Manhattan’s Isle of Sanctuary

On an island defined by the city it hosts, there exists a garden paradise humbly named Central Park. Amid the “city that never sleeps” there resides a haven providing asylum from the bustling underground of the subway system and the hustle of Wall Street’s financial markets.

Conceived in the mid 1800s, Central Park encompasses 846 acres of natural beauty and some of the finest stonework architecture seen anywhere. It surpasses London’s Hyde Park in size and even rivals the much larger (2.5 times) Bois de Boulogne of Paris in its splendor. Though each of these offers much of the bucolic experience to its visitors, Central Park is the standout. She is the pride of an emerging America of the Industrial Age, the Prestige of the “Empire State.”

One of the best examples of the park’s famous stonework is the grand staircase at Bethesda Terrace. Originally it was simply called the Water Terrace by its architects. The name Bethesda being derived from the sculpture of an Angel that is the centerpiece of a grand fountain of the same name. Also known as Angel of the Waters, she refers to the Gospel of John, wherein is described an Angel who blesses the Pool of Bethesda granting it healing powers.

Apart from biblical reference, here it symbolizes spiritual blessing of the Croton Aqueduct. Opening in 1842 it provided the first reliable supply of pure water to Manhattan residents. The eight foot bronze art depicts an angel blessing the water with her right hand while holding a lily, a symbol of purity, in her left.

This beautiful sculpture was the design of Emma Stebbins, who is notable as the first woman to be commissioned to create a major work of art for the city. Her masterpiece was unveiled in 1873, afterward the name of the terrace was changed to Bethesda Terrace.

The bi-level staircase of the Bethesda Terrace is carved from an olive colored New Brunswick sandstone. The granite steps provide passage to foot traffic southward to the Elkan Naumberg band-shell and the Mall. Spacious landings add dramatic detail with a herringbone patterned run of Roman brick laid on edge. Extensive restoration included removal of the Minton encaustic tiles, designed by Mould, from the arcades ceiling. The 20 year renovation of the lower passage, including additional tile work, was completed in 2007. The renewed warmth and beauty of fine artisans is breathtaking even in photographs.

The park had a period during the 70s when it succumbed to drug trafficking, graffiti and other adversities of urban blight. It was not until 1980 that the fountain, which had been dry for decades, was reborn as an initial part of the Central Park Conservancy’s campaign to restore the park to its previous glory. The civic and philanthropic leaders who founded the Conservancy had the foresight and energy to undertake this monumental task.

The Central Park Conservancy manages the park under agreement with the city and handles both maintenance and day-to-day operations. The annual cost of operating the park is nearly $38 million, a major portion of which is provided through the fund-raising and investment revenue of the Conservancy.

The Genesis of Central Park began in the early part of the Nineteenth Century when people would visit cemeteries in order to experience the beauty of nature. In a span of about thirty years, during the early 1800s, the population of New York City had almost quadrupled. And the public outcry for a grand park, equal to those of the great cities of Europe, was taken up by notable citizens such as Evening Post editor William Cullen Bryant. Along with other influential New Yorkers, Cullen convinced the state legislature to set aside 700 acres of city owned property at a cost of $5 million dollars.

When a competition was organized to design the park, it was the genius of Fredrick Olmsted and Calvert Vaux that won approval of the city. The winning design was named ‘the Greensward Plan.’ Their goal was to create an atmosphere of relaxation and contemplation in a natural environment. A somewhat progressive thought for the era, the park would provide a social setting for upper and lower classes to interact.

The park boasts many activities from jogging, bicycling and rock climbing to boating, birding and concerts. A world-class zoo and a classic carousel make their home in the park. The current carousel was built in 1951 and is the fourth of its kind to be installed on the grounds. The zoo houses an indoor rain forest and chilled penguin house, along with a Polar Bear pool.

Among attractions which have recently passed into glory is the famed Tavern on the Green restaurant at Central Park West and West 67th Street. The Tavern had its last seating in December of 2009. There are still fine restaurants to be found, including one housed in the Loeb Boathouse overlooking the lake. The Boathouse restaurant provides dining options that include an outside grill, lakeside dining, an express cafe and a lavish banquet room. Hanger Steak, Grilled Shrimp, Pork Loin and Chicken Breast are among a selection of very reasonably priced entree’s served with pride and flair. And you’ll have a hard time finding a more picturesque view of the lake.

