New York/Central Park

Travel Guide North America USA Northeastern United States New York New York New York/Manhattan New York/Central Park

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Introduction

A vast green swath of open space in the heart of Manhattan, Central Park is a district in its own right, neatly separating the Upper East Side from the Upper West Side, stretching from Midtown at the southern end to Harlem at the north. The park is a convenient oasis for New Yorkers escaping from their skyscrapers and is well-known globally after its appearance in many movies and television shows, making it one of the most famous city parks in the world. Here you will find calm lakes, babbling brooks, quiet woods, hidden meadows and lush lawns full of sunbathers and picnickers, in this welcome respite from the bustle of the island.

Central Park is bordered on the north by Central Park North (110th Street), on the east by Fifth Avenue, on the south by Columbus Circle and Central Park South (59th Street), and on the west by Central Park West (which is called Eighth Avenue south of Columbus Circle and also often north of Central Park, where it is officially named Frederick Douglass Boulevard). The entire park is 2.5 miles long by one-half mile wide (or 4 km × 800 m).

In the 1850s, realizing the need for a large public green space for New Yorkers to get away from the chaos and noise of the city, the New York legislature set aside a vast swath of land in what was then considered Upper Manhattan. Landscape designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux developed the winning design for the park, influenced by naturalistic landscapes which were popular in park design at the time. Any architectural features and roads were to be visually integrated into the surrounding landscape, to maintain the "rustic" feel of the park. The park was officially completed in 1873, with more than 500,000 cubic feet of topsoil brought in from New Jersey and millions of trees, shrubs, and other plants laying the foundation of the park.

Through the early 20th century the park fell into decline due to a lack of maintenance, with dead trees, worn-out lawns, and much litter and vandalism. The park received a major boost in the 1930s, when these issues were finally addressed, but the park once again fell into decline later in the 20th century, becoming increasingly run-down and crime-ridden through the 1960s and 70s. In 1980, the Central Park Conservancy was founded under contract from the city to restore and maintain the park. Today, the violent night crimes of previous decades are all but gone, and common sense is all you really need to stay safe in the park today.

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Sights and Activities

Central Park is divided for convenience into four "quadrants". From south to north:

South End

The South End runs from Central Park South to the Lake, just north of Terrace Drive (72nd Street).

Arsenal, 64th Street and Fifth Avenue. M-F 9AM-5PM. A picturesque brick building that actually predates the park. It was built in 1851 to serve as a munitions supply depot for the New York State National Guard, and was designed to look like a medieval fortress, with battlements overlooking the area. Today the building holds a refreshment stand and WPA murals depicting park activities. Free.
Balto Statue, East Drive at 67th Street. A popular monument to the famous sled dog who successfully led a sled team through a treacherous blizzard to deliver medicine to Nome, Alaska, thus ending an epidemic.
Bethesda Terrace and Fountain, Terrace Drive (72nd St.) (mid-way through the park). One of Manhattan's favorite meeting points, the centerpiece of this Terrace is the Angel of the Waters fountain, dedicated in 1873 and an enduring icon of the park.
Central Park Zoo, 5th Avenue and 64th Street, ☏ +1 212 439-6500. Nov-Mar: Daily 10AM-4:30PM, Apr-Oct: M-F 10AM-5PM, Sa-Su, holidays 10AM-5:30PM. Small and gem-like, New York's "oldest, newest zoo" opened in its current guise as recently as 1988, although animals in various zoo incarnations have resided here since the 1860s. This zoo is fairly small and doesn't have as many large animals as you might expect, but this zoo does include sea lions, penguins, polar bears, monkeys, red pandas, and exotic birds in pleasant exhibits. Next door is a children's zoo, covered in the cost of admission, which has a barnyard animals you can pet, a duck pond, and lots of play areas for kids. $12 adults, $9 seniors, $7 children, children under 3 free.
Dairy, 65th St, ☏ +1 212 794-6564. Daily 10AM-5PM. Built in the 1870s as an actual dairy farm, with a structure designed to resemble a country church. Today it is a visitor center and gift shop for the park, housed in a beautiful structure. Next door is the Chess & Checkers House, another visitor center and the volunteer headquarters, with a number of chess and checkers tables under a shady pergola.
Friedsman Carousel, 65th St, ☏ +1 212 439-6900 ext 12. Apr-Oct: Daily 10AM-6PM (weather permitting); Nov-Mar: hours vary, check ahead. A vintage carousel built in 1908 and situated on this spot since the 1950s, it's the fourth carousel to inhabit this location and is beautifully painted. $3 per ride; cash only. Central Park Carousel (Q5061605) on Wikidata Central Park Carousel on Wikipedia editGrand Army Plaza, Fifth Ave (between 58th and 60th Streets). A public square at the southeast corner of the park which marks one of the primary entrances to Central Park. The square is named for the Union Army of the Civil War and sports a gilded bronze statue of Union General William Sherman and the Pulitzer Fountain, which is crowned with a bronze figure of Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit. Free.
The Pond, Central Park South (between Fifth and Sixth Avenues). Near Grand Army Plaza, the Pond offers a tranquil setting just within the boundaries of the park. A rustic wood structure, "Cop Cot," overlooks the pond from an outcrop near the Sixth Avenue entrance.
Sheep Meadow, west side of the park (between 66th and 69th Streets). A spacious green lawn that was originally home to a herd of sheep, which grazed in the meadow and tended to in their nearby pen - a Victorian style building which today is the Tavern on the Green restaurant (see Eat below).
Strawberry Fields, Central Park West at 72nd Street. So named in 1981 in memory of John Lennon, the former Beatle, who was murdered close by outside his home in the Dakota building. Lennon's widow Yoko Ono, who still lives in the Dakota, subsequently donated $1 million to upgrade the area with hundreds of tree and flower species, including strawberries. The area serves as a Garden of Peace and includes a memorial floor mosaic (donated by the Italian city of Naples) that says simply "Imagine", referring to the title of one of Lennon's evocative songs. S

