Over 25 million people visit Central Park each year, making it the most-visited city park in the United States. The famous park is one of the reasons New York City is so beloved by its residents, and also a key reason why the blocks surrounding its southern portion make up some of the most expensive real estate on the planet. Penthouse apartments overlooking Central Park have been listed at up to $70 million, with even larger and more lavish ones currently being built.
The park is 2.5 miles long and half a mile wide, stretching from the edge of Midtown all the way up to Harlem. There are many miles of trails weaving through the various lakes and large green areas on the interior, but most visitors will find the interesting features of the park are mostly concentrated in the southern half.
Visiting the park
Central Park South (aka 59th Street) is the southern border and also home to many of New York City’s best hotels. There are subway stops here and nearby, depending on which line you’ll take, but incorporating a Central Park walk on a general walking tour of Midtown is easy to do. It’s free to get enter and just into the southern section you’ll find some of the park’s most famous attractions.
Famous attractions inside Central Park
- The Wollman Skating Rink – This revitalized skating facility is open to the public and is many times larger than the tiny rink in Rockefeller Center. You can rent skates here and ice time is reasonably priced.
- Amusement park – There is a small amusement park near the Wollman Skating Rink, and both are a short walk from the 59th Street entrances. There has been a carousel here since 1870, but most of the other rides are new.
- The Central Park Zoo – This isn’t one of the larger zoos in the country, but it does have a good reputation and is very popular with children and tourists. It’s just inside the eastern edge of the park at 64th Street.
- Metropolitan Museum of Art – The most famous museum in New York City and one of the finest museums in the world – It’s located on the eastern edge of the park on Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street.
- Tavern on the Green – This huge and famous restaurant is on the western edge of the park at 67th Street.
- Strawberry Fields – This tribute to John Lennon is small, but always filled with at least a handful of people singing Beatles songs and whatnot. It’s located just inside the western edge of Central Park at 72nd Street, just across the street from the Dakota apartment towers where Lennon lived and was gunned down by a crazed fan in 1980.
Sporadically there are huge concerts held in Central Park on the Great Lawn near the center. Simon and Garfunkel did a famous reunion concert there and Diana Ross also put on a huge show. There is an outdoor venue in the park called Summerstage, and each summer notable acts play every weekend to large audiences.
The Delacorte Theater is an open-air venue in Central Park that does various stage productions. Usually at least one Shakespeare play runs for two weeks, but other productions – often featuring famous actors – are also on the summer schedule.
Central Park had and deserved a reputation for being dangerous – especially after dark – for several decades, but fortunately things have changed. Robberies (and worse) are now quite rare, but obviously caution should be taken. The park is open and accessible 24 hours a day so there is no telling what can happen in the dark corners in the wee hours. When you get there you’ll see that the well-lit paths near the 59th Street entrances are busy and pleasant on most evenings.