Central Park  is a large park in New York City, forming a vast green swathe of open space in Uptown Manhattan and a district in its own right, neatly separating the Upper East Side from the Upper West Side, whilst lying south of Harlem. It covers 843 acres (1 E6 m² or 3.4 km²), in the shape of a rectangle 2.5 miles by one-half mile (4 km × 800 m) in the central part of Manhattan Island and represents a convenient oasis for New Yorkers escaping from their skyscrapers. Central Park is well-known globally after its appearance in many movies and television shows, making it one of the most famous city parks in the world.
Central Park is bordered on the north by Central Park N (110th St), on the east by Fifth Ave, on the south by Columbus Cir and Central Park S (59th St), and on the west by Central Park W (Eighth Ave, or Frederick Douglass Blvd north of Central Park).
Southwest corner of Central Park, looking east, NYC
In the 1850s, realizing the need for a large public green space for New Yorkers to get away from the chaos and noise of the city, the New York legislature set aside a vast swath of land in Upper Manhattan. Landscape designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux developed the winning design for the park, influenced by naturalistic landscapes which were popular in park design at the time. Any architectural features and roads were to be visually integrated into the surrounding landscape, to maintain the "rustic" feel of the park. The park was officially completed in 1873, with more than 500,000 cubic feet of topsoil brought in from New Jersey and millions of trees, shrubs, and other plants laying the foundation of the park.
Through the early 20th century the park fell into a decline due to a lack of maintenance, with dead trees, worn-out lawns, and much litter and vandalism. The park received a major boost in the 1930s, when these issues were finally addressed, but the park once again fell into a decline in the late 20th century, becoming increasingly run-down and crime-ridden through the 1960s and 70s. In 1980, the Central Park Conservancy was founded under contract from the city to restore and maintain the park. Today, the violent night crimes of previous decades are all but gone, and common sense is all you really need to stay safe in the park today.
Central Park exists because some wealthy and powerful people, living in New York in the mid-1800s, wanted a place where they could stroll, ride their carriages and enjoy the country without actually having to leave the city.
So, in 1853, New York City was authorized to purchase more than 700 acres of land between 59th and 106th streets and 5th and 8th avenues. The land featured swamps, uneven terrain, and the occasional rocky outcrop. Before beginning construction, the city had to evict over 1,600 impoverished residents living in shanties and eking out a living on those same acres. Not long after, the park evicted the residents (and took possession) of Seneca Village, one of the most prominent African-American settlements in New York.
Having finally removed the pesky human inhabitants from the future park’s site, the city turned its attention (ironically) to creating an urban oasis that would be open to all and sundry. In 1857, a landscape design competition was launched. The winners, landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted and architect Calvert Vaux, were responsible for the design and creation of the park.
It took 20,000 workers 15 years to create Central Park. During those years, they planted over 270,000 trees and shrubs, moved three million cubic yards of soil, built paths, created elegant bridges and constructed buildings that still stand today. They also used more gunpowder than would be fired at the Battle of Gettysburg to blast away rocky ridges.
The park opened to the public in 1873. Soon, it was playing host to more than seven million visitors a year (today it receives 42 million annual visitors). Initially, these were mostly upper-class visitors. Concerts were held on Saturday, a day not available for leisure for working citizens. Tradesmen were prohibited from using their wagons to take their families on drives through the park and boys could only play ball in the meadows if they had a note from their principal.
Working-class New York soon rebelled against these stringent regulations. By the 1880’s concerts were being held on Sundays, bicycling (on the drives initially reserved for carriages) was allowed, and the famous carousel was built. The zoo, the park’s most popular attraction, was given a permanent park home.
For the next 80 years, the park continued to evolve. Drives were modified to accommodate automobiles. Playgrounds were added. New buildings such as the boathouses and the Chess & Checkers House were constructed. The Wollman Rink was opened.
In the 1960's, a lack of funds sent the park spiraling into decline. By the middle of the 1980's, it was covered with litter and graffiti. Structures were crumbling, and playgrounds were in disrepair. Once lush meadows were turning into dustbowls. Crime was rampant.
Fortunately, two private advocacy groups merged in the late 1980s to form the Central Park Conservancy. Their goal was to restore Central Park to its former glory. Thanks to the hard work of the Conservancy, and support from the City of New York, Central Park today has never looked better.
