare in the Park. I've stayed in the park until my event is over, sometims past midnight.

Just don’t overstay your nighttime visit and head out of the park along well-lit paths and with others leaving the park.


Tips To Stay Safe in Central Park

Here are common sense guideines I follow when in the park:

1. Don’t stray from paved paths. It’s easy to get lost. Be sure to have a map so you don’t stray into desolate areas. Here is a downloadable map from the Central Park Conservatory.

2. Keep your bags with you at all times. If you leave it on a bench and walk away for a few minutes, it might not be there when you come back.

3. Keep an eye out for anyone who looks dodgy. Given the size of the park, you may come across people who are there for more than an enjoyable time.

4. It’s a good idea to stay in areas where you see at least a few other people, especially if you are traveling solo.

For more safety tips for all of NYC, read our post, “Is New York Safe to Visit for Tourists?


What Do Locals and Travelers Think?

Here are some thoughts from members of our New York Travel Tips Facebook group about Central Park and how safe it is.

Most members talked about safety in the park at night and they echoed our advice.

Ellyn, a local, has had a lifetime of experience and steers clear of the park at night.

Brendan is a Group Expert and like Ellyn, he advises that it’s not wise to wander at night without a specific reason.

Overall, people felt safe during the day, provided you don't stray from the paths or head into the northern part of the park where there are some heavily wooded areas.

This member feels safe at all times, day and night, and mentions the strong police presence.

While I agree with the comment about police presence, I abide by my recommendations in this post about visiting the park late at night.

Now that you have a heads-up about what you can expect in terms of safety in Central Park, go enjoy it!

See what there is to do in Central Park, the best spots to take photographs, and the 7 best picnic areas.


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About The Author

Courtney Shapiro

Courtney is a lifelong New Yorker in love with the city’s history, culture and food. She's a world travel as well and enjoys sharing her travel expertise with others. She joined Free Tours by Foot in 2011, first as a guide and then as a writer. She still leads tours on a part-time basis. READ MORE...
Updated: April 17th, 2024
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