One of the most famous and revered hallmarks of New York City is Central Park. Situated in the middle of Manhattan Island, the Park began as 750 acres. Designed in 1858 by Frederick Law Olmsted from Connecticut and Calvert Vaux of England, Central Park was the first large scale public park in America. The landscaping incorporated includes wide-open meadows, forested areas, and winding streams. It also encompasses areas for socializing: The Mall, a promenade lined with trees, and one of the primary architectural accents, Bethesda Terrace with its two-tiered walkway and fountain, Angel of the Waters.
With its rich history, it’s no wonder, so many visitors to New York City consider their trip incomplete without a visit to Central Park. However, those not familiar with the Park may only have an ephemeral idea of all the activities and goings-on at the Park. So, here are some more concrete ideas about what to do and see when you visit Central Park.
As one of the only fountains commissioned by the original designers of the Park, the Angel of the Waters fountain resides on Bethesda Terrace. It is once of the most easily recognizable installations at the Park due to its appearance in numerous films and television shows. Bethesda Terrace overlooks the 20 acre Lake designed for boating activities in the summer and ice skating in winter. You can rent a rowboat or gondola and take it out on the Lake. For more information about boating, click here.
Shakespeare Garden was designed to represent the English countryside. Visitors familiar with Shakespeare will find this 4-acre section of Central Park is home to many of the plants mentioned throughout his works. These plants are accompanied by small plaques featuring quotes from Shakespearean works that reference the garden’s flowers.
For beautiful panoramic views of the Park, you can’t go wrong with Belvedere Castle. The castle was designed in 1869 as part of the original design for the Park. Located on Vista Rock, the castle overlooks the Great Lawn and the Ramble. The castle formerly served as a lookout tower, but now houses a weather station and visitor’s center. The castle serves as a backdrop for the Delacorte Theater where the annual Shakespeare in the Park festival is held.
The Obelisk known as Cleopatra’s Needle can be found directly behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Given to the U.S. in 1880 by the Egyptian Khedive, the Obelisk is one of two that originated in Egypt in 1450 BC. The Obelisk’s rich history includes its journey to Central Park from the Hudson River which took 112 days and the time capsule buried beneath it.
Home to fish, turtles, and waterfowl, along with several varieties of trees, the Harlem Meer offers a thriving wildlife habitat. Catch-and-release fishing and ice skating are available on the Meer as well. There are two playgrounds nearby as well as Lasker Rink and Pool where you can go swimming. The Charles A. Dana Discovery Center located on the northern shore of the Meer hosts free community programs holiday celebrations, and exhibits.
These five destinations within Central Park are only a small glimpse of the wonders it entails. So, if you’re interested in learning more, you can always check out the Central Park Conservancy’s website for current happenings in the Park.