A glimpse of wilderness in the heart of Manhattan, Central Park has captured the imagination of many an author. It’s frequently used as a metaphor for introspection, escapism and the possibility for the fantastic in daily life. While there aren’t many books set in their entirety within the park, it still makes an appearance in many New York novels. There are also non-fiction books that get into the history and development of the park and New Yorkers’ relationship with it.
- ’’The Catcher in the Rye’’ by ‘’’J.D. Salinger’’’ follows the protagonist Holden Caulfield experiencing isolation and alienation as he matures. The narrative leads Holden into Central Park during winter, where he reflects next to the lake. The lake’s ducks capture Holden’s imagination, leading him to wonder where they go in the winter. These youthful musings illustrate his curiosity for the world and the cyclical nature of life. The lake itself is a symbol of where Holden is in life; transitioning between frozen and thawed as Holden transitions from childhood to adulthood.
- ’’’Edith Wharton’’’ received the Pulitzer Prize in 1921 for ‘’The Age of Innocence’’, which follows a betrothed Manhattan couple in the late 19th century, and their precarious position in New York society. It was during the period that Wharton was writing that many of the mansions lining the park on the Upper East and West side were built, and some of them still remain today. The novel is lauded for its vivid descriptions of early 20th century New York.
- ’’’Prince of Central Park’’’ by ‘’Evan H. Rhodes’’ began as a novel but was later adapted into a musical by Rhodes himself, and then into a movie by ‘’John Leekley’’. The plot follows a twelve-year-old boy whose mother dies, leaving him in the care of an abusive foster mother. He runs away to live in Central Park where he meets a cast of remarkable characters. The original novel is less well known than the movie, and the musical’s run ended after only four performances.
- ’’’Central Park: An Anthology’’’ asked New York writers to reflect on what the park means and create pieces specific to it. Along with a dozen specially-commissioned stories, there’s a handful of classics about the park. For visitors who want a better understanding of the magic of the park and New Yorkers’ relationship with it, the anthology is filled with tributes to the park and the possibilities it holds.
- The French author ‘’Guillaume Musso’’ wrote the suspense ‘’’Central Park’’’ that opens with its main protagonists on one of the park’s infamous benches. With non-stop surprises and engaging characters, the novel is a wild ride that grips readers from the start.
Central Park is accessible by subway, with the A, B, C, D, and 1 trains stopping at Columbus Cir (on the southwest corner of the park), and the B and C local trains continuing along Central Park W, with stops at 72nd St, 81st St (under the Natural History Museum on the Upper West Side), 86th St, 96th St, 103rd St, and 110 St. Somewhat further west, the 1 (local) and 2/3 (express) lines travel up Broadway, though that avenue angles further and further to the west northward from Columbus Cir. The 2/3 also stop at 110th St and Lenox Ave, near the northeast corner of the park. On the Upper East Side, the park can be accessed by taking the 4, 5, and 6 lines along Lexington Ave and walking 3 blocks west. There is also a stop on the N, Q and R lines at 5th Ave and 60th St, and a stop on the F train at 57th St and 6th Ave, both near the southern limits of the park.
The park is crossed by several bus routes that travel east-west along the transverse roads (the M106, M96, M86, M79, M72, and M66, all with subway connections), as well as the M1, M2, M3, and M4 bus routes along 5th Ave/Madison Ave, and the M10 along Central Park W.
Central Park is 843 acres of urban oasis. It measures 2.5 miles long and 0.5 miles wide. It is open year-round, regardless of the weather, and closes only five hours a day (from 1am-6am). Meandering paths take visitors through meadows, up hills, around lakes and through forests. Cars are only allowed on designated drives, and only during select hours. Central Park, therefore, is best explored via any conveyance that does not require a motor.
From gentle, paved loops to rigorous hiking trails, Central Park features paths and trails suitable for all ages and agility levels. Visitors are welcome to explore the park on their own, but numerous companies also offer self-guided and fully-guided walking tours.
Central Park offers paved and dirt roads suitable for biking. Bicyclists who aren’t able to pack a bike in their luggage can find plenty of companies happy to rent everything from standard touring bikes to those with trailers that are perfect for hauling tired tots. Most of these same companies also offer guided bike tours of the park.
