Central Park

Central Park (120)

340 hectares of trails, lakes, ponds and meadows make Central Park a green island that emerges in the midst of a sea of skyscrapers, lights and concrete.

Almost two times larger than Monaco and nearly eight times bigger than Vatican City, this park is a real relief valve for New Yorkers. Especially in summer, when humidity reaches 90% and the park becomes Manhattan's beach, with floods of people basking in the sun.

But it is not only crowded in summer. The park has more than 25 million visitors a year, so you will find it full of people any time: bikers, joggers, people walking the dog, horse riding, playing baseball, climbing , ice skating or attending a concert. The options are as numerous as the park's kilometres.

In addition, Central Park is not just a green lung for citizens, it also plays a very important role for many species. Birds, butterflies and dragonflies have made Central Park their natural environment and, for a few hours or days, it is a must-stop in the journey of many migratory birds. For rodents, this park is also a real paradise: rabbits, groundhogs and squirrels have established themselves in the weeds of the Ramble area, just around the lake.

If you want to make the most of your visit, be sure to go to Central Park on a weekend, when the road through the park is closed to traffic. 

If you fancy a visit the old way, i.e. on a carriage, you can rent a horse carriage on Grand Army Plaza and along 59th Street. 

If you prefer to get around it on foot and only have half a day available, the best thing to do is to take the entrance on 72nd Street, walk to the Bethesda Fountain and around the lake on the west. Then, it is worth visiting the Reservoir, the largest lake in Central Park, to discover one of the most breath-taking landscapes of Manhattan. 

If you still have time, be encouraged to visit Belvedere Castle, the seat of the meteorological observatory in New York, the Shakespeare garden, inspired in the flora the writer mentioned in his works, and the Strawberry Fields, an area created as a tribute to John Lennon, which is opposite the Dakota building, where he was murdered. 

And if your feet still endure the walk, go and visit the Friedsam Memorial Carousel, from the early 20th century, which is memorable for the size of its 57 hand-carved horses, and the Mall, both located between 64th and 70th Street.

While you decide where to go and where to start, we provide you with some historical hints. 

Central Park is the great city park of New York, whose history already spans more than 150 years. A monumental and emblematic project, created in the late 19th century to make a dream come true, that is, for New Yorkers to have a piece of nature close to home, where they would be able to enjoy their spare time. 

It took 16 years, 14 million dollars and thousands of workers to make it come true. A dream spanning 340 hectares, whose design was conceived by Frederick Law Olmsted and architect Calvert Vaux. Of the 35 projects filed with the Board of Commissioners for its design competition in 1857, aimed at creating Central Park, the Greensward Plan by Frederick and Calvert was the one selected. A project that was faithful to the English tradition of romantic landscapes by combining bucolic, picturesque and formal elements. You may see that for yourself during your walk: next to the gently sloping Great Lawn you will find wooded areas, artificial lakes and gardens, crossed by wide promenades or some of the 40 bridges in the park, each presenting a combination of styles, design and various materials, as well as an array of stories and architectural details. Some are distinguished, for carriages, wooden, ornately decorated, austere, playing the lead or embedded in the landscape.

Some places may look familiar to you during the walk. Indeed, many movies have been staged in Central Park, from the touching Shall We Dance, with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, to Breakfast at Tiffany's, Love Story, Godzilla, Kramer vs Kramer, When Harry Met Sally, Home Alone, Spider-Man 3 or I Am Legend. There is even a tour that takes you to 40 of the most famous locations in Central Park. 

Woody Allen is a big fan of the park, using it as a stage in more than half of his films. 

It is almost impossible to understand Manhattan and its people without visiting Central Park, just like it is hard not to run into it, given its size and strategic location.

Much has happened in this park since its inception, and its 340 hectares have undergone deep changes over its history. But today, thanks to the efforts of the Central Park Conservancy (a private non-profit organisation that is responsible for the reconstruction and maintenance of the park since 1980), this oasis looks better than ever. 

In the park, you may also encounter the statues of Christopher Columbus, Hans Christian Andersen, William Shakespeare or Simon Bolivar, as throughout the park there are plenty of sculptures with utterly diverse characters and motifs, from Romeo and Juliet to an Egyptian obelisk, from the dog Balto to Beethoven.

As a curious fact, you may want to know that Central Park features 8,698 banks, which would measure 11,265 metres, if you link them together.

Furthermore, the cost of a fine for exceeding the speed limit is double that of the rest of the city. There is a secret garden, which is not accessible to the public: the Hallett Nature Sanctuary, near 59th, which is a protected ecosystem with native plants, rabbits, raccoons and other animals.

The lamps designed by Henry Bacon are numbered according to the streets adjacent to their location. For instance, if you encounter lamp 6298, this means that you are on 62nd Street.

It is possible to fish in the Harlem Meer, provided that the fish are returned to the pond.

Rumour has it that below Central Park there are underground caves, which were used during the World Wars and could accommodate more than 14,000 people.

For younger guests, there are also a lot of surprises, in addition to the great Carousel, as they can meet the statue of Alice in Wonderland or visit the Swedish Cottage, which hides a Puppet Theatre.

During short stays, we recommend you visit the most attractive sights in the park, but the truth is that the best way to enjoy it is by letting yourself get carried away by its paths, in order to discover its hidden gardens, bridges, flora and people.

Central Park is the green lung, but also the heart of New Yorkers.

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