I don’t spend a lot of time in Central Park. It’s far away, there are tons of tourists, and it’s not always possible to find a quiet spot to enjoy nature, since, like I said, tons of tourists. Mostly when I want to hang out in a big park, I head to Prospect Park — closer and quieter.
But Central Park is the first thing I loved about New York City as a kid. I had at least one Central Park-themed calendar along the way, and on visits to the city I would always want to visit. It’s just so BIG and after walking around the city, it’s so green. I loved the boulders every kid ever wants to scramble around on, even before they showed up in an episode of Doctor Who. My only memory from when my dad ran the NYC marathon is of waiting in Central Park for him when it was all over.
I don’t think I’ve ever paddled around the lake, and on a visit the summer after freshman year of college, my friends refused to ride the carousel. But on a high school visit I did see The Gates art installation (orange is not my favorite color, but it was still cool) and I’ve been lucky enough to attend three summer Public Theater productions (and hope to go again this summer!). I’ve stopped by the John Lennon memorial at Strawberry Fields, stopped at Bethesda Fountain (but forgot to make a wish), and found my way to Belvedere Castle a few summers ago. Found it slightly disappointing – where’s a real castle in NYC when you need one? – but still lovely.
All of this is to say that Central Park is one of the most beautiful, iconic parts of New York. I read a little bit about its history recently in that same Bill Bryson book I mentioned last week, At Home. It was disquieting, because it involved the displacement of a black village, a fact I’d never heard before. You can read a little about it here. Not a very auspicious beginning for a park that would ultimately welcome everyone, as it does now.
But today it’s a beautiful space with winding paths and roads for bikes (and horse-drawn carriages, and pedicabs) and runners. These photos were taken this past weekend, when I visited the park for a friend’s birthday picnic near Bow Bridge. It was the perfect day for a picnic and when I arrived around 5 p.m., the light was gorgeous. I wished I’d allotted more time for wandering the park, but after a while at the picnic I had to hurry home to watch the Tony Awards, which were a lot of fun!
Have you spent much time in Central Park? Any beloved Central Park memories? What are your favorite spots to visit?