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New York

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


History, North America

Visiting the Queen City of New York

July 24, 2016 • By

When I first visited Buffalo, New York in 2001, it was February and I hated it. I complained ad nauseam. It was cold, dark and dreary and I vowed to never return again but I was in L-O-V-E and needed to hide my disdain. I failed.

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Spot Coffee on Delaware in downtown Buffalo

The city was certainly not any colder than Chicago, my hometown, but I found reason after reason to dislike the Queen City. Starbucks and Ann Taylor had yet to arrive and I couldn’t walk to any shops or bars. The downtown was desolate and by comparison to Washington DC and New York City, it was small and boring. As New York State’s second largest city, I expected more.

Fantasy Aisle

Delaware and Chippewa Streets are the main hub of downtown Bufalo

While I wouldn’t rush to move to Buffalo (and to be clear I have no reason to contemplate such a move), I stand corrected. Buffalo has grown on me. I have returned a few times for work mostly with my head lowered and my countdown clock going strong but on my last visit I finally figured out that the people are the driving force behind Buffalos’s allure.

Buffalonians are proud and hearty people.

They reflect on the positives the city has to offer rather than the negatives and the proof is in their relentless efforts to bring economic opportunities to the region. Buffalo has been fighting its way back to greatness since the demise of the Erie Canal at the end of the 19th Century. Similar to other Rust Belt cities, the decline of manufacturing stunted Buffalo’s growth and much of the population abandoned downtown for nearby suburbs. That is changing as more and more Buffalonians young and old come home to the City of Good Neighbors.

On a recent trip to Buffalo, I decided to explore the city from the perspective of a traveler. Why visit Buffalo?

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Buffalo Lighthouse on Lake Erie

It’s a city with two professional sports teams, a beckoning lakefront and a rich and interesting history. It serves as the gateway to Niagara Falls and the Canadian border and there is plenty to see and do.  A short 15-minute drive for Buffalo Niagara airport will land you right in the center of activity.

Buffalo will satisfy every craving whether it’s an architectural tour at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House and his Fontana Boathouse or a stop in Elmwood Village to marvel at the Victorian style homes or maybe a visit to the Silo City Grain Elevators for a chance to go back in time.

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Canalside and the walkway to the Buffalo & Erie Country Naval and Military Park

If the Queen City is on your destination list, then definitely carve out time to visit Canalside and listen to locals buzzing with excitement. I braved the overcast skies and flurries *(yes it’s possibly in late spring) to find out for myself if the area lives up to the hype. I hopped on the NFTA Metro Rail, which runs along Main Street and is free downtown. It dropped me at the end of the line at Erie Canal Harbor Station and I fumbled my way around until I realized everything seemed shiny and new.

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Anchor at the Naval and Military Park in Buffalo

Canalside is a redevelopment project that once served as the western terminus of the Erie Canal. It is now a lively area with restaurants, bars, the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park and the reconstructed Commercial Slip that once formed a boundary of the Canal District. It’s a great spot to grab a drink or bite to eat and learn more about the city’s past.

I sampled a 716 Kölsch style beer brewed by Flying Bison Brewing Company at Liberty Hound and swapped stories with the bartender originally from Chicago and a White Sox fan.   When I explained to him my recent re-discovery of Buffalo, he insisted I cross the street and investigate the offerings of HarborCenter, a hockey themed complex with rinks, restaurants and hotels. I wandered through 716 Restaurant and thought if only New York City had a sports bar like this place, I might actually follow the Yankees.

Fantasy Aisle

One bite into Beef on Weck from Charlie the Butcher and I am hooked

No visit to Buffalo is complete without biting into something delicious so save room for Charlie the Butcher’s Beef on Weck sandwich served with mustard and a pickle or the Anchor Bar’s original Buffalo Wings and secret sauce. If you are like me and enjoy a sweet tooth, then Watson’s and their chocolate-dipped sponge is the place for you.

This time I departed Buffalo with only one disappointment: No Uber.  New York State has not granted a license  to the company and Buffalo definitely needs it. Rent a car and explore anyway.

Check out Travel & Leisure’s Here & Now Article from May 2016, Boom Time for Buffalo for more restaurant ideas

What to see on your visit

Discover Chippewa Street for beers and bites

Buffalo Harbor Boat Cruise on the Miss Buffalo II

Examine modern and contemporary art at Albright-Knox Art Gallery

Cruise the Erie Canal

Watch a Buffalo Bills football game, Sabres hockey game or the catch 9 innings with the Buffalo Bisons, Minor League Baseball team

Stare in awe at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin D. Martin House Complex

Wander Canalside

Admire the ships at the Buffalo & Erie County Naval and Military Park

Take the kids to the Buffalo Zoo (third oldest in the United States)

Explore the neighborhoods of Allentown and Elmwood Village

Learn about a time in history at Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site

For more tour information, contact Explore Buffalo by email or phone (716) 245-3032