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Central Park, New York City

NYC Marathon -- Finish line in Central Park
NYC Marathon — Finish line in Central Park

Central Park, the 843-acre green oasis in the center of Manhattan is New York’s most well-known park, and perhaps the most famous urban park in the world.

Its history began in 1856 with the acquisition of 778 acres of land, for the purpose of building a grand open space, designed specifically for public use. In 1858, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux’s “Greensward” plan was selected among the entries of a contest to determine the design for the city’s new park.

Built with 590 species of shrubs and 815 species of perennials and Alpine plants, an environmental mecca inspired by English romantic landscapes was situated within this metropolis. From its beginning, urbanites have flocked to the park, with over 4 million visitors making their way to the park in 1863, the same year that the final acres of park were procured, extending it to its current border at 110th Street. Today the park averages over 20 million visitors per year.

Since its construction, Central Park has evolved from a place of pastoral grandeur to a combination of natural beauty, recreational facilities and outdoor arenas.

From freshwater ponds, to lakes, pools, meadows, grassy hillocks and successional forest, there are many natural systems to pacify the eye and the soul. The 38-acre Ramble and its bordering lake are prime locations for watching the seasonal warbler migration.

The 4-acre Hallett Nature Sanctuary, with its forest of black locust and black cherry, is a refuge for those species driven from their homes by the ever expanding world of concrete and asphalt. Sheep Meadow, a pasture area from the mid-19th Century until the 1930’s, the Great Lawn, site of the former Yorkville Reservoir, and the East and North Meadows are grassy areas which are settings for both solitary relaxation and massive congregations.
Many such gatherings have taken place since the construction of the Great Lawn in the 1930s, including the Paul Simon concert of 1991, the No Nukes Rally of 1982, and Simon & Garfunkel’s performance in 1981. The North Meadow hosted to the Garth Brooks concert in 1997.

Many special artistic and cultural programs take place in the park. Since 1957, the free Shakespeare festival has been offered during the summer months, and in 1985, the stage at Rumsey Playfield became the host to the Summerstage performances of music, dance, song and the spoken word.

In 1965, the New York Philharmonic first played in the park and this favorite summertime tradition of New Yorkers has faithfully continued, only to be joined by other performing arts groups, including the Metropolitan Opera which began performing in 1967 and the New York Grand Opera which started their performance series in 1974.

Central Park is one of the urban wonders of the world, a green oasis in the great concrete, high-rise landscape of New York City. It is so naturally part of the Manhattan environment that many people may not realize it is entirely man-made.

Since 1908, more than 170 movies containing scenes in Central Park have been released. Check out the list below, sorted alphabetically by title, of the movies shot in Central Park. From Breakfast at Tiffany’s ,Love Story, Wall Street, Harry Met Sally, You’ve Got Mail – just to name a few.

Map Central Park, Manhattan, New York City

Central Park Attractions

Belvedere Castle
Mid-Park at 79th Street The Castle is located in the middle of Central Park at 79th Street. Since it was built on Central Park’s highest natural elevation, you can see the Turtle Pond, the Great Lawn, and the Delacorte Theater, the as well as the rest of the park and the buildings that surround it. Belvedere Castle is now the home of the U.S. Weather Bureau as well as the Henry Luce Nature Observatory, The US Weather Bureau has had its automated meteorological equipment located at the castle since 1919. That’s why they refer to the temperature in Central Park.

Strawberry Fields
West Side between 71st and 74th Streets When John Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono lived in the nearby Dakota on 72nd Street and Central Park West, they adopted this landscape as their favorite oasis in the Park.

The Boathouse in Central Park
E. 72nd St. and Park Drive North ( enter at 72nd Tt. & 5th Ave). Manhattan; info P.O. Box 1357, Gracie Station NYC 10028; (212)517-3623 or 988-0576. Central Park Lake boating. Venetian gondola rides, bike rentals till Spm. Seven days, Mar-Nov.

