During our trip to New York City, we visited Central Park NYC, a large urban park in Manhattan. In this article I will list down ten best things to do in Central Park, arguably the most famous urban park in the world.
What is Central Park NYC?
Central Park NYC is a gorgeous urban park in Manhattan, New York City. It measures about 4km long and 0.8km wide. The park was built in 1857 because the population of New York City was expanding rapidly during that period, and residents wanted a quiet space to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Some people even went to cemeteries just so they could get some peace and quiet! Today, the park is filled with plenty of trees, expansive green fields, intricate landscaping, tranquil lakes, walking tracks, ice-skating rinks, and various iconic structures.
It was a joy to behold the flora and fauna of this pretty urban park. The walking paths are framed by the gorgeous canopy of majestic trees. We spotted swans, ducks and other birds near the lakes. And there were many squirrels wandering around in the park. It’s pretty amazing that such a park actually exists in the middle of a bustling city like New York City.
1. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir
The first landmark we visited was the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (JKO) Reservoir, a large picturesque reservoir near the centre of Central Park. Across the reservoir, we could see the buildings and skyscrapers of Manhattan. There is a 2.5km track around the reservoir. I can imagine it must be really nice to jog around the reservoir with the beautiful view, greenery, and tranquil surroundings.
2. Lasker Rink
Fancy some ice-skating? Lasker Rink is one of two ice-skating rinks in Central Park, the other being Wollman Rink. Both are operated by the Trump Organization. We saw many “huuuge” Trump logos printed on the sides of the rink.
3. Cleopatra’s Needle
It was quite surreal to see Cleopatra’s Needle, an Egyptian obelisk that was built about 3500 years ago in 1475BC. Now that’s one ancient structure! It was moved to Central Park in 1881. The obelisk is inscribed with Egyption hieroglyphs that commemorate Ramesses II’s military victories. Interestingly, the hieroglyphs are so well-preserved because the obelisk was toppled by the Romans during their invasion. This caused the obelisk surfaces to be buried and which protected the hieroglyphs from the effects of weathering.
4. Shakespeare Garden
If you are a Shakespeare fan this is definitely the place for you. The Shakespeare Garden in Central Park consists of plants mentioned in William Shakespeare’s works. These include rosemary and pansies in “Hamlet”, thistle in “Much Ado About Nothing”, etc. It is located near the Delacorte Theatre, site of the annual “Shakespeare in the Park” series. We saw various impressionistic statues of Shakespeare’s characters outside the theatre.
5. Belvedere Castle
Belvedere Castle is a small “castle” in Central Park. We had to climb up a steep flight of steps to reach this folly, but our efforts were well-rewarded. Belvedere means “beautiful view” in Italian, and we did get awesome views from the elevated vantage of the castle. It felt quite therapeutic to revel in the panoramic view of Central Park. There was even a two-man band playing classical music here.
6. The Lake
Aside from the JKO Reservoir, we also passed by The Lake. This is a beautiful man-made lake located towards the southern end of the park. It is surrounded by abundant flora and fauna, and we saw a few cute squirrels. There were quite a few people rowing boats on the lake. We walked across the bridge over the lake, and got even more stunning views.
7. Bethesda Terrace and Fountain
Spot the wannabe street performer
The Bethesda Fountain is a large water fountain with a sculpture in the middle known as the “Angel of the Waters”. The eight-foot bronze angel is perched above four small cherubim symbolizing health, peace, purity and temperance. The fountain was built in the 19th century. We took some photos here before proceeding to the Bethesda Terrace.
The Bethesda Terrace is an iconic architectural structure also built in the 19th century, consisting of an upper and lower terrace. We saw an a-capella group performing in the lower terrace, with their singing bolstered by the natural acoustics of the place. I strolled around the lower terrace to admire the murals and ceiling (made up of 15,000 handmade tiles).
8. Strawberry Fields
Let me take you down, because I’m going to Strawberry Fields
Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about
“Strawberry Fields Forever” – The Beatles
Strawberry Fields is a 2.5 acre landscaped area of Central Park dedicated to John Lennon of The Beatles. “Strawberry Field” is the name of a Salvation Army home that John Lennon used to go. The main attraction here is the “Imagine” mosaic on the ground, and of course I had to take a picture with it. (“Imagine” is another famous song by John Lennon.) I could tell that there were many Beatles fans here paying tribute to Lennon. There was also a street performer belting out heartfelt songs of The Beatles.
9. The Mall
We also strolled along The Mall, which is a pavement connected to the Bethesda Terrace. It was a nice experience to walk along the tranquil path lined with majestic American elm trees. As we walked towards the southern end of Central Park, we reached The Literary Walk, where we saw statues of four famous literary figures: William Shakespeare, Robert Burns, Fitz-Greene Halleck and Sir Walter Scott. Oddly, there was also a statue of a non-literary figure, Christopher Columbus.
10. Beautiful Green Spaces
There are many expansive green fields in Central Park, and we dropped by the Sheep Meadow and the Great Lawn. These are wonderful open spaces for activities and picnics with family and friends. It was nice to see many New Yorkers chilling out on the fields, surrounded by the iconic Manhattan buildings and skyscrapers.
And.. we spotted Big Bird too! Central Park NYC is really a beautiful urban park and you should definitely visit it if you are in New York City. Make sure that you spend at least one or two hours exploring the park to fully appreciate its beauty and tranquility.