CENTRAL PARK GUIDE: PART 2
And we're back for part two of my guide to Central Park! Stunning shots of the park and skyline call out to even the amateur photographer as the colors of park change with the seasons. So come along with me as I give you more tips on what to see in New York's 843-acre crown jewel and even more importantly where to refuel and rehydrate during your adventure!
The Lake, Bow Bridge & Bethesda Terrace/Fountain
A central feature and almost essential piece to any Central Park visit is the area near The Lake. Looking at a map the sheer size of the park's main body of water can be overwhelming, and for good reason. The Lake includes 18-acres which before 1857 was the untamed wild of a swamp, followed by an ice-skating rink, then ultimately transforming into the wildlife sanctuary it is today.
Grab a rowboat or Venetian-style gondola for a romantic afternoon gliding over the glassy surface of the lake as you catch glimpses of swans, ducks and the occasional egret or heron flock to the surrounding Ramble.
An architectural stunner Bethesda Terrace offers beautiful views of The Lake, the Ramble and the Loeb Boathouse. One of the most filmed and recognized locations in the city, many refer to the two-story terrace as the "heart of Central Park", as its location is exactly halfway between the east and west sides. Two stone staircases wind up the sides of the terrace meeting at the top which looks out over the Angel of the Waters fountain. Take time to walk along the edge of the fountain and marvel at the intricate carvings representing the seasons and times of the day.
As you take a turn around the Angel of the Waters and look off into the distance rising up out of the water like an exquisitely constructed confection is the Bow Bridge. The lovers of New York and the world gather at this stunning cast iron Greek style arch searching for their iconic New York moment. Dotted with ethereal planting urns you're drawn in as the South American hardwood walkway fades to a rich deep red in the rain. And bridges are more romantic in the rain right?
The Loeb Boathouse
From Sally Albright and Marie to Carrie and Big, The Loeb Boathouse provides a setting few other restaurants in the city can match. Nestled on the northeastern point of The Lake the Boathouse's indoor and outdoor lakeside seating housed in a red brick and limestone Victorian inspired edifice is a one-of-a-kind dining experience. Come in, relax and a appreciate the beauty of the park as you dine on wonderfully prepared brunch fare.
Conservatory Pond, Hans Christian Anderson, and Alice
Follow the path to the right of the Boathouse and the friendly Danish face of Hans Christian Anderson greets you. Sitting at the end of the Conservatory Pond, where children and children at heart engage in their favorite pastime of sailing and racing model boats, the beloved children's storyteller regales a duck with his tales as Alice from Alice in Wonderland faithfully watches nearby.
The Mall & Literary Walk
Slightly west of the Conservatory Pond is the only straight pathway in the park - The Mall. Designed as a space to receive people from all walks of life it is the place to see-and-be-seen. Seasonality is meaningless as you stroll along the promenade covered by an awning of American Elm. The picturesque gathering place looks just as magical in a snow covered wonderland as it does in the peak magnificence of the Summer.
William Shakespeare, Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, American poet Fitz-Greene Halleck and the "odd man out" Christopher Columbus look down on you at the south end of The Mall. Creating a Literary Walk the statues memorialize the cultural heroes of New York's immigrant melting pot.
Sheep Meadow and Tavern on the Green
After admiring some of the literary greats turn to your right. Lacking in the animals of the fluffy variety (in the name of the meadow) Sheep Meadow calls out to you to "come play"! Fondly known for sunbathing, kite flying and picnicking, in the Spring and Summer Sheep Meadow is covered in throngs of people (sometimes up to 30,000 in one day) lazily strewn throughout the 15-acre field. But where does the name come from you may ask? It indeed does come from the sheep that were housed in a Victorian building within the meadow in the mid-1800s - currently now the iconic and sometimes overlooked eatery Tavern on the Green.
Tavern on the Green has always held a place in the hearts of artists and celebs such as Grace Kelly and John Lennon, and is one restaurant many know about but somehow can slip off the to-do list. Known then, as it is now, for romantic twinkling lights, live music, and beautiful views of its adjacent garden and Sheep Meadow. The reimagined landmark, which re-opened in 2014 and followed with the beer garden in 2016, continues its long tradition of modern tavern food in a pastoral setting.
Standing proudly on a rock just north of the Tisch Children's Zoo at 67th Street is a bronze hero ready to accept hugs from his throngs of adoring fans - as evident by the deep polishing of his ears and back.
