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Central Park

There's an enormous amount to say about Central Park. It's not just a park of course, it's almost a city within a city. You could certainly spend an entire weekend break solely discovering Central Park and nothing else and still not experience all that it offers.

Central Park and Times Square are completely different but have one thing in common: they have both in the past come to be regarded as rather shifty areas of the city, where perhaps only the braver tourists might go. Both though, have been almost transformed and during the day at the very least, pose no more of a practical risk than many other parts of the city. But, let me get the biggest warning of all out of the way now: Under no circumstances should you stray into the park after dark.

During the day though, it's fun, it's beautiful, it's lively and is another New York venue where some of the greatest clichés connected with the city come to life: for example, the early morning the stereotypically dressed joggers exercising themselves and their dogs -- sporting baseball caps and portable stereos and the brightest Lycra around.

Central Park is BIG, occupying some fifty blocks in length and four blocks across. It's so big, in fact, that it's got busy roads running through parts of it ( incidentally, traffic's banned from the park at weekends) and a walking tour would take you a few weeks. One of the best ways to get around is on foot of course, but also by bicycle or by hiring a carriage. You wont see it all though, however hard you try.

When you arrive in Central Park, pick up a map from the The Dairy visitor's center -- close to the southeastern corner of the park. Visit The Pond, The Lake, Bethesda Fountain, Hans Christian Andersen's statue and possibly the most enduring memory I have of Central Park in the winter -- Woolman Rink which was restored by tycoon Donald Trump in the 1980's for millions of skaters to enjoy. It's another spectacle which seems to typify 'New York'. The views from Belvedere Castle are memorable. Maybe one of the most visited spots is Strawberry Fields, almost halfway up the West Side. John Lennon lived nearby in the Dakota Building which overlooks the spot. His widow, Yoko Ono, turned it into a peaceful area in his memory.

Don't forget the famous zoo -- the Wildlife Conservation Centre which contains an impressive array of creatures such as polar bears, penguins, monkeys and birds.

But what is there in the park for children? Tons! Endless greenery to run around in, the Alice in Wonderland statue (at the north end of Conservatory Water) which seems to fascinate so many of them. There are real boat rides and space to use remote-controlled boats. If that's not enough, there's a zoo especially for them. The Children's Zoo is next to the Wildlife Conservation Centre.

Fifth Avenue lies continues alongside Central Park's east side and is known along this stretch as Museum Mile. One distinguished museum after another can be found here: The Solomon Guggenheim Museum (even if you see none of its displays, it MUST be seen from outside); the National Academy of Design; the Jewish Museum; The Cooper-Hewitt Museum and The Frick Collection.

So now you see, why Central Park is not just a park. It's a mini city with so much to keep visitors enthused.

Central Park covers a long rectangular block, straddling midtown and uptown from 5th Avenue to 8th Avenue and 57th Street to 110th Street. It's southern end is well served by subways, such as Columbus Circle, 57th Street. If you want to start further up, take the subway to 72nd 81st or 86th Street -- which run alongside the parks west side -- or catch one of the many buses running north from Downtown or Midtown.

Just remember to get out of the park before the shifty night shifters take over!

Walk up Fifth Avenue from Grand Central and you'll reach the southern tip of Central Park at 57th Street.

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