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When you visit New York for the first time, you have in mind a series of places in your head that you would not want to miss out on anything in the world. One of them is Central Park, the famous green lung of Manhattan so often seen in movies. Before getting to know it, it should be remembered that the Park is larger than two independent nations (Monaco and The Vatican). Pretending to go through it would be tiring and probably unnecessary. In this post, we give you some ideas about what to see and what to do there. And if you are going to travel to New York, be sure to read our post with the 10 essential visits.
Central Park Features
Let’s take, first of all, an overview. Central Park is a huge public park that opened in 1857 and is located in Manhattan’s heart. It is approximately 4km long and 800m wide, making it a very long rectangle of about 350 hectares. Getting there is pretty straightforward, as we will normally walk south or north between 59th (Central Park South) and 110th (Central Park North). The side streets are also easy to identify and remember: the East, the famous 5th Avenue and the West Central Park West. Once you have the New York grid assimilated, it will be very easy for you to move anywhere.
How to get around Central Park
There are many ways to approach a visit to Central Park. We did it in three different batches for “logistics” reasons. And we were always walking. Partly because we like it and partly, truth be told, because we couldn’t find rent bike services when we wanted. Maybe because it was March, in any case, in good weather, it is surely worth renting a bike and following the circular route that surrounds the entire Park. However, in most pedestrian paths, bicycles are prohibited, so when making certain visits, you should park your bikes to one side and walk. So make sure that they provide you with some method of anchoring.
Another interesting way to explore Central Park could be through a guided tour. And on the Park’s official website, they propose several self-guided routes with downloadable PDF itineraries. The Park even has a complete official app (Android | iOS) that includes a free audio guide (in English). One last way we can think of to explore the Park is the typical carriage, although it is not something that we like.
If you want to admire Central Park from above, there are at least two interesting options. We can recommend climbing the Top of The Rock, the viewpoint located on the 67th floor of Rockefeller Center, about 260 meters above the ground. New York views are even more impressive than those of the Empire State since you cannot see the Park from the latter. The experience that we did not have the pleasure of living is flying over New York by helicopter. In Viator, you can find offers, in case you are interested.
What to see and do in Central Park
Come on, finally, with the visit. As you can imagine, there are quite a few things to see in Central Park. Most are related to pop culture, so the more knowledge of American folklore, the more enjoyment. As almost all of us have consumed his movies, music or books in large doses, it is very likely that you already have enough cultural references.
South Central Park
Most of the Park’s attractions are in the southern half, between 59th and 86th. Some of the most important places from south to north are:
- The Pond. One of the 4 great lakes in the Park. A haven of peace a few steps from 5th Avenue.
- Wollman Rink. Mythical skating rink. It appears in a multitude of romantic films, such as Love Story. In summer, it becomes a small amusement park.
- Another classic of the Park. Children will be familiar with the cartoon saga Madagascar. We never visit zoos so we can’t give our opinion on it.
- Another classic of the Park. It is an old horse carousel. Nearby, to the south, you can see an area of baseball fields and other outdoor sports.
- Tavern on the Green. The most famous restaurant in Central Park. In operation between 1934 and 2009, it reopened in 2014.
- The Mall. It is the main walk. To the west, you can see Sheep Meadow, a wide green area perfect for spending a Sunday morning.
- Bethesda Terrace. It is one of the most famous areas of the Park. The beautiful ensemble is dominated by the Angel of the Waters statue at the Bethesda Fountain (1873).
- Strawberry Fields. This is the name given to the John Lennon memorial, referring to one of The Beatles’ songs. He was assassinated very close to there, outside his home. It is little more than a mosaic on the floor, but it has become a pilgrimage center for its fans.
- The Lake. It is another of the great lakes of the Park. Some of the highlights are the Bow Bridge and the Loeb Boathouse, where you can rent small boats or gondola rides.
- Alice in Wonderland. The Alice In Wonderland statue is perhaps the most famous in all of Central Park. Lewis Caroll’s characters have been greeting tourists since 1959. Speaking of stories, Hans Christian Andersen’s statue is not far away, author of The Little Mermaid and The Ugly Duckling.
- Belvedere Castle. This observatory is the most emblematic building in the Park and the most picturesque. Although it is small and does not have great artistic value, it is worth going in and enjoying the Turtle Pond’s views and the New York skyline (free). From there, in a short walk, you can reach the Shakespeare Garden, which must be especially beautiful in spring.
- Tourists usually ignore the Obelisk or Cleopatra’s Needle. Still, the truth is that it is the oldest open-air monument in the city (and probably in the United States). It was built around 1450 BC alongside another twin (today in London) and was a gift from Egypt.
- Great Lawn. It is the most famous lawn area, the typical one where people gather for picnics, frisbee or sunbathe… in good weather.