From above, Central Park looks like a rectangular wooded forest planted with such impressive precision in the middle of sprouting skyscrapers. Spanning across 750 acres at the heart of Manhattan Island, it was America’s very first sizable landscaped public park. It is home to 21,500 trees and a wide variety of flowers planted in the Park’s sprawling gardens. Established in 1850, it was created as an elixir for the increasing socio-economic problems of America during the time, mainly due to the unprecedented influx of immigrants to the country. Since then the Park had seen decades of decay and degradation up until the 1970s.
With the appointment of Elizabeth “Betsy” Barlow (now Rogers) as Central Park Administrator in 1979 and the consequent establishment of the Central Park Conservancy’s Board of Guardians, the Park has gone through much-needed restorations throughout. Decrepit structures were salvaged and new programs to protect and preserve the Park were introduced. Today it has never been more luxuriant in its 156-year history attracting at least 40 million guests annually. Scenes from hit movies like The Avenger, Home Alone 2, Ransom, You’ve Got Mail, Arthur and so many others also contribute to the Park’s popularity. Concerts, live orchestras and other forms of entertainment are also regularly held at the Park drawing thousands.
There are many ways to explore the park. Take a leisurely walk through the dense forest, rent a bike which starts at $15 per hour or ride a horse-drawn carriage which starts at $175. These beloved carriages, which are almost synonymous with Central Park, could soon be banned though as plans are under way to replace them with electric cars. Another great alternative is to ride a bicycle rickshaw which starts at $120. The good news is this rate is negotiable. Rickshaws are scattered around the Park so choices are aplenty.
We were approached by a congenial Ethiopian rickshaw driver and showed us the stops we could possibly make in one hour. It sounded more like a movie tour i.e., a tour of the exact locations where Hollywood movies were filmed throughout the park. Although he initially quoted us $120 for one hour, we managed to agree on $60 without much haggling. He just kept lowering the price, eager to have us on board. So waiting for the right driver is really key. Since we did only have one hour to spare we took his offer and so glad we did.
We were initially disappointed by the smell of horse dung and litter that greeted us as we entered through Wien Walk at Fifth Avenue and 60th Street. But once inside, the Park was a welcome breather especially after touring the topsy turvy city of New York. The rickshaw tour also turned out to be educational in a way. We learned of new movies that we have never even heard before. It provided a glimpse of the park without exhausting one’s self and short enough to be over in one hour. But to see the Park’s major attractions will take at least a half day for it truly is worth exploring.
Entrance Fee: Entrance to the park is free but admission charge for attractions inside the park vary
Operating hours: Open to visitors all year round, from 6:00 am until 1:00 am
How to get there: On the East Side, by subway on the number 4, 5, 6 trains and the 1, 2, 3, 4 buses on 5th Ave. On the West Side, A, B, C, and D trains and the M10 bus.
Not to be missed: The Conservatory Garden and the Reservoir on the North End; Alice in Wonderland, Great Lawn, Strawberry Fields, Belvedere Castle, and the Bethesda Fountain all found in the middle of the park. Don’t forget to check out The Lake and The Pond as well as the Central Park Zoo especially those with kids, all located at the South End.
“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” Isaiah 55:12