New York City is a metropolis made of stone as well as steel and when you think of the Big Apple, next to shopping, numerous world-famous buildings such as the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building or the One World Trade Center on Ground Zero come to mind. Interestingly enough, Central Park is, of all things, a green area that is one of the most popular and famous sights in the world metropolis.
The “Green Lung” of New York is a landscaped park located in the center of Manhattan between 5th and 8th Avenues. Don’t be surprised if you don’t find 8th Avenue on your Big Apple map. It is so long that it is often shown divided into different sections. The section at the level of the park is called “Central Park West”. The park itself has been car-free since 2018. Cars are still allowed to use the underpasses that run under Central Park.
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Numbers, dates, facts about Central Park
- Area: 349.5 hectares
- Length: 4.07 kilometers
- Width: 860 meters
- Start of construction: 1858
- Construction time: 16 years
- Inauguration and opening: 1873
- District: Manhattan, New York City
- Annual number of visitors: approx. 25 million people
- Owner: New York City Department of Parks and Recreation
- Designer: Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903), Calvert Vaux (1824-1895)
- Opening times: 6:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m.
- Highest Point: Vista Rock
- Length of the pedestrian paths: 90 km
- Bridges: 36
- Benches: over 900
What makes Central Park so special?
Central Park is a leisure facility with sports facilities and a natural landscape, in which there are so many sights. It was originally created to promote the health of the New York population and to improve social life in the metropolis. It is and was the location of numerous famous film scenes and so almost everyone will have seen the famous park before, even if they have not been there themselves.
Today, the “green lung of New York”, which takes up over four percent of the borough of Manhattan, is much more than just a local recreation area for nature lovers and recreational athletes. It is a Mecca for those interested in culture and architecture, offers smaller and larger events, often free of charge, every day and even a true place of pilgrimage for fans of the music icon John Lennon. So if you want to visit Central Park in New York City, you should definitely plan a few hours or, even better, a whole day.
History of the origins of Central Park
The history of the creation of Central Park was largely shaped by the well-known landscape designer, Andrew Jackson Downing. At that time he was the most important landscape designer in the USA.
In 19th century New York, there was a lack of leisure and entertainment options and the population longed for a recreational area to go for a walk, to do sports and to give children the opportunity to play. As is so often the case in the USA, the model for the park was European systems. In this case, for example, London’s Hyde Park and Munich’s English Garden.
Over the course of a few years, an idea turned into concrete plans. The plans were discussed for the first time in a council meeting in 1851, and a park commission was finally founded in 1857, which in turn initiated a project competition to collect proposals for the facility.
In this competition, the designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux were able to prevail, whose design went down in the park’s history as the Greensward Plan. Construction began in 1858 and despite Central Park officially inaugurated in 1873, construction has not been completed to this day. As before, the park is regularly adapted and redesigned to meet new needs, whereby care is taken to ensure that the landscape of the green lungs of New York is always preserved in order to preserve the unique charm of Central Park.
In 1981, Simon & Garfunkel gave a benefit concert in New York’s Central Park, as the mayor at the time even considered closing the park due to increasing decay, lack of money and increasing crime. The concert went down in music history as “The Concert in Central Park”.
Central Park as the seasons progress
The New York park is a delightful place in every season.
In the spring
In the spring from April to June, the temperatures in New York City are quite moderate and therefore pleasant. During this time, the green area and around the many lake landscapes are green and blooming, which makes Central Park a wonderful destination, especially during this time, where you can recharge your batteries after a strenuous sightseeing tour through the Big Apple.
In summer it is very hot in the metropolis and the temperatures often climb to over 30 degrees Celsius. During the summer months, the water activities in Central Park such as swimming or boating in the green area are the main attractions. Row boats or even an authentic Venetian gondola can be found in Loab Boathouse rent on Central Park Lake. The Lakeside Restaurant right by the boathouse is also very nice.
