April 24, 2012

The New York Palace Park Series: Central Park

If Manhattan’s brain lies in the elegant architecture of its Midtown skyscrapers and its lively avenues represent its busy limbs, Central Park is the true heart of the city. Occupying 843 acres in the center of the island, the park offers a lush respite from the marble, brick and concrete of the surrounding city. Central Park – located just blocks from The New York Palace – is more than a tourist attraction and photo spot: New Yorkers use the park for picnics, playing sports, cycling, and a variety of other activities.

What to Do

Central Park provides a relaxing escape from the stress of city life for the residents of New York City, but there are more active ways to enjoy its greenery, woods and open spaces. So bike, jog, boat or walk your way around the park and enjoy these activities – or just bring a blanket and relax.

  • Boating – Rent one of the park’s iconic rowboats at the Loeb Boathouse and head out for an hour or two of relaxing paddling in the shadow of Midtown’s towers
  • Cycling – Bicycles are available for rent at various places in the park. Use the marked bike paths to see the entire park in an afternoon.
  • Live entertainment – Central Park hosts a variety of banner events each summer. From the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic to popular artists at the Summerstage series, the park has a show for everyone
  • Exploring the outdoors – The park is unlike any other place in New York City: Raccoons, chipmunks and various birds live amongst the thousands of trees across the lush acreage
  • Carriage rides – Take an evening ride on a horse-drawn carriage to see the park and the streets surrounding it in a slower, more peaceful light
  • Relaxing – Bring a blanket and soak up the sun with friends and family on the Great Lawn. Toss a Frisbee, read a book and spend the day in signature New York style

What to See

Simply put, you can’t expect to see all of Central Park in one day (or even a weekend). You can explore the park by planning out your itinerary and heading from point to point, or just by wandering for an afternoon and discovering the standout sights along the way. Here are some of our favorite Central Park attractions:

  • Central Park Zoo – Even if the kids aren’t along for the trip, the Central Park Zoo is worth a trip. It features Snow Leopards, Polar Bears, Gentoo Penguins and other exotic creatures
  • Strawberry Fields – A small plot of land on the park’s west edge features a mosaic  dedicated to former Beatle and NYC resident John Lennon
  • The Conservatory GardenThe only formal garden in NYC, this six-acre space is known for its tulips in the spring and Korean chrysanthemums in the fall
  • The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir – Take a walk around the lake and marvel at the sheer size of the 106-acre body of water in the middle of Manhattan
  • Belvedere Castle – The balconies of the Calvert Vaux-designed 1865 architectural wonder sit just above the trees, offering striking views of the park’s Great Lawn, Turtle Pond and Ramble

Where to Eat

New York City is acclaimed for its diverse dining options, and the park is no exception. The famed fine dining of the Tavern on the Green may be gone, but you can still find signature NYC bites in and around the park. Make an early-evening stop at The Met Roof Garden Café & Martini Bar for small plates and handcrafted drinks overlooking the park. The centerpiece of a relaxing day in the park is a picnic – stop by the Whole Foods Market at Columbus Circle to grab supplies and set up shop on the grass of Sheep Meadow or the Great Lawn.

Facts, Figures & Info

Central Park was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, the famed landscape designer and writer behind Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, the 1893 World’s Fair Grounds in Chicago, and Boston’s Emerald Necklace. The park opened in 1873 and has since become America’s most visited urban park.

  • 843 acres (1.3 square miles)
  • Six miles of walking, jogging, cycling and driving paths
  • 35 million visitors per year
  • Estimated real estate value of $528,783,552,000
  • More than 25,000 trees
  • National Historic Landmark status in 1963

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