England had been wobbling at 67 for three and had just lost Jonathan Trott and captain Alastair Cook to successive balls before Root came to the crease.
The 21-year-old Yorkshireman, roared on by a partisan Leeds crowd, struck 104 to help England recover to 337 for seven by the close.
"It's pretty special. I just enjoy playing my cricket and getting to play here for England is pretty special," Root told Sky Sports.
"You get that when you come here. It's almost like coming and playing in a different country. It was very special and I enjoyed every minute of it."
Root said reaching three figures on the ground he usually plies his trade for his county side Yorkshire had made the occasion even sweeters.
"It's a great atmosphere here, I really enjoyed it and just got lost in the moment," he said. "I will always remember it."
With the first day washed out by rain, England had looked to push on in the final session and New Zealand, led by Trent Boult (three for 48) fought back
Despite his heroics, Root was disappointed to get out and believes that the game is still wide open with three days to go.
"It was disappointing to get out when I did. I thought they played really well tonight but hopefully we can carry on tomorrow morning," he said.
"It was a terrible shot and it was the first ball of the new ball. It almost left them a chance to get back in the game.
"In cricket you don't want to give them a sniff and I'm obviously disappointed that I did that."
Alistair Cook had chosen to bat after winning the toss, but the England captain's batsmen, who had failed to convince in the first Test victory at Lord's, again struggled.
Nick Compton did his hopes of retaining his position in the Ashes series with Australia any good as he scored one before nicking a Tim Southee delivery to Doug Brownlie.
Both Trott (28) and Cook (34) and then Bell (30) got out to poor shots and it took a stand of 124 between Root and Jonny Bairstow (64) to get them back on track.
Boult then took three wickets before an unbroken stand of 51 between Matt Prior (38 not out) and Graeme Swann (21 not out) ensured England finished with a flourish and will look to score quick runs this morning to put the Black Caps under pressure.
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