New York's Central Park Walking Tour, New York (Self Guided)

It is the first public park built in America, and the most famous park in the world today. Enjoy a great relaxing time, surrounded by natural beauty, gazing upon numerous man-made wonders - fountains, monuments, sculptures, bridges and arches. Central Park offers over 50 delightful attractions. Take this walking tour to explore the beauties of the Central Park.
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New York's Central Park Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: New York's Central Park Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » New York (See other walking tours in New York)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 12
Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 7.3 km
Author: doris
1
Columbus Circle

1) Columbus Circle

Columbus Circle lies on the South West corner of Central Park in New York City across the Maine Monument. The circle is a small green space with seating and walkways in the midst of a major traffic hub.

The Columbus Monument that stands in the middle of Columbus Circle was erected to commemorate the discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus. The dedication ceremony in 1892, of the monument was attended by dignitaries from Spain, Italy and America. The statue of Columbus, designed by Sicilian Sculptor, Gaetano Russo, was donated to the city by the Italian American community. The base of the statue is surrounded by fountains and an allegorical figure that is a tribute to the greatness of discovery. The monument is made of Carrara marble with two bronze bas reliefs portraying the journey of Columbus a bronze eagle and bronze ships prows and anchors decorating the marble column.

Columbus Circle was recently renovated during the 500th year celebrations in 1992. The park was made into a garden with flower beds and seating areas and visitors can now enjoy a walk or enjoy a picnic as the city traffic rushes by under the great explorer’s watchful eye.
Sight description based on wikipedia
2
Central Park Zoo

2) Central Park Zoo (must see)

The Central Park Zoo is a small zoological facility within Central Park. It was one of the first experiments in creating natural habitats for diverse animals in an urban setting. Though smaller in size than other zoos, it has a rich diversity of animals including some endangered species.

The Central Park Zoo started as a menagerie in 1860. At the time, it was the first zoo in New York City. It was enlarged in 1934 and new buildings were added. Major renovation was carried out in the 1980s and opened in 1988 with natural habitats replacing the original cages.

Today, there are three major exhibit spaces called the tropic, temperate and polar. There is an indoor rainforest that houses rare birds, a leaf-cutter ant colony, a frozen area for penguins and a pool for polar bears. The zoo has over 150 species from around the world including snow leopards, snow monkeys and red pandas. Children will enjoy a visit to the Tisch Children’s Zoo within the park. They can enjoy feeding animals like sheep, goats and Llamas and play with simulated animal eggs, shells and habitats.

Central Park Zoo is a small park that visitors can view within a period of 2 hours with animals and activities that will interest each member of the family.

Why You Should Visit:
Adds variety after a walk in Central Park and/or a museum visit.

Tip:
To get the most out of a visit, it's best to try to get to see all the scheduled 'highlight' events: feeding penguins, sea lions, etc., because the animals are a joy to watch working with their trainers.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 10am-5pm; Sat-Sun: 10am-5:30pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
3
Wollman Skating Rink

3) Wollman Skating Rink

This public ice rink is located in the southern part of Central Park. It hosts a range of skating activities especially for children and is a place where visitors and locals enjoy skating as a group activity in winter.

The Wollman Skating Rink was built using funds from a donation by Kate Wollman of Kansas. She was the sister of William J Wollman, the owner of a major stock exchange firm. It opened in 1949 and was used for ice skating from October to April. In summer, the rink became a venue for rock concerts sponsored by beer companies till 1980. Today, it contains the Victorian Amusement Park in summer. Major renovations were carried out by Donald Trump in 1986 and the rink was renamed as the Trump Wollman Skating Rink.

Between October and April, a range of activities are available at the rink. Visitors can enjoy skating, adults and children are given skating lessons, ice hockey classes are available and parties for 20 to 2000 guests are arranged. The rink only accepts cash for admission fees and there are strict rules to ensure that skating is a pleasant experience for all. Skate and lock rentals are also provided for the convenience of visitors.
Sight description based on wikipedia
4
Sheep Meadow

4) Sheep Meadow (must see)

Sheep Meadow is a grassy space within Central Park used as a picnic spot or a place where one can relax in full view of the towering skyscrapers of the city. It is also a beautiful place in an urban setting where one can see the seasons change from spring through fall.

