One of the most iconic parts of NYC is without a doubt, our own not-so-little green oasis, Central Park. While many may associate Central Park with a few famous locations like the boathouse, Bethesda Terrace, and zoo, the enormous urban landscape actually spans from 59th street until 110st St., covering 843 acres of land. With hundreds of paths winding throughout the park and several crosstown roadways, it’s so easy to get lost in the expanse - and that’s exactly what I set out to do.
I began my journey at Central Park West where I entered near 63rd street and started walking, kind of directionless. I stopped for a minute to eat my lunch on one of the gigantic rocks near the baseball field, which, in my honest opinion, is the absolute best way to people watch in a place that attracts so many.
In the few minutes I was there, I saw countless sunbathers, 5 dogs (very life-affirming), a young girl taking graduation photos on the rock above me, and a man doing tai chi in what looked like a business suit (on his lunch break?). What I love about Central Park is how easily these things can coexist without so much as a second thought - it’s a much needed escape from the busy, crazy, and sometimes frustrating world that surrounds it.
After lunch, I headed over to the Central Park Zoo, which you can read about here, before continuing my extra long stroll through some of the most well known and beloved parts of the park.
I made my way towards Bethesda Fountain/Terrace by walking up The Mall, a wider, more level walkway where one might say a lot of the “action” happens. There you’ll find, in stereotypical New York fashion, hot dog stands, caricature artists, kitschy vendors, performers and even a $5 massage lady.
I kind of love it but kind of (mostly) hate it. Definitely a great spot for vendors looking to grab the attention of tourists or people strolling by, but it sort of ruins the whole oasis vibe for me...but I digress.
What makes Bethesda Terrace so charming is the large lower level of the terrace called the “arcade”, where you’ll get to see some of the park’s more impressive, breathtaking examples of art and architecture.
Surrounded by arches and hand-painted murals, the second most striking quality of the arcade is how the high ceilings and layout lend itself to the acoustics of the entire area. Even the buskers in the arcade, who were playing “Besame Mucho” like every other sax player in the park that day, seem to draw an engaged, enchanted crowd.
Honestly I could go on and on about the arcade, but I definitely wanted to mention the other spots I managed to hit while blistering my feet and draining my phone battery that day. After walking past the terrace, I did actually go look at the menu of The Loeb Boathouse and entertain the idea of casually grabbing a drink on The Lake. Then I looked at the menu, saw the prices and promptly filled up my water bottle at the public fountain as I backed my proletariat self away. Look guys, I said I was gonna do the tourist thing, and I’m sure it’s a really nice environment to sit down for a meal, but what am I, a Rockefeller?
All jokes aside, a different way to get the whole “boathouse” experience while stretching your dollar a bit further would definitely be renting out one of the rowboats docked right near the restaurant. You get the same views, and at $15/hr, it’s a lot cheaper than I expected.
From there, I was determined to track a few of the famous statues everyone poses with on Instagram but I can never seem to find. Fun fact - most, if not all the major statues, structures and sites in the park are on Google Maps, so it’s easy to map out your time in the park if that’s more your speed.
I bumped into the Hans Christian Anderson statue by sheer happenstance as I was making my way around the conservatory pond, where they have the model sailboats for rent. It’s also how I ended up at the Alice in Wonderland statue which, by the way, had SO many people surrounding it, I basically stood in a line to get this unobstructed of a photo. Not my finest moment, I’ll admit.
On the way back out toward Central Park South, I found the famous Balto statue as well, while parents were trying to explain to their confused child who he was. HAVE WE FORGOTTEN ABOUT BALTO?! Keep him alive in your memory, folks.
By the time I made it to the southeast corner of the park to see the "Open House" art exhibit, my Health app told me I’d walked close to seven miles that day and frankly, I was pooped. I spent several hours walking around, and didn’t even hit some of the other noteworthy spots like Strawberry Fields, Sheep Meadow, Delacorte Theater and lots of others. While I’d definitely count this as a successful first dive into Central Park, there will be more to come.
If you haven’t read it already, make sure you check out my separate post dedicated to the Central Park Zoo!