Browsing Tag

Central Park

Culture, Destinations, North America, Travel Tips

A Day in the Park

October 26, 2017 • By

I’ve lived in New York City the greater part of 16 years and I never tire walking through Central Park. It’s my favorite spot to seek solace and tranquility in an otherwise hectic environment.

Fantasy Aisle, Central Park, the heart of New York City

Central Park, the heart of New York City

A few weeks ago with summer bleeding into fall, I explored the park as if it was my first time. I entered 72nd Street on the east side (off limits to cars on weekends) and joined the hoards of runners and bicyclists moving uptown along their respective paths. It was hot and humid and I admired the fitness levels of those zipping past me. People dressed in sponsored training attire, fathers and mothers pushing strollers, friends talking to friends and others like me making the most of a morning in the park.

Fantasy Aisle, Early morning runners and walkers

Early morning runners and walkers

The falling leaves signal the change in seasons as shady areas succumb to open patches of golden yellow and blazing red. The squirrels don’t mind because this is their territory and they out number people. They move quickly popping in and out of pathways diving into the leaves–they are not shy.

I venture off the crowded pathway into the “Ramble” where winding walkways lead to a man-made forest within a city. The sounds of fire engines and traffic disappear and I weave around huffing and puffing in silence until I spy a couple kissing passionately. I startle them. How long have they been hiding? This is the perfect place to seek shade, read a book, grab a pair of binoculars and bird watch. I hesitate but then continue with my goal to make the 6.02-mile loop around the park.

Next, I take in an adult soccer game on the Great Lawn. They see me lurking and put on a good performance before I find myself zig-zagging on another walkway to reach the Shuman Running Path bordering the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. The direction for runners and walkers remains unchanged year after year and I make a mental note to voice my opinion.

Fantasy Aisle, The pesky Central Park squirrel

The pesky Central Park squirrel

At the north end of the reservoir, the city skyline comes into view. There is a slight fog obscuring the tallest skyscrapers but it provides a simple backdrop to the simplicity of the calming water and the fall foliage. I walk half of the 1.58 mile-loop and exit to a bridge I’ve crossed a hundred times. It’s an antique straight out of the chalk drawing in the “Mary Poppins” Jolly Holiday scene.

Fantasy Aisle, Gothic bridge, connecting the Reservoir to the Tennis Courts at 94th Street

Gothic bridge, connecting the Reservoir to the Tennis Courts at 94th Street

I take a quick bathroom break at the tennis courts and watch a match in progress. The courts both clay and hard are filled with people of all ages and levels. If only I brought my racquet, I could practice my serve.

My feet ache for a timeout but I push myself through the Conservatory Garden. A beckoning bench reads, “Take time to sit and smell the flowers,” useful and timely advice.

Fantasy Aisle, Conservatory Garden located on the Upper East Side of the park

Conservatory Garden located on the Upper East Side of the park

Now on the West Side of the park and the sun bearing down on me, I wipe my sweat and duck into the North Meadow walking briskly to Belvedere Castle and the Shakespeare Garden. The tourists are awake and occupy the castle’s landing with cameras and tripods. I check to make sure the turtles are still roaming freely at Turtle Pond and remember my first performance of “Much Ado About Nothing” during the 2014 season of Shakespeare in the Park.

Fantasy Aisle, Empty swings await

Empty swings await

Fatigue sets in and I’m counting the 40+ blocks I need to finish the 6.02-mile loop. The joy has vanished from my face and my walk transformed from a leisurely activity into a mission of sorts. I notice a woman on a swing and move to take her picture but pause. We exchange pleasantries and I admit I haven’t sat on a swing in ages. She tells me to give it a try and I do. I’m kicking my legs faster and faster and soaring into the air. We swing together but not in unison. She is in her 60s I guess and loves the park for the swings. She stops, waves and bids me a good day. I let my hair blow in the wind and push higher and higher until I am scared and slow my pace. A child inhabited my body and I jump off the swing making a skittish landing on the sand. I recover. That was fun.

Fantasy Aisle, A beautiful bride poses at Bethesda Terrace and Fountain (lower passage) in Central Park

A beautiful bride poses at Bethesda Terrace and Fountain (lower passage) in Central Park

Central Park serves as an open-air museum and events center to New Yorkers and its guests. There is something for everyone whether it’s catching rays of sun in Sheep Meadow, paddling a rowboat on the pond near the Loeb Boat House, pledging wedding vows at the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain or listening to the talented musicians scattered along Literary Walk, a day in the park is only the beginning.

