Fewer & Better Guides: Central Park
Central Park is one of my favorite places in the world. Almost every part of the Park has a memory attached from various parts of my life, as a child or as an adult. When my husband and I lived across from Harlem Meer, we would spend one morning every weekend walking the length of the Park and back! Here are ten of my favorite places in Central Park–I hope you find some that are new to you!
Harlem Meer (Entrance at East 110th Street)
A much quieter spot than the Lake–and equally beautiful–Harlem Meer is at the northeast corner of the Park. There are also live music performances here during the summer. This is definitely a “neighborhood” spot instead of a “tourist” spot. I loved stopping to get ices or churros from the vendors, and watching families do the same every afternoon!
Central Park Tennis Center (Entrance at West 96th Street)
If you love to play tennis, the courts at Central Park are open to the public! You can purchase a day pass or a season pass for a very reasonable fee. The tennis center offers lessons for children and adults, summer camps for children, and you can also rent equipment if you don’t have your own. There are locker facilities, showers, and a great snack bar. If you’re not in the mood to play, there’s a hill with a great view to watch!
North Woods (Entrance at West 110th Street)
Located at the northwest corner of the Park, the North Woods feel like a country escape. There are fewer twists and turns here than in the Ramble, but the birdwatching is just as good! (Plus, fewer people!)
Conservatory Garden (Entrance at East 105th Street)
Central Park’s only formal garden was restored by noted landscape architect Lynden Breed Miller. Some of the garden is currently undergoing restoration, but the rest is so quiet and peaceful. The wisteria arbor is particularly stunning in spring–but there are a couple of raccoons who live up there, so be cautious!
The Delacorte Clock (Entrance at East 65th Street)
Don’t miss the beautiful Delacorte Clock if you visit the zoo, or even if you’re just on the East Side. The charming animals announce the time every half-hour between eight a.m. and 6 p.m., and it’s as captivating for adults as it is for children!
Loeb Boathouse and the Lake (Entrance at West 72nd Street)
The Boathouse is an icon for a reason. The food is excellent (if pricey), but it’s the perfect place to people-watch on a beautiful day. If you’d prefer to work up an appetite before dining, you can rent a rowboat and row around the Lake ($20/hour, cash only), or hire a gondolier as well ($50/half hour, and must be reserved in advance)!
The Model Boat Pond (Entrance at East 72nd Street)
Captured in books, film, documentaries, and just about every other medium, the Model Boat Pond is rightfully famous. Besides watching the model boats, I love being able to take a peek at Pale Male’s nest and check in on New York’s most beloved avian resident.
The Reservoir (between East 86th and East 96th Street)
Named for Jackie Kennedy Onassis, the Reservoir used to supply water to Manhattan (it does not now) and has always provided an escape for city residents. A threat to the Reservoir’s existence in the early 1990s was thankfully averted, and the Reservoir has remained a calming escape and jogging (or walking) track for thousands of people, instead of being covered with turf. This is one of my favorite places in the world to view the sunset, and the cherry blossoms here are always a beautiful sight!
After living in D.C. for five years, I find myself more drawn to the Mall. I love the beautiful trees, arching above; the statutes; the benches lining the walk that provide a perfect vantage point for people-watching. It’s a beautiful place to pass the afternoon. The Mall was originally planned to allow wealthy New Yorkers access to Bethesda Terrace via their carriages, but has changed over the years to be a gathering place for everyone, the way the Park should be.
Bethesda Terrace consists of the Terrace, the Terrace Arcade, and Bethesda Fountain, and was designed as the “heart of the park” by Olmsted and Vaux. The Bethesda Terrace Arcade has a beautiful ceiling of Minton tiles–the only such ceiling in the world!–and reopened in the mid-2000s after a long cleaning and restoration. The statue in Bethesda Fountain, the Angel of the Waters, was designed by Emma Stebbins, who was the first woman to receive a major art commission from the City of New York. The statue was the only statue to be originally commissioned as part of the Park’s design. I have always loved this special place in the Park, and truly do find it to be the center of the Park and the life there.
What are your favorite places in Central Park?