The boathouse itself is among park landmarks which have become familiar to movie fans. It was used in a scene from the action-thriller F/X in the 1980s, and since has appeared on T.V.’s Law and Order. This and other locations in Central Park have become a backdrop for literary works of fiction and non-fiction as well. It is a place that tries to be all things to all people, and nearly succeeds in doing so.

Other important landmarks include Belvedere Castle which houses nature exhibits and an observation deck. This Gothic castle towers above Vista Rock, one of the park’s prominent elevations; with the castle’s turret being the highest point in the park. The castle’s exterior gray granite stands above and apart from the natural looking woodland area known as The Ramble.

These are just a few of the splendorous sites that the park owes to the heritage of New York City. This period in New York City’s history was one of grandeur and opulence. New titan’s of industry and capitalism made their homes along 5th Avenue, hence its nickname “Millionaire’s Row.” By the middle of the gilded age the street had transformed from a rutted dirt road lined with vacant lots and shantytowns into a thoroughfare flanked by palaces of the nouveau riche. Their money also purchased them a prime view of newly opened park.

The trees, that number in the tens of thousands, provide a habitat for birds and animals that would otherwise be foreign to the predominantly concrete jungle of the metropolis that surrounds and embraces them. It is a cornucopia of nature’s bounty that nurtures the many squirrels, raccoons, and chipmunks that dwell among the lush flora. That nocturnal marsupial, the Opossum, can even be found foraging when nightfall arrives.

Central Park offers so much to so many. By attracting more than 35 million annual visitors, with many coming from foreign lands, it has become a truly global park. The Conservancy also offers access to the park through a number of worthwhile volunteer programs. They include the Saturday Green Team, Greeters Program, Summer Internship and Pitch in, Pick up. The internships provide summer jobs for up to 25 high school students; while the Pitch in, Pick up program recruits volunteers to assist in efforts to keep the park clean.

Cleanliness and safety are reemphasized by the Saturday Green Team in keeping the plants and trees healthy and thriving. Keeping areas from becoming overgrown and removing undergrowth and debris not only eliminates potential hazards; it can also help lessen possible criminal behaviors that jeopardize the safety and security of park patrons.

Actual law enforcement is handled by the Central Park Precinct of New York’s Finest. Statistics gathered in 2005 showed that crime was reduced by 90% since a peak occurred decades earlier. Changes in police policy and tactics in dealing with criminal activity are credited with lowering crime rates.

Being the setting of numerous movies and television programs over the years has made film crews a common sight to visitors. Strollers along the parks many winding paths also enjoy the talents of jugglers, musicians and other impromptu performers. Activities are as abundant as the wildlife. Or if you prefer, you may enjoy a quiet game of chess, the solitude of a good book, or doing nothing at all.

But what would a trip to Central Park be without riding in a horse-drawn carriage? The romance of an open cab, listening to the gentle stride of the horse’s hooves and holding hands with someone special; there is no better place for it on the planet. A 20 minute ride will set you back $50, plus tip.

Without a doubt, Central Park’s magnificence puts a shine on the Big Apple.

Where to Go and How to Go There in New York City

New York City, also known as The Big Apple, is a place with a rich history and cultural diversity. It is a place where the past and present time meets and at the same time provides us with something to wonder about. Places such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Central Park are but only a few of those places that are being visited the most. However, there is just one problem that may hinder us from experiencing these sought-after places – how to go there. But, there is a solution, a quick guide and walking directions in New York City to take a peek at these beautiful walking destinations.

First stop would be the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is located at 1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street New York, New York. If you are approaching the museum from the east side of Manhattan, you can take the 4, 5, or 6 subway train to 86th street and then you can have a walking exercise for about three blocks, approximately half a mile, west to fifth avenue. Another option would be to take the M1, M2, M3, or M4 bus along Fifth Avenue (from uptown locations) to 82nd street or along Madison Avenue (from downtown locations) to 83rd street then you can take a stroll down to the museum. Then, if you are approaching from the west side of Manhattan, take the 1 train to 86th street, then the M86 crosstown bus across Central Park to Fifth Avenue; or take the C train to the 81st street, then the M79 bus (which is free of charge) across Central Park to Fifth Avenue, and after which you can take a leisurely walk to the museum.

