Central Park is the largest 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 or 1 E6 m (3.4 km), in the shape of a rectangle 2.5 miles by one-half mile (or 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 North (which is 110th Street east of Fifth Avenue), on the east by Fifth Avenue, on the south by Columbus Circle and Central Park South (which is 59th Street east of Fifth Avenue), and on the west by Central Park West (which is Eighth Avenue north of Columbus Circle).
Central Park became increasingly run-down and crime-ridden in the late 20th century, hitting a low at the end of the 1970s, after which the Central Park Conservancy was founded in 1980. The Conservancy restores and maintains the park under contract from the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, an early successful public private partnership. The city has transferred direction of ongoing restoration and maintenance to the Conservancy.
Central Park is divided for convenience into four "quadrants". From south to north:
The South End of Central Park is by far the most-visited, with the largest number of park-centered attractions for the visitor:
• Bethesda Terrace and Fountain - 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).
• Strawberry Fields, Central Park West at 72nd Street - so named in 1981 in memory of John Lennon, the former Beatle, 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 is globally recognized as an International Garden of Peace and includes a memorial floor mosaic (donated by the Italian city of Naples) that says simply "Imagine", referring to the lyric of Lennon's evocative song.
• Central Park Zoo - 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. The zoo attracts over 1 million visitors a year.
• Ramsey Playfield - site of the free Summer Stage shows.
• Belvedere Castle, at 79th St, (212) 772-0210. Sits on Vista Rock, the highest point in the Park, providing views in all directions. It is a popular spot for photography and Park information. Shows a documentary on the red-tailed hawks that hunt in the park and nest on surrounding skyscrapers. W-M 11am-4pm.
• Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue - located just within the Park, on the eastern edge of the Great Lawn as it borders Fifth Avenue
• 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 Oasis Reservoir" in 1994, the Reservoir is probably best known for the 1.58 mile 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).
• Safari Playground, Central Park West at 91st Street
• Wild West Playground, Central Park West at 93rd Street
• Harlem Meer and Landscape - the 11 acre lake known as Harlem Meer is recognized as the center piece of one of New York's finest landscapes
• Charles A. Dana Discovery Center, northern edge of Harlem Meer, inside the Park at 110th Street and Lenox Avenue
Horse-Drawn Carriage Rides - 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. The carriages depart from a line-up along Central Park South (59th Street) between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, located on the southern edge of the park, opposite the Plaza Hotel. Carriage rides cost $34 for the first 20 mins and $54 for a 45-50 min tour. More information, tel 212-246-0529.
Central Park - the official website, hosted by the Central Park Conservancy
Welcome to Central Park