If you have read much of my New York page, you may have noticed that I always feel as if I am coming up short of funds when I visit New York, but parks are free aren't they? And New York's Central Park is one of the most amazing in the world, ranking second only to Hyde Park in London in my estimation, in spite of many of the "Law & Order" stories which are set in Central Park, all of which involve murder.
Most parks are not, however, Central Park, Manhattan’s famed claim to thinking ahead (even if it was designed in the 1860s to boost real-estate values uptown). It’s filled with free events, statues, people-watching, and sites like Strawberry Fields, an ‘Imagine’ mosaic near the Dakota apartment-hotel, where John Lennon was killed in 1980. Another site is ‘the Pond,’ at the southeastern corner, where Holden Caulfield kept returning in ‘The Catcher in the Rye,’ wondering where those ducks go when it’s cold.
This 843-acre oasis in Upper Manhattan is always alive, with ice-skating in winter, open-air concerts in the summer, and carriage rides year-round. There’s a small zoo for the little ones, idyllic rowing opportunities on the lake, and sunbathing in picturesque Sheep Meadow.
One often thinks of parks as places of peace and quiet, however, and Central Park even offers that. If you want to get away from it all for a bit of quiet revery, try the park's woodland heart at the 38-acre Ramble, between 73rd and 78th Streets. It’s fun to, uh, ramble around the Ramble, as it’s set up purposely like a "wild garden" with little walkways that are easy to get lost in. Once you do, don’t panic: getting lost there only means you found what you were looking for.
With its 843 acres, Central Park covers about 6% of Manhattan. I have no idea why, but I always sort of imagined Central Park to be flat and rather dull. You can therefore imagine my surprise when I discovered this beautiful hilly urban park, graced with statues, lagoons, and lovely walking trails, all designed back in 1857 by landscaper Frederick Law Olmsted and architect Calvert Vaux. Olmsted was a pioneer in the field of landscape architecture and largely drew his inspiration from the English gardens and landscaped cemeteries he had visited. It's no secret that he was very disappointed with how Central Park turned out since the authorities in charge modified his original design to make the park more accessible and practical, and also to lower construction costs. However, to most locals and visitors, Central Park today is an enchanting natural place where people can go to forget all about the busy New York City streets.
Going on a horse-carriage ride in Central Park is a classic, but at $50 for a 25-min ride, not everyone can afford it. Another really fun thing to do at Central Park is to go on a self-guided walking tour. To do so, you can print a map and download the free audiotour available at http://www.centralpark.com/pages/walking-tours.html. The audiotour covers the southern half of the park, which is the most popular part of Central Park thanks to well-known features such as Strawberry Fields, the Alice in Wonderland monument, and Belvedere Castle. It took us about 2 hours to complete the walking tour, which allowed us to see many of the park's highlights, but there is still so much we haven't seen that Central Park will once again be at the top of our list for our next trip to New York City!
Basking in the sun. . . Not everyone has a kind word about Central Park, but New Yorkers certainly do appreciate the swath of green in the midst of their concrete jungle. On a pleasant day, they love to walk around its lakes, maybe renting a boat, or exploring the Belvedere, which is a Victorian folly, a castellated structure that houses instruments for the National Weather Service as well as exhibit rooms for temporary art and history displays.
The delightful Swedish Cottage is set among the trees and flowers in Central Park. Today it is home to one of the last marionette companies left in the country. The cottage was originally built in Sweden as a model pre-fab schoolhouse and after being shown as Sweden's entry in the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, it was dismantled and brought to Central Park. It wasn't until 1947 that puppeteers brought their puppets to life in the cottage.
The theater has several wooden benches and "tall" people (parents) must sit along the sides or in against the back wall. I'd suggest getting there about 30 minutes before the performance starts if you want to sit in a row with your child (to get a side seat) - seating is open.
The cottage is so charming and as you enter you feel as if you are in a fairy tale! We saw Pippi (a version of Pippi Longstocking). The sets were colorful and well-done, the story was fun (although it was a little different than the book/movie), and the marionettes were so fun. Running about an hour long, the shows are a great (and fun) introduction to the theater for your children.
You MUST pre-purchase tickets or call to make reservations.
$7.00 between 18 months and 12 years, $10.00 age 13+
No food/drinks allowed in the theater.
Photography is allowed. Be courteous if using a flash. :-)
Central Park is immense. Not just in fame, or in size but in the sheer strength of will it took to carve the park out of the rocky, swampy soil that it was built on. Manhattan lies on a delta of long lost rivers. The natural course of water is to flow through and under the city. And it continues to do so, forcing the New York subway to pump out million of gallons of water. This made the land of Central Park a swampy, muddy, rocky mess. It was not a landscape that lent itself to landscape gardening.
