What is big and green and right in the middle of Manhattan? It’s my happy place, also known as Central Park.
For the past few years, I have had the great fortune of living one block away from Central Park. Even though I pay it a visit every other day, each time I draw immense joy in the lawns lush as soft green blankets (at least for 7 months in a year), the hillocks of different gradients, bridges and arches that dot the Park, the lakes, the flowers in bloom in the spring, the colorful horse carriages, the musicians performing with abandon and the majestic Manhattan skyline rising above the greens.
Central Park is vast, and its near impossible to take in all that the Park has to offer in one visit. Here I have captured some of the places that I hope you would visit if you have not visited them already. These places are concentrated in the mid/ south end of the park, and hopefully there is another post coming in the future on the north end, once I have explored it properly.
Located around 68th street and the middle of the park, this looks like sort of the main avenue in the Park, with the trees creating a beautiful canopy and would lead you to the Bethesda Fountain and Terrace. This is the main hub of activity in the Park, where you can get your portrait made, get your caricature done, buy New York themed postcards, or just watch people dancing to their own beats (literally) while sitting on the wooden benches that line the entire length of the walk on both sides.
My favorite time to visit the mall is on a weekday in the late afternoon when it is quite without being deserted, and you can absorb the greenery around you and be serenaded by talented musicians that one would invariably find performing here.
The Sheep’s Meadow
This beautiful lawn with its soft grass, is not too far from the Mall and is the ideal place to have a picnic, toss a frisbee, stretch your muscles or just lay a blanket and take a nap. If you go here on a summer weekend afternoon, you might think that you have come to a crowded beach. Evenings are my favorite time to get comfortable in this dog-free zone. If sun-bathing is not your thing, the sides of this lawn are covered by trees for relief from the sun.
The Lake, Bethesda Fountain, Bow Bridge and the Ramble
The Lake is the second largest water body in the park. Located between the 72nd and 79th streets on the west side of the Park, the Lake is probably the most photographed part of Central Park. When you go to Central Park, you just have to make your way to the Bethesda Terrace and the Bethesda Fountain. Behind the statue of the angel that rises above the beautiful Bethesda Fountain, you will see the green waters of the Lake. Many a hopeful men have proposed to their beloved on a rowboat in the Lake.
Although if rowing a boat is not your thing, you can easily take a walk on the pathways that run alongside the Lake, for captivating vistas of the iconic buildings of Central Park West. One side of the Lake contains the Ramble, a path meandering through a veritable forest area within Central Park that would make you forget that you are in the concrete jungle of Manhattan. The best part about the Ramble is that at various points, it opens right at the edge of the Lake and all you need to do is revel in the verdant greenery while sitting on the rustic wooden benches or canopied wooden huts.
A walk on the Ramble will also bring you to the Bow Bridge, which looks rather pretty in its off-white elegance.
The Loeb Boathouse
The Boathouse restaurant sits on the eastern edge of the Lake. If you do not want to make advance reservations and have lunch or dinner here, you can simply head to the outside porch with its own bar and enjoy the beauty of the Lake over a glass of wine. This is also the ideal spot to see the turtles bobbing up and down, and the restaurant’s gondolier rowing his colorful gondola. The most scenic route to get to the Boathouse is to pathway on the right side of the Bethesda Terrace.
The Conservatory waters and the Statue of Alice in Wonderland
Parallel to the Loeb Boathouse on the east side are the Conservatory Waters. Unlike some of the other attractions mentioned above, visiting this oval-shaped man-made lake would be much more fun on the weekends when it is surrounded by folks with their kids. The Conservatory waters are popular for sailing small model boats with remote controls that can be rented on-site. On the edge of the Conservatory waters sits a picturesque cafe. I recently enjoyed a live (absolutely free) performance in the cafe on a glorious sunny day.
When you are by the Conservatory Waters, do not miss the bronze status of Alice in Wonderland situated on the northern edge of the Conservatory Waters. This delightful statue, inspired by Lewis Carroll’s classic children’s book, also has the Mad Hatter and the White Rabbit. I hope to take my daughter to this whimsical work of art when she grows up, as this statue with its nooks and crannies is perfect for little ones to do some exploring.
The Pond and the Gapstow Bridge
The Pond is located on south-east edge of the Park. The Pond and its pathways that gracefully skirt it are perfect for enjoying the impressive architecture of the buildings of mid-town Manhattan. I would recommend visiting the Pond during twilight when the lights of the sky-scrapers are twinkling. You can actually get a sense of calm and peace even though you are surrounded by glass and concrete.
When you are at the Pond, the quaint leaf covered bridge that you see is the Gapstow Bridge, a nice counter-point to the modern high rises all around.
Please share your moments/ memories of Central Park. Did it live up to the hype or leave you underwhelmed?