From June to September the amusement park Victorian Gardens with its rides is also open in the green area, which promises a lot of fun especially for families with children.
In the autumn
For many New Yorkers, autumn is the most beautiful time of the year in the “city that never sleeps”. The autumn flora and fauna in Central Park tempt you to take long walks through the extensive green area and offer space for sporting activities such as horse riding or cycling, as the temperatures are slowly becoming more pleasant again. The famous Wollman Rink allows ice skating in the middle of Central Park from the end of October.
In the winter
Ice skating in Central Park is also a big topic in winter and a long-standing tradition for many New Yorkers. This activity has been offered in the spacious green area since the park was opened. But many other popular winter activities such as sledding, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing can be enjoyed here in the middle of New York.
Possible activities in the park
Central Park in the heart of Manhattan offers active people numerous opportunities to spend an entertaining day. For example, you can enjoy these activities there.
Central Park is one of the most popular places in New York City for winter sports during the winter months. You can go sledding on the many hills of the green area.
Due to the numerous water areas in the park, there are various opportunities for ice skating. The best known is the Wollman Rink ice rink, which is open from the end of October.
To go biking
The picturesque and partly hilly landscape of Central Park allows leisurely strolls as well as demanding training sessions. The Central Park Bike Map helps with planning.
In the middle of the metropolis of New York City there are around 230 different bird species in Central Park alone. Some of them live in and between the trees of the park all year round, others take a short rest there before continuing on their journey to their winter or summer quarters. If you want, you can borrow a Discovery Kit from one of the visitor centers, which consists of binoculars, a guide, maps and drawing materials to identify the individual species.
fly a kite
Kite flying is a popular pastime in New York’s green lungs in the middle of Manhattan. It is generally allowed on all free areas in the park. However, quiet areas should be considered.
Central Park is a popular destination for joggers, especially in the morning, for whom three routes in the park are of particular interest. The most famous of these is the Stephanie and Fred Shuman Reservoir Running Track, which offers some of the best views of the Manhattan skyline. The route is around 2.5 kilometers long and should only be used counter-clockwise.
The Bridle Path offers three interconnected paths. The loop that connects to the Reservoir route is just over two kilometers long, as is the North Meadow Loop and the southern route. The routes can be combined.
The longest route through the park is offered by the park drives with a length between roughly eight and ten kilometers. The is suitable for runners Central Park Running Map.
Eating and drinking in Central Park
The physical well-being is not neglected in the park. The following are some of the most popular restaurants and cafes in Central Park.
The small, picturesque brick building is located in the south of the park north of the Heckscher Ballfields on 65th Street. It was once used as a changing room for boys who played baseball and cricket there in the 19th century. Today it is an idyllic café with nice outdoor seating serving salads, sandwiches, burgers and other snacks. The building is surrounded by beautiful flower beds.
The beautiful boathouse with its shimmering copper roof is located east of Conservatory Water, the famous model boat pond. It is a café with a wonderful terrace and beautiful shrub beds, from which you can enjoy light snacks and drinks and watch the many model ships on the pond, which are mostly remote-controlled. Every Saturday from around 10 a.m. people compete against each other with their model boats. Kerb’s Boathouse is also a popular spot for bird lovers looking to catch a glimpse of the famous red-tailed buzzards on Fifth Avenue.
The Loeb Boathouse is not only a popular place to rent a rowboat, but also houses a popular cafeteria. From the Boathouse Express Cafe, visitors have a wonderful view of the park. For more formal meals, the Lakeside Restaurant provides the right setting for all meals of the day and also has a well-stocked bar. Many marriages began in a boat in Central Park.
Tavern on the Green
The ” Tavern on the Green ”Was originally built as a sheepfold by park designer Calvert Vaux to provide space for the 700 sheep that grazed on Central Park’s sheep meadow in the middle of Manhattan. In 1934, as part of the park’s renovation, it was converted into a restaurant and rebuilt several times over the years. The view of the park, the dance floor and the outdoor seating are legendary and attracted not only “normal” people, but also numerous prominent actors, musicians and public figures. In 2014 the tavern was reopened after extensive renovation.
