Central Park is a world of its own, a world that needs to be discovered; we decided it was worth an itinerary because of its rich history and value. Central Park is the answer to the 19th century's Newyorkers desire to have some open space, some fresh air, to take their minds off the evolving megalopolis's chaotic lives. With this itinerary you will enjoy Manhattan's natural heart, for a day you wouldn't have expected in New York.
We designed this tour so that it could be easily completed by foot, but nothing forbids you from renting a bike or any other mean of transportation, as long as you enjoy the park's fresh air.
Before getting in the Park, I'd like to say a few words about a building that is not exactly inside, but whose history and connection will be revealed by following us along this itinerary: the Dakota Building. This palace is one of the most mysterious and exclusive residences of the whole Manhattan area; mainly known for having been John Lennon and Yoko Ono's home (she's still living there) until that miserable day of December 1980 when he was assassinated.
The Strawberry Fields Memorial, worthy of being one of the most visited and loved attractions of the whole Park, is dedicated to the memory of former Beatle John Lennon. It is named after the Beatles' song "Strawberry Fields Forever" written by Lennon. Designed by the landscape architect Bruce Kelly, it was inaugurated on 1985; not everybody knows that the big black & white mosaic has been produced in Naples by master artisans and donated to New York City on behalf of the very same city in Italy.
Following our itinerary we'll find our next spot nearby: Bethesda Terrace is a 5 minutes walk away from John Lennon's memorial and is one of the most captured icons of the Park, it has in fact been used for many famous movie scenes and, with our tour you will have the chance to see it firsthand.
Rightly revered as the heart of Central Park, the Bethesda Fountain is one of the most popular fountains and one of the largest of the City. In the center, you can see the Neo-Classical sculpture, the Angels Of The Water: a female brass angel above four cherubs representing Peace, Temperance, Purity, and Health. It won't be hard to find in this space many street artists, that will delight you while you take five to rest and enjoy the view; this fountain is the crossroad of the Park and, despite the continuous inflow of people, there you will have the feeling to be alone all by yourself.
While around the fountain, don't forget to walk across the Bow Bridge and to take some photo of it; that's one of the most distinctive bridges of the whole Park. Bow Bridge crosses The Lake at its narrowest point and its very often used by film and TV-show directors for amazing scenes. Once captured your moments go back to Bethesda Terrace and you'll be in the next attraction in less than five minutes, a magical spot, adored by children of all ages.
Probably the park’s most beloved sculpture, together with Balto's (that we'll see soon), Alice in Wonderland statue stands eleven feet tall in bronze, surrounded by the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter and a few of her other friends. Built-in 1959 by José de Creeft under the commission of philanthropist George Delacorte, this statue, unlike many other sculptures, allows and encourages children to climb, touch and crawl all over Alice and her friends. In fact, through the decades thousands of hands and feet have literally polished parts of the statue’s surface smooth.
Just a few hundred yards from this sculpture we'll find another statue: the one devoted to the fabulist Hans Christian Andersen; erected in 1956 to commemorate the author's 150th birthday. This large, bronze statue pictures Andersen seated upon a granite bench, reading from his book The Ugly Duckling. Sculpted by Georg John Lober, this children's sculpture is meant to be climbed on like the one we just saw. If you have the chance, you can go there for the Saturday morning storytelling, taking place during Summer from 11AM-12PM at the foot of the statue.
Now, from the statue just turn around and go towards the main lake, in no time you will reach the Loeb Boathouse, our recommended lunch stop. The primary structure was composed of a gothic style building, restored in 1950 after a huge donation from the philanthropist banker Carl Loeb. Nowadays, the Loeb Boathouse is mainly a gourmet restaurant and cafe with lake-view terraces, as well as having kept its historical function of boat renting, a must for the New York lovers, or for the tourists to explore the main lake and see the Park from a unique angle. We can assure that this attraction is worth the price, whether it is for lunch, just a coffee or a boat tour.
Time to come back to Bethesda Terrace, because from there you will have the chance to see one of the most popular locations in the Park...
A walkway leading to the beautiful Bethesda Terrace, known as the only straight line in Central Park and nicknamed the “Promenade". The Central Park Mall runs through the middle of the Park from 66th to 72nd street and is framed by a gorgeous canopy of American elm trees, making it one of the most visited and photographed sections of the park. At the south end of the Mall is located the Literary Walk, which features four statues of renowned writers.
On the right side of the Mall, it won't be hard to notice the 15-acres open field; that's the Sheep Meadow. Open from May to mid-October, often admits up to 30,000 people per day during the summer months. This broad 15-acre field that is today used for sunbathing, kite flying, and relaxing summer picnics, is known for its long and tumultuous history as a gathering place for large-scale demonstrations and political movements. In 1864, 200 sheep were placed in the Park and housed in a Victorian building within the Meadow. In 1934 these sheep were transported to Prospect Park, Brooklyn. The 60's and 70's saw Sheep Meadow used for war protests, outdoor concerts, and hippie "love-ins", and the 1969 moon landing was also televised at the Meadow. Take a break if you want, but try not to sleep in this meadow, because there is a bronzed hero nearby, who stands ready to accept hugs and offer rides to his admiring fans.
The hero is Balto, the sled dog who nobly stands on a rock near the Tisch Children's Zoo and his statue is a big favorite in the Park. Back in 1925 Nome, Alaska was stricken with a horrific diphtheria outbreak. Not enough antitoxin was available to treat all the sick until teams of mushers and sled dogs battled a blinding blizzard and traveled 674 miles to deliver the medicine. Balto, a husky, was one of the heroic lead dogs. In recognition of such bravery, the famed Brooklyn born sculptor Frederick George Richard Roth was commissioned to create a lasting tribute.
We hope you enjoyed this monument, because now we'll keep on seeing animals, walk 3 minutes south and reach for the next destination of our itinerary...
Central Park's new Zoo, built when the Wildlife Conservation Society took over the management in 1984, showcases animals from tropical, temperate, and polar zones around the world. Probably the most popular with the stroller set is the domestic animal area around the perimeter, in there children can get close to goats, sheep, a cow and a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig. A quarter in one of the dispensers will buy a handful of nutritious food for the animals to nibble out of their hand. A walk around the Zoo’s five-plus acres will take you through a variety of habitats, all carefully designed to recreate the natural environment of the animals they house. In case you're fond of animals, that's a spot you can't miss.
Wollman Rink opened in 1949 and closed in 1980 for a two-year plan of renovations. Six years after the problem work was still not completed by the city, Donald Trump persuaded Mayor Ed Koch to let him complete the work in four months to have it open by the end of the year. Trump managed to finish the job in the promised four months at a final cost 25% below the budget and for no profit. The rink reopened to the public on November 13, 1986. In the fall and winter, ice skating at the rink is one of the most popular things to do amongst New Yorkers and tourists alike. If you decide to go there by night, you can glide across the ice under a star-covered sky while surrounded by the splendor of the Manhattan skyline.
To conclude our tour of the Park, we have to get out of it... you'll soon understand why.... Trust us, you won't be disappointed.
One last effort: from the ice rink head South towards the 5th Av. and, with 15 minutes walk, you will get to the Top of the Rock. From one of its terraces, you'll have the chance to have a bird's-eye view of the itinerary you have been doing today: you can now see everything you saw today and the attractions scaled-down. Even though the Park has still many things to be discovered, we hope to have given you a complete and satisfying Central Park experience from earth to sky. Thanks for sharing this journey with us. See you on the next itinerary!!!