Central Park

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The most well-known public park in the world, Central Park sits at the exact center of Manhattan Island, hence its name. A total of 843 acres (it is 2.5 miles long and 0.5 miles wide) Central Park is a hub for New York City cultural events, recreation, and even exercise. Welcoming some 35 million visitors a year, even in the middle of winter a drive, a stroll, or a full day spent at Central Park is a true New York experience that is never a waste of time.

History

Though it was only designated a National Historic Landmark in 1963, Central Park was actually established some 100 years earlier in response to the growing population of New York City and the need for more “open space” for recreation. It was not included in the famous Commissioner’s Plan of 1811, but instead the result of a lobbying effort championed by noted New Yorkers such as William Cullen Bryant who wrote about the issue in the Evening Post (now known as the New York Post). The idea was to craft Central Park in the spirit of similar European parks such as London’s Hyde Park and Paris’ Bois do Boulogne.

Originally, the park stood on 700 acres located between 59th and 106th Streets. It was designed by American landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead along with British architect Calvert Vaux. The two won a contest for the park’s design, later known as the Greenwood Plan. Despite many slip ups and political battles along the way, the park was completed for all intents and purposes in 1873.

Around the turn of the century and continuing throughout 1950s, however, Central Park was largely ignored by New York’s politicians as well as its people. Trees and shrubs died and vandalism was rampant. However the beginning of the 1960s, the park’s designation as a National Historic Landmark, and the era of “events” in the park began a comprehensive revitalization that has elevated Central Park from debauchery to one of the hottest spots for both native New Yorkers and tourists to visit each year.

The Central Park Conservancy was founded in 1980, the same body still runs the park’s daily operations. Today, the park is home to dozens of sports fields, events, and associated arenas which include the Wollman Ice Rink, the Central Park Zoo, 21 different playgrounds, and sporting fields. Events, including road races are sponsored in the park almost every weekend during warm weather. Included in this list is the Concert in the Park series each summer and the New York City Marathon in November, which finishes right outside the old Tavern on the Green restaurant.

Main Attraction

A visit to Central Park is a great idea any day of the year as the Central Park Conservancy has set up activities appropriate for any type of weather throughout the park. The summer months as well as the warmer days of spring and fall are the most popular among the locals who use the park for recreational sports leagues, running trails, picnics, and sunbathing on a regular basis.

In addition to the regular (and free) “park” activities, the many attractions associated with Central Park, including the Central Park Zoo, Wollman and Lasker Ice rinks, the Central Park Carousel, and carriage rides, all offer visitors additional paid attractions. There are also many historical areas of the park for visitors to explore. This includes the famous Great Lawn which has played host to famous names that span from Elton John to Pope John Paul II. Belvedere Castle offers visitors the chance to tour a fully operational weather station. There is the area of Central Park called Strawberry Fields which serves as tribute to Beatles singer John Lennon, who was shot and killed only steps from that spot in 1980 as well as numerous statues that pay tribute to everything from Alice in Wonderland to William Shakespeare.

Why It’s a Must-See

There is really no reason not to see Central Park when on a visit to New York City, even if it’s just to drive through. This iconic are of Manhattan is a central location both literally and figuratively. It appears in almost every film or television show set in the city and offers an activity for every person no matter their age or interest. Choosing to visit Central Park for a walk, the day, or even a show is immersing yourself in something that is truly and uniquely New York.

Where to Buy It

There are a number of ways you can enjoy admission to this attraction.

1. Purchase a tour when you get there.

2. Central Park is free but you can purchase a .  

3. Purchase as part of a money saving package. Some popular examples are on the right.

4. Purchase a Tourist pass. Central Park Tours are available on the The New York Pass and New York City Explorer Pass