Central Park, New York's green lung

New York's green lung, popularised in numerous American films, Central Park extends over 371 hectares dotted with lakes in the midst of Manhattan's immense skyscrapers. As an icon of the Big Apple, hundreds of thousands of tourists and New Yorkers come here every year for a jog, a picnic or a rowboat ride in the heart of nature. It's one of New York's main tourist attractions, and can be visited almost like a museum. Indeed, you can't imagine New York without Central Park, so it's often used in films to set the scene: the mere sight of the park on the television screen lets viewers know that the film is set in New York, which is why Central Park is featured in over 240 films. It is the most filmed park in the world. But the park didn't always exist. We're going to tell you the story of this mythical place and reveal its many secrets.

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The history of Central Park

Central Park is the first public park in the United States to be entirely man-made: the entire park is artificial. However, it is not the first man-made park in the world, that being Birkenhead Park in Liverpool, England. It was while visiting this park that architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux came up with the idea for Central Park. Construction began in 1857 on land covered in marshland, and was completed after 13 years in 1869.

Central Park est le parc le plus visité des Etats-Unis.

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This colossal project had its ups and downs before arriving at the park we know today. It took a lot of manpower and sweat: 1,500 workers put in 14-hour days. Sadly, the site cost the lives of 5 workers.

For the record, New York City had to spend more to build Central Park than the United States spent to buy Alaska from Russia.

Visit Central Park

New York's temple of outdoor sport

Central Park is the lifeblood of New York City, one of those places where locals and visitors mingle. On Sundays, many New Yorkers come here to play sports, football or have a picnic. If you're a keen runner, you can follow the joggers along the 10 kilometres of trails or take a walk around one of the seven lakes that dot the park. You can also hire a Californian bike, famous for its large handlebars, to explore the park with ease. Keep your eyes peeled for art everywhere: sculptures, fountains, kiosks, bridges and arches adorn the wooded areas and lawns.

Cycling is the best way to visit Central Park.

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How do you find your way around the park?

It's easy to get lost in the 341 hectares of Central Park. To remedy this, the 1,600 lampposts have been numbered so that walkers can easily find their way around. This number is made up of four digits: the first two refer to the nearest street, while the last two refer to the east or west direction (even numbers indicate east and odd numbers indicate west). Clever!

There's plenty to do in Central Park.

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The benches of Central Park

There are around 9,000 benches in the park, almost all of which have name plaques. These plaques do not attach themselves to the benches. There is a man in the park known as "BenchGuy". He travels the length and breadth of Central Park to repaint and maintain the benches. He also fixes the plaques on the benches.

Whether it's marriage proposals, declarations of love or tributes to a family member, Louis Young can tell hundreds of stories. In the end, it's all these stories put together that make up the great story of New York.

Activities in the park

In winter, an ice rink is set up in Central Park.

- © Stuart Monk / Shutterstock

If you're visiting in summer, treat yourself to a boat trip on the park's waterways. You can hire a boat at the Loeb Boathouse. If you're visiting in winter, you can try out the large ice rink in Central Park: a New York classic! And if you're there with the family, a visit to the park's zoo will delight young and old alike.

At the heart of Central Park is Belvedere Castle, a medieval castle resembling the one in Beauty and the Beast, designed in 1865 by Calvert Vaux and Jacob Wrey Mould to create a romantic setting in the park. Open from 10am to 5pm, it is a promontory with several terraces offering panoramic views over the entire park.

Our favourite hotel with a view of Central Park

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Practical information for Central Park

With almost 37.5 million visitors a year, Central Park is the most visited park in the United States, so it's easy to see why it's a must-see on any trip to New York! We recommend spending at least two hours there to get a quick overview, but half a day is best.

🚌 How do I get to Central Park?

Occupying much of northern Manhattan, it's very easy to get to Central Park by taxi or public transport. There are so many options that we recommendusing Google Maps to create your personalised route.

⏰ Central Park opening times

Central Park is open every day from 6am to 1am.

Central Park extends over 341 hectares to the north of Manhattan.

- © S.Borisov / Shutterstock

A few tips for your visit

  • Once night has fallen, it's best not to venture into Central Park, which becomes very unfrequented.
  • In winter, when the snow covers the lawns, the park is transformed into a veritable winter sports resort, with cross-country skiing and tobogganing.
  • Last admissions to the zoo are possible up to 30 minutes before closing time at 5pm on weekdays and 5.30pm at weekends and public holidays.
  • Central Park is easily accessible for PRMs and pushchairs.
by Faustine PEREZ
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