Pedicab tours are perfect for people who prefer to let someone else do the pedaling. Pedicabs, also known as “bicycle rickshaws” were developed in Japan in 1870 and introduced to the United States in 1962. A pedicab is essentially a very large tricycle with a 2-seat passenger compartment (which is typically covered) and a separate seat up front for the driver who does the pedaling and steering. They are looked on as both a form of green transportation and a fun tourist attraction.
While tours vary from company to company, they typically last one to two hours and cover approximately ¼ of the park. All tours visit some of the park’s famous attractions.
Horse and Carriage Tours
Central Park has known the clip-clop of horses hooves practically since its inception.The park was originally created as a way to allow the wealthy to go for a drive in “the country” without having to actually leave the city. After suffering a decline with the advent of the automobile, horse and carriage rides reinvented themselves as a tourist attraction shortly after World War II. Today, horse-drawn carriages line Central Park South between 5th and 6th Avenues.
A host of companies offer rides of varying lengths and different routes through the park. While visitors are welcome to simply walk up to the carriages and inquire if any are available for a drive, advance reservations are recommended. Almost all companies are happy to make advance arrangements for extras such as flowers, photography stops, or a stop at a given location for a marriage proposal.
Regardless of the chosen method of exploration, a map of the park will come in handy. Visitors can pick up maps at any one of the park’s numerous visitor centers, or go to http://www.centralparknyc.org/maps/ to find links for downloading a map to a smartphone. Visitors can find jogging and biking trails as well as free self-guided walking tours.
View north from Belvedere Castle
Central Park is divided for convenience into four "quadrants". From south to north:
The South End runs from Central Park S to the Lake, just north of Terrace Dr (72nd St).
- Arsenal, 64th St and Fifth Ave. M-F 9AM-5PM. A picturesque brick building that actually predates the park. It was built in 1851 to serve as a munitions supply depot for the New York State National Guard, and was designed to look like a medieval fortress, with battlements overlooking the area. Today the building holds a refreshment stand and WPA murals depicting park activities. Free. edit
The Angel of the Waters, Bethesda Terrace
- Bethesda Terrace and Fountain, Terrace Dr (72nd St) (mid-way through the park). One of Manhattan's favorite meeting points, the centerpiece of this Terrace is the Angel of the Waters fountain, dedicated in 1873 and an enduring icon of the park (featuring recently, for example, in the production Angels in America). edit
- Billy Johnson Playground, 5th Ave and 67th St (just N of Children's Zoo). A rustic-themed playground, with a stone bridge, a granite slide, a gazebo, a water feature, and playground equipment constructed of white cedar. edit
- Central Park Zoo, 5th Ave and 64th St, ☎ +1-212-439-6500, . Nov-Mar 10AM-4:30PM daily, Apr-Oct M-F 10AM-5PM, Sa Su, holidays 10AM-5:30PM. Small and gem-like, New York's "oldest, newest zoo" opened in its current guise as recently as 1988, although animals in various zoo incarnations have resided here since the 1860s. This zoo is fairly small and doesn't have as many large animals as you might expect, but this zoo does include sea lions, penguins, polar bears, monkeys, red pandas, and exotic birds in pleasant exhibits. Next door is a children's zoo, covered in the cost of admission, which has a barnyard animals you can pet, a duck pond, and lots of play areas for kids. $10, $7 seniors, $5 children, children under 3 free. edit
- Dairy, 65th St, ☎ +1-212-794-6564. 10AM-5PM daily. Built in the 1870s as an actual dairy farm, with a structure designed to resemble a country church. Today it is a visitor center and gift shop for the park, housed in a beautiful structure. Next door is the Chess & Checkers House, another visitor center and the volunteer headquarters, with a number of chess and checkers tables under a shady pergola. edit
- Friedsman Carousel, 65th St, ☎ +1-212-879-0244. Apr-Oct M-F 10AM-6PM, Sa Su 10AM-7PM, Nov-Dec 10AM-dusk daily, Jan-Mar Sa Su/holidays only 10AM-dusk. A vintage carousel built in 1908 and situated on this spot since the 1950s (it's the fourth carousel to inhabit this location). $2. edit
- Grand Army Plaza, Fifth Ave (btwn 58th and 60th Sts). A public square at the southeast corner of the park which marks one of the primary entrances to Central Park. The square is named for the Union Army of the Civil War and sports a gilded bronze statue of Union General William Sherman and the Pulitzer Fountain, which is crowned with a bronze figure of Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit. Free. edit