Great Lawn

The Great Lawn area runs from the Lake to the 86th Street Transverse Road.

Belvedere Castle, 79th St, ☏ +1 212 772-0210. Tu-Su 10AM-5PM. Sitting on Vista Rock, one of the highest points in the park, the castle provides excellent views of Central Park, particularly to the north. It is a popular spot for photography and contains a visitor center and a nature conservatory. Just below the castle to the north is Turtle Pond, a small, swamp-like pond holding various fish, frogs, insects, and birds. Free.
Conservatory Pond, east side of the park (between 72nd and 75th Streets). Most well known as the Model Boat Pond, visitors can often see a racing regatta between members of the Model Yacht Club, or rent a model boat from a boathouse and cafe on the pond. Just to the north of the pond is the Alice in Wonderland sculpture depicting the Tea Party scene, and on the west side of the pond is the Hans Christian Andersen sculpture, which shows the writer seated on a bench reading a book to his Ugly Duckling character.
Great Lawn. At the center of Central Park, the Great Lawn is a large clearing with lawns and ballfields, perfect for ballgames, sunbathing, and picnicking. Just to the east of the Lawn is the Obelisk, a 71-foot tall structure which is the oldest man-made object in the park, having been erected in Heliopolis, Egypt, around 1500 BC.
The Lake. The lake is a fine setting for a serene afternoon in the park. Rental boats are available from the Loeb Boathouse (on the eastern side of the lake) for a ride on the water. The Bow Bridge, a Central Park landmark, spans the middle of the lake. Free; boats are available for rental, $15/hour.
The Ramble, 79th St (enter either from the Bow Bridge or the Loeb Boat House to the south or from Belvedere Castle to the north). A sort of mini forest, described by its designer as a "wild garden," the Ramble is sculpted out of a wooded hillside, with winding paths, rocky outcrops, secluded glades, and a tumbling stream. If one travels through the ramble when the trees are full, it is easy to lose sight of the city's skyscrapers; it's as if you're no longer in Manhattan. The Ramble is also an excellent place to bird watch, with over 250 species of birds that stop here on their migration.

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met), 1000 Fifth Ave (at 82nd St), ☏ +1 212 535-7710. Su–Th 10AM–5:30PM, F-Sa 10AM–9PM. Adults ̩$25, Seniors $17, Students̩ $12. Residents of New York State, and students from NY, NJ, and CT may pay what you wish. Admission includes 3 consecutive days at the Met, the Met Breuer on Madison Ave., and the Met Cloisters in upper Manhattan.

One of the world's largest and most important museums of art and world culture, you'll have to devote several hours; nay, an entire day (if not more!), if you want to do this place justice. This massive neo-Gothic building, originally opened in 1872 and with numerous expansions added on over time, holds literally hundreds of rooms on its two floors, containing thousands of art pieces from across human history and around the world, covering virtually every field of art in existence. Along with the numerous permanent exhibit halls mentioned below are several changing exhibit halls.