But New Yorkers needed a breathing space - a park to escape to from the every tightening streets of downtown. The state, working to a plan of the city commissioned in 1811, put Frederick Law Olmsted to work on the design. He became known as the father of American landscape architecture. The work he did here building America's first great park, one of the greatest parks in the world, on some of the most troublesome soil, led the way for an explosion of parks across the country.
Central Park has gone through some changes, just like the city itself, sometimes a respite from noise and breathless activity, sometimes dark and dangerous, but always in the hearts of New Yorkers. It has been a backdrop for many a movie and TV show, and the sights of the park will be instantly recognisable to everyone: the Bow Bridge, the Lake, Bethesda Fountain, Belvedere Castle. The sight from within of the towering turn of the century apartments that surround the park, some of the most expensive real estate in the world, is probably my favourite.
A public park at the center of Manhattan, CENTRAL PARK sits on 843 acres of city-owned land and is the most visited urban park in the U.S. with approximately 35 million visitors annually.
It is 2.5 miles long - between 59th Street and 110th Street - and is 0.5 miles wide - between Fifth Avenue and Central Park West.
While the land in much of the park appear natural, it is almost entirely landscaped. Its several natural-looking lakes and ponds have been created artificially. The Park also contains walking tracks, Central Park Zoo, a wildlife sanctuary, several children's playgrounds, an outdoor amphitheater and the Boathouse Cafe'.
A total of 29 sculptures have been erected over the years. One of the most popular is "Alice in Wonderland. Our group took lots of pictures here.
“Liberty and Union, Now and Forever, One and Inseparable.”
—Daniel Webster (1782-1852)
Gordon W. Burnham commissioned Thomas Ball to sculpt a larger-than-life-size version of a statuette he had created in the mid-19th century for Central Park.
Located on the West Drive of the Park, facing east, the bronze standing figure rests on a tall granite plinth where two carriage drives meet, near the foot of present-day Strawberry Fields. Ball had originally wanted the figure of the Massachusetts senator to stand on the Mall; but it proved to be too big. The miniature statuette by Ball was one of the first mass-produced pieces in the United States; it had been patented and repeatedly reproduced.
The towering bronze, presented by Burnham to Central Park in 1876 was cast in Munich, Germany.
“A monument standing at the mouth of the Narrows, looking out over the ocean, would form a memorial worthy of the brave fellows who died while on duty for their country.”
—William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951) Hearst believed that the mouth of New York Harbor was most suitable location of the Maine Monument
Standing at Central Park’s southwest entrance, known as the Merchants’ Gate, the Maine Monument honors the 260 American sailors who died when the battleship USS Maine exploded in Havana Harbor on February 15th, 1898. This incident led to a declaration of war by the United States on Spain, which still held Cuba as a colony. It is widely believed that the United States blew up the USS Maine as a deliberate act to give cause to go to war. When the Spanish-American War ended in December of 1898, Spain gave control of Puerto Rico and Guam, and surrendered the Philippines to the United States. Cuba was granted its independence.
William Randolph Hearst, publisher of the New York Morning Journal, called for a public subscription to erect a monument honoring the sailors within four days of the USS Maine’s sinking. The newspaper collected large gifts of cash, as well as schoolchildren’s pennies totaling thousands of dollars over a period of a few years.
As the architect for the project, H. Van Buren Magonigle designed the monument and Attilio Piccirilli sculpted the figures and the massive central pylon of the monument. These men worked together on the Firemen’s Memorial in Riverside Park at West 100th Street. The gilded bronze figure of Columbia Triumphant (see photo #4), atop the monument, is drawn in a seashell-shaped chariot by three sea horses. This grouping was cast from the recovered bronze guns of the Maine.
The allegorical grouping (see photo #2) entitled “The Antebellum State of Mind: Courage Awaiting the Flight of Peace and Fortitude Supporting the Feeble” is configured as a ship. A youth at the ship’s prow holds his hands in the sign of Victory. The Atlantic and the Pacific (see photo #3) are represented by reclining figures at the side fountains. The names of those who lost their life on the Maine are chiseled on side of the pylon above the oceans.
The Merchants’ Gate entrance to Central Park was named by the Commissioners of Central Park in 1862. The aim was to honor commerce and business professions for their contribution to New York City.
“Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope someday you'll join us, and the world will be as one.”