The Charles A. Dana Discovery Center, NorthEnd
Inside the Park at 110th Street and Lenox Avenue Perched on the northern shore of the Harlem Meer, the Park’s northernmost body of water, is Central Park’s newest building, which opened to the public in 1993. The Charles A. Dana Discovery Center so effectively follows Calvert Vaux’s eclectic architectural style that you have to look very closely to note its modern-day origin. The Dana Center serves as the Upper Park’s visitor center and is home to a wide variety of the Central Park Conservancy’s free family and community programs.

Tavern on the Green
West Side between 66th and 67th Streets With a half million patrons a year Tavern on the Green must be doing something right. Once home to Central Park’s flock of sheep and its shepherd (see Sheep Meadow) the building was converted in the 1930s into a restaurant. But it wasn’t until 1976, when Warner LeRoy became the proprietor, that the restaurant earned its current popularity.

Conservatory Garden North End
The Gardens of Europe in Manhattan East Side from 104th-106th Streets; Six lush acres of Central Park’s only formal garden, with the most varied collection of flora in Manhattan.

Carousel
The Classic Childhood Memory Mid-Park at 64th Street Central Park’s first carousel was built in 1870 and, according to Park lore, was turned by a blind mule and a horse. Whether this story is apocryphal or true, there is no question that the Carousel quickly became one of the Park’s most popular features.

The Harlem Meer
Eastside from 106th to 110th Street The 11-acre Harlem Meer (Dutch for “Lake”) and its surrounding wooded landscape were constructed after the lower Park had been completed. The saying “Save the best for last,” comes to mind when visitors experience this ruggedly beautiful setting. They can see swans and grebes leaving small jet wakes in the water. They can look south and see dramatic rock outcroppings angling sharply to the water, and then, with a simple turn of the head north, see the buildings of Harlem and watch traffic navigating

Duke Ellington Circle
110th Street and Fifth Avenue The sculpture of Edward Kennedy Ellington at 110th Street and Fifth Avenue is the first monument in New York City dedicated to an African American and the first memorial in the United States to Ellington. A composer, orchestra conductor, and musician, “Duke” Ellington elevated jazz to perhaps the most American of art forms.On July 1, 1997, Robert Graham’s “Duke Ellington Memorial” was unveiled at the northeast corner of Central Park. The sculpture is a bronze tableau 25-feet high, with an eight-foot tall sculpture of Ellington standing next to a grand piano

Wollman Rink
East Side between 62nd and 63rd Streets Ice Skating November through March The Wollman Rink was a success from the day it opened in 1950. Over 300,000 skaters glided across the ice in its first year of operation. Today over 4,000 use the Rink daily. Wollman’s easy access from Grand Army Plaza (East 59th Street and Central Park South) and its picturesque location between the Dairy to the north and the Pond to the south make it popular not only for skaters, but also for any visitor who appreciates the romance of the New York City skyline. Spectators sitting on the outside bleachers – or skaters confident enough to look up – can see the skyscraper outline that makes a New York view distinct in the world.

Wollman hosts skaters day and night. But nighttime is a New York City moment. Music plays across the ice as skaters find their own rhythm circling the rink. A moon is a plus, but not required since the ice itself gives off a silver sheen. As the variety of accents testifies, New Yorkers and tourists alike mingle on the ice. The holiday season is undoubtedly the most popular – or at least the most picturesque. Children steal the scene: knit hats with pompoms, snowsuits inflated with useful padding and standard issue red cheeks. If those cheeks get too red, skaters can go to an informal snack bar that serves assorted fast food, and hot and cold drinks.

The Dairy
Mid-Park at 65th Street At the end of a long ride north to the new Central Park, 19th century children could enjoy a fresh, wholesome glass of milk at The Dairy. The Dairy today serves as a general visitors center with a permanent exhibit on the history and design of the Park. The Dairy design is a vintage Victorian hybrid: Swiss chalet meets Gothic country church.

Sheep Meadow
West side, mid-Park from 66th to 69th Streets was the first area in Central Park to be restored. today is a 15-acre, lush, green meadow for relaxing and admiring one of New York City’s greatest skyline views.

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