When I bought a park map from Karina, a 24-year-old student from the Bronx, I asked her what she enjoyed most about the park and she answered, “Literary Walkduh. I finished my adventure along the Mall admiring the statues of Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott and talking with Shayneh Starks, a native of Newport Beach, CA who has been visiting Central Park for the last 20 some years. She sits and listens to the magical music of Ralph U. Williams who is a talent on the saxophone. We discuss her first visit to the park with her mother when she was 21-years-old and I tell her I love zooming around the park on my bike but early on weekends before the tourists arrive. I ask her what she likes most.  She pauses and with passion and a smile answers, “The best part of Central Park is the fireflies.”

Fantasy Aisle, The Mall and Literary Walk, a favorite of many in Central Park

The Mall and Literary Walk, a favorite of many in Central Park

I agree. I thank Shayneh for the conversation and hunt for an empty bench in front of Kerbs Boathouse. The next few hours I bask in the sun reading my book and forgetting I live in a city with 8.5 million people.

My Favorite Spots in Central Park

The Pond at sunrise.  Take in the view of the Gapstow Bridge and a glimpse of the city’s skyline

 

Sip a coffee or a grab a drink at Kerbs Boathouse/Conservatory Water

Walk/Run the 1.58 mile loop around the Reservoir

Fancy a game of tennis?

Camp out all night for free tickets to Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte Theater (I usually cheat and become a member of the public theater)

Take a break at Strawberry Fields and listen to the Beatles greatest hits played by visiting musicians

Enjoy paddle boating at the Loeb Boathouse

Read a book and fall asleep in Sheep Meadow

Enjoy an outdoor lunch at Tavern on the Green

Let someone else do the driving on a romantic Horse Carriage Ride through the park

Breathe in the sounds and sights of Literary Walk/the Mall

Catch a free movie night in the Park

Plan for a Concert in the Park

Snap pictures of the Boathouse and people getting married at the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain

Fun for kids and parents

Make some figure eights at the Wollman Rink

Get dizzy on the Carousel

Pet an animal or two at the Tisch Children’s Zoo

Go paddle boating at the Loeb Boathouse and take in city views


North America, Travel Tips

35 Things to See and Do in New York City (A Local’s Bucket List Before She Leaves for Good)

September 26, 2015 • By

Last week, Condé Nast Traveler published 25 Things You Absolutely, Positively Have to Do in New York CityIt’s a comprehensive list worth reviewing, whether it’s your first trip to New York City… or your 100th. However, the writers targeted the upscale tourist who can splurge on a spa visit to the Mandarin Oriental and dinner at Momofuku.

Perhaps I can offer a more customized version of things to see and do–from the perspective of a local who often delights sightseeing in my own city.

After living in New York City for most of the past 11 years, I wrestled with the idea of packing my bags and departing New York City for greener pastures and colder shorelines: Chicago. I assembled my personal New York City Do-Do agenda and invited friends to join me as I checked off some boxes and relived favorite moments. One friend suggested labeling my list something other than a “bucket list,” which she considered a bit morbid.  I insisted the allure of New York City is deep, and leaving it when I am not necessarily ready is sort of like dying, so I kept the name with the mission to leave New York–with no regrets.

Here is my New York City bucket list, created on a dreary and stressful day in November 2013 and completed with little time to spare on October 31, 2015

(If visiting from out of town, I recommend creating a home-base for yourself by staying at an AirBnb. Be a “temporary local” for your stay.)

1.) Take a horse carriage ride through Central Park and dine at the recently renovated Tavern on the Green for lunch or dinner

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Central Park Carriage Ride with friends, Must do in NYC

2.) Tour the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island with my parents. (This item also topped my dad’s must see and do in New York City.) Tip: Reserve with as much advance notice as possible to visit the statue’s Crown.

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Statue of Liberty, Liberty Island

3.) Stop counting calories and order a chocolate malt or an ice cream sundae at Serendipity.

4.) Bike the entire Island of Manhattan at sunrise, cross the George Washington Bridge and admire the views of the city and the Hudson River.

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Biking the Island of Manhattan

5.) Eat at New Leaf Restaurant after strolling along the Hudson River. (Tag on a visit to the Cloisters as well.)

6.) Satisfy your sweet tooth for years to come at Magnolia Bakery. (Since 1 cupcake is never enough, I ate 4.) And why not stroll around the corner and check out the “home” of Carrie Bradshaw from HBO’s Sex and the City at 64 Perry Street in Greenwich Village?

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Times Square, NYC, Bright Lights Big City

7.) Walk through Times Square and appreciate the bright lights and the immensity of the buildings. It’s a fantastic place to people watch, catch a Broadway show and shop–if you can manage the crowds.

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Under the Brooklyn Bridge

8.) Walk the Brooklyn Bridge and dine at the River Cafe, which is usually reserved for special occasions but worth the splurge for the views and ambiance. For the budget-conscious, hit the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory or Grimaldi’s Pizzeria to save money and time.

