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The Ultimate Guide to the Central Park Bar Scene

If you want to experience an oasis of tranquility right in the heart of metropolitan Manhattan, there’s no better place to do it than Central Park. This incredible urban park is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. Roughly 42 million people flock to the park every year to visit Strawberry Fields, Central Park Lake, and the trails and gardens that wind through the park.

friends drinking at a bars in central park nyc

There are also plenty of museums and attractions right near the park itself. The Guggenheim Museum and Rose Center for Earth and Space are both close by. If you’re hungry or thirsty after checking out Central Park and some of New York City’s best museums, there are excellent bars and eateries in the area.

No matter whether you’re looking for a dive bar or an upscale cocktail lounge, you will find it near Central Park. These 15 best bars in Central Park will satisfy any taste. 

The Penrose

1590 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10028
Phone: 212-203-2751
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The Penrose
Soure: The Penrose

Just a few blocks from Carl Schurz Park, you’ll find The Penrose, easily one of the best places to get drinks around Central Park. This bar is relatively popular with the locals and tends to get busy, so make sure you get there early if you’re heading there over the weekend or for happy hour.

The Penrose’s terrace is excellent for people watching, but there’s plenty of seating at the bar as well. Try their hand-cut fries and burgers for a special treat. They do a lot of pub food with a twist, and there’s always plenty of great beers on tap at The Penrose.  

Playa Betty’s

320 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10023
Phone: 332-239-2923
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Playa Betty’s
Source: Playa Betty’s

Playa Betty’s is one of the most eclectic and welcoming Central Park bars, and it’s conveniently located right near the American Museum of Natural History.

Playa Betty’s is famous for its reasonably-priced food and drinks and excellent ambiance. You would be hard-pressed to find friendlier servers in the city.

Try their guacamole, queso, tacos, and Mexican short ribs for a mouthwatering south-of-the-border feast. The tacos are jam-packed with flavor and are handcrafted with totally authentic ingredients. Wash down your meal with one of their signature cocktails, like Oaxaca Mule with mezcal, tequila, and a splash of ginger beer. 

Bodega 88

573 Columbus Ave, New York, NY 10024
Phone: 212-799-1602
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Bodega 88
Source: Bodega 88

If you’re wondering where to get a drink near Central Park, you really can’t go wrong with Bodega 88. This comfortable bar is very close to the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir and features inspired takes on your classic cocktails.

Try their Mezcal and Ginger Shandy or Pomegranate Mojito. Their beer list is also outstanding, including small-batch favorites like Abita Purple Haze.

I love the wings at Bodega 88. Both their dry rub and Buffalo wings are astounding, with plenty of crispy skin and lots of sauce. You should also try their classic Ropa Vieja. It’s warming, classic, comfort food that will not disappoint you!

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The Dead Poet

450 Amsterdam Ave #2, New York, NY 10024
Phone: 212-595-5670
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The Dead Poet
Source: The Dead Poet

The Dead Poet is close to the Rose Center for Earth and Space, and it’s an excellent place to pop in for a quick drink after checking out the sights of Manhattan.

One of its key draws is its vast selection of beers and bourbons. If you love your spirits and craft beer, you should definitely check it out.

The staff at The Dead Poet is excellent and knowledgeable about all of their offerings. Additionally, you really can’t go wrong with the food. Their chicken tenders, burgers, and mozzarella sticks are top-notch and represent elevated pub food at its finest. 

The Loeb Boathouse Central Park

Park Drive North, E 72nd St, New York, NY 10021
Phone: 212-517-2233
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The Loeb Boathouse Central Park
Source: The Loeb Boathouse Central Park

Right on Central Park Lake, you’ll find one of the best bars in Central Park. The Loeb Boathouse Central Park is a brunch hotspot where you can dine on the idyllic shores of Central Park Lake. Their terrace views are outstanding, the waitstaff is attentive and kind, and the food is exquisite.

Since The Loeb Boathouse Central Park tends to get busy, it’s a good idea to make your reservation well in advance. Sample their varied selection of cocktails, beer, and wine, and make sure that you try a little something off their menu too. I love the Cast Iron Crispy Chicken and their Chocolate Truffle Cake.

P.J. Carney’s Pub

906 7th Ave, New York, NY 10019
Phone: 212-664-0056

P.J. Carney’s Pub
Source: P.J. Carney’s Pub

If you’re doing a little sightseeing at Central Park Zoo, why not stop into P.J. Carney’s for a libation or two afterward. This classic Irish bar has an excellent beer selection, knowledgeable and friendly staff, and a good menu.

Of course, one of the most popular items is Guinness on tap, but you can get other favorites from across the pond as well.

I found the food at P.J. Carney’s Pub to be a lovely version of elevated pub fare. Try their sirloin steak sandwich, sweet potato fries, or chicken fingers. All of their portions are generous, and the food is flavorful and expertly seasoned.

St. James Gate

441 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10024
Phone: 212-362-6202
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St. James Gate
Source: St. James Gate

St. James Gate is just a few blocks away from the American Museum of Natural History and is a great place to stop for a warming bowl of soup. Their Celtic Onion Soup has rave reviews from locals and tourists alike, and it’s reasonably priced as well.

Of course, if you would prefer something on the lighter side, you can always grab one of their salads.

In addition to the usual bar comfort food, you will also find delicious favorites like Shepherd’s Pie, alongside a vast beer selection of local, regional, and international drafts. Their bar staff is fantastic and can help you pair your meal with the perfect pint.

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George Keeley

485 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10024
Phone: 212-873-0251
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George Keeley
Source: George Keeley

George Keeley is right near Louis d. Brandeis Playground and is an excellent place to stop after a long day of exploring Central Park. George Keeley strikes the right balance between being a local watering hole where you can kick back and relax and providing premium food and drinks.

