Rambling yet contained, nature-filled yet man-made, this 843-acre oasis provides a welcome respite from the concrete jungle for locals and tourists alike. Configured in 1876 by architect-landscape gardener pair Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the haphazard, deliberately rustic design took inspiration from rambling British country gardens. Highlights include the strip of American elm trees called the Mall; the Sheep Meadow's 15 verdant acres; the botanical garden up north; and Center Drive's "skate circle," home to entertaining roller skaters. Though the southern end of the Park hosts many official attractions, such as the Wollman ice-skating rink and the iconic Angel of the Waters fountain at Bethesda Terrace, the northern tip above 86th Street is both more appealing for a stroll and less people-packed.
Tip: Take a private, custom tour of the park via van with author Sara Cedar Miller, the Central Park Conservancy's resident photographer and historian ($500 for up to six people).
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.