Set smack in the middle of Manhattan, in the midst of all the concrete and steel where nothing reminds of nature, there is a huge urban park - Central Park. It covers 843 acres and stretches along 51 blocks - if I counted correctly. When we walked from the Guggenheim Museum, which is across from the upper half of Central Park, to our hotel near the Empire State Building it felt like an endless stretch. But when you look at the "rock desert" around you, all those skyscrapers and multi-storied buildings, you understand that you need a huge area to get at least the feel you're in nature.
Except you aren't.
Central Park is a man-made park, designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted and architect/landscape designer Calvert Vaux. The construction of the park began in 1857 and it was completed in 1876. The site was originally occupied by free black people and Irish immigrants who had been living there in small villages since 1825. Approximately 1600 residents were evicted under eminent domain.
Central Park features lakes, many playgrounds, meadows and the Ramble, the only part were you find trails that are not paved. The trees in Central Park - more than 18000 - play the most important rule of helping New Yorkers breathe a little bit easier. In one year, a mature tree will absorb more than 48 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, converting it into oxygen. The trees also help to keep the city cool in the summer heat, working as natural air conditioners.
You can probably spend an entire day in Central Park, at least when the temperatures are a bit milder than on this December day. It was a sunny and brilliant day, but very cold. However, the bare trees and the partly frozen lake had its own charm.
Central Park is great for biking and jogging or just strolling along the lakes and through the Ramble. You can also take a ride in a horse carriage, but I would highly discourage that - firstly, it's hideously overpriced and secondly and more important the horses have a miserable life.
It's a beautiful, calm and restful place, definitely an oasis if you live in a place like New York City. But in the end, I do prefer "real" nature and wilderness.