Upicnic | A Classic New Yorker Picnic Spot: Great Lawn and Turtle Pond

A Classic New Yorker Picnic Spot: Great Lawn and Turtle Pond

BY MARTA
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9/13/2016

Yup, we’ve all been there – the gorgeous, endless (for Manhattan standards) meadow of perfect grass nestled in the heart of Central Park. Sure, the baseball games are annoying, and you are doomed to be hit but a foul ball once in a while, but nothing can beat that view of the Belvedere Castle!

Easily accessible from 81st or 85th street entrances on the west side, or the 80th and 84th entrances on the east side, the Great Lawn stretches for 55 glorious acres between the Jaqueline Onassis Reservoir on its northern edge, to the Ramble at its southern edge.

Fun fact: the Great Lawn was not in the original plans of Central Park – not even a little bit. The area was originally designated as a reservoir, but after the construction of the Croton-Catskill Reservoir system, its existence became redundant. After a few years of neglect and never-ending repurposing ideas, in 1934 the official project for the Great Lawn and Turtle Pond was officially kicked off, and completed but a few years later.

Today, every New Yorker knows it’s a preferred location for major musical happenings in Summer and Fall, and the place to be for the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic annual concerts.

Overlooked by the majestic Belvedere Castle, Turtle Pond Lawn is located at the southern end of the Great Lawn – complete of even a weeping willow, this location is one of the most adorable, scenic, peaceful and just all-around amazing picnic spot in all of Central Park.

Additional perk of this amazing location? The ever-present Waffles & Dinges cart to the west of Turtle Pond. I don’t think I need to explain the importance of a year-round supply of warm Belgian waffles with ice-cream and Nutella in the middle of Central Park. ‘nough said.

Plan your picnic here if you’re interested in: group picnics. The lawn has plenty of shaded areas at its edges, as well as marginal lawns offering the perfect setting for a more private picnic for family reunions and birthdays. The Arthur Ross Pinetum, located at the lawn’s north-western corner, has plenty of swings for the little ones to play. The Great Lawn is not a designated quiet zone, though the Turtle Pond lawn is. We recommend the Turtle Pond Lawn for rendezvous of the more romantic type.

This Upper West Side spot is also great for: family picnics, playing sports (both group and individual), taking a nap break from the Museum Mile, reading, jamming to your favorite playlist or going on a romantic picnic date.

What’s nearby: The closest attractions are the Belvedere Castle and the Jaqueline Onassis Reservoir, though both the Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art are located at perfectly equal distances on the lawn’s west and east side, respectively. Other options: The Guggenheim Museum, Jewish Museum, Andrew Carnegie Mansion and Neue Galerie New York are within a 10 to 15 minute walk from the Great Lawn. If you’re interested in walking further, both the Museum Mile and elite shopping-center Madison Avenue are within a fifteen-minute walk.

How to get there: from the east side, take the 6 train to 86th street (Lexington Ave) and walk westward to the park’s 84th street opening, located on the norther side of the MET. From the west side, take the B/C trains to 81st street and Central Park West – entrance to the park is right across the street, simply follow the path eastward to reach the Great Lawn within a 5 minutes walk.

Closest bathrooms? Right at the lawn’s south-west corner at the Delacorte Theater. So close, you’ll not even mind standing in line for an average of 10 minutes (that is obviously a joke, these lines are ridiculous – do try and avoid picnicking here on the nights Shakespeare in the Park is playing). Granted, you could also walk to the restrooms at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on 82nd Street & 5th Avenue. It’s good to have options.

Rules you should know about: the Great Lawn is not a designated quiet zone (hip, hip, hooray!). What exactly does this mean? Lawn games and portable speakers are A-OK, and pets are welcome too! Keep in mind to respect your fellow picnickers (this means keeping the music at a reasonable volume) to ensure everyone has fun.

Great Lawn and Turtle Pond Lawn are open from 11am till dusk, Mid-April through November.

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