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Central Park History and Background
The first large city park in the United States, draws more than 20 million visits a year, making it one of New York City’s most popular attractions. Olmsted and Vaux began designing the Park in 1858, after the city had acquired 778 acres of land, obtained out of a civic need for more open space arising from population growth during the 19th century.
This huge manmade landscape cost $14 million to build, and by 1873, the Park had a collection of more than four million trees, shrubs, and plants – a monumental effort, particularly when one considers that New York’s largest park at the time was the ten-acre Battery Park. In 1937, the city unveiled the park’s 15-acre Great Lawn, built over the original site of the Croton Reservoir.
Numerous ballfields and playgrounds also have been added to the original design. The park contains many institutions and facilities, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, several historic buildings and monuments, an outdoor theater, a children’s zoo, a science center, a skating rink, and four community centers. Occupying a prominent place in the iconography of New York, Central Park is where the New York Marathon ends and where John Lennon is remembered in “Strawberry Fields.”
Now encompassing 843 acres, Central Park forms a border for several neighborhoods in New York, extending from some of the city’s wealthiest to some of its poorest. Surrounding the southern portions of the park are primarily high-income, high rise apartment buildings, with low to middle income housing near the northern end in Harlem; a collection of museums along Fifth Avenue forms the park’s eastern border.
When you touch down at New York’s Kennedy Airport after a 8 hour transatlantic flight, remember you are still only half way to Los Angeles. The United States is truly vast. Historically speaking many methods of transportation have in their time been credited with opening up the American continent; first the horse, then the railroad and then the automobile. Nowadays the most popular method of getting from city to city is by air. Aboard today’s jets no US city is more than half a day from the next. Every city is served by many airlines, and domestic airfares are far less expensive than their Eurropean equivalents. If time is at a premium during your visit to the US you are best advised to make your longer journeys above the clouds. There is 50 % off many internal flights for visitors. However, if you have time to spare, you wll see far more of the country if you travel by car. Although distances are immense, cars are designed for long distance cruising, the highways are built for it, gasoline is comparatively inexpensive and services on the roads are superb. If you are thinking of renting a car, contact Hertz, Avis, or ask the local travel agent to recommend a rental company. Rates vary, most of the car rental companies allow you to pick up a car in one city and check it in another, usually at no extra cost. Summer drving in the USA can be hot work.
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Americans are great club lovers, and many of them belong to at least of the international clubs like Rotary, Lions, Jaycees, Kiwanis, american Women’s and Masonic. Most towns and cities have a chapter of the organizations and they are delighted to welcome visitors. Most sporting and country clubs are open only to members and their guests. However, check with your home club secretary – many american clubs (especially golf clubs) have reciprocal membership arrangements with overseas affilities.
Toilets are often referred to as the ‘can’, the ‘john’, or the ‘rest room’ – you will find them at gas service stations, airports, rail terminals and in some shops and department stores. Americans are extremely hygiene conscious and such facilities are almost invariably clean.
american medical services range from good to best in the world. They are generally expensive. To rid yourself of the worry of unforeseen medical bills, arrange a traveler’s medical insurance policy for yourself. If you already subscribe to medical insurance you will find a small extra premium will cover you for travel in the US. Americans themselves normally contribute to one of the major medical insurance schemes like Blue Cross.
American barbers and hairdressers are generally good but prices vary enormously depending on the locale and the type of service. Men with long hair should take care to instruct the barber as many Americans wear their hair shorter than most Europeans.
Laundry services are good and reasonable. Major hotels all offer a same day or 24 hour laundry and dry cleaning service. If you are on the move, coin operated laundry and dry cleaning services can be found.
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US newspapers are local rather than national, although leading newspapers such as The New York Times will be available the same day in other major cities. Late edition of some foreign newspapers are also available in major cities, but they are expensive.
TV in the United States is primarily by commercial sponsorship. Each city has its own station and in the case of cities like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, there amay be a choice of up to hundreds channels.
Annual Visitors: 39,200,000
Tourists flock to New York’s neon heart for the flashing lights, Broadway shows, megastores, and sheer spectacle. Pedestrian-only areas with café tables introduced in 2009 have only made it easier and more appealing to hang out here. Times Square can even be a convenient, if chaotic, base, thanks to hotels at every price point and easy access to public transportation: subways, rails, buses, and more yellow taxis than you can count.
Annual Visitors: 38,000,000
New York has larger green spaces, but none is more famous than Central Park, which stretches across nearly 850 acres of prime Manhattan real estate—an oasis for both tourists and locals. You can ride in one of the famous horse-drawn carriages; check out the modest-size zoo; climb to the top of 19th-century Belvedere Castle; or take a break from pounding the pavement to sprawl on the Great Lawn, gazing at the skyscrapers above.
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New Yorkers are friendly but rushed (or at least they always seem to be). Policemen are quite helpful, know the city well and will be glad to assist you in any way they can. New York is a quite formal and well dressed city. Women are very clothes conscious, particularly those seen on the fashionable shopping streets. Normal meal hours follow this pattern: breakfast 8 – 10; lunch 12 – 2; dinner 6 – 8:30; or somewhat later of dinner parties or on weekend nights.