 

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9/11 Memorial Ground Zero

9.) Spend a day at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. I lived in NYC when it happened, and the memories are still fresh today. The museum is incredibly thoughtful and meaningful and should not be missed.  Do not rush through the exhibits. Spend time walking the grounds, reflecting on that tragic day.

10.) Rent a boat at the Central Park Boathouse and paddle your way into the middle of the pond, from where you can enjoy views of the skyline and drink in the beauty and tranquility of the park.

11.) Take in a sporting event, whether it’s baseball (Mets, Yankees), basketball (Knicks, Brooklyn Nets), hockey (Islanders, Rangers) or a match at the U.S. Open. Hit golf balls at the city’s only driving range at Chelsea Pier. As fortune would have it, when I lived in New York, I attended both the Women’s and Men’s Final of the U.S. Open, a special treat as a tennis player.

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USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center

12.) Devour a deli sandwich at Katz’s Deli. You won’t need to eat for days.

13.) Take the tram roundtrip from Manhattan to Roosevelt Island.

14.) Catch the Ferry to Governor’s Island and spend a day admiring the city’s views from the middle of the East River.

15.) Forget about the diet for one day and eat until yourself silly at Brooklyn’s Smorgasburg every weekend April – November.

16.) Feast on fried green tomatoes and BBQ chicken at Harlem’s own Dinosaur BBQ.

17.) Visit the Intrepid (maritime museum) and tour the submarine. *I won’t be joining the Navy!

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The Plaza Hotel afternoon tea and champagne

18.) Feel like Royalty and enjoy afternoon tea and champagne at the opulent Plaza Hotel.

19.) Visit the High Line on a weekday (try catching sunset from here) and then grab a beer at the Standard Hotel Biergarten.

20) Dine at Campagnola for old school Italian food with piles of Parmesan cheese and meats to start.  It’s so good, I ate there more than three times!

21.) Rent a car and the visit the site of the Woodstock Festival (in White Lake near Bethel, New York). *Note: Do not go to Woodstock, New York–a different location altogether, which I later discovered after inadequate planning.

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Site of the famous Woodstock Music Festival, Bethel Woods Music Center

22.) Road trip to Cooperstown and visit the Baseball Hall of Fame.

23.) Participate in the Village Halloween parade. (A bit tired from a night out with friends, I watched from the sidelines. Still an experience, to be sure.)

24.) Go back in time and imagine life in the days of Michelangelo or Rembrandt by wandering the galleries filled with the work of artisans who created some of the most famous paintings and sculptures in the world at the MET Museum.  Afterward, when it’s time to relax, enjoy a drink or coffee at the Roof Garden Cafe and Martini Bar and admire the views of Central Park.

25.) Stroll through Chelsea Market and enjoy homemade cheese, ice cream, bread or buy fresh seafood and cook at your AirBnb location.

26.) Plan a trip around your favorite New York City Parade. I was honored to participate in the St. Patrick’s Parade.

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The Rockefeller Tree Lighting

27.) Join the masses in celebrating the magical Rockefeller Tree lighting. It’s my favorite New York experience. The tree towers between the buildings, inspiring hope with its stature and vibrant colors.

28.) Indulge on cocktails at 230 Fifth Avenue or sample the best of Italy at Eataly in the Flatiron District.  Both venues provide great views of Manhattan and a lovely experience to share with friends or if flying solo.

29.) Sneak in a last minute show (or plan months in advance) to see your favorite performance on Broadway.

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Late Show with David Letterman and Paul Shaffer

30.) See Letterman Live. A quintessential NY moment I loved.  Now that Dave is gone, why not try to see Jimmy Fallon, the View or LIVE with Kelly and Michael.

 

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The View from Top of the Rock, Rockefeller Plaza, NYC

31.) Location, location, location! The best views are always at the TOP! Take in the Empire State Building by night and Top of the Rock by day.

32.) Walk or bike Park Avenue without cars on summer weekends in August.

33.) Two words: Coney Island. Ride the Cyclone and eat a Coney Dog at Nathan’s Famous hotdog stand.  I missed the Cyclone, but hitting the beach, strolling the boardwalk and eating a Coney dog was worth the 40 minute train ride from Manhattan.

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Central Park features Shakespeare in the Park and the Public Theater

34.) Cheat to see Shakespeare in the Park by joining the Public Theater and getting a ticket for free.

35.) And lastly… eat a bagel; get blisters, strolling the streets; take the subway; jump on a tourist bus; roam a museum; shop until you drop… and come back for more.

What are you waiting for? New York awaits…

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