Central Park: A Love/ Hate Relationship

Years ago, my mom and I decided to rent bicycles (I hate biking) and ride around Central Park. For whatever reason, this seemed like a great idea even though the temperatures were creeping into the upper 90’s. We got lost and pushed the bikes down 5th Avenue…certainly not our finest moment.

Central park below and the skyline in the background…the view from the Met rooftop.

When Frederick Law Olmsted designed Central Park, he intended for the winding paths to be disorienting, allowing you an escape from the chaos of the city. I had resentment towards the park (and Olmsted) for years after the biking incident. The closest I came to visiting the park was walking along the outside between museums and the view from the Met rooftop–my favorite place in the city.

Finally, I broke down. This year, I have the goal of crossing off a minimum of one bucket list item per month. As the year progresses, the goal gets harder and harder. It’s not like I can swim with manatees or see the Northern Lights in central Pennsylvania. When my mom and I visited New York the August, I knew that it might be my last chance to cross off some New York-related bucket list items this year. I was going to have to go back to Central Park…and go inside the park this time.

Clock/ Gate at the Central Park Zoo
The clock/ gate at the Central Park Zoo.

Perhaps even more confusing than my relationship with Central Park are my feelings related to zoos. I think that it is terrible to lock animals in small cages or leave them without company. I do, however, love seeing the animals. The Central Park Zoo had been on my bucket list for years, a combination of not wanting to venture into the park, the conflicting feelings with zoos in general, and the admission cost–seeing the animals will cost you a pretty penny.

Snow leopard-Central Park Zoo
The snow leopard put on a show, striding about the enclosure and starring us down.

In the end, we really enjoyed the few hours that we spent walking around the park. I was shocked to see that they didn’t have lions, giraffes, zebras, or hippos (the main characters from the “Madagascar” movies), but came to terms with it as I watched the red pandas jump from branch to branch. In terms of zoos, this one seems to care for their animals pretty well; they seemed healthy, especially compared to the skin-and-bones animals that I had seen at the National Zoo in D.C.

The Balto Statue in Central Park
The Balto Statue in Central Park.

After the successful zoo excursion, we headed over to the Balto statue. The Balto statue how been on my bucket list since I saw the cartoon…which was only this past January. The goal of the seeing the Balto statue was really just so I could send a picture to the friends I had watched the movie with, but it turns out I had become a pretty big Balto fan myself. Who wouldn’t love a sled dog that saved a bunch of children from dying of diphtheria?

The outing was successful: we found both places, didn’t get lost, and enjoyed the entirety of our time in the park. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’ve come to terms with Olmsted’s winding paths…I still prefer viewing the park from above.

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