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Central Park Conservatory Garden

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by Joann Jovinelly (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer/photographer living in the East Village neighborhood of New York City.
Published July 5th 2010
Survey any New Yorker and he or she is bound to have a soft spot for Central Park, 800-plus acres of wonderland that sits smack dab in the center of Manhattan. Still, few New Yorkers fully explore the park and all its grandeur, especially the three-part Conservatory Garden, a pristine nod to traditional English, French, and Italian gardens that is located in the far north of the park beginning at 105th Street.

Far from the hectic pace of bikers and bladers, the Conservatory Garden is a serene oasis that is perfect for picnicking, walking after a rainfall, strolling with a sleeping baby, or convincing mom to get out and smell the roses. And because it is nearly isolated from the rest of the park (there is a single gated entrance at Fifth Avenue at 105th Street) it is among the most zen-like places to dream a summer dream.

This unique section of Central Park began as a large greenhouse in 1898 and was remade in 1937 into an exquisite six-acre manicured garden, complete with a multi-tier hedge and central water spout, trellises of flowering trees, 250 varieties of perennial and annual borders, as well as several unique and important works of sculptural art.

Zoned as a "quiet" section of Central Park, no running or audible music is permitted. Guided 75-minute tours are provided by the New York City Parks Department on a monthly basis from April through October, usually around lunchtime.

There are plenty of places to sit and ponder the day, terrific shaded areas, tranquil water fountains, and hundreds of amazing opportunities to capture New York City in full bloom. Fatigued walkers might find reading the inscriptions on park benches an interesting pastime, and those seeking NY's forever-elusive public restrooms are in luck: not only are they amply sized, but they are clean and offer full changing areas for the city's newest arrivals. So, pack up the family and come and visit one of the city's best-kept secrets. It's the perfect place to unwind.
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Why? Because nature, even in small doses, makes city life more tolerable.
When: Daily, 8 AM to Dusk
Where: Fifth Avenue at 104th to 106th Streets
Cost: Free
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