From winter strolls along the Mall to a sunset dinner for two at the Boathouse Restaurant, Central Park has always provided a wide choice of sites for a romantic rondevouz. Here are the the Top Ten we’ve chosen as the very best for Valentine’s Day.
10. The Pool
Placid waters rippling gently beneath gracefully weeping willows, velvety lawns stretching to the water’s edge, a quiet moment stolen from the temporally voracious metropolis outside: the Pool offers a contemplative landscape that almost aches to be shared. A modest picnic lunch leisurely eaten on a lazy summer afternoon with only a few dragonflies for company, the Pool can provide simple pleasures in an increasingly complex city. It is a rare location in the park that can offer even the possibility of solitude, but this mirror-surfaced pond, with its languid curves, has private space to spare. Perfect for a tryst, away from prying eyes and intrusive ears, the Pool can be the site of intimate idylls throughout the year.
9. Wollman Rink
It is cold. It is winter. It is New York. And if it is a clear night, it is hard to imagine a more romantic spot than Wollman Rink. In fact, it is hard to picture Wollman Rink as anything but a romantic spot after watching the movie “Serendipity.” Ice skating in Central Park is easily one of the most picturesque activities to be enjoyed on a winter’s night. Unlike the somewhat overwhelming confines of the Rockefeller Center rink, you can actually see stars at the Wollman rinks. As you take your partner’s hand, you can feel the cold tingle of New York’s crisp winter air, listen to the music, and take in the incomparable surroundings as you glide (gracefully or not so) around the rink. A romantic huddle over hot chocolate forms the perfect coda for the evening.
8. Conservatory Water
With sailboats gliding by in miniature regattas, Hans Christian Andersen reading to his friend the duckling and Alice holding court with the Cheshire Cat, Conservatory Water offers scenic accents both romantic and literary. Surrounded by a group of trees that survive from the original planting, the stately pond lends a sense of serenity to the urban activities being carried out a few yards away. On the western edge, you can usually find representatives of one of New York’s most dedicated fan clubs. They are the birdwatchers that chronicle events in the lives of one of the Upper Eastside’s most celebrated couples, Pale Male and Lola, a pair of red-tail hawks that nest on one of Manhattan’s classic apartment buildings on nearby 5th Ave. They are not the only lovebirds in the area, as the almost constant sight of couples strolling hand in hand will attest to.
7. Cherry Hill
Perched above the Lake, overlooking Bow Bridge and the Ramble, Cherry Hill is at the virtual center of the park, but still manages to remain relatively serene. Like a reclusive beauty who will only reveal herself to the dedicated suitor, scenic Cherry Hill can only be appreciated by those intrepid enough to take the short walk up the winding road that leads from Park Drive at 72nd St. At the center, you’ll find a beautiful fountain designed by Jacob Wrey Mould. It features a granite pool with a black and gilt cast-iron center construct, topped by eight round lamps and a golden spire. It is an elegant site that bespeaks a gentler, more refined era. A place where it would not seem at all strange find a Hansom carriage parked, awaiting you and your paramour for a leisurely journey, the long way home.
6. Shakespeare Garden
“Away before me to sweet beds of flowers. Love-thoughts lie rich when canopied with bowers.”
– Count Orsino in Twelfth Night, Act I, Scene I
A fitting quote to introduce our next pick, one of Central Park’s hidden gems: the Shakespeare Garden. Nestled between Belvedere Castle and The Swedish Cottage, the Shakespeare Garden first came into existence in 1913. Known as the Garden of the Heart, it was patterned after Victorian era rock gardens. Then, in 1916, to celebrate the tercentennial of Shakespeare’s death, it was rechristened in honor of the Bard and only plants mentioned in his plays were planted there. These include columbine, primrose, wormwood, quince, lark’s heel, rue, eglantine, flax and cowslip, many of which sound as if they would be right at home boiling and bubbling in a cauldron. It is in the spring and early summer that the garden comes into its own, bursting with blooms and fragrant blossoms. The Shakespeare Garden also offers a variety of secluded rustic benches, perfect for the timeless art of canoodling.