Another stop would be Central Park, which is located at the center of Manhattan in New York City. It is also to be found in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. With regard to how to go there, it would just take you the same route on how to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and will make you a little more which is good also for the health. Within Central Park, there are a lot of views and well-known attractions, one of which is the Turtle Pond, also known as the Belvedere Pond. Go west from the Metropolitan Museum of Art along East Drive and take a right on 79th Street Transverse Road, it would take you a few minutes to wander and take in the beauty of Central Park. Upon reaching Turtle Pond, it is a place you can feast your eyes on and enjoy the habitat of some animals in the park. Along the banks of the pond, you can find the Belvedere Castle and the Delacorte Theater. Both infrastructures are added decoration to accentuate the beauty and serenity of the park. After visiting the aforementioned places, you can now continue to go Westside along 79th Street Transverse Road and after walking for a few minutes you can see the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater. It is where you can enjoy and watch puppeteers bring puppets to life to tell tales about prince, princesses, genies and giants to a vast range of audiences. Then after walking to the end of the said road, you can reach the American Museum of Natural History.

These are but only some places that you can go to just by walking around and having a good time looking around the aesthetic appreciation of nature.

Nature Lovers In New York City

You probably don’t realize that New York City is in fact the greenest city in America. Of nearly 200,000 total acres, more than 50,000 of those acres are of park or open space. While Central Park is the most famous of green spaces in New York City it is only number five of the top 10 largest parks in the city.

For those who love nature, New York City may not seem to be the oasis for wildlife that it actually is. There is plenty to do in New York City that will enhance your appreciation of nature and/or allow you opportunities to educate yourself about nature or simply be out and about enjoying it.

New York is home to some 1,700 parks and playgrounds where you can enjoy activities such as bike riding, inline skating, ice skating (seasonally), row boating, basketball, skate boarding, softball, soccer, tennis, Frisbee, or even a rousing game of tag with the little one that lights your eyes. Be sure to bring a blanket so that you can lie on your back and watch the clouds roll by. While you’re at it, see if there’s a stray bird or two that you can identify.

For those who love nature there are plenty of places to get close to it in New York City. For those who are interested in bird watching New York Botanical Garden offers guided tours. Blue Heron Park is another great place to watch birds. Some of the varieties you’ll see her include: Woodpeckers and Warblers. Clove Lakes Park not only offers bird watching but also fishing, row boating, paddle boating, and outdoor ice skating when the weather permits.

For those who prefer nature activities that require a little more action than bird watching (well sometimes), there are plenty of excellent opportunities to go fishing in and around New York City. Central Park’s Charles A. Dana Discovery Center is a great place to go ‘catch and release’ fishing. They’ll even lend you a pole. You can also go fishing in Willowbrook Park. While you’re there be sure to let the little ones ride the Carousel, it will net you a tremendous amount of smiles for the small price (in today’s world) of $1. Other activities available at Willowbrook park include: archery, ice-skating, an archery range, football, soccer, horseshoes, tennis, and horseshoes.

If plant life is more your speed or you just enjoy seeing the more obvious signs of nature, then there are plenty of chances for your to observe the amazing wealth of plant life and greenery in and around New York City. Central Park Conservatory Garden offers six acres of beautiful plant life to enjoy. You can see three distinctive patterns in the gardens here. The North Garden is meant to be a formal French inspired garden, the central garden is meant to lend an Italian atmosphere, while the south garden is styled after a traditional English garden. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden offers another opportunity for enthusiasts to enjoy the finest in greenery that New York has to offer. This garden even has a special club designed to help youngsters bring out their inner green thumbs. Be sure to check it out.

Another area of Central Park that bears mentioning is Belvedere Castle and the turtle pond that runs below it. Belvedere castles is a great place for bird watching and the other wildlife surrounding it only magnifies its appeal. Be sure to stop by the Central Park Conservatory at Belvedere Castle in order to borrow a backpack that contains binoculars, a sketchpad, and a map of the park to help you bird watch like a pro. You must provide ID and children under the age of 6 cannot borrow.

If you love nature, don’t fret, there’s plenty of nature to be shared and enjoyed in New York City. Make sure that you take the time to enjoy several of the parks that are available to your during your stay in this wonderful and exciting city.