Outdoors Above Central Park
September 13, 2013

Outdoors Above Central Park

As the school year approached and summer came to its unoffical end, we had been struggling to fit in all our favorite activities—Staten Island Ferry, Rockaway Beach, AMC’s Mohican Outdoor Center—and, of course, the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Right now you may be thinking, “One of these things is not like the others.” However rest assured: a summer or autumn evening atop the Met is very much an outdoor adventure worth pursuing.  Adults and kids alike enjoy the treetop views of Manhattan’s green lung (ie, Central Park), and children thrill to the amazing refurbished playground just north of the museum and the terrific tot lot to the south. Best of all, it's open, weather permitting, until early November so if you didn't get there yet, there's still time!

Getting There the Long Way

We traditionally visit the annual roof exhibit after a long urban hike around the scenic areas of  Central Park.  Given that we live in Morningside Heights, we generally enter the park at its northwestern terminus at 110th Street and Central Park West, and follow the interior roadways down to the Upper West Side. Car traffic is limited to park vehicles, so riders of bikes, rollerblades, scooters, skateboards, and every type of non-motorized vehicle imaginable—as well as runners and pedestrians—dominate the landscape. A steep uphill soon winds downward, and after a couple of hills and dales you arrive at the entry point to the top of the Great Lawn, which will spin you towards the museum.

The Great Lawn

Whether you head clockwise or counter-clockwise, the Great Lawn—which one billionaire mayor might fancy having it named for him—offers extraordinary views, not to mention people-watching. The northern tip serves up the Midtown skyline, while the southern end gives you nothing but sky above the green grass expanse. It is, as they say, indeed a “great” lawn. If you circle off the pathway surrounding the lawn at the southern end you will head towards the museum beneath a bridge that apparently has a reputation among musicians for its fantastic acoustics. We highly recommend this route.

Harlem Meer and the East Harlem

Our alternative route crosses the top of Central Park to the east side where we circle the Harlem Meer. This extremely scenic route heads south past the Conservatory Garden between 106th and 103rd streets. It’s worth dipping in to walk around the garden before heading on your way. As you continue south you will head up a very gradual incline till you reach the top of the reservoir. This is also a good spot for a detour because if you follow the path around the reservoir you will soon find yourself at the top of the Great Lawn, from where you can easily access the museum.

Rooftop of the Met

The above adventures make a visit to the rooftop of the Met all the more worthwhile. Every year there is a different installation designed to make the most of the dramatic city views the location affords you. One year it was a bamboo sculpture that adults could climb around. This year features a painting splashed across the entire floor which reminded our daughter Halina, who is 7, of a huge henna tattoo. It is a wonderfully imaginative exhibition that your kids are certain to enjoy. The fact that you also get a great view of the park more or less makes it a twofer in terms of visual stimulation. 

Logistics

No matter how you get there, keep in mind that the entrance fee to the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a suggested donation. With this in mind we take our kids as often as possible in the hopes they will become as devoted art lovers as they are of getting outdoors.

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Take a night walk. Choose nearby or new: your neighborhood, a local park, along a waterfront, or out in the country. Whether you’re guided by the bright lights of the city or by starlight, pay attention to what you can hear, see, and feel. Even a short walk will illuminate the senses!



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