Winter in New York city brings with it many charms and delights. The snowfall, the Christmas decorations and the surplus of hot food and beverages all contribute to an atmosphere that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. As one of the most popular tourist destinations in the city, Central Park is a hive of activity in the winter months.
Though they operate perennially, the traditional horse and carriage trip is probably best enjoyed in the winter months when a blanket of snow covers the ground and the air is bracing. There is something romantic and wonderful about it. The clip clop of the horse’s hooves, the jingle of the harness and the goading of the driver all contribute to an authentic experience that is enriched in the winter months by the snowfall and the anticipation of Christmas in the air. That is why horse and carriage rides are most popular during the holiday season, so make sure you reserve your ride online if you don’t want to be left waiting in the cue for a walk-up ride.
Tours of Central Park in the winter typically take in the Wollman ice skating rink, the Pond, the Central Park Zoo, Sheep Meadow, the Mall, Cherry Hill, the Dairy, the Carousal and Strawberry Fields. The horse and carriage tour is suitable for families, couples and groups of all ages. A memorable time is guaranteed, whether you are new to the city or a local rediscovering the hidden gems of Central Park. There are many different packages available to choose from so you can take the tour that best suits you.
The ‘Holiday Sights’ tour takes in Central Park and the surrounding city and runs from mid-November to early January. See the stunning Christmas lights and elaborately decorated window displays of Macy’s, Bloomingdales and Bergdorf Goodman’s. A high point of the Holiday sights tour is seeing the gigantic Christmas tree in Rockefeller Centre which is lit at the beginning of December. The tour comes to an end at Bryant Park where there is a holiday market comprised of 100 vendors, including food stalls, jewellery makers and sellers of unique trinkets and holiday decorations. The market opens in early November.
The most popular winter activity in Central Park is ice skating. It is suitable for couples, families and friendly get togethers. There are two rinks in Central Park: the Wollman Rink, which is found in the south-east section of the Park and the Lasker Rink, located in the north. They each offer a plethora of activities such as ice hockey, skating lessons and skating parties, as well as amenities like skate rentals and lockers. The Wollman Rink is the more popular of the two as it is located at the heart of the park and is set against a spectacular backdrop of sky scrapers.
Sledding is another very popular winter activity in the Park. There are two slopes: one located at Pilgrim Hill and the other at Cedar Hill. Pilgrim Hill is the steepest and most popular. The slope at Cedar Hill is more suited to beginners as there are two portions: you can try out the safer lower slope before you move up to the more adventurous option. Sleds are available at local drug stores and sporting goods stores but you can also borrow someone else’s or use a discarded one.
For photographers, the Park is especially beautiful in the winter months. When the Park is draped in fresh snow fall it looks truly magical. There is no other word for it. Many bird lovers and watchers come to the park with their cameras at the ready, as the park is home to 235 bird species, including the black-capped chickadee and the red-winged blackbird. Dr. Robert ‘Birding Bob’ DeCandido offers a three-hour bird watching tour on Fridays and Saturdays at 9.00 am. The Pond and the Reservoir are popular spots for bird watchers and wildlife photographers.
On New Year’s Eve, a four-mile midnight run is held in the Park for all ages, to ring in the New Year. The fun begins at 10:00 pm with music and dancing. The run commences on the stroke of midnight and is accompanied by a spectacular firework display to light up the night. The race is meant more for fun than competition. Participants can toast the new year at the (non-alcoholic) champagne station halfway through the run. Runners are also encouraged to bring their own costume to add to the fun atmosphere. They can also participate in the Masquerade parade which begins at 11:00 pm in front of the Bandshell. The top three creative designs will receive awards.
New York really is a wonderland in the winter months. Wrap up well and enjoy everything the city has to offer, especially Central Park, which is at the heart of it all. With about 40 million visitors annually, the park is the envy of cities across the globe. So, make the most of your stay in the Big Apple during the winter. Don’t just visit it, experience it.