As the notion of going to the park transitioned from an idle daydream to a specific part of our trip itinerary, I began to realize how vast it is. At 778 acres, it's bigger than London's Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens combined. The park is home to a zoo, boathouse, conservatory garden, playgrounds, cafes, an ice skating rink in the winter and more. No wonder scoundrels are able to hide in its enormousness. I could spend days in this one part of New York, but I only had an hour or two.
|A crisp, autumn day in Central Park|
After much consideration, I decided to lead the family on a mid-park stroll from the American Museum of Natural History on the west to The Metropolitan Museum of Art on the east side. It took longer than I expected. There were rocks to climb and footpaths to follow. In some areas, we seemed isolated and alone, far from the bustling crowds on the city sidewalks a few blocks over. I reveled in the quietness — well, as quiet as it gets around my three kids — instead of fearing that some scoundrel was about to leap out from behind the bushes. When we reached paved roadways, they were full of joggers and families pushing strollers or riding bikes but blessedly car-free.
|The Castle in Central Park|
Partway through our walk, we came upon Belvedere Castle. To weather geeks, it's the official location of the National Weather Service Central Park readings. The turret is the highest point in the entire park, and you can see the anemometer and wind vane next to the base of the roof's flagpole. To children, it's Gargamel's New York headquarters in the movie, The Surfs. To the park's designers, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, it was intended to be a Victorian folly — a fantasy structure without a practical purpose.
|See the weather instruments on either side of the flagpole?|
Constructed in 1869 with a facade of gray Manhatten schist and granite, it's small in stature compared to most castles, but it's worth making the climb up to the terrace. There, you'll find a spectacular view. "Belvedere" means "beautiful view" in Italian, and it is indeed the epitome of beautiful. From that vantage point, we looked north out over Turtle Pond and the Great Lawn, all the way to the skyscrapers that make up the great Manhattan skyline.
|How do you say "beautiful view" in Italian? Belvedere|
Have you visited Central Park? What's your favorite spot?
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