Free admission. Maps and guides can be purchased for $4 at 64th Street and Fifth Avenue or at the Dairy Visitor Center and Gift Shop, mid-park at 65th Street
Opened in 1858, the design (which made it the first artifically landscaped park in the United States) was conceived in 1857 by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. Advocates for the park (wealthy merchants and landowners) admired the public grounds of London and Paris and campaigned for a comparable facility in New York. The Greensward Plan, as it was called, combined pastoral, picturesque and formal elements with rolling meadows, landscapes and grand, formal walkways. The project displaced poor residents who lived in shanties on the site. Four transverse roads (at 66th, 79th, 86th and 96th streets) were designed to carry crosstown traffic beneath the park's hills and tunnels and 40 bridges were conceived as walkways Today, the park which consists of 843 acres, is a haven for joggers, cyclists, in-line skaters, sunbathers and walkers. Tours of the park are available through the Central Park Conservancy, 212-310-6600. Highlights include the Belvedere Castle built in 1872, the Mall, the Bethesda Fountain, The Dairy, The Arsenal, the Central Park Wildlife Center, Delacorte Theater, the Great Lawn, Loeb Boathouse (rowboat, canoe and paddleboat rentals), Wollman Memorial Rink, Harlem Meer, bridle paths, the Carousel (open daily 10 a.m.-6 p.m. April-October and weekends 10 a.m.-7 p.m. weather permitting; open 10 a.m.-dusk Nov.-Dec. and 10 a.m.-dusk January-March weekends and holidays only, 212-879-0244, $1.25 ages over 1) and Rumsey Playfield which plays host to the Central Park Summerstage Concert Series; horse-drawn carriage rides are available year round, 212-246-0520; "Views from the Past" walking tours, free, 212-794-6564
Park officially closes at 1 a.m.
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