Going to the top of the Empire State Building, horse drawn carriages through Central Park, seeing a musical on Broadway; these are all examples of the typical and stereotypical New York vacation. While these are nice, fun and some would say necessary if one is to visit New York, there are many other activities which are slightly off the beaten trail. For the traveler who likes to feel like a local, or for a second or third time visitor, the following activities are truly New Yorker in character but are not strictly for tourists.
This famous New York park is a setting for many a film scene. The park changes dramatically throughout the year, but from the bare snow covered winter to the magnolia filled spring it is always beautiful. On nice days it can get very crowded, especially on weekends.
Some things to see in Central Park are the Great Lawn (a great place for picnics), The Imagine Circle dedicated to John Lennon, the Alice in Wonderland statue next to the Boat Pond, and the Reservoir.
Dining in Central Park
Eating in Central Park does not have to involve grabbing a hot dog from a street vendor. There are several restaurants that overlook Central Park, and two upscale restaurants which are actually in Central park.
Tavern on the Green is a tourist’s favorite, though some locals might say that it has become a bit tacky in recent years. With horse drawn carriages right outside the door and sparkling trees and topiary this restaurant provides a very whimsical atmosphere. When booking a reservation it is important to ask to be seated in the Crystal Room, all of the others are just not quite as good.
The Boathouse is a New York Classic. The restaurant overlooks the Lake, and from the outside deck diners can watch boats, ducks and turtles drift by. There is also an Outside Bar and Grill, which offers a more limited menu but which still overlooks the Lake. The Boathouse Restaurant is a favorite among locals, and has featured in several films and TV shows including Sex and the City.
For a mile of 5th Avenue museums can be found every few blocks. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is the most famous and always has exciting exhibits; one favorite is the Temple of Dendur in the Egyptian Wing. The Guggenheim offers modern art exhibits, though many visit this museum only for it’s unusual and famous architecture.
Across the park (not actually on Museum Mile) lies the Museum of Natural History. Exciting for children and interesting for adults, this museum is also the subject of the film Night at the Museum.
Tea at the Plaza Hotel
The newly renovated Plaza Hotel is every bit as glorious as it always has been. While some of the rooms have been converted into apartments it is still a 5 star hotel with amazing restaurants.
The most majestic of these is the Palm Court. This opulent room serves breakfast, lunch, brunch on weekends, and afternoon tea. For anyone who can afford the $60 a head afternoon tea it is an experience worth every penny. A seemingly never-ending stream of food and tea (with an upgrade one can drink champagne) awaits in a beautiful room with a stained glass ceiling and plush chairs.
Horse drawn carriage rides are a favorite amongst tourists but the buyer must be conscious of the horse’s welfare. Don’t accept a ride from a driver with a horse which appears malnourished or otherwise uncared for, and ask the driver to stay within the park if possible.
As long as the horse seems content, jump in! These rides can be fun, romantic, and very memorable.
A Guide to NYC’s Central Park
Like a body of water in the middle of a desert, Central Park is a true oasis. Surrounded by concrete and brick walls of towering office buildings and apartment complexes, Central Park boasts 843 acres of parkland in the centre of the borough of Manhattan allowing New Yorkers and tourists alike to enjoy a mid-summer’s day picnic on a vast sprawling green lawn or get to see a penguin up close in the middle of America’s largest city.
History of the Park
What most people don’t know about the park is that rather than the city having been built around a natural park that was left as-is, the park itself, like the buildings surrounding it, is actually the work of architects, builders and designers. The park’s design was to be determined by a landscape design contest held in 1857. Frederick Law Olmsted, also the landscape designer of another city park, Prospect Park, and Calvert Vaux, an English architect, were the developers of the winning design called the “Greensward Plan.”
Construction on the park began in 1860 and continued until 1873. In the process, the 1,600 or-so New Yorkers who were living within the park’s boundaries were forced to leave. Over the thirteen years of construction, approximately half of a million cubic feet of soil had to be brought in from New Jersey. The original land in the park was so rocky that the large boulders that were found throughout the park needed to be blasted out in order to make room for the trees, shrubs and ponds which are now found throughout the park. Many of these boulders, however, are still found throughout the park.
Where is the Park and How to Get There
The boundaries of the park create a perfect rectangle. To the North and South, the park spans between 110th Street and 59th Street/Central Park South. To the East and West, the park runs between Fifth Avenue and Central Park West. The park is approximately 2.5 miles long and 0.5 miles wide.
The park is very simple to get to. By car/taxi, it is accessible by any of the streets mentioned above. As well, there are several traverses, or sunken roads, that run through the park. Some of them include 79th Street, 86th Street and 97th Street. The park is also easily accessible by the New York subway system. There are various stations that have stops either directly on the border of the park or within a block or two of it. The park is serviced by the 1, 2, 3, 9, A, B, C, D and Q subway lines.
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