5. Conservatory Garden
A tranquil oasis at the north end of the park, the Conservatory Garden offers dozens of fragrantly secluded corners and lush, leafy bowers to host an intimate tryst. The garden is divided into three sections: the English, Italian, and French. Each offers its own unique charm to the fragrant art of floricultural seduction. The French, or North Garden, is arranged concentrically around the Untermayer Fountain, whose pool is graced by Three Dancing Maidens, a beautiful statue executed in bronze by Walter Schott. The Italian, or Central Garden, features a beautiful lawn leading up to a lovely fountain. Above the fountain, there is a gorgeous wrought iron arbor that is grown over with Chinese Wisteria; it’s a lovely place for an out of the way stroll. The southernmost English Garden is probably the most popular of the three. Featuring beds of seasonally blooming flowers, it is always in season and at its center is a peaceful little pool that features the statue of a boy and girl. It is inspired by “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and was sculpted by Bessie Potter Vonnoh. The pool is covered with lily pads by mid-summer and the fragrant magnolia tree that stands nearby offers ample shade for a moment’s respite, and, perhaps, a few whispered phrases tickling your partner’s ear.
4. The Boathouse Restaurant
The Boathouse Restaurant looks south out over the Lake and past Bow Bridge, offering one of the most beautifully pastoral vistas in the park. Dozens of tables all offer spectacular views of Bethesda Terrace as well, with the beautiful Angel of the Waters statue center stage on the Fountain. Whether it’s a balmy summer evening or a brisk fall afternoon, there is no better place to share a sunset in Central Park. The restaurant offers more than just scenery, too. With an accomplished and imaginative kitchen and professional floor staff, the restaurant offers a gastronomical experience to equal that of any of New York’s finer restaurants. Add to that the incomparable panoramic view of the heart of Central Park, and you have the perfect recipe for an evening of romantic bliss.
3. Belvedere Castle
A storybook setting framed against the cosmopolitan skyline, Belvedere Castle offers a charming juxtaposition between urban architecture and medieval artifact. It also provides a magically romantic backdrop for a shared moment between lovers. Strolling along the parapets evokes images of errant knights and ladies in waiting, of a time when suitors declared their devotion by sonnet rather than cell phone. The edifice gives visitors a scenic overlook to the Great Lawn and Turtle Pond directly beneath. It is also just a few steps from the Delacorte Theater, which has also played host to its share of star-crossed romances. Of all the romantic spots in Central Park, it is Belvedere Castle that must be experienced by moonlight. The glint of silvery light reflected off the mullioned windows, the pool shimmering below, all this and the myriad lights of the city beyond, how could even the most audacious suggestion be refused?
2. Bethesda Fountain
Bethesda Fountain rises majestically above the Terrace along the south shore of the Lake. The sculpture that tops it, Angel of the Waters, was designed by Emma Stebbins in 1873 and is one of the most recognizable icons in the entire park. It is also one of the loveliest places to share a romantic interlude. Couples can sit by the fountain and watch the row boats, and occasional gondola, glide by on the tranquil waters of the Lake. Directly across to the north, you can see the Boathouse Restaurant that stretches down to the water’s edge. It is scene that harks back to another era, the turn of the nineteenth century. You almost expect to see a parasol held by one of the ladies strolling by. It is one of the magical qualities of Central Park: it not only takes you away from the confines of a loud and busy city, but it also can transport you to another time. It is here, at Bethesda Fountain, that you can imagine your love by gaslight, waiting to accompany you to dinner at Delmonico’s. Bowlers optional.
1. Bow Bridge
Bow Bridge stretches gracefully across the Lake, connecting the carefully
crafted Cherry Hill and the natural jumble of the Ramble. The bridge is one of the finest examples of the magic that resulted from the combined vision of Calvert Vaux and Jacob Wrey Mould. It is one of the most popular and best known spots to meet, and has hosted numerous tender moments, both on and off the big screen. In fact, if you edited them together, you could probably construct an entire Woody Allen feature just from the scenes filmed on Bow Bridge (and despite rumors to the contrary, the bridge has always been very easy to work with and has nothing but admiration and respect for the celebrated director.) It is the romantic heart of the park, stretching across the Lake and framing one of the most iconic views in New York, that of the Dakota Apartments and the west side of Manhattan. Countless proposals have been made on the bridge, as well as hearts poured forth and troths plighted. It is, especially at sunset, the most romantic spot in Central Park.