- Heckscher Playground. Central Park's largest playground, Heckscher is unique among Central Park's playgrounds in that it is not on the boundaries of the park. The playground has a range of play equipment, including a large water feature. edit
- The Pond, Central Park S (btwn Fifth and Sixth Aves). Near Grand Army Plaza, the Pond offers a tranquil setting just within the boundaries of the park. A rustic wood structure, "Cop Cot," overlooks the pond from an outcrop near the Sixth Avenue entrance. edit
- Rumsey Playfield. Site of the free SummerStage  shows. edit
- Sheep Meadow, west side of the park (btwn 66th and 69th Sts). A spacious green lawn that was originally home to a herd of sheep, which grazed in the meadow and tended to in their nearby pen - a Victorian style building which today is the Tavern on the Green restaurant (see Eat below). edit
Imagine Mosaic - Strawberry Fields
- Strawberry Fields, Central Park W at 72nd St. So named in 1981 in memory of John Lennon, the former Beatle, who was murdered close by outside his home in the Dakota building. Lennon's widow Yoko Ono, who still lives in the Dakota, subsequently donated $1 million to upgrade the area with hundreds of tree and flower species, including strawberries. The area serves as a Garden of Peace and includes a memorial floor mosaic (donated by the Italian city of Naples) that says simply "Imagine", referring to the title of one of Lennon's evocative songs. edit
The Great Lawn area runs from the Lake to the 86th St Transverse Rd.
- Ancient Playground, Fifth Ave and 85th St. Inspired by the nearby Egyptian Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, this playground contains several pyramid-like play structures. edit
- Belvedere Castle, 79th St, ☎ +1-212-772-0210. Tu-Su 10AM-5PM. Sitting on Vista Rock, one of the highest points in the park, the castle provides excellent views of Central Park, particularly to the north. It is a popular spot for photography and contains a visitor center and a nature conservatory. Just below the castle to the north is Turtle Pond, a small, swamp-like pond holding various fish, frogs, insects, and birds. Free. edit
- Conservatory Pond, east side of the park (btwn 72nd and 75th Sts). Most well known as the Model Boat Pond, visitors can often see a racing regatta between members of the Model Yacht Club, or rent a model boat from a boathouse and cafe on the pond. Just to the north of the pond is the Alice in Wonderland sculpture depicting the Tea Party scene, and on the west side of the pond is the Hans Christian Andersen sculpture, which shows the writer seated on a bench reading a book to his Ugly Ducking character. edit
- Great Lawn. At the center of Central Park, the Great Lawn is a large clearing with lawns and ballfields, perfect for ballgames, sunbathing, and picnicking. Just to the east of the Lawn is the Obelisk, a 71-foot tall structure which is the oldest man-made object in the park, having been erected in Heliopolis, Egypt, around 1500 BC edit
- The Lake. The lake is a fine setting for a serene afternoon in the park. Rental boats are available from the Loeb Boathouse (on the eastern side of the lake) for a ride on the water. The Bow Bridge, a Central Park landmark, spans the middle of the lake. Free; boats are available for rental, $12/hr. edit
- Pat Hoffman Friedman Playground, 5th Ave and 79th St. A small toddler playground with some beautifully fashioned gates adorned with sculptures of animals. In front of the gates stands Paul Manship's Group of Bears sculpture. edit
- The Ramble, 79th St (enter either from the Loeb Boat House to the south or from Belvedere Castle to the north). A sort of mini forest, described by its designer as a "wild garden," the Ramble is sculpted out of a wooded hillside, with winding paths, rocky outcrops, secluded glades, and a tumbling stream. The Ramble is also an excellent place to bird watch, with over 250 species of birds that stop here on their migration. edit
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Greek and Roman statuary at the Metropolitan
1000 Fifth Ave (at 82nd St), ☎ +1-212-535-7710, . Tu–Th 9:30AM–5:30PM, F Sa 9:30AM–9PM, Su 9:30AM–5:30PM, closed M. Pay what you wish; includes same-day admission to the Cloisters Museum & Gardens in Upper Manhattan (suggested admission $25, $17 seniors, $12 students, children under 12 free).
One of the world's largest and most important museums of art and world culture, you'll have to devote several hours; nay, an entire day (if not more!), if you want to do this place justice. This massive gothic-style building, originally opened in 1872 and with numerous expansions added on over time, holds literally hundreds of rooms on its two floors, containing thousands of art pieces from across human history and around the world, covering virtually every field of art in existence. Along with the numerous permanent exhibit halls mentioned below are several changing exhibit halls.
