72nd Street to 79th Street
Bethesda Terrace, just north of the bandshell and the 72nd Street Transverse, is one of the park’s grandest sights. The wide, brick-paved plaza centers on an ornate fountain; a semicircle of tiered steps cups the plaza’s southern side. Lapping at the north end is The Lake, usually crowded with splish-splashing rowboats.
These boats can be rented at the nearby Loeb Boathouse (212/517-4723, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. daily, $12 per hour, with a $20 cash deposit). Alternate Central Park transport can be found at the Loeb Boathouse parking lot bike rental at East 74th Street (10 a.m.–7 p.m. daily Mar.–Oct.).
West of Bethesda Terrace is Strawberry Fields, which Yoko Ono had landscaped into a Garden of Peace as a memorial to her husband John Lennon, who was murdered outside The Dakota apartment building in 1980. Just inside the garden’s wall at 72nd Street is a circular marble mosaic spelling out the word Imagine.
East of Bethesda Terrace is Conservatory Water, a.k.a., the “model-boat pond.” The pond is often dotted with miniature boats, most radio-controlled. During warm weather, model-boat regattas are held Saturday mornings.
Near the pond are two of the park’s most famous statues. Alice in Wonderland, by Jose de Creefts, perches on a mushroom to the north, while Hans Christian Andersen, by Georg Lober, sits with his Ugly Duckling to the west. Both statues are usually covered with adoring children.
West of the pond and north of The Lake is the 38-acre Ramble, a near wild place crisscrossed with meandering paths. Far removed from city life, the Ramble is a favorite spot among bird-watchers; on a typical morning, about 15 kinds of warblers and 35 other species can be seen. It’s also a prime haunt for gay men on the make. It’s best not to visit the Ramble alone.
© Avalon Travel and Sascha Zuger from Moon New York State, 5th Edition