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New York's Central Park

Central Park in New York City is one of the most famous public parks in the United States. It was the first landscaped public park in the United States. Imagine vast land, full of rocks, swamps and undesirable visuals. That's exactly what Central Park was until 1858. For years, many of the upper-class residents of New York City complained about the unsightly mess that could be seen above 38th Street. Finally, they began to rally for the land to be developed into a park. By 1857, city officials raised about $5 million dollars just for the project. That same year, they sponsored a contest for the best park plan. In 1858, the winning design, "Greensward Plan" which was created by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, was chosen. Within the plan they incorporated artery roads that helped the flow of crosstown traffic. If you catch a cab in the vicinity of the park and ask to get from the west to the east side, don't be surprised if you find yourself being driven through the park down narrow-lane streets.
Currently the park is measured at 843 acres and can be found between 5th and 8th avenues and 59th and 110th street. There are many things to see and do while you visit the park. Here are several that should not be missed.

Statues

There are several statues that can be found throughout the park that have been known to attract the New York City visitor. Some of the most famous are Alice in Wonderland, Hans Christian Anderson, Civil War Memorial, Romeo and Juliet, Balto and Still Hunt. Still Hunt is definitely the most surprising for our visitors. Most people claim that they can't find it at halfway up East Drive at 76th Street, but if you just look up, you'll get quite a scare. The statue is of a crouching panther that looks as though it's about to pounce on the next runner that passes by.

Places to Visit While in The Park

The Dairy:
o This is the best place to go to find visitor information and learn more about the history and design of the park
o 19th Century style building overlooking Wollman Rink (during the winter it is the best place in the city to go ice skating)

Charles A. Dana Discovery Center
o The environmental educational center that sponsors workshops, musical performances, and park tours. This is the spot where most class and family trips stop first.
o The center loans fishing poles for fishing in the Harlem Meer (please… catch them and then release them!)

The Conservatory Garden
o 6 acres of sprawling floral beauty
o North or French Garden features a circle of tiered flower beds. Here is where you will find the Untermyer Fountain (a fountain that features dancing nymphs in the center)
o South or English Garden features a reflecting pool filled with water lilies and goldfish. In the sent is the Burnett Fountain, a fountain dedicated to Francis Hodgson Burnett, the author of The Secret Garden. The fountain features the two main characters of the book, Mary and Dickon.

The Shakespeare Garden
o This area is exactly what it sounds like. It is a garden centered around Shakespeare.
o This is the area where you will find statues of Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest, and quotes from different works of the famous Bard.
o Right around the corner is the Delacorte Theater, where the famous Shakespeare in the Park performances are held. Two free tickets are given per person for each performance.
o The garden also leads up to the Belvedere Castle. This 1865 castle sits on Vista Rock and is currently a U.S. Weather Service Station.

Bethesda Terrace
o This is the part of the park that is considered the heart of the park found around 72nd Street
o Here people can find beautiful views overlooking the man-made lake and wooded shores
o Here is also where you will find the Bethesda Fountain, a fountain that features the Angel of Waters statue in the center.

Strawberry Fields
o If you are a John Lennon fan, this is the place to visit. This is the memorial spot created in his memory. Not a place to skip.

Central Park for Kids

The Carousel
o Opened in 1871, this carousel was first powered by a mule and a horse. Don't worry, everything is electrical now.
o Features the largest hand-carved jumping horses in the United States
o Each ride is $0.90

Marionette Theatre
o Originally, this theatre was a Swedish 19th Century schoolhouse
o It was placed in the park in 1876 and has offered a variety of marionette (puppet) shows daily.

Central Park Zoo and Wildlife Center
o The current zoo opened on August 8, 1988
o This 5.5 acre zoo holds approximately 24 species of animals, both endangered and threatened species. i.e. the Red Panda
o The center features a Wildlife Theatre Stage (during the summer), Wildlife stories for kids daily, animal feeding presentations, and several school and family programs

Where can I stay if I want to be close to the Park?

There are several places that you can stay that would keep you and your family close to this legendary park in the city. There are even some hotels that most people don't even know about that are considered economy styled hotels but they are comfortable as well as convenient. For example, the Clarion Hotel at 429 Park Ave South. The hotel is a little bit of a walk but it's conveniently centered by other famous New York City landmarks like the Empire State Building. Another example is the Howard Johnson at 851 8th Avenue. This hotel is found a little less than a mile from the Central Park Zoo. It is also very close by to the Gershwin Theater where you can go catch a matinee or evening performance of Wicked. Afterwards, you can head on over to Ray's Pizza on 8th avenue, where you can grab a slice of heaven in the city. Click on the link to book a hotel in the vicinity of Central Park.

What else can I do in the vicinity of the park?

The park is very close to many area attractions in the city. The park is basically the center of the city. It is conveniently near many Broadway shows. If you're more into having a bunch of laughs, head on over to Dangerfield's, a comedy club located at 1118 1st avenue. If you are interested in a little bit of art, culture, or history, head on over to the west side to the American Museum of Natural History or over to the east side to Museum Mile where you can find museums such as El Museo Del Barrio, the Guggenheim, or the Museum of the City of New York. Or you can head on over to Lincoln Center for an afternoon or evening performance which is just 3 blocks from the park.


If you are more of a sport's buff, you can enter in the Circle of Friends NY mini 10k, a mini-marathon beginning at west 61st street that goes through the park. This event is sponsored by the NY Runners Club (contact them for more information). If you want to involve the family more, you can head on over to Chelsea Piers at 23rd street and Hudson River. It's about 2 miles from the Central Park Zoo and you can actually spend an entire day there. Chelsea Piers is also very near to most of the hotels in the area of Central Park, like The Time Hotel on 224 W 49th Street, The Plaza on 5th avenue, Lyden Gardens at 215 E 64th street or the Howard Johnson at 851 8th avenue.


If you are just looking for a good place to eat in the area, all you have to do is pick your flavor. For those that want the romantic dinner for two, you might consider Tavern on the Green. Tavern on the Green is located at West 67th street basically in Central Park. The restaurant features luxurious meals and wonderful views of the park. This is considered the ultimate popping-the-question spot. Make it even more romantic by taking a carriage ride to the front door. Reservations are definitely suggested.
If you are looking for a casual place to eat, but want it combined with a little fun, take a short cab trip to Bubba Gumps Shrimp Company at 1501 Broadway in Times Square. You will be quizzed by waiters about the movie and possibly win a free glass of water. The restaurant is filled with the Forest Gump movie memorabilia. Also don't expect the waiters/waitresses to stop unless you follow the directions (red paddle for "Stop Forest!", and green paddle for "Go Forest!").


Advice on Visiting Central Park

Even though the park is beautiful, don't be deceived by its appearance. A few pieces of advice:
1. Go to the park during the daytime. The park is known for pickpockets and muggings.
2. Pay close attention to your children. Especially on warm days, the park is very crowded and your child can get lost in the crowd. Know where they are at all times.
3. Wear comfortable shoes. Many people have visited the park and have found that in their exploration of all of the different sites, they have become lost. Don't worry, you won't need bread crumbs to find your way back. Just be sure that you have time to explore. Also a map of the park wouldn't hurt. You can pick one up at The Dairy.
4. The best advice that I can give is to schedule your time. Know where you want to go in the park and learn about where it is. Schedule the things that you do so that you can go to all of the spots in the park that you want to go to. Also schedule in extra time just in case you get a little lost.
5. Have fun! The park is meant for beauty, relaxation, and fun.


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