Who is this hero? Balto, the lion-hearted sled dog who has stood on this spot for almost a century. A real dog, not just the one in the animated film, Balto was one of the lead huskies with whom a team of mushers battled the blinding 1925 Alaska blizzard traveling more than 674 miles to deliver medicine to diphtheria patients. A symbol to all of the bravery seen that fateful day Brooklyn-born sculptor Frederick George Richard Roth was commissioned to create this everlasting tribute.
Endurance. Fidelity. Intelligence. Three words on the statue's plaque, which not only ring true for heroes past but today's and tomorrow's heroes as well.
Central Park Zoo and Delacorte Music Clock
What do you do in the mid-1800s when you receive multiple informal gifts in the form of wild animals? Build an impromptu menagerie for them of course. Over the next century, more and more animals were received and an innovative change took place. Gone were the old-fashioned cages, as innovative environments successfully mimicking the animal's natural habitats were constructed.
Entering the zoo through the archways to the north is unlike any of the others. The chime of bells and nursery rhyme songs (which change to Christmas Carols during the holidays) will make you stop and look up. Modeled after the eye-catching historical clocks in Europe, the Delacorte Music Clock is a performance on its own as whimsical bronze animals twirl around on a track set to the music.
Housed between glass-roofed pergola thoroughfares in discreet vine wrapped buildings the Central Park Zoo is an escape into the real wild side of Manhattan. More than 130 species previously in need or distress call this location their haven. Lions, tigers and most bears (except for two recent grizzly additions) are noticeably left out of the habitats as the Wildlife Conservation Society has humanely decided to focus on the smaller side of the animal kingdom.
The middle of the zoo is the most popular as gliding skillfully through a pool are two ever-popular sea lions. Dramatic in nature (as many sea lions seem to be) they are an entertaining bunch who put on a show of sorts at feeding time and in the moments following. As crowded as it can sometimes be this is a treat well worth waiting for.
A visit to the entirety of the zoo will only take a couple of hours and inspires your inner animal lover through the seamless combination of urban life within the beauty of nature. It's a tranquil refuge which leaves you inspired.
Wollman Rink and Victoria Gardens
As October fades into Winter sail across the ice of Wollman Rink under the glowing lights of the Plaza and Ritz-Carlton Hotels; creating endless memories for locals and visitors alike as they effortlessly spin under the star-coated sky in a forest of trees. Wollman is a place of enchantment which continues into the Spring and Summer months with its seamless transition into Victoria Gardens. Twirling and whirling through the air, over the water, and on land, the nostalgic charm of this amusement park fills visitors with a sense of wonderment as the splendor of Manhattan takes a hold of them.
Grand Army Plaza (not to be confused with the Brooklyn location)
Wollman Rink has placed you near the front east corner of the park. Across from the iconic Plaza Hotel (an afternoon tea session is recommended) lies the gateway to Central Park.
The only plaza which is officially a part of the park it stretches from the statue of Union General William Tecumseh Sherman to Pulitzer Fountain directly in front of the Plaza Hotel. General Sherman's gilded statue gracefully stands facing 59th Street while the bronze figure representing the Roman goddess of abundance stares back, exuding the theme of wealth and material comfort.
The perimeter is dotted with lamps and benches mirroring the 1916 originals, while the north-eastern side (a location to discover up-and-coming artists) hosts a rotating installation of contemporary art. The never ending cascade of more than three million annual visitors pass through the plaza as it radiates its original early 1900 splendor.
WHERE TO EAT
Are you hungry yet? Thirsty? Hours of exploration require, and deserve, hydration and refueling on something other than Starbucks. Luckily Central Park isn't just for walking, a multitude of dining options are also easily accessible in the park.
In addition to Tavern on the Green and The Boathouse, which were mentioned earlier, multiple La Pain Quotidien stalls dot the lower half of the park, and in true NY form street carts selling everything from hot dogs, to ice cream, to roasted nuts are strategically placed along the pathways.
But when the weather is finally nice, after a winter that seemed to never end, why spend your money on overly priced prepared food (Tavern on the Green and The Boathouse excluded) when a fresh grassy field is seducing you to have a picnic?
I hope you enjoyed my multi-part guide to Central Park! Although I covered a multitude of sites there is even more you can see! Head over to the Central Park Conservancy's website if you want to get even more epic and can't get enough of the city's biggest green space.