Central Park is the natural heart of New York City's busiest borough, accounting for 6% of Manhattan at 778 acres.
Commissioned by state legislature in 1853, it is the first landscaped public park in the U.S. It now draws around 35 million visitors every year.
We took a day trip and documented some of the things that make Central Park the best — even in a chilly November.Central Park is a vast oasis in the middle of New York City. (Here's the morning view from Spanish Harlem.)
The Harlem Meer is a beautiful lake beginning at 110th and 5th. The name is a nod to the 17th Century European settlers who first inhabited the village of Harlem.
The wildlife in the park's several bodies of water is outstanding. A 2003 census found 500 species of plants and animals. Another census will be published in a few weeks.
You'll find all manner of dogs in the park, including these stylish poodles.
At 9 a.m. on a Sunday morning in November, multiple hockey games are underway.
The Conservatory Garden is perfect for a quiet stroll, featuring this statue inspired by the classic children's book "The Secret Garden."
There are also hidden spots all over the park. We came across this bench dedicated to Andrew H. Green, who oversaw the park's development and is known as the "Father of New York City."
You can also wander the woods, until the sounds of the city disappear.
Page 2 of 4 - The Loch, at the lowest part of the park's ravine in the North Woods, is a calming spot in the very heart of the city.
Jogging around Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir beats any track. Or you can just stare at the skyline.
Jazz sessions along the path are common.
Animal spotting in Turtle Pond is great for kids ...
... and serious photographers too.
Don't miss Belvedere Castle, an awesome lookout tower built in 1869 that now serves as a weather station.
The view from the castle is the best in the park, which is fitting since Belvedere means "beautiful view" in Italian.
People are always doing activities around the water. This group was practicing acrobatics.
Friendly, interesting people are everywhere. This is Marie-Hélène, a French woman who emigrated to the city from Switzerland in 1939. She's taking a moment after her shift at the nearby Metropolitan Museum of Art before having lunch with her daughter.
The Obelisk, aka "Cleopatra's Needle," was made for an Egyptian pharaoh in 1450 BC. Laborers erected the 71-foot, 244-ton granite monument in front of the Met on January 21, 1881.
The surreal Alice in Wonderland statue is definitely worth a trip.
The park is full of squirrels, which tourists seem to find very cool.
"Still Hunt" is a large bronze panther that overlooks the path near 76th St. To blend better into the landscape, it has no plaque.
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Bethesda Fountain is marvelous. Designed in 1868, it is now one of the most famous fountains in the world.
At its base is one of many excellent spots for reading.
Carriage rides add to the park's regal appeal (although incoming mayor Bill de Blasio wants to ban them). A 20-minute ride costs $50 plus tip.
At any point you can pick out a rock on the scenic Central Park Lake ...
... and spend some quality time there.
There is plenty of space for kids to play.
As well as space for meditation.
You can always find a free game at the scenic Chess & Checkers House.
Strawberry Fields on the west side is a cool living memorial to John Lennon. Here, a man sings "I Saw Her Standing There."
The Central Park Zoo has five acres of exhibits, including sea lions, snow leopards, and four species of penguins.
And there are artists to sketch whoever wants to be on display.
In the south-east corner of the park, two more surprises are this excellent performer and the temporary sculpture in the distance.
The U.S. also has gorgeous landscapes for those who want to get out of the city.