All too often I hear people say that they "could never live in New York because there are no trees" and this sentiment just kills me. True, New York is a metropolis and not a rural paradise of rolling hills. So, not every neighborhood has a park and tree-lined streets. However, living on the Upper West Side, I honestly enjoy more greenery and have more interaction with the outdoors here than I ever have elsewhere.
How could that be, you ask? A large part of that answer is, of course, Central Park.
In the mornings, I walk alongside the park to work. On weekends, I have jogged through its trails, ambled around its lakes, picnicked near the baseball fields, watched concerts at Summer Stage and attended Global Citizens Festival on the Great Lawn. So, when people talk about Central Park, particularly regarding its massive size, I've always felt fairly in-the-know about it.
That is, until recently.
The Tourist: Central Park
I usually stroll in from the west side of the park, but recently approached via the very common 6th Ave./Central Park South entrance. While the terrain was somewhat unfamiliar to me, I figured I’d get my bearings soon enough. After all, the lower part of the park is certainly more occupied and mapped out. However, after a few hundred yards, I began to pass unseen statutes, curious buildings and small ponds. I saw volleyball courts and gigantic boulders seemingly spring out of nowhere and even spotted an elevated carousel-like house built for chess playing. I became smitten with each and every new trail, view and landmark in my path, and it was then that I realized how little I had actually seen of the park the past few years. It truly is huge.
So huge, in fact, that for time-conscious visitors, I would definitely recommend having a plan or destination as opposed to just walking around it aimlessly, since that could easily take up your entire day.
Most notable picks for:
Family-friendly activities: The Central Park Zoo
The Local: Loeb Boathouse
First off, let’s get something straight: the Loeb Boathouse is no grand secret. It is, however, an absolute gem that remains in certain ways undiscovered. True to my spoiled nature of good luck, I had the opportunity to have dinner there just last week and I would recommend it to anyone. The boathouse simply has that “thing” that people talk about when they speak of the magic that is Manhattan. Set off significantly from the streets but with the backdrop of the city over the water and trees, the atmosphere is both calming and splendid. At one table, a group of women celebrated another’s birthday – standard. At the bar, a local read a book while sipping her drink. Bartenders and managers softly flitted to and fro, greeting her only in the way a regular can be greeted, with a relaxed rhythm and commentary on recent conversations. The lofted ceilings and white pillars overlook a peaceful pond, lined with wooden boats and an authentically Venetian gondolier. Oh, and the food, drinks and service are, without hesitation, superb.
The boathouse, all things considered, is special. It is certainly crafted to attract tourists, but it has a natural way of fitting in comfortably well with the locals, too. It feels like the subtle-yet-magnificent place one goes to hit pause on life – just for a moment – and to soak in all that is wonderful in the world.