This part-park, part-museum, part-concert hall swallows central Manhattan, and many of the city’s most notable attractions are situated next to it or within its limits (the Guggenheim, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History, to name a few). But travelers insist that you shouldn’t just pass through Central Park on your way to another place. This 843-acre green space is a favorite of New Yorkers and tourists; you can come here to exercise, dine, go to the zoo and more.
“Central Park is fantastic year-round, and is a must-see for anyone coming to New York,” says Josephine Danielson, head concierge at the Four Seasons Hotel New York. “People may not realize Central Park has several hidden treasures. If you’re looking for something different, I tell guests to visit the Conservatory Garden.”
Almost everyone has a positive impression of the park, but no one has quite the same experience or recommends that you do quite the same thing. There’s an almost impossible amount of sights to see here (hidden treasures, indeed), including 20 playgrounds, 48 fountains, monuments or sculptures and 36 bridges. Here’s a shortlist:
Alice in Wonderland: This 11-foot tall statue sits upon a magic mushroom off 75th Street in the lower east side of the park. She’s surrounded by the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire cat and plenty of fascinated little kids.
Bethesda Fountain: This romantic fountain’s name refers to a pool in Jerusalem with healing powers. While you’re there, be sure to snap a few photos of the Angel of the Waterssculpture that tops this mid-park sight.
Conservatory Garden: The only formal garden found in Central Park, the Conservatory Garden is a quiet spot to relax and enjoy the views. It comprises 6 acres of flora and seasonal greenery arranged in three distinct styles: English, French and Italian. You’ll find the main gates at Fifth Avenue and 105th Street.
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir: New Yorkers love to jog by this beautiful 106-acre body of water located mid-park. It’s especially scenic in autumn, when the surrounding trees are ablaze with seasonal colors.
Loeb Boathouse: During the warm weather months you can rent a boat, bike or gondola from this Victorian-style boathouse and restaurant, located around East Park Drive next to the Bethesda Fountain.
Strawberry Fields: Named after John Lennon’s song, this lower west park area (at West Park Drive and West 72nd Street) sits across the street from where the singer was assassinated in 1980. Visitors like to come here to eat lunch, admire the landscaping, or pay tribute to the Beatle.
Wollman Memorial Rink: This Lower East Side spot is particularly popular with young families. In winter it’s an ice skating rink; come summer, it’s where you’ll find the Victorian Gardens Amusement Park.
You’ll find Central Park in the heart of Manhattan, just north of midtown; it stretches from 59th to 110th Street, and is bordered by Eighth and Fifth avenues. Central Park is free to visit and welcomes visitors daily from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. As with any outdoor site in a major city, you’re better off visiting in the day or early evening. There are restrooms available on-site and there are five visitors centers located within the park. Check out the park’s official website for maps, information on all the activities available and special events.