Sheep Meadow has an expanse of 15 acres and was the scene of demonstrations and political movements in the past. It was landscaped by designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux and became part of the park in 1864. At first, the public was not allowed to walk in the meadow and sheep were allowed to graze for the purpose of trimming and fertilizing the grass. In 1934, the sheep were removed for fear that hungry humans during the Great Depression may use them as food. The Sheepfold became the ‘Tavern on the Green’ restaurant. Later the meadow became the venue for large-scale protests, rock concerts, and hippie gatherings.

Visitors can enjoy a picnic in Sheep Meadow because it is now fenced and protected from unwanted use. Pets, glass bottles and playing games are not allowed making it a safe place to enjoy a day out with family.

Tip:
Bring a blanket and food and you can spend hours here enjoying the fresh air and greenery all around.
5
Strawberry Fields

5) Strawberry Fields (must see)

Dedicated to the memory of poet, musician John Lennon, the lead singer-songwriter of the immortal rock band, the Beatles, Strawberry Fields is a landscaped section of Central Park where fans can pay their tributes to his departed soul. His widow, Yoko Ono, gave a donation to the park for the creation and upkeep of the memorial.

John Lennon lived in New York City and frequented Central Park during his lifetime. The name of the location is inspired by the title of one of his songs. The entrance to the park is opposite Dakota apartments, Lennon’s residence and the site of his murder. The prominent feature is a mosaic pathway made of inlaid stone, gifted by the city of Naples and inscribed with the title of one of his famous songs, ‘Imagine’. The landscape was designed by Bruce Kelly of the Central Park Conservancy. Strawberry Fields was dedicated in 1985 on the 45th birth anniversary of John Lennon.

Today, it is a quiet zone where fans of Lennon pay homage. Many decorate the mosaic with flowers and candles in his memory. Memorial gatherings for other musicians and others like the victims of the September 11th attacks are also held at Strawberry Fields. On Lennon’s birthday and death anniversary, fans gather to sing songs in his memory late into the night.

Tip:
The Dakota Building where John Lennon lived and was later murdered is just outside the park entrance nearest the memorial (at 72nd Street), so you can pass there, too.
6
Bethesda Terrace

6) Bethesda Terrace

The Bethesda Terrace is a magnificent split level platform that connects the Mall of Central Park with the lake. One can view the lake and the wooded area around it from the upper terrace while the lower level has a large fountain and access to the lake. The Bethesda Terrace is made of New Brunswick sandstone combining Romanesque, Gothic and classical architectural styles. Two ornate staircases on either side connect the lower level to the higher level of the terrace. At the center of the fountain is a sculpture of a winged angel landing on top of the pedestal. The figure was sculpted by Emma Stebbins in 1868. She was the first woman to be asked to make a public work of art in New York City. The bronze, eight-foot statue depicts a female winged angel touching down upon the top of the fountain, where water spouts and cascades into an upper basin and into the surrounding pool. It was the only statue in the park called for in the original design. Beneath her are 4 4-foot cherubs representing Temperance, Purity, Health, and Peace. Also called the Angel of the Waters, the statue refers to the Gospel of John, Chapter 5 where there is a description of an angel blessing the Pool of Bethesda, giving it healing powers. The base was designed by Calvert Vaux and sculptor Jacob Wrey Mould. At the end of the 60s, the venue became a luncheon restaurant and later fell to disrepair.

The Central Park Conservancy campaigned and restored the fountain and Bethesda terrace in 1980 and 1981 and the gardens re-laid with native shrubs, flower filled Grecian stone pots and flowerbeds. Visitors can sit on stone benches in the lower level to watch boats on the lake and to get a glimpse of the high rise buildings beyond. On a clear day, musicians and dancers entertain audiences with their diverse performances around the fountain.
Sight description based on wikipedia
7
The Ramble and Lake

7) The Ramble and Lake (must see)

A unique feature in Central Park is this wooded area called the Ramble along the banks of an artificial lake. The Ramble provides a natural landscape as compared to the more formal lakefront edifice, the Bethesda Terrace.