The first floor holds the American Wing, with period rooms and decorative arts from the 19th and early 20th centuries; the Arms and Armor hall, with suits of armor, swords, guns, and other arms from around the world; Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas; Egyptian Art, regarded as the finest collection of Egyptian works outside of Cairo, which features the Roman Period Temple of Dendur; European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, with numerous period rooms and Renaissance sculpture; Greek and Roman Art, with numerous examples of classical sculpture, vases, and bronzes; Medieval Art, featuring a cathedral-like room with numerous Romanesque pieces; and Modern and Contemporary Art, showcasing the works of some of the most famous artists of modern times, such as Balthus, Boccioni, Bonnard, Matisse, and Picasso.

The second floor holds a continuation of the American Wing; Ancient Near Eastern Art, showcasing some monumental Assyrian reliefs and statues; Chinese Art, which holds some exceptional Buddhist sculpture, jades, calligraphy, and period rooms; Cypriot Art, with ancient art from Cyprus; European Paintings and Sculptures, with masterworks from Cézanne, Monet, Renoir, Rodin, Van Gogh, and numerous old masters, including five paintings by Johannes Vermeer, the largest collection of Vermeers in any museum in the world; an extremely comprehensive Islamic Art collection; Japanese Art, with numerous prints and textiles; Korean Art, a continuation of the Modern and Contemporary Art halls; and South Asian Art, with works from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Tibet, and Southeast Asia.

The Reservoir

The Reservoir area spans the area of the park from the 86th Street Transverse Road to the 97th Street Transverse Road.

The Reservoir. Constructed between 1858 and 1862, the Reservoir is a vast urban lake that covers 106 acres of Central Park and is the largest body of water within Manhattan. Renamed the "Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir" in 1994, the Reservoir is probably best known for the 1.58 mile track that runs around its edge and which is a favorite for joggers, who can both run and enjoy the spectacular views of the city skyline.

North End

The North End spans the area of the park from the 97th Street Transverse Road to Central Park North.

Charles A. Dana Discovery Center, 110th St (between Fifth and Lenox Avenues), ☏ +1 212 860-1370. Tu-Su 10AM-5PM. On the north shore of the Harlem Meer, the Discovery Center holds education and community programs and seasonal exhibits, as well as offering a popular place for catch-and-release fishing.
Conservatory Garden, 5th Ave (between 104th and 106th Streets). 8AM-dusk. A six-acre garden which is Central Park's only formal garden, representing Italian, French, and English landscape styles, with formal plantings and numerous sculptures. Free.
Great Hill, west side of the park (between 103rd and 107th Streets). One of the highest points in the park, the Great Hill is a hilltop meadow surrounded by stately elm trees and serves as an excellent place to picnic.
Harlem Meer, east side of the park (between 106th and 110th Streets). This 11 acre lake is one of Central Park's finest spots; surrounded by flowering trees and inhabited by several fish and turtle species.
North Woods, west side to middle of the park, north of 101st St. None of Central Park is actual virgin forest, but this is the closest any part of the park gets to feeling like genuine forest. It is beautiful and cool in hot weather. However, like a real forest, it is a mosquito habitat, so make sure to use insect repellent before walking through this part of the park.
The Pool, west side of the park (between 100th to 103rd Streets). One of the most idyllic and tranquil landscapes in Central Park, the Pool is an excellent spot for quiet contemplation, with its grassy banks and nearby waterfalls. A stream, The Loch flows northeast from the Pool, through a stream valley called The Ravine. A trail that follows the Loch, winding under a canopy of tall trees as the stream goes over several waterfalls and passes under a couple of stone arches.

