Exploring New York's Central Park: A Visitor's Guide
Central Park is New York's backyard, with a lush 843-acre patch of nature, including a lake, in the middle of Manhattan. This is one of the city's biggest attractions and greatest assets, enjoyed by tourists and used by locals year round. It has been featured in all kinds of movies and television shows.
The park holds scenic hills, meadows, playgrounds, skating rinks, and ball fields among other attractions. The Central Park Lake gives the whole park a unique feeling of serenity. Some of the most famous features of the park are Strawberry Fields, Belvedere Castle, and the Central Park Zoo. The park is large! The best way to explore it is to stop by the Visitor Center and pick up a map showing the various attractions. Then plan out a walking route.
Belvedere Castle is a stone castle atop Vista Rock that offers a great view of the park and the city from its rooftop lookout. Looking north, visitors will see the Delacorte Theater where free Shakespearean productions are held every summer featuring some famous names.
The weather for Central Park is measured from the top of the castle. It should be noted that the "castle" is not really a castle at all, but a miniature castle built in 1869 specifically to serve as a lookout within the park. It eventually fell into disrepair and was renovated and opened in the 1980s.
Central Park Zoo
The Central Park Zoo features more than 100 species of animals from the tropics, the Polar Circle, and the California Coast. An equatorial rain forest houses monkeys and free-flying birds while penguins inhabit the Arctic section. Other animal highlights include polar bears, snow leopards, and red pandas. Near the entrance is the charming Delacorte Clock where bronze musical animals encircle the clock and play nursery chimes every half-hour.
Another attraction within the zoo is the 4D Theater with children's features or nature related themes.
Address: 830 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10021-7001, United States
Located within Central Park, Strawberry Fields is a memorial for John Lennon, who was tragically murdered in front of the Dakota apartments just off the west side of the park. A mosaic is set in the pathway with the word "Imagine" inscribed, named after Lennon's 1971 song. The landscape was designed by Vaux and Olmstead and features 161 species of plants (one from every country in the world).
It is one of the main attractions in the park and people often come here to have their picture taken with the memorial.
Bethesda Fountain and Terrace
Bethesda Fountain and Terrace stands between the Lake and the Mall, and is the architectural highlight of Central Park. The fountain was dedicated in 1873 and the statue, Angel of the Waters, in 1842. The Spanish-style detailing of the double staircase with tiles and friezes was done by Jacob Mould. The terrace is a popular place for photos and a pleasant area to relax.
Central Park Carousel
The Central Park Carousel has enjoyed a long tradition in the park, with the first carousel open for business in 1871. Although it was somewhat controversial when it first began operation it quickly became a success. Today hundreds of park goers ride the carousel each day. It is found by the information center, where maps and helpful directions can be sought.
Address: East 64th Street, New York, NY 10021, United States
Conservatory Garden, the only formal garden in Central Park, is filled with thousands of trees and shrubs. The garden is divided into southern, northern and central sections. The North Garden features the bronze Fountain of the Three Dancing Maidens. Visitors can enter by the Vanderbilt Gate on Fifth Avenue.
Bow Bridge is one of the park's seven original cast-iron bridges. It was designed by Vaux to join the two large sections of The Lake, and offers good views of the park.
Conservatory Water is better known as the Model Boat Pond and is home to model yacht races every weekend. At the north end is a sculpture of Alice in Wonderland.