Central Park Who Loves It (8)
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Address: New York, 10023
Neighborhood: Central Park     Book: New York
Landmarks The best urban park in the world.

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General Information
Central Park Conservancy: 212-310-6600
Website: www.centralparknyc.org or @CentralParkNYC

Taking a stroll through Central Park is something that tourists and residents can always agree on. This world-class sanctuary is a huge, peaceful lush oasis in the concrete jungle, and who hasn't skipped therapy once or twice in favor of clearing your mind the old-fashioned way, by taking a long walk in the park? On any given day, you'll see people disco roller skating, playing jazz, juggling, walking their dogs, running, making out, meditating, playing softball, whining through soccer practice, getting married, picnicking, and playing chess.

Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in the 1850s, Central Park has a diverse mix of attractions. The Central Park Conservancy (www.centralparknyc.org) leads walking tours, and you can always hail a horse-drawn carriage or bike taxi for a ride through the park if you want to look like a true tourist.

Central Park is easily accessible by subway, since the A, C, B, D, N, R, Q, 1, 2 and 3 trains all circle the park. Parking along CPW is harder, so try side streets. Unless you're heading to the park for a big concert, a softball game, or Shakespeare in the Park, walking or hanging out (especially alone!) in the park at night is not recommended.

Central Park is the place to see and be seen, for birds, actually; 230 species can be spotted and The Ramble (27) is a good place to stake out. There are an amazing number of both plant and animal species that inhabit the park, including the creatures housed at the zoo (4 & 8). Some people forage for edible plants throughout the park, perhaps out of curiosity, though officials tend to discourage this practice. A good source of information on all of the park's flora and fauna is NYC schoolteacher Leslie Day's book, Field Guide to the Natural World of New York City.

Architecture & Sculpture
Central Park was designed to thrill visitors at every turn. The Bethesda Fountain (11), designed by Emma Stebbins, is one of the main attractions of the park. Don't miss the view of Turtle Pond from Belvedere Castle (16). The Arsenal (5) is a wonderful ivy-clad building that houses the Parks Department headquarters. The original Greensward plan for Central Park is located in the Arsenal's third-floor conference room--if there isn't a meeting going on, you might be able to sneak a peek. Two of the most notable sculptures in the park are Alice in Wonderland (15) and the Obelisk (19). Oh, and one other tiny point of interest...the Metropolitan Museum of Art (24) also happens to be in the park.

Open Spaces
New Yorkers covet space. Since they rarely get it in their apartments, they rely on large open areas such as the Great Lawn (26), and Sheep Meadow (28). The Ramble (27) is stocked with trees and is great for hiking around--just use common sense after dark. When it snows, you can find great sledding on Cedar Hill (30), which is otherwise perfect for picnicking and sunbathing.

In warmer weather, Central Park is a microcosm of the great cultural attractions New York has to offer. The Delacorte Theater (18) is the home of Shakespeare in the Park, a New York tradition begun by famous director Joseph Papp. SummerStage (9) is the city's best outdoor concert venue for all types of music, including killer rock shows. Free opera and classical concerts happen all summer long on the Great Lawn (26). Or just enjoy a sing-along with some dude with an acoustic guitar for as long you can stand at the Imagine memorial to John Lennon at Strawberry Fields (10).

Rollerblading and roller skating are still popular, as is jogging, especially around the reservoir (1.57 mi). The Great Lawn (26) boasts well-maintained softball fields. Central Park has 30 tennis courts (if you make a reservation, you can walk right on to the clay court with tennis shoes only--212-280-0205), fishing at Harlem Meer, gondola rides and boat rentals at the Loeb Boathouse (13), model boat rentals at the Conservatory Water (14), chess and checkers at the Chess & Checkers House (25), two ice skating rinks (1 & 22), croquet and lawn bowling just north of Sheep Meadow (28), and basketball courts at the North Meadow Rec Center (20). You will also see volleyball, basketball, skateboarding, bicycling, and many pick-up soccer, Frisbee, football, and kill-the-carrier games to join. During heavy snows, bust out your snowboard, cross-country skis, or homemade sled. Finally, Central Park is where the NYC Marathon ends each year.

1 Wollman Rink
2 Carousel
3 The Dairy
4 Central Park Zoo
5 The Arsenal
6 Tavern on the Green
7 Lasker Rink
8 Children's Zoo
9 SummerStage
10 Strawberry Fields
11 Bethesda Fountain
12 Bow Bridge
13 Loeb Boathouse
14 Model Boat Racing
15 Alice in Wonderland
16 Belvedere Castle
17 Shakespeare Gardens
18 Delacorte Theater
19 The Obelisk
20 North Meadow Recreation Center
21 Conservatory Garden
22 Lasker Rink
23 Dana Discovery Center
24 Metropolitan Museum of Art
25 Chess & Checkers House
26 The Great Lawn
27 The Ramble
28 Sheep Meadow
29 The Cliff
30 Cedar Hill
31 The Great Hill
On Our Radar:
Stop Horsing Around
Posted by:  Sarah Enelow

According to some, riding through Central Park in a horse-drawn carriage is a quintessential New York experience, but I would like to make a note on behalf of these brave animals. Having grown up in the Texas Hill Country, I am quite familiar with horses. I know what they need to live a peaceful existence, none of which includes clip-clopping down Central Park South as an M5 bus bears down on them. I find it grotesque to take one of nature's most majestic animals, put a hat on his head, slap on a pair of blinders, and make him trot on pavement (which is terrible for their hooves) in the country's most hostile metropolis, without the benefit of peripheral vision. Horses simply need wide open spaces, ideally several acres per animal. On the other hand, regarding the drivers, who am I to protest against someone's job during a recession? If the horses must stay, I hope they're treated well after the tourists walk away.

Photo:  Sarah Enelow
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Stormy Night
Posted by:  Craig Nelson

The sounds of chainsaws and woodchippers, lumber jack-type guys driving big trucks, felled tree trunks scattered across the ground...Is this rural Oregon in the 1970s? Nope, it's the northern end of Central Park after the biggest storm in thirty years. It's an eerie feeling to walk around the park north of 96th Street this week. On Monday, a massive storm whipped through with powerful lightning strikes and 80 mph winds. Final damage count: over 200 trees destroyed and thousands of others damaged. It's not a pretty site. But just like the city itself, Central Park is tough and can easily take a few hits now and then. Crews are already getting ready to plant new trees that will be big and strong long after the rest of us are history.

Photo:  Craig Nelson
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Perchance to Dream...
Posted by:  Rob Tallia

Yes, dear New Yorkers, it may seem an impossible dream that our fair city will look like this ever again, stuck as we are in the doldrums of ass-crap March weather, but believe it or not, by May; or, at least, certainly by June--Central Park, our crowning jewel, will once again look as green and as lush as this picture. We may not have jobs, the Parks Department may not have enough money to buy gas to mow the grass, but we can at least know that we can go to Central Park and just chill out for an afternoon, before we have to go home to our Anarchist Squat and eat Ramen Noodles. And frankly, there are worse things to contemplate (unless you've got cancer or someone is shooting at you currently; then, you can complain freely). Otherwise, let's just try to hold on until the picture materializes

Photo:  Rob Tallia
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User Reviews
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Average Rating: 5   (5=Amazing, 1=Just Horrible)
Submitted: 7/21/2009 3:11 PM                  
Posted By: Magda Nakassis