The first floor holds the American Wing, with period rooms and decorative arts from the 19th and early 20th centuries; the Arms and Armor hall, with suits of armor, swords, guns, and other arms from around the world; Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas; Egyptian Art, regarded as the finest collection of Egyptian works outside of Cairo, which features the Roman Period Temple of Dendur; European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, with numerous period rooms and Renaissance sculpture; Greek and Roman Art, with numerous examples of classical sculpture, vases, and bronzes; Medieval Art, featuring a cathedral-like room with numerous Romanesque pieces; and Modern and Contemporary Art, showcasing the works of some of the most famous artists of modern times, such as Balthus, Boccioni, Bonnard, Matisse, and Picasso.
The second floor holds a continuation of the American Wing; Ancient Near Eastern Art, showcasing some monumental Assyrian reliefs and statues; Chinese Art, which holds some exceptional Buddhist sculpture, jades, calligraphy, and period rooms; Cypriot Art, with ancient art from Cyprus; European Paintings and Sculptures, with masterworks from Cezanne, Monet, Renoir, Rodin, Van Gogh, and numerous old masters, including five paintings by Johannes Vermeer, the largest collection of Vermeers in any museum in the world; an extremely comprehensive Islamic Art collection, Japanese Art, with numerous prints and textiles; Korean Art, a continuation of the Modern and Contemporary Art halls; and South Asian Art, with works from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Tibet, and Southeast Asia.
The Reservoir area spans the area of the park from the 86th St Transverse Rd to the 97th St Transverse Rd.
- The Reservoir. Constructed between 1858 and 1862, the Reservoir is a vast urban lake that covers 106 acres of Central Park and is the largest body of water within Manhattan. Renamed the "Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir" in 1994, the Reservoir is probably best known for the 1.58-mi track that runs around its edge and which is a favorite for joggers, who can both run and enjoy the spectacular views of the city skyline. edit
- Safari Playground, Central Park W at 91st St. A jungle themed playground with hippopotamus statues, a "canoe" play structure, and treehouses. edit
- Wild West Playground, Central Park W at 93rd St. A western-themed playground with a wooded fortress-like setting, canals, sandboxes, and water sprays. edit
The North End spans the area of the park from the 97th St Transverse Rd to Central Park N.
- Charles A. Dana Discovery Center, 110th Street (btwn Fifth and Lenox Aves), ☎ +1-212-860-1370. Tu-Su 10AM-5PM. On the north shore of the Harlem Meer, the Discovery Center holds education and community programs and seasonal exhibits, as well as offering a popular place for catch-and-release fishing. edit
- Conservatory Garden, 5th Ave (btwn 104th and 106th Sts). 8AM-dusk. A six-acre garden which is Central Park's only formal garden, representing Italian, French, and English landscape styles, with formal plantings and numerous sculptures. Free. edit
- Great Hill, west side of the park (btwn 103rd and 107th Sts). One of the highest points in the park, the Great Hill is a hilltop meadow surrounded by stately elm trees and serves as an excellent place to picnic. edit
- Harlem Meer, east side of the park (btwn 106th and 110th Sts). This 11 acre lake is one of Central Park's finest spots; surrounded by flowering trees and inhabited by several fish and turtle species. edit
- The Pool, west side of the park (btwn 100th to 103rd Sts). One of the most idyllic and tranquil landscapes in Central Park, the Pool is an excellent spot for quiet contemplation, with its grassy banks and nearby waterfalls. A stream, The Loch flows northeast from the Pool, through a stream valley called The Ravine. A trail that follows the Loch, winding under a canopy of tall trees as the stream goes over several waterfalls and passes under a couple of stone arches. edit
Central Park is popular with walkers and joggers
Being the only large green space in such a densely populated area, Central Park is an extremely popular place for outdoor recreation. It's also a very pretty place to get outdoors, and you'll join numerous other New Yorkers as you explore the greenery of the park and take in views of the surrounding cityscape.
