8 Hours in Central Park

Singers at Belvedere Castle in Central Park

As an Olmsted devotee, it’s strange to think that when I first moved to New York I was completely averse to the idea of Central Park. From the outside it looked to me like a jungle contained by daunting stone walls, and I was sure that the inside would resemble a cold cinderblock garden. But after moving three blocks away from Central Park East, I took the cue from morning runners veering left into the gates at 86th street, and followed them to the reservoir that serves as the center of the park. In just one run, the park won me over, which is why last weekend I took advantage of the cooling weather, and took my time wandering through the entire park.

This 8 Hour Guide will convert even the most fervent C.P. non-believers to picnicking turtle-ogling Park lovers.

Bubbles at Bethesda Fountain in New York

Breakfast at Les Ambassades: Take the 2 or 3 train up north to 116th street to start your day armed with the best croissants (and best kept secret) in New York City. Skip the sit-down and grab a brown baggie of classic croissants and pain au chocolat to take with you on your stroll down to Central Park North.
2200 Frederick Douglas Blvd. at 119th St.

Central Park Conservatory Garden: Possibly the calmest corner of central Manhattan (thanks to the hard-to-find gated entrance), the garden is built like a French tudor’s, with winding paths and several varieties of roses. Find a bench under one of the arches for the perfect setting to dig into your croissants.
Central Park East between 106th and 104th streets

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir: As you wander your way south past soccer games in the North Meadow, make sure to veer towards the centerpiece of the park, a reservoir with 1.5 miles of stroll-worthy shoreline with beautiful views of the New York skyline.
Center of the park, between the 97th St. traverse and the 85th St. traverse

The Metropolitan Museum of Art: The largest museum of art in the United States, it’s literally possible to get lost in here for hours exploring mummies, French Renaissance paintings, and modern art. And the best part? It’s pay what you wish (with a recommendation of $25).
1000 5th Ave.

Turtle Pond Lookout: Maybe it’s a sign I’ve been in the city for too long, but after taking the dead-end detour off the main path to this small pier over the pond, I joined the toddlers in awe of the sight of fifty-plus turtles. Watch them play bumper cars with the ducks and giggle with glee.
Center of the park at 81st St.

Belvedere Castle: On the edge of Turtle Pond above the Shakespeare Garden is a castle fit for Richard III. Its name translates to “beautiful view” in Italian, and is an apt way to describe the unique viewpoint it offers above the tree line.
Center of the park at 79th St.

Lunch at The Loeb Central Park Boathouse: Take a break and grab a glass of wine and a plate of seasonal oysters ($18) for a summertime snack. Sure, it’s overpriced but where else are you going to find this kind of ambiance?
East 72nd St. and 5th Ave.

Bethesda Fountain: Even if you’ve never been New York, you probably recognize this fountain from its supporting role in nearly every New York movie, from Gossip Girl to Friends with Benefits. In person, watch the boaters and take selfies by the fountain, then watch performers under the beautifully decorated arches.
Center of the park at 72nd St.

Beautiful Gazebo: Built out of what looks like driftwood, this gazebo provides another corner of calm and respite from the city. Go in the summer to see vines winding up its sides, which are better suited for a fairy tale than Manhattan.
Central Park East between 68th and 67th streets

burger joint at Le Parker Meridien Hotel: Walk through the lobby of Le Parker Meridien Hotel past the men and women in suits. Keep walking. See the huge red curtain on your left? Skirt around the edge until you see a neon burger sign beckoning you to the elegant hostelry’s dirty little secret: a hole-in-the-wall seedy bar with writing on the walls and no-fuss burgers served with “the works.”
119 W 56th St.