Walking across Central Park in New York early on a Saturday morning, you quickly become aware of a large number of activities that take place all over this huge area of green countryside which can be found in the centre of the city. From the south of the park to the north, it is used by families and friends throughout the year. With ice rinks in the winter and baseball in the summer, it is a hive of activity.
Designed in the 1860s and 1870s, it was created as a space for everyone to enjoy.
As I crossed Central Park my first encounter was a children’s birthday party. A group of excited youngsters had settled on the grass to be entertained by a magician. Surrounded by parents and friends, the magician was providing a mega pack of magic for all to enjoy. As I rounded the next corner, I came to a large expanse of grass known as the Great Lawn where Paul Simon made his comeback in an outdoor concert. This area was currently being utilised for a variety of baseball games. A wide range of youngsters had come together in their favourite baseball outfits and were now taking part in a variety of games. All kitted out accordingly, it was encouraging to see both girls and boys taking part.
My next port of call was the Jackie Kennedy Onassis Reservoir which is 1.58 miles in circumference. 106 acres in size, Central Park is a beautiful place to be as the sun goes down over the Big Apple. On arriving I noticed a large number of runners and walkers who were making their way around a wide expanse of water. Most of them were keeping to the rules going just one way, but of course there were some rebels who insist on jogging and walking in the opposite direction!
Beyond the reservoir, the park seems to quieten down with dog walkers and joggers. Some people were practising yoga and were meditating on the rocks that can be found all over Central Park or hidden in the trees. Look out in the northern part of the park for the statue of Duke Ellington.
Going back down towards the city you will find Strawberry Fields and a shrine to the Beatle John Lennon. The shrine just says Imagine and is visited every day by hundreds of people. Whilst there you will probably notice a lone guitar player who plays a lot of Beatles numbers. There are plenty of seats by the memorial and it is worth just sitting for a few minutes and listening to the accomplished musician and singing along with some of the famous tunes. Just across from the Dakota Building, where John Lennon was shot in 1980, it is said to be the most visited spot in Central Park.
Central Park has plenty of places to eat ranging from small snack bars to more exclusive restaurants and cafes such as the Loeb Boathouse where you can enjoy an excellent Brunch at the weekends. If you are willing to take a walk a few streets away from the park you will quickly come across some very good traditional diners including the famous Neil’s Coffee Shop in Lexington Avenue where you get great service and a wide selection for breakfast. You must try the ‘Lumberjack’ available at the weekends. It was started back in the 1980s and is a family business. Near Hunter’s College they have kept many of the original features. It has a great atmosphere and is incredibly friendly.
Staying on or around Central Park is a good alternative from lower down in Manhattan and there are a lot of hotels to choose from. I stayed at the Park Lane which looks out onto the Park. Rooms are well-appointed and you can opt for a partial or full view of Central Park. Prices vary accordingly to the room type and season. There are plenty of subway stations nearby and Trump Towers is just around the corner.
There are many other green spaces in New York including Washington Square Park close to Greenwich Village to the disused overgrown rail line which has been turned into a spectacular walkway. Known as the High Line, it was developed as a green space from a 75-year-old railway line. The parks at the bottom of Manhattan close to the Staten Island Ferry are also well worth exploring as are the banks of the Hudson River further up.
Travelling around the city is easy but do make sure you have a good pair of shoes. Expensive trainers and suits seem to be one of the latest trends. You can always hail a yellow cab or if it is a special occasion why not try the Super Shuttle Limo Service.
Central Park is a great place and you can easily spend several hours just watching the world go by.