Their beer selection is one of the best in all of New York City, and their Everything Fries come fully loaded and delicious. If you’re in the mood for cocktails, George Keeley has you covered there too. One of my favorites is the Be Nice, with lemonade, blueberries, mint, and a splash of vodka. 

Dive 75

101 W 75th St, New York, NY 10023
Phone: 212-362-7518
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Dive 75
Source: Dive 75

Dive 75 is within a stone’s throw of the New-York Historical Society, and it’s easily one of the most popular and best bars in Central Park. Dive 75 features plenty of local, regional, and statewide beers, and there are many different couches and chairs for you to relax in while you sip.

The ambiance is nice too. There’s usually music playing there, but it’s not so loud that you can’t have a good conversation. In addition to local beers, you’ll also find Belgian favorites at Dive 75, like Duvel Single and Delirium Tremens. 

The Gin Mill

442 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10024
Phone: 212-580-9080
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The Gin Mill
Source: The Gin Mill

The Gin Mill is relatively close to the Children’s Museum of Manhattan and offers an extensive menu full of food to go along with their inspired drink specials. I love their Appetizer Sampler Platter, with wings, mozzarella sticks, a cheese quesadilla, and chicken fingers. It comes with plenty of sauces and sour cream for dipping.

There are plenty of bottled and draft beers and happy hour specials during the week. So if you want to save a buck or ten, The Gin Mill is a great place to go. You will be able to get a massive plate of food and a couple of pints without breaking the bank. It’s good for families and large groups of friends.

Lilly’s Cocktail and Wine

50 W 72nd St, New York, NY 10023
Phone: 212-799-4140
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Lilly's Cocktail and Wine
Source: Lilly’s Cocktail and Wine

Conveniently located right near Strawberry Fields and The Dakota, Lilly’s Cocktail and Wine features a robust selection of premium beers, cocktails, and wines. I love Lilly’s IPA. It’s crisp and just hoppy enough to give you a delicious aftertaste. Their pilsner is good too.

If you like Belgian beers, you’ll find Delirium Tremens at this bar, plus southern favorites like Cigar City Jai Alai, an IPA from Florida. Lilly’s Cocktail and Wine is famous for its Moscow Mule with vodka and homemade ginger beer. Try their cherry and peach variations for a fun twist. They also have a full food menu.

Carlow East

New York, NY
Phone: 212-310-6600
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Carlow East
Source: Carlow East

If you’re a little thirsty after checking out the Guggenheim Museum, stop by Carlow East. This unassuming bar has a pool table and plenty of seats, so you will feel totally comfortable staying for a while. The staff is friendly and willing to explain their expansive drink and food menu to you.

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Carlow East tends to get a little bit busy during the weekend and in the evenings, so be prepared to wait for a seat. It’s totally worth it, though. Their Bloody Marys are out of this world, and their lobster tail and New York-style cheesecake are some of the best you’ll find on the East Coast.

Blondies Sports

212 W 79th St, New York, NY 10024
Phone: 212-362-3311
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Blondies Sports
Source: Blondies Sports

Blondies Sports is a local watering hole right near the Rose Center for Earth and Space. It’s a great place to watch sports and grab a pint or two with friends. One of the key reasons why Blondies Sports is a New York City staple is how friendly their waitstaff is. You will really feel like you’re family the second that you step inside.

If you’re hungry, try their Chicken Tenders with fresh dipping sauces. The portions are generous and more than enough food to split. You’ll also find traditional pub and bar foods at Blondies Sports, like french fries and burgers. If you’re really craving comfort food, try their decadent macaroni and cheese. They have a great beer menu too.

Maxwell’s Central Park

1325 5th Ave, New York, NY 10029
Phone: 646-657-0993
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Maxwell's Central Park
Source: Maxwell’s Central Park

This excellent bar in Central Park is right near the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center. Maxwell’s Central Park specializes in inspired cocktails like their Brown Sugar Old Fashioned. It’s a sweeter twist on a classic cocktail that is sure to delight even the most sophisticated palates.

Their French Onion Soup is exceptional, with piles of gooey cheese and crunchy bread served alongside deeply caramelized onions and beef broth. Their Teriyaki Wings are exceptional too. One of the best things about Maxwell’s Central Park is that it’s great for date night or for getting together with a big group of people.

Dublin House

225 W 79th St, New York, NY 10024
Phone: 212-874-9528
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Dublin House
Source: Dublin House

Right near 79th Street Boat Basin, you’ll find Dublin House. This beautifully-appointed bar has a fantastic ambiance and strikes the right balance between cozy and sophisticated. This bar attracts a wide variety of New Yorkers and is about as authentic as you can get in Central Park.

They have some great beers available, including Goose Island IPA, Kona Golden Ale, and Harp. You can get Guinness there as well. Signature cocktails include their spin on the Bahama Mama, with plenty of premium rum and juice, and the Summer Swizzle Mule with raspberry vodka and fresh ginger beer.   

Next time you’re exploring the wonderful green space that we know as Central Park, make a point to stop in one of these 15 bars. If you’re hungry, you will find mouthwatering pub food with huge portions perfect for sharing. There are also artisanal and inspired cocktails, a great selection of beer, and so much more.

Central Park certainly has it all, from friendly dive bars where everyone knows your name to upscale dining. In the case of the latter, why not check out some other great places to eat near Central Park?

Did we miss your favorite Central Park watering hole? Tell us what you think in the comments below!

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Written by Kyle Green

Kyle lives never passes up the opportunity to try a new restaurant. As a former New Yorker of 7 years, he enjoys regular trips to NYC to visit friends and enjoys all the restaurants and activities the city have to offer. He also spends time on the road tasting and reviewing other restaurant scenes around the country.