Le Pain Quotidien
Le Pain Quotidien is a popular European café chain that has opened a green restaurant north of Sheep Meadow serving baked goods, healthy salads, organic drinks and handmade bread. The restaurant offers 30 seats indoors and 100 seats outdoors as well as a to-go counter for take-away food and drinks. Known as Mineral Springs, the site once housed an elegant pavilion that served 30 different natural spring waters from 1869 until it was demolished in the 20th century.
Transportation in Central Park
Millions of people walk or cycle in Central Park every year. Others roam the green space in the heart of New York City on horseback.
The most nostalgic way of getting around, however, is undoubtedly a ride in one of the horse-drawn carriages that were once the only means of transport through the busy streets of New York. The carriages can be found in various locations in the park, including East Drive on Grand Army Plaza, Center Drive on 6th Avenue, and West Drive on 7th Avenue. The prices for the ride are usually negotiated directly with the driver.
Regular events in Central Park
Events are held regularly in Central Park. The Great Lawn in particular has hosted events and free concerts since 1937. At least as famous is the Delacorte open-air theater with 1,800 seats. It is home to the public theater’s famous free Shakespeare shows. In addition, daily guided tours with different focuses are held through the park.
Other well-known recurring events
- Taste of Summer: This recurring event for the benefit of the preservation of Central Park offers an unforgettable evening on the legendary Bethesda Terrace. An excellent opportunity to toast the beginning of summer with seasonal cocktails, enjoy dishes from the best restaurants in town and spend a breathtaking night in the open air.
- Evening in the Garden: The Greensward Circle is a network of young professionals who are hosting an event with great food, cocktails and live music in the Conservatory Garden in the garden’s pergola on this occasion. Tickets are available for around $ 200.
- Central Park Conservancy Film Festival: The outdoor cinema is free to enjoy. Reservation is not required.
- Discovery Walks for Families: Central Park offers regular guided walks for families. During these walks, visitors learn more about the park’s architecture, landscapes, and ecosystem. The walks for families are offered on the weekends and sometimes during the school holidays.
- German-American Oktoberfest: The German-American Oktoberfest in Central Park is the largest Oktoberfest in New York and takes place after the German-American Steuben Parade. The tickets for the festival are usually sold out within a few days.
Worthwhile destinations in the immediate vicinity of the park
- Fifth Avenue: Central Park is located on the west side of one of the most famous streets in the world, which is best known for its numerous boutiques and department stores. A visit to the shopping mile is also worthwhile because of the magnificent sights and buildings that are located along the street in Manhattan.
- Sohmer Piano Building: The Sohmer Piano Building is a thirteen-story skyscraper in the Ladies’ Mile Historic District of Manhattan in New York. The building at 170 Fifth Avenue can be recognized from afar due to its gold-plated dome and has been a listed building since 1989.
- Empire State Building: The Empire State Building has long been the tallest building in the world. This well-known attraction is also located on Fifth Avenue and therefore in close proximity to Central Park.
- New York Public Library: It is one of the largest libraries in the world and houses a Gutenberg Bible, among other things. Many people know her from well-known films such as Spider-Man or The Day After Tomorrow. The public library is also located on Fifth Avenue.
- St. Patrick’s Cathedral: The largest neo-Gothic cathedral in the United States is located on 50th Street and Fifth Avenue directly across from Rockefeller Center.
- Trump Tower: Trump Tower is also on Fifth Avenue at the corner of 56th Street. The 202 meter high building houses, among other things, shops and cafes as well as an 18 meter high waterfall.
- Metropolitan Museum of Art: The Met is the largest art museum in the United States and is located on the eastern edge of Central Park.
And if you want to marvel at more plants after visiting Central Park, you should definitely visit Brooklyn Botanical Garden pay a visit.