Central Park is one of the top places to visit on any trip to New York City. It is a large park, measuring over 800 acres, and it can be a daunting task to try and figure out what to see first. While taking a picnic lunch or a nap on any spot of green you can find and doing some people watching is a fine way to spend an afternoon there, several spots are well known, and you will want to see them too. Here are five things you will not want to miss on your next visit to Central Park.
- Wollman’s Rink and surrounding area
In the winter this is the iconic skating rink you have seen in movies, where one can skate around on the ice with a picturesque backdrop of Central Park greenery and the Manhattan skyline. In the summer it becomes a playground for children, with carnival rides, other amusements, and snack food carts. Located at the south of the park, the surrounding area offers plenty to explore. Nearby locate The Diary, which is the park’s official visitor’s center, to get a free map of the park. To the south of the rink there is a long walkway winding along The Pond, with beautiful views of Gapstone Bridge. There are benches to park yourself on if you need a break to take it all in.
2. Sheep’s Meadow
A little to the westside and farther north you will come across Sheep’s Meadow, a large fenced off area of green which on any sunny day will be dotted with New Yorkers stretched out on blankets enjoying the good weather. This is the location of the scene in the movie “Wall Street,” where Michael Douglas has a fight with Charlie Sheen, who is secretly recording him. The area is called Sheep’s Meadow because in the old days when this area of New York City had yet to be developed, it actually was a grazing pasture for sheep. The sheep were kept in the nearby building which is now the famous Tavern on the Green restaurant. There are more modest food options nearby, such as Le Pain Quotidien. You are also not far from the southwest entrance to the park and Columbus Circle. One of the local secrets is to grab a boxed lunch to go from the Whole Foods market in Columbus Circle and take it to Sheep’s Meadow for an impromptu picnic on a nice day.
3. Strawberry Fields
This area is dedicated to the loving memory of John Lennon of the Beatles, who died unexpectedly outside his apartment nearby on the westside of Manhattan. One of the most visited spots in the park, it is nice walk and time to reflect. After your visit you can exit the park here for lunch at any number of restaurants located on the westside, and then reenter the park if you like.
4. Bow Bridge
If you’ve seen a movie showing a bridge in Central Park, that bridge will most likely have been Bow Bridge. This beautiful cream-colored bridge arches gracefully over The Lake, dotted with people gliding by in rowboats. You will want to take pictures as you approach it from Strawberry Fields. Crossing the bridge will take you to a lovely walk through The Ramble or work your way back to The Bethesda Terrace and Fountain.
5. The Reservoir
It is worth making the trek up to East 85th street to the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, or simply “the reservoir”. This is the jogging path you have seen in countless movie scenes, like “The Devil’s Advocate” or the classic “Marathon Man.” On your way here you will pass The Obelisk, which was brought over here from Egypt, and you can also exit to the east of the park to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art if you like. Once at the reservoir, the walk around it is almost a two mile walk and is also a good spot to take pictures. The best time to come here is in late April or early May when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom, but it is gorgeous any time of year.
A visit to Central Park provides a stark contrast to the concrete jungle of the rest of the city, and for centuries has been an oasis for locals and visitors alike. These five spots will give you plenty of enjoyment and photo opportunities on your visit. Any one of these spots promise to give you a pleasant morning or afternoon and are sure to make your visit to New York City a memorable one.