Times Square to Central Park, New York

Times Square to Central Park (Self Guided), New York

A leisurely self-guided stroll from Times Square to Central Park will take you to some of NYC’s prominent locations, each worth visiting in their own right.

At 49th Street, Fifth Avenue lives up to its lofty reputation with the Rockefeller Center, one of the world’s biggest business and entertainment complexes, and a triumph of Art Deco architecture. Like the neighboring Times Square, the adjoining plaza is one of the must-visit spots on the journey, but slightly less crowded and particularly awesome during the winter (Nov–Jan), when the skating rink and Christmas tree are set up for the holidays. A great place for photo ops in other seasons, too!

Next on the way are two Gothic masterpieces which stand almost opposite each other – St. Patrick's Cathedral and St. Thomas' Episcopal Church, followed by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), which houses almost 200,000 artworks ranging from Post-Impressionist classics to an unrivaled collection of modern & contemporary art. A large expansion and comprehensive renovation has made the famous museum a gigantic affair where you can explore each floor as a coherent loop before heading on to other floors via central staircases or elevators.

After a while inside the MoMA, proceed to the Gapstow Bridge toward the Central Park’s main promenade – the Mall, where artists and vendors gather. When you reach the end of it, walk around the Bethesda Terrace whose grand fountain dates as far back as 1859. Whether you’re visiting Central Park for the first time or the umpteenth-time, this classy place with superb views should always be a must-stop!

Take this self-guided walk to soak in Midtown Manhattan’s architecture, ending with the many hidden gems of Central Park at your fingertips!
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Times Square to Central Park Map

Guide Name: Times Square to Central Park
Guide Location: USA » New York (See other walking tours in New York)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.2 Km or 2 Miles
Author: gabriela
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Times Square
  • Rockefeller Center
  • St. Patrick's Cathedral
  • Saint Thomas Church
  • Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
  • Gapstow Bridge and The Pond
  • Bethesda Terrace
Times Square

1) Times Square (must see)

Once a native pathway running the length of the Island of Manhattan, Broadway, unlike other streets in NYC, was not laid out on a grid. Hence, it intersects with Seventh Avenue and 42nd Street, forming two triangular shapes, like a bow tie. Times Square is the name of the southern triangle, while the northern triangle is called Duffy Square, after Father Francis P. Duffy of the 69th Infantry Regiment of World War I.

The section of Broadway between 41st and 53rd Streets, clustered around Times Square, is also often referred to as the Great White Way. The nickname comes from the many lit-up billboards, posters, and marquees that promote plays and musicals in Theater District. This frenetic pedestrian area is the heart of the city's entertainment industry, and it draws annually up to 50 million visitors (or 330,000 souls per day), who come here by subway or simply walking, while looking for something extraordinary.

Times Square was known as Longacre Square until 1904, when Adolph S. Ochs, the owner and publisher of The New York Times, moved his headquarters into the newly erected Times Building, currently One Times Square. Within a decade, the New York Times outgrew its space and moved offices again, but not before starting a tradition of the annual New Year's Eve Ball Drop. The tradition began on December 31, 1907, and continues to date, attracting over a million visitors every year.

The square has many other attractions like ABC's Times Square Studios, The Bubba Gump Shrimp Company (Seafood), and Planet Hollywood, to mention but a few. The illuminated signs in Times Square rival those of Las Vegas, and, according to their size, are called either "spectaculars" or "jumbotrons."

Among these are quite a few neon-lit signboards of retail establishments like Gap, Old Navy, Forever 21, Levi’s, Disney Store, the Hershey’s and M&M, that make up the Times Square shopping scene. This commercial hub in the center of Midtown Manhattan is also ideal for scooping up a souvenir to commemorate your stay in NYC.
Rockefeller Center

2) Rockefeller Center (must see)

In 1801, New York physician David Hosack bought 22 acres of open land from the city with an aim to establish the country's first botanical garden, the Elgin Botanic Garden. The latter had lasted only until 1811, for the lack of funds, following which the territory was taken over by Columbia University, in 1823.

In 1926, the property changed hands again when the Metropolitan Opera sought location for its new home; so the University leased the land to the theater's benefactor, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. After the stock market crashed, in 1929, the Met Opera move was canceled, and Rockefeller decided to build a mass media complex instead.

The ensued talks between Radio Corporation of America, National Broadcasting Company, and Radio-Keith-Orpheum Radio resulted in an agreement, in 1930, to build on the site an entertainment complex. Pursuant to this agreement, 228 buildings were demolished and 4,000 tenants relocated. Early on, the project was called "Radio City," "Rockefeller City," or "Metropolitan Square."

Presently, Rockefeller Center represents a compound of two complexes (comprising 14 Art Deco-style buildings), one solitary edifice on 51st Street (added in 1947), and four towers on the west side of Sixth Avenue. The venue covers all of Doctor Hosack's 22 acres, and, whilst there's no botanicals on the ground, it does have some rooftop gardens.

Radio City Music Hall occupies the western part of the Center. The Lower Plaza, at the heart of the complex, lends a sense of privacy, being sunken below street level. Architect Ieoh Ming Pei praised it as "the most successful open space in the United States, perhaps in the world." Most of the Plaza's outdoor area is taken up by an ice rink, installed in 1936.

In addition to the spectacular, unobstructed views of the NYC skyline opening from the top of the Rock’s three levels of indoor and outdoor observation decks, the Center offers a shopping experience like no other. The abundant choice of popular local brands, international names, and up-and-coming designers makes it one of the best shopping destinations in Midtown Manhattan. This is where you come to realize that shopping is as much about the place as it is about what you buy.
St. Patrick's Cathedral

3) St. Patrick's Cathedral (must see)

There are two St. Patrick's Cathedrals in New York City. The construction of New St. Patrick's Cathedral was started in 1858 to accommodate the growing Archdiocese of New York and to replace St. Patrick's Old Cathedral, built in 1815. New St. Patrick's is the enormous Gothic Revival edifice erected between 50th and 51st Streets on Madison Avenue in Manhattan. It is the seat of the Archbishop of New York. Located directly across from Rockefeller Center, it was designed by architect James Renwick, Jr., and inaugurated in 1879.

The Midtown Cathedral is triumphantly vertical and Gothic. It is clad in marble. It has dozens of stained glass windows encased in pointed arches topped by triangular pediments. It is 332 feet long and the transepts are 174 feet wide. Soaring spires flank the enormous bronze entrance doors. The spires reach a height of 330 feet.

Inside is a nave with a center aisle and two side aisles. Thirty-two marble columns separate the center and side aisles. Above the center aisle are groin vaults supported by ribs and bosses. There are 12 chapels in the side aisles. The interior is designed for a seating capacity of 2,400. There are 300 wooden pews.

The high altar is a replacement. The original was moved to Fordham University Church in the Bronx. The current altar is made of grey-white Italian marble covered with a bronze canopy or baldachin. There is no tabernacle or altar screen. The baldachin is topped by a statue of Christ the King flanked by angels and pinnacles.

The New St. Patrick's Cathedral is a New York City designated landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Saint Thomas Church

4) Saint Thomas Church

The Saint Thomas Church is an Episcopal parish church located in the heart of New York City. It is one of the few churches where the old Anglican choral tradition is still preserved.

Previously, the congregation of Saint Thomas's worshiped in three other locations before the present one was built. Designed by architects Ralph Adams Cram and Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue in High Gothic style, featuring plain limestone exterior and sandstone interior, the current church was built between 1911 and 1916 looking absolutely fantastic among the towering skyscrapers. The intricate stonework on the reredos – white carved screens behind the altar and interesting carvings on the choir stalls showing “modern” inventions like the radio and telephone – was done be sculptor Lee Laurie, while the fine stained glass windows were created by English artist, James Hunphries Hogan, of Powell and Sons (Whitefriars) Ltd. of London.

Music is an important part of worship and liturgy at St Thomas's, in large part thanks to the design offering excellent acoustics, as well as the three old and one new incredible Dobson pipe organ (worth $11 million) added in 2008. There are free organ recitals most Sundays, the sound of which is profoundly moving. The church's choir performs traditional Anglican Evensong, a 45 minute service of music by young boys aged between 8 and 13. This choir is supported by the St Thomas choir school that was founded by the parish in 1919 and is one of four remaining choir schools in the world.

While everyone goes to check out St Patrick's, and quite rightly so, you still might be cheating yourself if you don’t visit St Thomas's, which is just a few blocks away. Its beautiful altar area, stained glass and ceiling are absolutely worth a look, and will leave you in awe. Highly recommended!
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

5) Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

Undaunted by the Wall Street Crash of 1929, the socialite and philanthropist Abby Rockefeller and two of her friends, art collectors Lillie Bliss, and Mary Quinn Sullivan opened their new museum at the Heckscher Building at 750 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. It opened to the public on November 7, 1929. The venture was the primary museum in America dedicated solely to Modern Art and European Modernism. In the next ten years, the MoMA relocated three times.

Since 1939 the museum has made its home on 53rd Street in Manhattan, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. The museum has played a vital role in collecting and promoting Modern Art. It is reputed to be one of the most important museums of modern art in the world.

The collection holds contemporary art, such as works of architecture, design, painting, sculpture, prints, art journals, photos, films, and electronic media. MoMA has a library with more than 300,000 books and catalogs of exhibitions. There are over 1,000 periodicals and 40,000 items of ephemera relating to artists and their associations.

The museum is made up of six Custodial Departments: Architecture and Design, Drawings and Prints, Film, Media and Performance, Painting and Sculpture, and Photography. Museum holdings involve more than 150,000 separate pieces plus 22,000 films, and over 13,000 artists are represented.

Painting Collection highlights include works by Rodin, Matisse, Picasso, Braque, Miro, Mondrian, Duchamp, Klee, Magritte, O'Keeffe, Hopper, Gorky, Giacometti, de Kooning, Pollock, Rothko, Rauschenberg, Stella, Warhol, and Lichtenstein, to mention a few.

MoMA is housed in a sleek modernist building on 53rd Street. Straight ahead, through the expansive lobby is the open Sculpture Garden with trees, sculptures, and reflecting pools. Staircases and elevators lead to the exhibition halls above. There are several cafeterias. A motion picture theatre has showings on most days.

The museum is open every day. There is an admission charge but admission is free on Fridays after 5:30 pm.
Gapstow Bridge and The Pond

6) Gapstow Bridge and The Pond

One of the first landmarks to discover after entering Central Park's southeast corner, the robust Gapstow Bridge just so happens to be among the best spots for photography within the Park as well, along with Bethesda Fountain and the Belvedere Castle. Although not far off from several similar bridges, this one wins for the commanding and breathtaking views it offers, with natural scenery on one side and Manhattan's skyline on the other.

Originally wooden and cast-iron, though for the last hundred-plus years made of stone, the bridge itself may not be an architectural marvel but has a beautiful aesthetic presence to it. It's apparently also quite popular with locals, who come to watch the ducks in the pond and relax after work.
Bethesda Terrace

7) Bethesda Terrace

Featured in many Hollywood movies and TV shows, the Bethesda Terrace is one of the most easily recognizable landmarks of Central Park. It is a perfect place to unwind, watch street performers, enjoy music, or simply hang out and pass the time.

With its beautiful arcaded structure and carved limestone decorations, it stands as a fine example of 19th-century architecture, treating visitors to a lower and upper terrace surrounded by three staircases. This is all further highlighted by an attractive, large-scale fountain with the famous "Angel of the Water" statue on top and a beautifully tiled underpass, both of which are worth many pictures.

The "Angel of the Water" statue refers to "Healing the Paralytic", a story from the Gospel of John about an angel blessing the Pool of Bethesda, giving it healing powers.

In the end, it's a neat area to spend some time during visits to Central Park, particularly when the fountains are turned on and the trees in the area are in bloom or heavy with foliage. More often than not, you'll find people sitting on stone benches in the lower level to watch boats on the lake and get a glimpse of the high-rise buildings beyond.

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