I had been meaning to take an extensive, self-guided tour of Central Park ever since I returned to New York in August 2014 after living in San Diego, but I failed to do so in my first few months back. Then winter arrived and I had no desire to do so at that time. So, my only visits to the park had been restricted to brief occasional walks, but a few months ago that changed. One day the weather was pleasant despite cloud cover, so I toured the park. I had the pleasure of doing so for three and a half hours, enjoying many of the major sites in the lower part, i.e., from Central Park South (59th Street) to 81st Street. I had to leave the upper park for another day.
As its name makes clear, the park is situated in central Manhattan. When Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux submitted their winning entry, called the Greensward Plan, to the competition in 1858 for the its design, incredibly, Olmestead had never designed a park. The first part of this urban oasis to open did so in 1857. Although most of it may appear to be natural, it is actually the result of careful, artistic design and intensive, wide-scale landscaping. For example, during the initial twenty years of construction, ten million loads of soil were moved and about four to five million trees were planted. Landscapers even repeatedly used dynamite to clear areas. Today the park is managed by the Central Park Conservancy, a private non-profit, in cooperation with the city.
To start a virtual tour of lower Central Park now, click the photo in the upper left-hand corner of the following gallery. Alternatively, click on any photo that catches your fancy.
How to get there. Central Park has many entrances, which are served by many bus and subway lines. To begin at the Maine Monument, as the virtual tour does, take the 1, 2, A, B, C, or D train to Columbus Circle.