Thinking of New York, what comes to mind? I would say the Manhattan skyscrapers, the Statue of Liberty and Central Park. I will in a series of articles from the Big Apple offer my impressions and practical advice. We will start in the park.
We have all seen Central Park, in real life or on film. In fact it is one of the most filmed locations in the world. From its first opening i 1856, in what was then the countryside, it has been a central area of focus not only for New Yorkers, but also other Americans and visiting foreigners. Like us.
View of Central Park from the Rockefeller Plaza
You can get the true essence of New Yorkers by just hanging out in Central Park (Andy Roddick)
It is a large park, occupying approximately 341 hectares (843 acres) in a rectangular shape. The sides are roughly 1 km wide and 4 km long. There are a few roads crossing it, used by horsecarts and cars, and even more paved paths for pedestrians and joggers.
Several beautifully arched bridges serve as safe passages for us on foot, be it under a road or between the number of ponds and small lakes that also make up integral parts of the park.
Being the first time we visited Central Park, we were struck by how varied it seemed. In addition to the ponds, there were hills, groves and huge lawns.
Spring is a perfect time of year to visit Central Park
The proposed walk (7 km) in Central Park is how we did it and you may feel free to do it otherwise, of course. Most of this walk was taken during daytime, apart from a few attractions to the west that we visited the same evening.
The map is presented at the bottom of this article, as part of my New York City map.
I must add that browsing the official website of Central Park will leave you with even more ideas of where to go and what to see. We naturally had to make some compromises. Most importantly, we skipped the northern half.
My proposed walk in Central Park, north to south. (Click for a larger version)
My favorite place is Central Park because you never know what you’re going to find there. I also like that when I look out the windows of surrounding hotels, it’s seems like I’m looking out over a forest. (Haley Joel Osment)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
We start on the east side of the park, at The Met. We had planned to continue on our bus north to the Solomon R. Guggenheim museum just for a look at the exterior, but dropped it. (I have however included it in the map in case you like to know.)
This museum is the largest museum in the United States and one of the largest in the world with more than two million works. Not all can possibly be displayed at once in the monumental building that opened up to the public in 1880, but one can easily spend several hours and even days inside.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Like often, we were not interested in any specific type of art, or period, but made our way around in the galleries just to get a sense of what the Met was all about. We spent three hours inside including a reasonably good and affordable lunch in the basement.
We had on our list several museums that would have been nice to visit, but this was actually the only we managed to slip into our New York schedule. The Met was worth it with an absolutely stunning collection of ancient Egyptian temples and mummies, as well as an impressive collection of European, American and Asian paintings and sculptures.
Yes, that’s him – the insane Dutchman. This is Van Gogh’s self portrait and another of his masterpieces in the back.
The Belvedere Castle
The museum is situated a bit over halfway up the east side of the park, right on the edge of it. We walked around the corner of the Met and straight into the park. This morning we kept to the eastern side, but in the evening we took the subway to the American Museum of Natural History located almost directly opposite from the Met. From there we went up to the Belvedere Castle in the middle.
Situated on a hilltop (yes, there are hills in Central Park), the fairytale-like castle holds a commanding position over the Turtle Pond.
The Loeb Boathouse
The southern half of the park have several bodies of water, including one simply called the Lake. At the east end of the Lake you will find the Boathouse. It is a restaurant perfect for lunch, or like we did, a dinner at sunset. The location is perfect and you will also be able to rent a rowboat in summer.
The Conservatory Water
Model boats on the Conservatory Water
If you are not into rowing you might find joy in the model boats in this nice little pond to the east. I am sure you have seen photographs from it before, or even a scene from a movie. There are a couple of rather famous statues here as well, but we were more interested in shooting the blossoming trees.
On our visit in late April they were incredibly beautiful, and there were so many!
The Bethesda Fountain, terrace and tunnel
Bethesda Terrace and Fountain
We backtracked a bit and found the fountain right on the southeastern shore of the Lake. With the Angel of the Waters on top of the fountain, this place is magic.
The fountain is placed between the lake and the Bethesda Terrace. You should leave the place by walking through the tunnel under the terrace, admiring the tiled ceiling and walk up the steps on the other side.
The John Lennon tribute
From here you may take a detour west to the Strawberry Fields. We did that late in the evening but there is not much to see really, apart from this John Lennon memorial. He used to live not far from this place. Work yourself back to Bethesda.
Here you will face the longest straight-lined part of Central Park. Continue down this lane and see if you can find performers on the open stage theatre and also the number of sculptures with notable authors towards the end. The huge elm trees will provide a good shade if the summer heat gets to your head.
The screams in Central Park
When you emerge from under the elm trees of the Mall, hold to your right and find the Carousel. It is large, with 57 horses, and has been here in the park since 1871. The one we find is the fourth generation and the fiercely looking horses were circling in the dark.
We were now heading for the final stage of this walk. Passing what in winter is an ice rink, we entered the beautiful little realm of the Pond.
I was anticipating the feeling of returning home to Norway to say that I had been where Kevin in Home Alone in New York spent so much time. Not in the Plaza right next to it, but at the Pond, under the Inscope Arch and on the Gapstow Bridge. Success. Just like in the movie.
There are many attractions in Central Park, but this must be the best. The setting of the Pond is superb, the bridge so romantic and skyscrapers in the back are so intense that you will need sit down on a bench and catch your breath.
Afternoon tea, at the Russian Tea Room
Russian Tea Room
Leaving the park you may go wherever you please. If you would like, follow me to what became our last stop. It opened in 1927 for Russian expats, but soon gathered a clientele among the celebrities of New York. Madonna even used to work here.
It is by no way cheap, but the interior is lovely, the waiters are discrete and the tea is good. If you like, go for the Afternoon tea that comes with a number of choices of tea, sandwiches and blinis.
I knew I couldn’t live in America and I wasn’t ready to move to Europe so I moved to an island off the coast of America – New York City. (Spalding Gray)
This described and mapped walk is 7 kilometres long (4.3 miles). We actually walked less than that during our day keeping ourselves in the centre and to the east. We spent two hours here on a leisurely stroll.
This article is part of a series from a week-long visit to New York City. We planned our visit by pinpointing on a map all attractions we wanted to visit, skipped some and connected the rest with walking routes.
The result is illustrated on this map. At first sight it seems immensely overcrowded. Fortunately you may zoom in, click the markers, hide specific walks, and even expand the map into a new tab or window.
(1) Central Park
(2) Brooklyn to Manhattan
(3) Liberty Island, Ellis Island and the Financial District
(4) The High Line, Greenwich Village and Flatiron
In addition there is a special entry from New York’s own World Heritage Site, the Statue of Liberty.
Browse the enlarged images from places mentioned in this article by clicking one of the thumbnails below: