People, people, and more people. If you ever visit New York City, one thing you will notice are the millions of people walking about. And if you’re from a smaller city like I am, you will notice it even more.
But whether you like being around people or not, there is always something charmingly convivial about this city, and visiting places like the notable Central Park and its surrounding art attractions is part of that.
The 156-year-old rectangular park sits in the centre of Manhattan, covering some 840 acres. There are benches throughout the park, offering pedestrians a place to rest and people-watch—a fun activity any time of the year.
I recommend that if it’s your first time visiting the park, go with someone, unless you’re a lone wolf and like travelling by yourself. And of course, go during the daytime because it is safer to do your exploring in broad daylight!
Green Space for Everyone
Taking time out from the urban hustle and bustle to re-connect with natural settings is important for many New Yorkers. As a visitor, your best bet is to consult a map to help you discover the many statues, bridges, gardens, and fountains hidden within the expansive park.
Walking in the park can be a different experience depending on the season. In winter, a fresh snowfall can create a winter wonderland. In spring, colourful flowers take centre stage. And in autumn, the crimson leaves are a sight to behold.
One special place to pause for a moment of quiet contemplation is the Strawberry Fields memorial dedicated to former Beatle John Lennon. This space, which features the word “imagine” within a mosaic, was built by Lennon’s wife Yoko Ono with the help of a landscape architect. Flower bouquets are often left here in honour of the peace activist and musician.
Of interest to children is the Central Park Zoo, which cares for over 130 species of animals. Children can touch the animals in the petting zoo and watch them during feeding times.
Getting There and Around
Just like any place away from home, there is the temptation to spend your money, and that is particularly the case when sightseeing in New York.
However, for those on a budget, it can cost as little as $2.50 on transit fare to get to Central Park or wherever else you’d like to go to in Manhattan.
Riding the Metro is usually the fastest and most economical transport choice in the city. On the other hand, if you have deep pockets you can always hail a taxi.
Upon arriving at the park, you can get around by pedicab at a cost of $90 for 30 minutes and double that for an hour. Park visitors also have the much cheaper option of renting a bike. Rental comes with a helmet, basket, lock, and map and costs $15 for one hour, $20 for two, and $25 for three. The all-day rate is $40.
For more information on personal transit options around the park, see www.centralpark.com/guide/tours.html
Eat and Drink, NY-style
Food and drink options abound in the area. Starbucks has locations across the street from the park on either Columbus Ave. or W 57th Street.
Or for something a little different, once inside the park there are lots of locally owned venues, which range from medium-priced cafés to expensive upscale restaurants.
One of my favourites is a dainty West Coast vibe-style café called Le Pain Quotidien, which translates as “the daily bread.” They serve everything from drinks to freshly baked bread, salads, soups, and fruit tarts. For more stylish wining and dining, the Loeb Boathouse Central Park is the place to go.
Make sure to set aside at least a few days to explore the many park attractions and nearby art museums on 5th Avenue. If you only have one day, a good choice is the Metropolitan Museum of Art. For the first time in 42 years, it is now open to visitors 7 days a week.
Before going, it’s a good idea to visit the museum’s website www.metmuseum.org to get the most out of its amazing art collections.
Central Park is in a friendly and lively area of the city, so don’t be shy to ask for help if you suddenly find yourself lost. Every tourist gets lost in NYC, but as a local friend said, it’s part of the NYC experience—even the locals get lost once in a while.