In the heart of the 1970’s and 80’s and early 90’s New York was a cesspool of gangs, drugs and violence. New York was actually viewed as one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Central Park was no exception and was certainly not the vibrant, well visited place that we know it to be today. Following a zero-tolerance crime policy and a major clean-up of the city by Mayor Guiliani New York proudly boasts to be one of the safest cities in the world. Alongside the clean up of the streets of New York, the Central Park Conservatory made an arrangement with the City of New York to privatise the park. Largely funded by donations the Conservatory divided the park into 49 geographical zones in order for it to become more manageable and entrusted paid employees and volunteers with the restoration, and now day-to-day running of the park, also encompassing a zero-tolerance on graffiti and violence within the grounds. The general running costs of keeping the park beautiful, pristine and welcoming to New Yorkers and tourists alike is in the millions, $67 million for this year alone in fact.
Which brings us to day 5 of our trip to New York. Again we utilised the pay what you like company http://www.freetoursbyfoot.com/new-york-tours/ for a bike tour of Central Park. The small costs involved in this tour was renting the bike for a couple of hours, approximately $36 per person, or free if you have The Explorer Pass or The New York Pass. If I am honest, I feel as though this tour was not worth our money. It wasn’t until our second last day that we found out that our hotel has a partnership with a Bike Rental place within Central Park and we could rent a bike for an entire day for as little as a few dollars and Central Park is so stunningly beautiful, especially in Spring, that I felt a few hours on a bike was not enough. So much so that after we returned our bikes we had some quick lunch and returned to the park by foot.
My husband was adamant about hiring another bike for a few hours, but at that price I was reluctant and was happy to walk. Believe me when I say, the only and best way to see Central Park is by bike! There is far too much ground to cover by foot. That being said because we were on foot we managed to go “off the beaten track” as they say on our way to Belvedere Castle and discovered a wonderful wooden area complete with bed rock and friendly squirrels. The trees created a sound barrier and we could not hear any city noise so it became a nice peaceful spot to take in some nature.
Belvedere Castle, meaning “beautiful view” in Italian, is a miniature castle offering wonderful panoramic views of some famous Central Park landmarks and Manhattan rooftops. Either of the two balconies provide great places to take in the warm sun, a rarity on this trip. Head directly west from the castle and you will be at the Museum of Natural History, which has a great collection of dinosaur fossils. Entry fee is optional, you can enter for the suggested fee or enter in for $1 if you wish.
TIP: When in Central Park be sure to check out Bow Bridge, one of the most filmed locations in the world and the backdrop for some spectacular photos (and maybe even a proposal…)