South of 65th Street
An excellent way to tour the park is by bicycle. Several vendors can be found along 59th Street including Bike and Roll (866/736-8224, www.bikeandroll.com) which offers rentals as well as bike tours from the Columbus Circle entrance to Central Park (59th St. and 8th Ave.).
Alternately, enter Central Park at 5th Avenue and 64th Street and you’ll soon come to the Central Park Zoo (830 5th Ave., 212/439-6500, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. daily in summer, reduced hours in winter, adults $10, seniors $7, children 3–12 $5). This small gem groups its animals by climatic zones; Polar bears cavort and swim while penguins promenade in a snowy clime behind thick underwater viewing glass.
An excellent open-air rainforest environment with netted walkways and tucked away herp tanks for various creepy crawlies tops the list. Watching the staff feed the sea lions draws a crowd, while the behavior presentation mimics Madagascar movie moments.
At the zoo’s northeast end is Delacorte Clock, where every hour a parade of bronze animals marches around playing nursery tunes.
Across from the wildlife center is Wollman Rink (212/439-6900, www.wollmanskatingrink.com), packed in winter with exuberant ice-skaters. North of the rink is the octagonal Chess and Checkers House, complete with 24 concrete game boards outside and 10 inside.
The nearby Dairy building houses a Visitors’ Information Center (212/794-6564, events hotline, 212/360-3456, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Tues.–Sun.). West of the Dairy is the 1908 Carousel (10 a.m.–4:30 p.m. daily, extended hours in summer, weather permitting, $1), where 58 carved horses go ‘round. Other amusement rides are here as well.
The sunken transverse road running from East 65th Street to West 66th Street is one of four such roads in the park (others at 79th, 85th, and 97th Sts.). These roads were one of Olmsted’s most brilliant innovations. Dynamited out of bedrock, they allow cars and buses to pass below the level of the park, while pedestrians pass on bridges above.
© Avalon Travel and Sascha Zuger from Moon New York State, 5th Edition