Springtime in the City – New York’s Central Park

The East Coast was pummeled with a perfect spring Saturday this weekend, prompting me to head in to New York for a while. A walking tour focusing on Central Park’s 19th Century history was the lone item on my agenda. So, of course, I took a train that pulled in to the city with barely enough minutes left for me to rush by foot the approximately 30 blocks to the starting point. 19th Century New York had long drifted away by the time I halted inside the East 65th Street entrance. So I began to soak up the atmosphere of Central Park in the here and now. The sights within the park as well as the surprisingly awesome views of Manhattan projecting itself above the trees ended up occupying the entirety of my day.

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I’ve touched Central Park before. Many times I have seen horses lined up on the south entrance with people climbing up to embark on the classic horse-drawn carriage ride through the park. Once, I rode in the back seat of a car through the few streets that allow traffic. My boyfriend and I have dined just inside the park’s west side at the famous Tavern on the Green (which neither of us thought was very good). I’ve spent hours wandering around inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which stretches for several blocks along its Fifth Avenue boundary. But I’ve never walked around inside the park itself.

Saturday I was in. So I stayed. Just several steps within the park the cacophony of the city ceased, leaving me with a bit of an out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere feel.

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Long ago I’d read that Central Park is approximately as big as the principality of Monaco. 843 acres is small if you are a self-governed land. But if you are a park, you are vast. This Monaco-esque area of New York holds two zoos, 26,000 trees, 9,000 benches, almost 50 ball fields and playgrounds, and 55 sculptures. As I strolled, a man behind me spoke to his small daughter – “Sculptures or rocks? Which do you climb better?” A few steps later and I saw why he asked. Dozens of children were crawling all over a group of large animal sculptures while parents looked on. This is apparently a popular activity in Central Park. The rocks of which the man spoke jut out of the park’s surfaces in many large formations, giving park-goers rather comfortable spots on which to sit or lie. Many people choose to recline on the grass. I chose a large slab, shared by a man napping with his bicycle.

Another sort of sculpture exists in the park, which I have seen as I’ve touched its periphery in years past. Here and there performance artists painted in silver or bronze stand atop small pedestals, frozen in place just long enough to convince you they are metal. Then – motion. I walked up behind one silver person-shaped object from behind, not thinking for an instant that it was anything other than a statue wearing a tutu. But the “it” was a ballerina, I discovered, when she began moving gracefully from one pose to another.

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One sight I have previously twice traveled to Central Park to see is Strawberry Fields, a small wooded area dedicated to the late John Lennon. When I first visited this spot just inside the West 72nd Street entrance, I came immediately upon the colorful Imagine mosaic built into the walkway. Some years later I returned to visit this and was disappointed to find it under renovation with all of its color washed out and surrounded by objects preventing people from getting close. Saturday I found Imagine again, this time greeting me in grey and black. Am I misremembering that many years earlier this mosaic was multicolored?

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Colors blossomed up from elsewhere, though, proving, as if I had any doubt, that this was a perfect day to discover Central Park. Trees blooming with purple and pink lent the park a gorgeous post-Easter feel, their blossoms so thick it seemed they were trying to hide the city which stood just behind them. In part, they succeeded.

Within Central Park are possibly the grandest views of Manhattan that I have ever seen. The view was so sweeping it seemed as if it could stretch as far south as the Brooklyn Bridge. Walking around its serene and silent lake and its grassy, wooded hills while gazing up at the massive buildings just blocks away on streets throbbing with traffic makes the park feel like a secret, perhaps somewhat unreal, spot on earth.

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21 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Gray says:

    I love Central Park. If I lived in NYC, I’d be there every weekend in the summertime.
    .-= Gray´s last blog ..Shiny Travel Objects: April 11, 2010 =-.

  2. Sabina Lohr says:

    Oh, if I lived right there, me too.

  3. Janz says:

    Wow! what in the world was I doing or where was I and how come I’ve never been in Central Park in any of my trips to the East Coast. Hmm… I better visit this place soon! :) thanks for sharing!

  4. Mike says:

    Never been there, myself. Now I want to visit just to see if I can make a stone statue giggle!

  5. Candice says:

    I didn’t know ANY of those stats and now I’m freaking excited to go there! Woohoo!
    .-= Candice´s last blog ..It’s JUNOS Week in St. John’s! =-.

  6. Lola says:

    Beautiful photos! Love Central Park

  7. Rebecca says:

    Just visited NY for the first time last month and loved it! Thanks for the great pics, it brought back great holiday memories. Central Park was AMAZING!

  8. inka says:

    Last time I visited was in February. Cold, but ohhhh so wonderful. Your pictures are awesome.
    .-= inka´s last blog ..Another interview =-.

  9. Suzy says:

    Gorgeous photos and descriptions Sabina! the last time I was in Central Park, I think I was around 10 years old. We took that tourist carriage ride through, but even at the time, I loved the feel of Central Park. I had no idea it was the size of Monaco!
    .-= Suzy´s last blog ..Early to the Airport Traveler or Final Boarding Call Walk-On? =-.

  10. Sabina Lohr says:

    Yeah, Janz, that’s what I’m wondering now. Why didn’t I just ever go inside before? Probably because there’s so much more to NYC.

  11. Sabina Lohr says:

    Mike, I think you’re probably right. She’s probably supposed to be stone. Looking at her from a distance, though, she really did look like a statue, prompting me to think metal.

  12. Sabina Lohr says:

    It is well worth the woo-hoo, Candice. I hope you make it there this time around!

  13. Sabina Lohr says:

    Thank you, Lola. That’s a great compliment, coming from you.

  14. Sabina Lohr says:

    Why, thank you, Rebecca! I’m glad you got to go to Central Park on your first trip to NYC.

  15. Sabina Lohr says:

    Thank you, Inka. I mostly stay out of the city in the winter. It can be just too brutal, what with the wind tunnels the buildings create.

  16. Sabina Lohr says:

    I’ve never taken one of those carriage rides. That must have been really cool to do at 10.

  17. I just love Central Park. When I go there, either I rent a bike to ride around or take a pedicab ride through. Just love it.

  18. Sabina Lohr says:

    I didn’t know you could rent a bike. Of course you can. Maybe next time.

  19. Some great pictures of Central Park. Been there a few times myself, I’m curious to know if you prefer the park in Summer or Winter?

  20. Sabina, the photos are just amazing!
    Actually I spend most of my free time over there ;) The (horse) carriage rides are cool, but they don’t go into the park. And yes, you can rent a bike and explore the park on your own (right now is pretty cold). All day bike rental is around 35$.

  21. Haha, the “it” become a ballarine, LOL, must have been so funny.
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