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Events and Festivals

Holidays

  • New Year’s Eve - The US celebrates the outgoing of the old year and incoming of the New Year quite dramatically. Every state boasts its own parties to ring in the New Year, but none is more extravagant than New York’s Time Square, which sees people overflowing into the neighboring restaurants, bars, parks, beaches, and neighborhoods.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day (officially Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. and sometimes referred to as MLK Day) is an American federal holiday marking the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around King's birthday, January 15. The holiday is similar to holidays set under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. The earliest Monday for this holiday is January 15 and the latest is January 21. King was the chief spokesperson for nonviolent activism in the Civil Rights Movement, which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law.
  • St Patrick’s Day - March 17 celebrates the US’s large Irish population. Many cities around the country boast boisterous parades and Irish-themed parties, especially New York and Chicago, where the river is dyed green. Be wary of the drunkenness that dominates as this is definitely a party-day.
  • Memorial Day - Memorial Day is an important holiday throughout the United States, but not for crazy festivities. Parades commemorating wartime heroes are often held and the day is also the ‘unofficial’ start of summer. Most visitors follow the crowds to parks and beaches, which are capped off with informal BBQs.
  • Independence Day - Also known as the Fourth of July, Independence Day celebrates the US’s break from the British during the 18th century. Barbecues, street parties, beach trips, and weekend getaways are commonplace to appreciate freedom.
  • Labor Day is a public holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws, and well-being of the country. It is the Monday of the long weekend known as Labor Day Weekend. It is recognized as a federal holiday. Beginning in the late 19th century, as the trade union and labor movements grew, trade unionists proposed that a day be set aside to celebrate labor.
  • Halloween - Halloween is a fun holiday on October 31 for all generations to dress up in costumes and relive their youth. Children walk around the neighborhood trick-or-treating for candy, while adults attend parties. Other seasonal events include haunted houses, pumpkin farms and carving, and corn mazes.
  • Thanksgiving - On the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving is held in almost every home in the US. Tourists will have a hard time finding anything to do as the country essentially shuts down in observation. A typical Thanksgiving meal consists of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie commemorating the original Pilgrim’s feast at Plymouth Rock.
  • Christmas - On December 25, Christians celebrate Christmas as the pinnacle of their calendar by attending church and opening gifts from Santa Claus. Almost everything shuts down to promote family togetherness. The northern regions hope to experience a “white Christmas,” with trees and festive lights blanketed by snow.

Sport

  • Super Bowl Sunday - the world’s most watched sporting event and one of the highest grossing TV days of the year, Superbowl Sunday is a spectacular extravaganza. Held the first Sunday in February, the Superbowl is the final playoff game between the NFL’s top two teams. The venue rotates every year around America, yet the local parties seem to remain. Pubs, bars and restaurants are great places to enjoy the Superbowl or locals throw their own parties with different variations of betting.
  • The World Series is the annual championship series of Major League Baseball (MLB) in North America, contested since 1903 between the American League (AL) champion team and the National League (NL) champion team. The winner of the World Series championship is determined through a best-of-seven playoff, and the winning team is awarded the Commissioner's Trophy. As the series is played during the fall season in North America, it is sometimes referred to as the Fall Classic.

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Getting There

Central Park is accessible by subway, with the A, B, C, D, and 1 trains stopping at Columbus Circle (on the southwest corner of the park), and the B and C local trains continuing along Central Park West, with stops at 72nd St., 81st St. (under the Natural History Museum on the Upper West Side), 86th St., 96th St., 103rd St., and 110 St. Somewhat further west, the 1 (local) and 2/3 (express) lines travel up Broadway, though that avenue angles further and further to the west northward from Columbus Circle. The 2/3 also stop at 110th St. and Lenox Ave., near the northeast corner of the park. On the Upper East Side, the park can be accessed by taking the 4, 5, and 6 lines along Lexington Avenue and walking 3 blocks west. There is also a stop on the N, Q and R lines at 5th Av. and 60th St., and a stop on the F train at 57th St. and 6th Av., both near the southern limits of the park.

The park is crossed by several bus routes that travel east-west along the transverse roads (the M106, M96, M86, M79, M72, and M66, all with subway connections), as well as the M1, M2, M3, and M4 bus routes along 5th Avenue/Madison Avenue, and the M10 along Central Park West.

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Eat

Central Park is dotted with vendors all over. A quick hotdog, pretzel, soda, or ice cream is always available. There are several cafes in the park but, because there are no street addresses, you may have trouble finding them. Many of the cafes are seasonal and operate from about early April to late October. Most of them serve burgers (including veggie ones), sandwiches, coffee/tea and cold drinks. Cafes are located at the Columbus Circle entrance, at the northern end of the ball fields near the carousel (approx. 65th Street), in the Central Park Zoo, and at the Conservatory Pond near the Alice in Wonderland statue (approx. 73rd Street, on the east side of the park).

