The centre of Manhattan is occupied by the green heart of the city: Central Park. This gigantic park includes picnic areas, playgrounds, ponds and sports fields. It’s the go-to place for New Yorkers to blow off the steam accumulated by busy city life. On Sunday the roads in the park are closed, giving it over to skaters, cyclists and joggers.
The population of New York City quadrupled between 1821 and 1855, creating a need for a large public park. It took sixteen more years before Central Park was opened in 1871 and today it is one of the most pleasant parts of the city.
The park is used intensively throughout the year. In the summer months, there are many concerts (such as during the Summer Stage festival) and plays (e.g., Shakespeare in the Park) on the programme. Another popular event are the film festivals with large-screen projections. A big blanket and some snacks are all you need to have a good time in the balmy evening air.
In winter, thousands of New Yorkers put their skates on for a ride on the Wollman Rink or Lasker Rink in the park. The former in particular has served as a backdrop in many films. Ice skating with the skyline of New York in the background is about as romantic as it gets.
One of the best known and most visited places in the park is Strawberry Fields, a monument to Beatles frontman John Lennon. Its centrepiece, a mosaic containing the word Imagine (the name of one of Lennon's biggest solo hits) is located directly opposite the Dakota Building on West 72nd Street. Lennon used to have a flat here, and was shot in the portico of the building in 1980.
The bronze statue of Alice in Wonderland also attracts many visitors, young and old alike. It shows Alice with a number of figures from the famous fairy tale, including the White Rabbit and the Mad Hatter. Designed in 1959, it has brought Lewis Carol’s enchanting story to life for generations of New York children. Unlike most sculptures, kids are allowed to climb up and play to their heart’s content.
Once inside the park it can be hard to fathom just how big it is. For anyone not staying in the Plaza Hotel, the best way to get an impression is the Top of the Rock. Here a fast lift will whisk you up to the viewing platform on the roof of the Rockefeller Center. The true Central Park fan should do this during the day as the park is just a big black hole between the twinkling lights of Manhattan at night.
More information on: