New York City: Central Park

If you're heading to New York City for the first time and questioning whether you need to spend a lot of time visiting Central Park, you do. Central Park is more than just a mere park - it's the beating heart of NYC (and a place I will forever hold dear in my heart as I got engaged there!).

I will confess this love letter to Central Park is not a complete one. Central Park is big - a whopping 843 acres in the middle of Manhattan - and we only explored half of it, roughly the Midtown Manhattan end between West 5th Street and the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. We didn't make it to the other side of the reservoir, to Harlem, but we will rectify that next time!

Bow Bridge, Central Park, New York City Visiting Central Park was the first thing we did on our first full day - after breakfast, of course. Walking around is a great way to soak up some sunshine - yes, even in winter - and start your holiday by taking in some awesome scenery, though you might not agree if you're not a fan of walking! You could rent a bike though - or even take a horse and carriage ride through the park. (We also returned on our last evening, which is when Olly proposed.)

Gapstow Bridge, New York City First up, take the time to notice all the awesome buildings around the outskirts of Central Park. The Gapstow Bridge (above) gives the perfect view of the skyscrapers along the south side of Central Park, which includes The Plaza (below). And if you cross over the Gapstow Bridge, you'll get to the Hallett Nature Sanctuary, which is where we got engaged. It's like a little nature trail, all hidden and covered - and then, all of a sudden, there are those skyscrapers! 

Central Park South skyscrapers, New York City
You'll likely recognise Bethesda Terrace and Bethesda Fountain, and I'm so sad to only realise now we were right by Shakespeare Garden, which features in a key scene in Found. (Epic fail!) But, it was awesome to mooch around Bethesda Terrace, which has beautiful Minton tiles on the ceiling. Make sure you look up! 

Bethesda Terrace, Central Park, NYC

Bethesda Fountain, Central Park, New York City
You'll find that a lot with Central Park, excellent vantage points to take in the Manhattan skyline - clambering up Umpire Rock is another such point (pictured below). Head from there to Strawberry Fields, where you'll likely find someone with a guitar singing songs by The Beatles in tribute to John Lennon - and take in the Dakota and San Remo. 

Umpire Rocks, Central Park, New York City

San Remo, New York City
I always get the two mixed up, but the Dakota is the one on the left - and is where John Lennon was murdered outside - the San Remo is the one with the terracotta towers, topped with two copper lanterns (above). Both familiar New York landmarks.

Belvedere Castle, Central Park, New York City

View from Belvedere Castle, Central Park
From there you can mooch along the Lake to Belvedere Castle (pictured above), the highest point of Central Park. It really is a mini castle - and it was built in 1869. Sesame Street fans may recognise it as they used the exterior as Count von Count's home. It's free to head inside to take in the view from the top - and there will be no sign of the Count! 

Alice in Wonderland bronze statue, Central Park, NYC
Leaving Belvedere Castle we headed through The Ramble, a woodland walk, to the Alice in Wonderland statue (above). We didn't see it, but not too far from Alice is a monument of Hans Christian Andersen - and this is the main takeaway, that there's so much else you can see and do at Central Park. Little nooks and crannies to explore. 

Wollman Rink, ice skating in New York City
You could also visit the Central Park Zoo. Take a boat out on the Lake, if you're there in warmer months. Skate on the Wollman Rink (above), if you're there in colder months. Take a spin on the Friedsam Memorial Carousel. And much more. You won't get chance to do everything - but please do something in Central Park if you're ever in The Big Apple. It's worth it, I promise you.

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