As New York City’s population expanded in the 1800s, it became clear that something needed to be done to address the lack of green space. Consequently, a 770 acre (it was later expanded) chunk of land between 59th St. and 110th St. was set aside for development as a park in the 1850s. Frederick Law Olmsted, the famous landscaper, was commissioned to design and build the park. It was not until 1873 that it was finally completed. Almost immediately it began to fall into disrepair. The park was neglected by politicians, and residents began to turn elsewhere for recreation. It was not until the 1930s and the efforts of famous city planner Robert Moses that the park was restored, and while it has waxed and waned since, today it is one of New York’s most popular attractions.
There is no shortage of things to do in Central Park. If you’re looking for a break from the urban chaos of New York City, take a ride on a horse-drawn carriage or a pedicab. During the summer months, Shakespeare in the Park presents free showings Shakespeare’s plays at the Delacorte Theater, an open-air amphitheatre. Many of the world’s finest actors and actresses can be counted among the cast members. Be sure to get there several hours in advance to secure a spot in the queue. Free concerts and other performances are also available throughout the summer.
There are also numerous recreational opportunities, including sports fields and miles of trails. The Central Park Zoo, while only five acres, features a rainforest exhibit, penguins, and polar bears. Belvidere Castle is an ornate Victorian building overlooking the Great Lawn. The park is also home to gardens, art instillations, and many species of birds. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is located within the park and the American Museum of Natural History and the Guggenheim are both across the street. If you’re in Manhattan, Central Park is a great place to spend an afternoon.
From 59th Street to 110th Street
Tel: (212) 310 6600 or 360 2726 (walking tours hot line).
Opening hours: Daily 24 hours (park); daily 1000-1630 (visitor centre).
Free admission (charge for walking tours and Summerstage).
Mid-Park at 79th Street.
Tel: (212) 772 0210.
Opening hours: Tues-Sun 0900-1700 (Apr-Oct); 1000-1600 (Nov-Mar).
Central Park Wildlife Centre
830 Fifth Avenue and East 64th Street
Tel: (212) 439 6500.
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 1000-1700, Sat, Sun and holidays 1000-1730 (1 Apr-30 Oct); daily 1000-1630 (31 Oct-31 Mar).