Central Park may seem small in absolute terms, but it's large enough to contain a huge variety of spaces and activities. I haven't tried all of them yet--I've only lived in Manhattan for a dozen years, and there's a lot here.
For peace and quiet, I recommend Strawberry Fields, on the west side of the park around 72nd Street. It's officially a quiet area, and I'm not sure if that's enforced by the police or by consensus, but it works: this is a place to sit, read, talk to a friend, stare at the sky, smell the roses if you're there in June, and generally relax.
Similarly, the Sheep Meadow is a good place to walk or just lie around. It's worth noting because it's the best lawn I've ever walked on in my life: I stroll through the gates, then take my shoes off and revel in the grass.
For more energetic activity, Wollman Rink at the south end of the park and Lasker at the north end both offer ice skating in the winter months. Inline skaters use the park drives on weekends, when they're closed to traffic, or congregate around a set of steps around 66th Street. There are plenty of softball fields in the middle of the park, but they're often occupied by organized teams, which have reserved them in advance.
The park drives are also a good place for cycling and jogging; joggers famously also go (counterclockwise, please) around the Reservoir in the center of the park. The reservoir is no longer part of the city water supply system, despite some archaic signs urging us not to pollute it: it is a pretty piece of water, home to ducks and cormorants.
If you happen to be in New York in April, the reservoir is also a good place to see cherries and apples in bloom: the planting is less structured, and less promoted, than the famous cherry esplanade at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, but just as appealing.
Birders love Central Park: it's a green oasis on the Eastern Flyway, and thus a stop for a huge variety of migrating birds. Some settle in a fenced reserve at the south end of the park, where all you can do is try to catch a glimpse through the trees, but many will be found on the lakes and in the Ramble.
Children, and discerning adults, will enjoy the Central Park Zoo, on the east side of the park, around 65th Street (you can walk in easily from Fifth Avenue and 60th Street; take the N or R train), and the attached Children's Zoo. There's an impressive clock next to the zoo, which marks the hours with a variety of animal figures. After the Zoo, head northwest a little to the Carousel: the horses are wonderful, as is the ride, well worth 90 cents (or even a dollar, if they've raised it since I was there last year).
Finally, Central Park is home to one of the city's great bargains: the New York Shakespeare Festival presents two plays a summer, free, in the Delacorte Theatre. Tickets are handed out the same day, at the Delacorte and downtown at the Public Theatre on Lafayette Street; the season generally runs from June through August, with a break in July. The theatre is completely outdoors, but it takes a serious storm to cancel the show.
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