Central Park has to be one of the nicest places to mooch around in New York. We spent quite a few afternoons stocking up on chocolate pretzels in Zabar’s (check out the Upper West Side post) and sitting in the shade of a tree watching baseball games and chatting. Bliss. Honestly, the people watching is beyond awesome. My favourite sport 🙂
Working your way through Central Park
We walked from the top (up near Harlem) down through the park (ending up by the Plaza Hotel and 5th Avenue) in a couple of hours one afternoon. We spent some time up by the Harlem Meer, a man-made lake way up north (Central Park North subway stop) where you can catch-and-release fish or chill out by the beautiful weeping willows. It’s definitely more serene than the lower half of Central Park. It’s almost like a ‘Locals Only Club’. The Conservatory Garden (created in 1898) is also up here (around E 106th street), which is supposed to be stunning in full bloom (case in point in this picture) but unfortunately there was zilch going on during our visit. Sucks to be us eh?!
If you keep strolling down through the park you’ll eventually come across the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir (86th street), a behemoth of a watering hole. Jackie O used to jog around here and it was one of the last places she was seen alive before her death in 1994 so it’s really nice that the city honoured her with the name. The whole city jogs around the 2.5km track around the reservoir. Don’t make the mistake of walking the wrong way though – you’ll actually get run in to. Just after the reservoir lies the Arthur Ross Pinetum, emmm…an area filled with pine trees for you to enjoy!
I guess the next piece of Central Park you might recognise on your walk would be the Great Lawn, which is in fact, a 55 acre pretty great lawn. There’s so much to see around this area – it’s easily my favourite part of the park. On the east side of the Great Lawn lies the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Roof Garden Café and Martini Bar here has stunning views of the park and skyline. On the west side of the Great Lawn is the American Museum of Natural History (also see the Upper West Side post). On the corner right next to the Museum is the beautiful Beresford apartment building where Jerry Seinfeld and Diana Ross live/used to live. Just after the Great Lawn you’ll find the Delacorte Theater where they show Shakespeare in the Park FOR FREE every summer. How nice! Next there’s Belvedere Castle (79th street) built in 1869, an oh so adorable folly which has been in shed loads of movies. Get your Rapunzel on here 🙂 There are absolutely amazing views of the Great Lawn and Turtle Pond just below from the balconies at Belvedere Castle. The Shakespeare Garden is just under the castle, filled with flowers and plants good old William mentioned in his works. It’s adorable.
The Ramble is up next and it’s exactly that, a ramble around in lots of circles. It’s pretty rugged here and purposely unkempt. It’s supposed to be dangerous at night too so be warned should you decide to take a midnight stroll. At the bottom of the Ramble you’ll find Central Park Lake, where you can rent one of those oh so rosmantic row boats whilst waiting for your table in the Loeb Boat House. We had lunch here on our last trip and it was delicious, although there was a serious wait to get in – reserve if you can…Very close to here is the Alice in Wonderland statue (East 74th street) and the bronze statue of Hans Christian Anderson reading a book AND the lovely Conservatory Water where model sail-boating (pretty much in every film ever!) takes place. Phew!
I guess parallel to the Loeb Boathouse is the beautiful cast-iron Bow Bridge adorned with cast-iron urns (it’s closed for a couple of months now for some restoration). Just after Bow Bridge is the angel-topped Bethesda Fountain. On the west side of Bow Bridge is the Strawberry Fields, a 2.5 acre area of the park dedicated to John Lennon. He lived in the Dakota apartment block on 1 West 72nd street just outside the park, which was also sadly the location of his murder.
Continuing on down Central Park you’ll find Tavern on the Green, Sheep Meadow AKA sun-lounging central, the Central Park carousel and of course, Central Park Zoo and that beautiful area housing the Trump Skating Rink in the winter months. Oh and the gorgeous Gapstow Bridge is here too! God there’s just so many beautiful places in the park!!
Starting from the bottom of Central Park and in need of picnic food? East Side – You could pick up some trés fancy picnic items in the Plaza’s Food Hall and chill out for the day pretty much anywhere you fancy. West Side – I love the salads in Whole Foods – you get a take-away container and fill it with any salad item you could possibly imagine – it’s so filling and a fantastic picnic-pick-up-spot. There’s one near Columbus Circle so you could easily pick up your food for the day here, add a few magazines and you’re golden.