Central Park is New York City's backyard, with 843 acres of green that comprises a sizeable six percent of the island of Manhattan. Some 40 million people visit Central Park every year and enjoy the park's many famous sights. Here are nine of the very best Central Park attractions.
The Great Lawn
The Great Lawn is 55 acres of green grass with baseball fields, basketball courts, and lots of room for sports and leisure activities. The Great Lawn is also the site of free concerts every summer, including performances by the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera. Mid-park, from 79th to 85th sts.
Central Park Zoo
See the zoo that the movie Madagascar made famous (though note that the movie took some creative license, since there are no lions or hippos or giraffes here). However, the Central Park Zoo has plenty to see, including sea lions, monkeys, penguins, and more. A special children's zoo lets kids get close to goats, sheep, and pigs, too. East side of park, btwn E. 63rd & E. 66th sts.
Strawberry Fields was designed as a garden of peace in honor of John Lennon. When Lennon lived in the nearby Dakota apartment building, this was his favorite oasis in Central Park. A black-and-white mosaic with the word "Imagine" now marks the entrance to Strawberry Fields. Fans leave flowers, poems, and other tributes in remembrance of Lennon. West side of park, btwn W. 71st & W. 74th sts.
The Reservoir (officially named the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir) is best known for the 1.58-mile track surrounding it. Thousands of runners get their exercise here daily. Spring runs are particularly scenic thanks to the ornamental cherry trees that bloom along the loop. 85th to 96th sts., from east to west
This 19th-century stone castle rises above Vista Rock, the highest point in the park. From the castle's tower, you'll find breathtaking views of Central Park and the city. The castle also houses the Henry Luce Nature Observatory, which features exhibits on the birds and other wildlife found in the park. Mid-park at 79th St.
Sheep Meadow is a lush, green meadow boasting a great skyline view. It's perfect for sunbathing, picnicking, or just taking a break from the city. Herds of sheep grazed in this section of the park from 1864 until 1934. In fact, the shepherd lived in a nearby building that is now the famous Tavern on the Green restaurant. West side of park, btwn W. 66th & W. 69th sts.
Bethesda Terrace was designed to be the heart of Central Park. The ornate terrace features the famous fountain and views of the lake, the lawn, and the Ramble. Mid-park at 72nd St.
Shakespeare Garden is a beautiful little oasis of flowers. Sit on the rustic benches or under the mulberry tree and admire climbing roses, daffodils, violets, tulips, and other blooms. Only flowers mentioned in Shakespeare's plays or poetry are planted here. West side of park, btwn W. 79th & W. 80th sts.
At the boathouse at the eastern end of the lake, you can rent rowboats and bicycles or take a ride in a romantic gondola. You can also dine on a deck overlooking the lake or grab a snack on the terrace. East side of park, btwn E. 74th & E. 75th sts.