- Bicycling and roller skating. The Park Drives, which circle the entire park, are the best place to bicycle or do in-line or roller skating, with a dedicated lane for their use. Skaters can also use any of the paved trails running through the park, but bicyclists are prohibited on all pedestrian pathways. Bicycle rentals are available from the parking lot of the Loeb Boathouse, the parking lot at Tavern on the Green and at Columbus Circle. Authorized vendors will have physical locations in the park and utilize credit card machines and offer helmets with the rental, whereas illegal vendors will walk customers off park property for their bikes or will have bikes chained to street furniture surrounding the park. edit
- Horseback Riding, ☎ +1-914-633-0303. The Riverdale Equestrian Centre  in nearby Riverdale, New York offers guided horseback rides through Central Park, but you must already be at an advanced riding level. edit
- Sports. A wide variety of sports facilities are available for use in Central Park. A large Tennis Center near West Drive between 94th St and 96th St has multiple tennis courts. Both the Great Lawn and North Meadow have basketball courts, baseball/softball and soccer fields, with additional baseball fields at the Heckscher Ballfields, at 63rd St between the west and center drives. The North Meadow also has fields for touch and flag football and handball courts. Lawn bowling and croquet can be played just north of the Sheep Meadow. Volleyball courts are located at Sheep Meadow and the Great Lawn. Note that permits are required for all these facilities except those for basketball, handball, and volleyball. edit
- Water recreation. Catch-and-release fishing is available at the Harlem Meer, and a shop with bait and poles is located at the north end of the Meer. Swimming is offered at the outdoor Lasker Pool at the north end of the park; admission is free, but you are restricted to bringing only a towel, shoes, book, and water bottle and must bring a lock; no bags allowed. Boating is available in two kinds: row boating at The Lake (boats can be rented from the Loeb Boathouse for $12 for half an hour and $6 for an additional 15 min and model sail boating at the Conservatory Pond. edit
- Winter sports. Ice skating is offered in the wintertime at two places in Central Park: the popular outdoor Woolman Rink  near the middle of the park (which is turned into the Victorian Gardens Amusement Park  in the summer), and the Lasker Pool, which is turned into an outdoor rink when the water freezes. Cross-country skiing is also a popular activity in Central Park and can be done in any meadow, although only when there's at least six inches of snow on the ground. edit
- Horse-Drawn Carriage Rides, the carriages depart from a line-up along Central Park S (59th St) (between 5th and 6th Aves, opposite the Plaza Hotel), ☎ +1-212-246-0529. Available year-round (except in extreme weather), a horse-drawn carriage ride is one of the most popular (and some say romantic) ways to see Central Park. $50 for the first 20 mins and $20 for each additional 15 min. edit
- Delacorte Theater. Home to the Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival in the summer. edit
Shopping is central to New York culture, and a visit to Central Park still affords tourists an opportunity to browse and shop distinctly New York products. Vendors and seasonal markets set up shop in ‘’’Columbus Circle’’’, including a winter holiday market that has artisanal products and great food stands for noshing while shopping. Throughout the park are food and souvenir vendors, as well as artists selling their goods. There are a few notable shops that visitors will want to check out during their visit to the park.
- Dairy Visitor Center & Gift Shop, Mid-Park between 64th and 65th Street, . 10:00am-5:00pm Daily Except for Major Holidays. The Dairy is the original visitor center, and now one of the five centers throughout the park. It's a good first stop for first-time park visitors, with maps and notable landmark information. Visitors can snag pamphlets with historic and cultural information, plus souvenirs and mementos from their visit. Much of the original building fell into disrepair during the late 20th century, but later, New York administration rebuilt the original structure from historic photographs. Gifts include postcards, posters, ornaments, jewelry and apparel. edit
- Strand Central Park Kiosk (Strand Kiosk), 60th Street and 5th Avenue, . April-December 10AM to Dusk. Strand Bookstore has 18 miles of new and used books in Union Square. On the southeast corner of the park, they offer an invaluable service for Central Park frequenters who find themselves without a book. A pop-up kiosk in the summer hours offers a wide selection of used paperback books. The kiosk accepts credit cards too, so readers aren’t left stranded even if they don’t have cash. edit
- Metropolitan Museum of Art Store, Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street, ☎ 212-570-3894, . Sun-Thurs: 10:00am-5:15am Fri, Sat: 10:00am-8:45pm. The Store in the Metropolitan Museum of Art is filled with carefully curated products that support and maintain the mission of the Museum. The proceeds from sales go directly to enriching the Museum’s programs and collection. Art reproductions, jewelry, apparel, accessories and products for kids all stock the picturesque store attached to the historic museum. Central Park visitors who don’t have time for a full museum visit can snag postcards and souvenirs and gifts from the store. edit
Manhattan is a Mecca of food offerings. From world-famous pizza to exotic offerings, the city offers culinary delights to satisfy everyone. While many travelers are aware that the city is a haven for food-lovers everywhere, what they may not know is that the famous urban oasis, Central Park, has its own unique set of tempting eats.