—John Lennon (1940-1980)
Strawberry Fields, a memorial to John Lennon, a member of the rock and roll band The Beatles, is a peaceful area within New York’s Central Park. Located across the street from Lennon’s home at The Dakota, a 19th-century apartment house, the memorial was named for one of the Beatles’ songs, “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Recorded in 1966, the song’s title references an orphanage in Liverpool, England where Lennon played with the children.
On 26.March.1981, the New York City council approved legislation, introduced by then-council member and future Parks Commissioner Henry J. Stern on 18.December.1980, which designated this area as Strawberry Fields. The ground-breaking ceremony was held on 21.March.1984. Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono donated $500,000 to renovate and redesign this area of Central Park, as well as an equivalent sum for an endowment that would provide ongoing maintenance for Strawberry Fields. Yoko Ono worked closely with landscape architect Bruce Kelly and the Central Park Conservancy to create this tranquil spot. Strawberry Fields was officially dedicated on 9.October.1985, the 45th anniversary of John Lennon’s birth.
With a rich tradition of mosaic tile work, the Italian city of Naples donated the circular mosaic “Imagine”, paying homage to one of Lennon’s most popular solo hits. Based on ancient Greco-Roman designs, this simple art work has become a symbol of peace, Lennon’s much-sought after goal.
Central Park is New York City's largest public park, it is famous and been seen almost in any movie or TV program that is done in this city. There are many interesting sites and events in the park, you can visit the official link included here to learn more.
“I really believe I was happier when I slept on a park bench in Central Park than during all the years of the ‘perfect lover’ stuff.”
— Rudolph Valentino (1895-1926)
One of Central Park’s many architectural treasures Greywacke Arch was built in 1862. The Arch underwent restoration in the 1980s; the Central Park Conservancy, a private organization, carries out this vital conservation work.
Greywacke is the variety of sandstone that is was used to build this arch. The material is found in the Hudson River Valley.
Designed by Calvert Vaux (1824-1895), one of Central Park’s two architects, Greywacke Arch spans a roadway leading to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The decoration of the arch includes fleur-de-lys, and the Saracenic point to the arch is reminiscent of Middle Eastern and Moorish-influenced Spanish style architecture.
On the eastern side of the Arch a musician usually is busking for dollars. Here a saxophonist plays; other times I seen violinists and accordion players.
Fishing is possible at Turtle Pond in NYC, which, not surprisingly, is also host to birds and 8 species of turtles, originally the contribution of local residents who released pets overgrowing their condos. The pond was originally created in 1937 out of the original drinking water supply Croton reservoir. On the north side is a broad lawn fit for a picnic, and on the east side there's a rock outcrop where one can cast a fishing lure or simply sit. On the west side are a landscaped woodland and rise to Belevedere Castle. Despite it's natural appearance, all of this is pure landscape genius, nothing more.
Truly, an oasis of green in a concrete and steel jungle! Central Park is so beautiful - and much larger than you think! There is so much to see and do in Central Park - an ice skating rink, carousel, zoo, play chess and checkers at the aptly-named Chess and Checkers House, rent a pedal boat, fly a kite, etc. - but I loved just wandering around. The park is so peaceful, and joggers, walkers, and horse-drawn carriages seem to coexist quite well. I was disappointed that the carousel was closed for the winter, but my other "must sees" were easily accessible - the Alice in Wonderland statue and the Strawberry Fields memorial.
The last day of the meeting, we were set to have a nice dinner at Cafe Boulud, and it was suggested we walk from the Grand Hyatt there if we wanted to let some of the stress out. That meant strolling through the lower half of Central Park. This was a great suggestion, as it gave us the opportunity to see what the park has to offer. There is a ton of really cool scenery, where the foliage frames the city scapes. While there, we were able to see a number of neat statues, and also got to take in Bethesda Fountain. The park has a lot to offer - various playgrounds, sculptures, refreshment stands, and even an ice rink...and that was the half of the park we saw!
My suggestion is to have your phone with the GPS enabled or a really good map - it's easy to get turned around on some of the trails, and you might lose track of where you are. But I would highly recommend the walk in the park.
The Central Park is so huge that it's easy to overlook some of the smaller, more interesting as aspects of it. There are about 9,000 benches in the park, and the park administrators have come up with a novel way of looking after these benches - from a financial perspective - with the Adopt-a-Bench program began in 1986.
In return for their financial support, bench sponsors could have their personal inscriptions engraved on these benches. Many of these inscriptions carry personal messages, but the one that really caught my attention was this bench holding a promise - the promise - of marriage.
The picture was taken in November 2009, and a lot could have happened in two years, but if you happen to know this bench's sponsor, please do let me know if the promise had been fulfilled? A long shot, but well worth asking here.
This link takes you to the official website of Central Park's Adopt-A-Bench program.