Central Park is located in the city of New York, in the epicenter of Manhattan Island. It’s one of the city’s most attended places and it has a worldwide reputation.

The history

In the beginning of the 19th century, the city was growing at a quick pace, given the fast construction of a vast number of buildings. Likewise, some influent individuals in society, who had a great admiration for the public areas of London or Paris, lobbied to grant their city with a park as well. A green area that would allow New York’s inhabitants to leave the cafes, fostering them to walk or to take the carriage during their leisure time.

This was followed by a 3-year debating period, during which the idea of creating a huge green area was discussed, one that would allow New Yorkers to find some peace of mind. From this debate, the city of New York guaranteed a 283-hectare lot to establish the Central Park. The lot that was bought was a swampy and an uneven one, where an impoverished community was living. It comprised a population of displaced people, a total of 1600 Irish and German residents.

The public tender to choose a project for the creation of a park in the acquired lot was held in 1857.

Among the presented projects, the one outlined by architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux was the chosen one. The latter, a young architect from London, was the one who suggested Frederick to enter the contest. A couple of years later, they were also held accountable to conceive Brooklyn’s Prospect Park.

In the winter of 1858, Central Park opened to the public, having grown in size until 1873, reaching a 341-hectare area. It was the 1st large public park in the USA.

 

What to see

Central Park is enormous and it comprises several attractions that one can get to know. Among them, these are my highlights:

 Central Park Zoo

It was built in 1984 and it was used as a setting for the animated film Madagascar!

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis enjoyed the route around the reservoir. Oddly enough, she was last seen in public was when she was taking a walk in the park. In 1994, the city of New York held a tribute to her, giving her name to the reservoir.

Great Lawn

This enormous 22-hectar grass patch is Central Park’s geographic center. A reservoir was located here, one that the architects responsible for the Central Park project wanted to cover with plants. It was deactivated in 1931 and the architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux decided to lay a vast turf.

Strawberry Fields

It’s a spot that works as a tribute to John Lennon, a musician, songwriter and pacifist. Its name was inspired by one of the songs that the former Beatle wrote. It’s Strawberry Fields Forever.

The memorial was built on the day that he would turn 45, on October 9, 1985. It’s located precisely in front of the building where he lived his last years and the place where he was murdered.

In the memorial’s central section there is a mosaic with the word “Imagine”, Lennon’s most famous song.

Belvedere Castle

It’s a small-sized castle built in the Victorian style, erected at Central Park’s highest point, being surrounded by a pond packed with turtles. It’s the Turtle Pond. From the castle, we can have a wonderful panoramic view over the Great Lawn.

The name Belvedere in Italian means “great view”. It was built in 1869 and currently works as a weather station.

Sheep Meadow

This 6-hectare meadow is the best example of the vision outlined by the architects who designed Central Park. Their aim was to establish wide green areas that would inspire peaceful thoughts.

It’s a great place to picnic and relax, while playing any kind of sports is prohibited.

Its name is due to the fact that, at the beginning of the 20th century, a herd of sheep was always moving around the area.

Shakespeare Garden

In this garden, we can find flowers and plants mentioned in Shakespeare’s poems and plays. There are plates with quotes from the author, in which we can find the mentioned flower or plant.

This place was created in 1913 by the park’s entomologist, who was a devoted reader of the renowned writer. The place adopted Shakespeare’s name in the year that marked the 300th anniversary of his death.

Bethesda Terrace and fountain

The terrace was one of the first structures built in the park. Its top provides a gorgeous view of the pond, from which one can see the Ramble forest and the famous sculpture Angel of Waters.

The sculpture was conceived by Emma Stebbins in 1868.

Still on the terrace, its magnificent stairwell must be stressed, as well as the passage full of ornate arches, which flaunt more than 15 thousand ceramic tiles.

Those who come from the mountain and pass through the arched area will flow into the great public promenade. The Mall. That’s where one can find several sculptures.

Loeb Boathouse

It’s a building located on the shore of a pond, where one can have dinner or rent rowboats or perfect replicas of Venetian gondolas.

It started as a mere supporting harbor to boat rentals. The architects who outlined Central Park were the ones who had the idea to build a covered space that would work as a supporting point to the activity developed at the pond.

It was only in 1954 that the building opened as a restaurant and cafeteria, which is its current incarnation.

Naumburg Bandshell

This place once had a bandstand where classical music concerts were held. Pop music was later allowed as well.

In 1923, New York’s banker Elkan Naumburg financed the project to create a new venue for concerts.

It’s Central Park’s only neo-classical building.

Blockhouse

This is Central Park’s oldest building. It’s a small fortress that was part of a set of fortifications that worked to protect Manhattan.

The Obelisk

This granite monument is known as Cleopatra’s Needle and is the oldest open-air monument of New York City.

It was an offer of the Egyptian Khedive, in exchange for funds to modernize his own nation.

From its arrival in New York to its inception in Central Park 112 days passed. It’s not easy to carry 220 tons…

Carousel

This carousel is already the 4th in Central Park. The last 2 were destroyed in a fire. The current one was built in 1908 and it was found abandoned at a terminal in Coney Island. It has a 57-horsepower and it’s one the biggest carousels in the US and one of the primary examples of folk art.

In addition to all these attractions, there are several ponds and trails where one can run, ride a bicycle or take a carriage.

It’s a place full of life, where one can notice how a real New York carries his daily life. When I was in Manhattan, I visited Central Park numerous times, one of them in a Sunday. I recommend doing it.

In the remaining days there are lots of activities going on, but it was even more interesting on the day that, for many, is one of pure leisure. There are the typical American football street games, picnics, families sunbathing and playing on those wide lawns.

As I’ve already mentioned in another article on New York, it’s like living in a movie. It couldn’t have been a better experience.

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