The man-made Ramble and Lake formed part of the plan of Central Park by landscape architects, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in 1858. The Ramble has an extent of 38 acres of wilderness spanning the length of the lake-shore. It runs unevenly through carefully planted Native American and exotic trees, shrubs, streams, bridges, rocky cliffs and meadows giving the appearance of a naturally forested zone. Over the years the ramble has become the home of 250 species of birds including 20 species of warblers and red-tailed hawks. One can also see other woodland creatures like raccoons during a stroll through the ramble.

The ramble runs along a 22-acre lake for boating in summer and ice skating in winter. It is also the home of birds like ducks, swans and herons. It was excavated from a swamp where drainage ditches met a tributary of the Hudson. The outlet was dammed and the water used to feed the lake. The lake is 7 feet deep and has terraced shorelines so that visitors can skate safely during winter. In summer, rowboats are rented at the lake-shore.

Why You Should Visit:
The place to ice-skate in the winter time and the place to rent a boat in the summer time. If you're a birdwatch lover make sure to visit during their spring and fall migration! You're likely to see lots of happy squirrels, a few raccoons, lots of birds and, of course, ducks and a wide variety of flowers.
Sight description based on wikipedia
8
Belvedere Castle

8) Belvedere Castle

Belvedere Castle is an ornate building that forms part of the landscape of Central Park. It serves as an observation deck and museum. The intention of the designers was to make a Victorian Folly or ornamental landscape structure in the middle of the park.

The name Belvedere means beautiful view in Italian. Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux designed the structure in 1869 with a mixture of Romanesque and Gothic architectural styles. The castle’s turret is the highest point in the park. Belvedere Castle lives up to its name and commands spectacular views of Central Park and the city skyline. The building is constructed with Manhattan schist and grey granite. Like most Victorian Follies, the castle was a shell with open doorways and windows overlooking a rectangular reservoir. Later doors and windows were added when it became the meteorological observatory of the United States Weather Bureau. In 1983 a nature observatory was opened in the building.

Today, Belvedere Castle looks over a large open green space called the Great Lawn. Free family and community events take place in the venue through the year including bird watching, storytelling, astronomy discussions and haunted castle shows during Halloween.
Sight description based on wikipedia
9
Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre

9) Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre

Sweden’s exhibit in the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia was a Cottage Marionette Theater. It is now located in Central Park and serves as the oldest continually operating puppet theater in the U.S.

Frederick Law Olmsted brought the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater from Philadelphia to Central Park in 1877. It is made of Swedish pine and cedar in Scandinavian log house style. During the exposition, it was used as a model schoolhouse. The cottage was made by Swedish craftsmen, packed in wooden boxes, shipped and erected in Philadelphia. After being purchased by Olmsted, it was dismantled again and erected at its present location. It first served as a tool house and later as a library.

It became the home of a traveling marionette theater troupe in 1947. The troupe organizes puppet shows and puppet making workshops in schools and recreation centers in New York City till today. In 1973, the building was redesigned to house a permanent theater for marionette shows with a separate facility for the existing traveling troupe. The theater has presented performances of classic and popular children’s tales and provided hours of entertainment to children and adult visitors from around the world.
Sight description based on wikipedia
10
Metropolitan Museum of Art

10) Metropolitan Museum of Art (must see)

Popularly known as the‘Met’, this museum has one of the largest art collections in the world. The exhibits consist of collections acquisitions and donations from collectors and benefactors with a common goal to bring art to the American people.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is a repository of artwork from all over the world and from every age in history. It has collections from prehistoric ages to recent times. It was founded in 1870 by a group of citizens including artists, financiers, businessmen and art collectors. The museum occupies the major part of the Museum Mile in Manhattan. The nineteen departments at the Met are repositories of over 2 million exhibits. It also has a large private collection of American banker Robert Lehman, one of the largest collections of musical instruments in the world, a collection of costumes and accessories by well-known designers and over 20,000 photographs. The Thomas J Watson library within the museum has a collection of books related to the History of Art, exhibition catalogs and auction sale publications. The Met also has a branch museum at The Cloisters, devoted to medieval European art.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art offers free guided tours for visitors. The roof garden offers a spectacular view of Central Park and New York City.