The Boathouse, on Park Drive North on The Lake. Cafe: Daily 8AM–8PM (Winter 8AM-4:30PM). Outdoor bar: April–November Daily 11AM-11PM (weather permitting). Restaurant: Lunch M-F noon-4PM; Brunch Sa-Su 9:30AM-4PM; Dinner April–November, M-F 5:30PM-9:30PM, Sa-Su 6PM-9:30PM. Held in the Loeb Boathouse on the Lake, the Boathouse includes a sit-down restaurant with tables overlooking the lake, a sit-down bar area outside, and an express cafe with counter service for quick takeout and eat-in food.
Le Pain Quotidien, in the Mineral Springs Pavilion at the northern end of the Sheep Meadow (west side of the park at approx. 69th Street). January–April: F-Su 8AM-4PM; April–January: Daily 7AM-9PM. A branch of this local chain of sit-down restaurants with organic options like handmade bread and vegan ice cream. Pre-packaged picnic boxes are also available.
Tavern on the Green, 67th St & Central Pk W (W side between 65th and 66th streets), ☏ +1 212-877-TOTG (8684). M-F 11AM-11PM; Sa 9AM-11PM; Sun 9AM-midnight. This iconic restaurant has appeared in dozens of films as one of New York's most famous dining spots. The historic building once served as a sheep paddock before being converted to a restaurant in 1934, soon becoming a favorite destination for New Yorkers' special occasions. Although the setting is as lovely as it's always been, the restaurant itself has developed a reputation for providing overpriced food that isn't all that good.

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Drink

There are lots of drinking fountains — approximately 150 — dotting the park, though they're only turned on from April to October. Most of the vendors and the cafes in the park serve coffee/tea and soft drinks, but alcohol is considerably harder to find. In addition, it is illegal to have an open container of alcohol anywhere in the city, and this rule is enforced; if the cops see you opening a bottle of beer or wine on the lawn, expect to get fined.

If you do want to have a drink in Central Park, you'll have to head indoors to one of the park's sit-down restaurants. Le Pain Quotidien in the Mineral Springs Pavilion on the north end of the Sheep Meadow sells organic beer and wine year-round, and the restaurant in the Loeb Boathouse has a much larger selection, with an extensive wine list as well as liquor and cocktails and an outdoor sit-down bar area that's open seasonally.

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Sleep

It is illegal to sleep overnight in Central Park. A great variety of accommodations, from hostels and budget hotels to really ritzy places, are located in the adjacent districts of Midtown and the Theater District to the south and the Upper West Side to the west.

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Keep Connected

Internet

There is a very small internet bar/cafe culture in the USA. Even then most of the internet bars/cafes tend be located in major urban centers. Accessible WiFi networks, however, are common. The most generally useful WiFi spots are in coffee shops, fast-food chains, and bookshops, but also restaurants and hotels more and more have a network to connect on. Some of them might require you to buy something and you might need a password too, especially in hotels.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The general emergency phone number is 911. The USA has a great landline phone system that is easy to use. The country code for the U.S. is +1. The rest of the telephone number consists of 10 digits: a 3-digit area code, and a 7-digit number. Any small grocery store or pharmacy has pre paid domestic or international phone cards. These phone cards are very cheap and offer good rates. The once ubiquitous pay phone is now much harder to find. Likely locations include in or near stores and restaurants, and near bus stops. The cellphone network in the states is slowly getting better but is still not as good when compared to other western countries. Cell phones tend to operate using different frequencies (850 MHz and 1900 MHz) from those used elsewhere in the world (2100 MHz). This used to prevent most foreign phones from working in America. Phones must be tri- or quad-band to work in the U.S. Fortunately, technology has meant that most phones should now be able to pick up one of the U.S. networks. Prepaid phones and top-up cards can be purchased at mobile phone boutiques and at many discount, electronics, office supply and convenience stores. A very basic handset with some credit can be had for under $40.

Post

The US Postal Service is a very good and well priced mail system. There are post offices in every small and large town for sending packages internationally or domestically. Although some might keep longer hours, most are open at least between 9:00am and 5:00pm. If wanting to send a letter or postcard it is best just to leave it in a blue mail box with the proper postage. First-class international airmail postcards and letters (up 28.5 grams) cost $1.10. There are also private postal services like FedEx, UPS, TNT and DHL, which might be better value sometimes and are generally very quick and reliable too.

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This is version 2. Last edited at 10:08 on Sep 25, 19 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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