There is little that's as quintessentially New York as its hot dog and pretzel vendors. Approximately 40 pushcart vendors, each one selling these iconic eats, can be found scattered throughout the park throughout the year (weather permitting). In addition to hotdogs and pretzels, these vendors typically offer water, soda and occasionally extras such as chips or ice cream. Pushcart vendors are highly regulated by the city. They must purchase a license (costing upwards of $250,000 a year for a prime spot in Central Park) and the amount they can charge customers is controlled by the city.
Concession Stands and Cafes
For those looking for something a little heartier than a hot dog, there are numerous cafes and concession stands. Here is a sampling of some of the places offering slightly more filling fare:
- Kerbs Boathouse Cafe (east side at 74th St.) offers visitors light snacks and full use of their restroom.
- Central Park Zoo (64th St. and 5th Ave.) visitors can grab a bite at Dancing Crane Cafe. This café offers everything from snacks to complete, fresh and healthy meals.
- In the winter, stop by Wollman Rink (east side between 62nd and 63rd St.). Their snack bar offers hot beverages and a variety of snacks to be enjoyed while watching the skaters.
- Those visiting Central Park anytime from March through November can hit Ballplayers House. Located mid-park at 65th St. (next to the carousel), this small brick café offers a charming spot to sit and munch down a hamburger or sandwich.
- Vegetarians, and lovers of Mediterranean street food, should head over to the Maoz Vegetarian concession stand (at the Harlem Meer, upper east side from 106th to 110th St.).
Full Service Restaurants
Central Park also has three full-service restaurants.
- Its most famous one, Tavern On the Green (west side between 66th and 67th St.), opened in 1934. Its menu features local, seasonal ingredients.
- Loeb Boathouse (east side 72nd St.) has two dining options. The Lakeside Restaurant serves lunch and weekend brunch year round, and dinner in the spring, summer and fall. The Express Café is open daily year-round, and serves traditional breakfasts, burgers, soups, chili and salads.
- Le Pain Quotidien (west side of mid-Park at 69th St.) is a European café with both indoor and outdoor seating. Its offerings consist primarily of organic, healthy meals and treats.
Central Park has unbeatable views, and a couple of bars in the park let visitors enjoy nature with a drink in hand. While there are only two places actually inside the park that offer drinking, summer park festivals, like the New York Philharmonic Orchestra's Concerts in the Parks sometimes offer alcoholic refreshments. There are also a number of bars and hotel lounges surrounding the park that feature views of the park and the Manhattan skyline. The restaurants within the park have predominantly daytime hours, and reservations are highly recommended. Bars in the surrounding neighborhood have traditional late-night hours for a drink after exploring the park.
- The Boathouse is the established launching point for rowboats to explore the lake, and has been for 150 years. It’s current form, as one of the most romantic places for drinks and a meal in New York, was established back in 1954. Guests must get food if they’re at an indoor table, but the outside bar is right on the lake and a great place to escape the city hustle and bustle with a drink. Bar offerings include creative craft cocktails, and an extensive scotch list in addition to the expected. Of course, there are still rowboats for rent for the adventurous who want to explore the lake.
- The outdoor Cafe and Bar is open May-October, as long as weather permits. Museum visitors access the bar by taking the elevator in the European Sculptural and Decorative Arts Gallery up to the 5th floor. The Cafe is self-service and offers light fare along with craft cocktails amidst breathtaking panoramic views of Central Park and Manhattan. It can get crowded on Friday and Saturday evenings and doesn't offer reservations.
- On the 35th floor of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, the Lobby Cocktail Lounge provides stunning views of Central Park. The Lounge focuses on a cozy atmosphere, and visitors can expect to encounter both fellow travelers and bar regulars. The menu is mostly light Pan-Asian bites with an afternoon tea service for daytime guests and late night desserts.
It is illegal to sleep overnight in Central Park. A great variety of accommodations, from hostels and budget hotels to really ritzy places, are located in the adjacent districts of Midtown and the Theater District to the south and the Upper West Side to the west.
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