Douglas Blonsky has been a Central Park regular for more than 30 years. In addition to being an Upper East Side resident who walks in the Park every morning (and often many more times throughout the day), he is also the Conservancy’s President and CEO and the Central Park Administrator. That means he oversees all aspects of park maintenance, operations, and management.
In his 32 years at the Conservancy, Doug has helped transform Central Park from an area of neglect to a beautiful and beloved refuge in the heart of Manhattan. In the process, he has become an expert on the Park which makes him the perfect person to share a few tips for ensuring a memorable visit to Central Park.
1. Don’t let the cold keep you inside.
Every season has its perks, but Doug thinks the best time of year to bask in the Park’s splendor is the middle of winter. “It’s quiet, it’s dark, and without foliage to obscure the view, you can see from one end to the other,” he says. “The views are more prominent in the wintertime.” His top pick for clear winter sights is the North Woods, on the West Side from 101st to 110th Streets.
2. It’s the people who make the Park.
Even though the Park covers a whopping 843 acres, it still provides a sense of community. Whether you are a runner, a bird-watcher, or just have a favorite part of the Park, many times it’s the people that make your Central Park experience great. Doug encourages visitors to get to know Conservancy staff and volunteers, who are extremely knowledgeable about the Park. Because staff members are assigned to a specific section of the Park, you’ll see the same friendly faces in the same areas every day. “Staff develop meaningful relationships with people in the community,” Doug says. In the process, our city of eight million people can start to feel a tad smaller.
3. Make sure to allow for a little wandering.
Central Park’s designers, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, intended the Park to be an oasis for wandering with curved paths. To try out Doug’s favorite short hike through the Park, start at Glen Span Arch (West Side at 102nd Street just east of The Pool). Continue east on the south side of the Loch Walking Path until reaching Huddleston Arch, loop back west on the north side of the Loch Walking Path, and continue up the Great Hill. “It’s stunning,” he says.
If you have a bit more time, Doug suggests starting at Literary Walk (Mid-Park from 66th to 72nd Streets) and walking north on the Mall. Continue to Bethesda Terrace, cross Bow Bridge, and stop to admire the Western Shore boat landing across the Lake. Continue north through the Ramble, pass the Swedish Cottage, admire the Shakespeare Garden, pass Belvedere Castle, and retrace your steps.
4. Take advantage of events in the Park — but know where to go.
One of Doug’s favorite summer events is the New York Philharmonic Concert in the Park — a free, annual performance that began in 1965. The concert attracts thousands of spectators to the Great Lawn, but Doug’s favorite picnic spot for the show is actually at Turtle Pond. “You’re up on a hill, looking at the concert, and you have the Pond behind you,” he says. “The fireworks will be over your shoulder. It’s an incredible experience.”
5. Find some time for yourself.
With the hustle of City life, a quick retreat to Central Park can be a nice pick-me-up or moment for reflection. Doug recommends an early-morning walk around the Great Lawn. “It’s an interesting scene with all of the dog-walkers,” he says. As for the best time of day to find some solitude? “Early morning – there’s no other time like it.”
However long it’s been since your last visit to Central Park, there is always something new to discover. “It’s exciting for us to try new things and be innovative in New York’s most important public space,” Doug says. “We’re so honored to help ensure that Central Park stays healthy and beautiful for generations.”