Why You Should Visit:
Thousands of masterpieces throughout two million square feet of exhibition space!
There's something for everyone here, no matter nationality, ethnicity, interest or familiarity.

Tip:
The best place to sit when you're tired is on the 2nd-floor furniture storage area. It's quiet, elegant and has comfy, contemporary upholstered chairs.
To avoid exhaustion, maybe split your visit over several sessions. Entry tickets allow multiple visits over a 3-day period, plus entry to some MET annexes elsewhere in NYC.

Operation Hours:
Sun-Thu: 10am-5:30pm; Fri-Sat: 10am-9 pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
11
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

11) Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is well known not only for its collection of contemporary art but also for the architectural splendor of its building. The museum has a vast collection of permanent modern art collections and always runs temporary exhibitions featuring innovative and interesting modern art displays.

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum houses the art collection of its founder and his art adviser, German artist Hilda Rebay. In 1939, they opened the first museum displaying works of art in rented premises located in 24, East Fifty- Fourth Street. The number of exhibits outgrew the building and renowned architect, Frank Lloyd Wright was asked to design a suitable structure to house the collections. This was the last of Wright’s major plans and it took 15 years before he could create the architectural concept of the building. The design was criticized at first because it did not synchronize with the box like buildings located nearby. The appearance of the structure is like a ribbon curled around a cylinder shaped base. The museum opened in 1959 after the deaths of Guggenheim and Wright. Today, it has become one of the architectural icons of New York City.

The museum features works of modern and post modernist artists including Picasso, Rudolf Bauer, Vincent van Gogh, Hilla Rebay, Paul Klee, Amadeo Modigliani and Fernand Leger. There are also modernist sculptures, rock displays, dollar displays and a range of exhibits to fascinate lovers of Contemporary Art.

Operation Hours: Monday - Wednesday: 10 am - 5.45 pm; Friday - Sunday: 10 am - 5.45 pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
12
Conservatory Garden

12) Conservatory Garden

This flower bed covered park is the only formal garden in New York City. It forms part of Central Park and is used by those who wish to take quiet strolls and as the venue for family events like weddings.

The garden is located at the site of a former conservatory in Central Park. Several glasshouses stood at the location from 1898 to 1934. The conservatory was removed and a formal garden was designed by Gilmore D. Clarke with planting plans formulated by M. Betty Sprout. The area covered is six acres with three distinct sections. There is a French, Italian and English garden within the park. Conservatory garden was opened to the public in 1937.

The English section of the garden has magnolia and lilac trees and a statue of the author of the novel, ‘The Secret Garden’, Frances Hodgson Burnett. The Italian section has a large fountain and a Wisteria covered pergola. The French garden is full of spring tulips and a sculpture by Walter Schott called the Three Dancing Maidens.

Visitors enter the garden through the Vanderbilt Gate that once stood at the entrance of the mansion belonging to the millionaire. Jogging and bicycling is prohibited because this park is meant for visitors who want a quiet walk in a serene environment.
Sight description based on wikipedia

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Tips for Exploring City on Foot at Your Own Pace

Whether you are in New York for a quick stopover or have a few days to see the city in more detail, exploring it on foot, at your own pace, is definitely the way to go. Here are some tips for you to save money, see the best New York has to offer, take good care of your feet while walking, and keep your mobile device – your ultimate "work horse" on this trip - well fed and safe.

Saving Money with City Passes


To save yourself time and money visiting New York's multiple sights, you may want to resort to the so-called city passes, such as the New York CityPASS, New York Pass, NY Sightseeing Pass, or New York City Explorer Pass.

A city pass combines all or multiple NYC's top highlights, tours and experiences in one prepaid attractions pass, using which you can save incredible amounts on general admission fees as compared to purchasing tickets separately. Often, a city pass also allows you to skip lines at major attractions, thus saving your precious time.

