A Local’s Guide to Central Park

Central Park is one of the prime examples of the power of television and film to create an image in our minds, and just how wrong those images can be! Even at its worst, in the ’60’s and 70’s, the park never approached the level of danger that much of the media seems to relish in fostering.

An aerial shot of Central ParkToday, after a quarter of a century of hard work and millions of dollars spent, the park is in its finest condition ever, providing more opportunity for people, of all areas of interest, to find something of enjoyment within.

Created as a fine landscape to enrich the mind and soul – as well as local real estate investors and city tax rolls – the park has become the most cherished place of respite and recreation for millions of people annually.

Although its designers, Fredrick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, might be initially ‘taken aback’ at the changes in the park throughout its 150 years if given the time to digest how those changes have accommodated the changes in society, they’d have to pleased with how their creation has matured.

Something as uncontroversial as playgrounds today was not to be found in the original design, and indeed did not appear in the park until well into the 20th century. And if you visit the park, you’ll notice that while there are many places for little ones to slide, swing and climb, all of the playgrounds are around the periphery of the park, in effect saying, “Well, alright then, have you play areas, but don’t let them intrude too far into my landscaped stroll!” Just another brilliant example of accommodation.

It is perhaps as impossible to have just one favorite place in the park, as it would be to have only one favorite thing to eat. In either case, so much depends on your mood and state of mind. If you’d like a quiet little hideaway (after that tour group passes through!), then go up to the Conservatory Gardens. Enter through the relocated entrance gate of an old Vanderbilt mansion at 5 Avenue and 105 streets. Before you, the sculptural beauty of the Italian Garden – stunning in the spring with its wisteria and crabapple trees in bloom, but a favorite for bridal photos throughout the year.

Walk to your right, and you’re in the North or French Garden, dripping with thousands of tulips for far too short a time in spring and with its finely sculpted boxwood hedges year round. Whatever you do, do not leave with walking to the left, the South or English Garden, drenched in flowering trees in spring and the most colorful part.

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