Central Park

Central Park

Central Park is Manhattan's back yard. In a city of highrise apartments with a dense population, this 843-acre oasis is a place to take a walk, read a book, attend a concert, and much, much more. Over 25 million people visit the park each year, making it the most visited of any park in the United States.

History

Central Park was conceived in 1850. The city, which had quadrupled in size over the previous thirty years, was losing its green spaces. The call for a public park was led by "Evening Post" editor and orator William Cullen Bryant, and the 843 acres of swampland and immigrant housing was purchased by the city.

Creating a park from this area was no easy task. American landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted and Frenchman Calvert Vaux were assigned the project. Before it was finished in 1873, over 500,000 cubic feet of topsoil was brought in from New Jersey, and over 10 million carloads of unwanted material was removed from the site. In the end, four million trees, shrubs, and plants, representing 1500 species, were added to create Central Park

The advent of the automobile and the corrupt early 20th century New York City government made Central Park obsolete, almost as soon as it was finished. The park languished until the mid-1930s when, then mayor, Fiorello LaGuardia appointed Robert Moses to oversee the restoration of the park. It flourished under his guardianship, a post he kept until 1960.

Today, Central Park is governed by the Central Park Conservancy, a privately-funded organization founded in 1980, charged with maintaining the park.

Within the Park

Central Park has something to interest every visitor. In addition to the vast Great Lawn and other green spaces, the park boasts several artificial lakes, two ice-skating rinks, miles of hiking and bike trails, a zoo, a wildlife sanctuary, and several children's playgrounds.

Central Park is home to a number of community and cultural events. Among them are the Public Theater Company's summer theater productions. These, mostly Shakespearean, events attract name entertainers and are an affordable way to see New York theater. The Philharmonic Orchestra takes a break each summer from its Lincoln Center digs for several free community concerts on the Great Lawn. They are joined during the season by one or two outdoor productions by the Metropolitan Opera Company.

Central Park is home to 52 fountains, monuments, and sculptures, the most famous of which are "Cleopatra's Needle," a gift from Egypt; Alice in Wonderland on a large mushroom; and a statue of jazz great, Duke Ellington.

Visiting the Park

Central Park is a stop along many of Manhattan's bus and subway routes. In addition, from Midtown to Harlem, you're never more than a few blocks away. The park welcomes visitors, from 6am to 1am daily, to enjoy its many attractions, such as the ice-skating rinks, miles of trails, artificial ponds, and the Central Park Zoo. A daily schedule of events, such as theater, bird watching, art and architectural tours, storytelling, and more will enhance any visit.

Although you might think it is bigger, it is just six miles around the circumference of Central Park. Within the park, there are 36 bridges, 21 playgrounds, 275 different species of birds, over 9000 benches, and some 25,000 trees.

Facilities at the Park include plentiful restrooms; several restaurants, including the romantic and fabled "Tavern on the Green"; concession stands; and four visitors centers, offering maps, information, and changing exhibits.

Central Park is lovely any time of year, from the first flowers of spring to the heady, lush greenery of summer to the spartan, snow-laden landscape of winter. It's conveniently located, offers something for every taste, and makes an excellent counterpoint to the concrete jungle that is Manhattan.

Location: Manhattan's Backyard
Phone: 212-310-6600

Click here for a map of the Central Park.

Click here to visit Central Park official website.

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