Staying at Walk-Friendly Hotels


Since you're keen on exploring cities on foot (we assume that you are, and this is why you're here), it is important that you stay at a hotel close to the city's major attractions. It saves you time and energy. Here are a few of New York hotels conveniently located for a comfortable stroll: JW Marriott Essex House New York, Moderne Hotel, The Manhattan Club.

Taking Care of Your Feet


To ensure ultimate satisfaction from a day of walking around the city as big as New York, it is imperative to take good care of your feet so as to avoid unpleasant things like blisters, cold or overheated soles, itchy, irritated or otherwise damaged (cracked) skin, etc. Luckily, these days there is no shortage of remedies to address (and, ideally, to prevent) these and other potential problems with feet. Among them: Compression Socks, Rechargeable Battery-Powered Thermo Socks for Cold Weather, Foot Repair Cream, Deodorant Powder, Shoes UV Sterilizer, and many more that you may wish to find a place in your travel kit for.

Travel Gadgets for Your Mobile Device


Your mobile phone or tablet will be your work horse on a self-guided walk. They offer tour map, guide you from one attraction to another, and provide informative background for the sights you wish to visit. Therefore it is absolutely essential to plan against unexpected power outages in the wrong place at the wrong time, much as to ensure the safety of your device.

For these and other contingencies, here's the list of useful appliances: Portable Charger/External Battery Pack, Worldwide Travel Charger Adapter, Power Converter for International Travel Adapter, and Mobile Device Leash.

Exploring City on Guided Tours


We have a strong bias towards exploring a city on foot, at your own pace, because this is how you get to see things up close with a maximum freedom. You decide how much time you wish to spend at each attraction and don't have to worry about following a crowd. That said, however, we also understand that some of you may want to go with a guided tour. If that is your case, here are some guided tours to consider. Be ready to fork out a bit of money, though, as a guided tour of New York typically costs somewhere between US$30 and US$125 per person:

- Board a hop-on hop-off double-decker to enjoy sightseeing of New York City in comfort listening in the headsets to prerecorded commentary in a variety of foreign languages, and be able get on and off at any of the stops along the three interconnecting routes as often as you like. The tickets are valid for one, two, three, four or five days and can be upgraded to include a night tour as well.

- Hop a ferry from Manhattan to visit two of New York's most iconic sights - the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. This 4-hour journey is an absolute must for those in the city for the first time as it allows visitors to follow in the footsteps of millions of migrants who reached this way the U.S shore up until the mid 1950s in pursuit of the American dream.

- Take the Wall Street tour created by a former investment banker and walk behind the scenes of something as quintessentially American as NYC financial district to see where billions of dollars change hands every day, making America what it is.

- Explore the home base of two of New York City’s most colorful ethnic communities that gave this fascinating metropolis much of its flavor. Embark on a guided tour of Little Italy and Chinatown to explore the popular restaurants and shops, discover the hidden gems and learn the stories surrounding these and other locations retold by an expert local guide.

- Spare a couple of hours in the morning or afternoon to pedal your way through the beautiful Central Park in NYC on a fun and educational bike tour to observe the park's most famous attractions, watching the surroundings, and learning interesting facts about the landmarks en route from a knowledgeable group leader.

- Take a big bite out of the Big Apple on a half-day food tour of Brooklyn, the newly-emerged culinary center of New York and the national food epicenter. Come and see where the dining trends of today's America are born out of the old ethnic traditions and dispersed further afield. Quench your appetite for a diverse and cutting edge food scene while touring one of New York City's coolest and tastiest boroughs.

Day Trips


If you have a day to spare whilst in New York City, why not use it to explore some of the out-of-town destinations like Niagara Falls, Philadelphia and Lancaster County, or Hamptons on Long Island. For as little as circa US$170 to US$530 per person you will get a chance to discover the beauty and the awesome might of the roaring waterfall, take a daring boat ride behind its curtain, or drive through the beautiful countryside to the home of the Amish people known for their plain living and resistance to modern technologies, or enjoy a day away from the hustle and bustle of a big city in a quaint 300-year-old seaside village, and more. For any of these tours you will be picked up either straight from your hotel or a designated place in New York City and transported by a comfortable air-conditioned vehicle (or even boat, whenever applicable) to the destination of your choice and back again.