A Spring-Inspired Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Central Park
Spending an afternoon exploring Central Park is a quintessential New York experience. Located in the true heart of the city, its 843 acres of inspiring architecture and landscape design offer a quiet escape in a vibrant, dynamic atmosphere. There’s always something new to do and see in Central Park; it’s home to free SummerStage concerts in the summer, the New York City Marathon finish line in the fall, ice skating at Wollman Rink in the winter, and beautiful blooms come spring.
With so many paths and points of interest, it might be difficult to know where to start. WestHouse is ideally located just a few blocks from Central Park, so consider us the jumping off point for your self-guided walking tour. This route covers a few miles, so you might want to divide it up into multiple parts.
Make your way to the southeast entrance at 59th St. & 5th Ave. where you’re immediately greeted by The Pond, one of Central Park’s seven man-made bodies of water. Though just a stone’s throw from the bustling streets of Manhattan, the water’s edge offers a welcome sense of calm. Continue on to Gapstow Bridge, which offers the first of many magnificent photo ops in the park.
If you’re sightseeing with children, there are dozens of family-friendly activities along the east side of the park. Continue north, under the Inscope Arch, to find the Central Park Zoo, the Chess and Checkers House, the Carousel, The Dairy, the North Meadow Butterfly Gardens, the Balto Statue, and the Alice in Wonderland statue. This section of Central Park is known as the Children’s District.
For a more leisurely route, head west toward Umpire Rock, a schist of exposed, ancient bedrock where New Yorkers sit, read, meet friends, or watch the games on the nearby baseball diamonds. North of Umpire Rock is Sheep Meadow, Central Park’s largest lawn, and the Nell Singer Lilac Walk, lined with varieties of the signature fragrant flower from around the world.
Beatles fans are encouraged to continue northwest toward Strawberry Fields, a secluded memorial honoring John Lennon. The garden, named for the song “Strawberry Fields Forever,” was planned by his widow Yoko Ono. Just outside the park on West 72nd St. is The Dakota Building, New York City’s first luxury apartment building and home of many celebrity through the years, including Lennon and Ono.
Also north of Sheep Meadow is Bethesda Terrace, the area considered the heart of Central Park by its designers. Bethesda Terrace is one of the most recognizable locations in the park; its fountain is frequently photographed and seen in film and on TV. Another one of the park’s most recognizable landmarks is the Bow Bridge, named for its shape reminiscent of a violinist or archer’s bow.
Cross the Bow Bridge and you’ll enter The Ramble, a twisting, turning, thriving wildlife habitat that attracts over 230 species of birds during the year. The Ramble offers a number of quiet places for bird watching, including Azalea Pond, The Gill, and The Point.
When you emerge from The Ramble, it’s as if you’ve stepped into the English countryside. Before you sits the whimsical Belvedere Castle, inviting you to climb its towers to enjoy the highest views of Central Park and the Midtown cityscape. Adjacent to the castle is Shakespeare Garden, a beautiful collection of flowers and plants mentioned in the Bard’s poems and plays. Thespians won’t want to miss the Delacorte Theatre for Shakespeare in the Park and Marionette Theatre at The Swedish Cottage for classic fairytale productions.
Finally, if it’s art you desire, make your way to Museum Mile along 5th Ave., a lovely tree-lined stretch of museums and fine arts institutions. Museum Mile boasts the best of the best, including the world-famous Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Cooper-Hewitt National Museum of Design, the Jewish Museum, the Museum of the City of New York, and more.