Central Park is a quiet oasis amidst skyscrapers and the largest urban park in the United States. There the visitor can expect not only a unique landscape with numerous beautiful lakes, bridges, meadows and wooded areas and a popular destination for walkers and active vacationers, but the park is also home to numerous cultural and historical sights. These include many attractions that are ideal for families with children.
Well-known sights in the park
Those who explore Central Park will find numerous hidden gems, such as beautiful waterfalls and babbling brooks, as well as numerous unmistakable attractions.
Central Park Zoo
The Central Park Zoo is a new, state-of-the-art zoo that was built in 1984 when the Wildlife Conservation Society took over management of the zoo. Animals from tropical, temperate and polar climatic zones can be admired in the park. The sea lion pool is particularly popular, where the mammals perform simple tricks during feeding times. Children will also surely enjoy the petting zoo, where young visitors can meet the animals up close and feed them by hand. The George Delacorte Musical Clock, which is located between the main and children’s zoo, is also very beautiful.
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The Strawberry Fields are a living memory of the world-famous singer, composer and peace activist John Lennon, who was assassinated in 1980 outside the Dakota Building. During his unprecedented career with the Beatles and as a soloist, his music provided hope and inspiration for world peace. The memory of him and his mission lives on in Strawberry Fields.
The quiet section of the park is named after one of Lennon’s favorite songs. To be precise, based on the track “Strawberry Fields Forever”, which was recorded in 1966 in an orphanage in Liverpool, where the unforgotten exceptional artist once played with the children. Strawberry Fields was created in close collaboration with John Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, and was officially inaugurated on October 9, 1985, the 45th anniversary of Lennon’s birth.
Also known as Cleopatra’s Needle, the obelisk is the oldest man-made object in Central Park and the oldest open-air monument in New York City.
The Mall and Literary Walk
The Central Park Mall is a pathway that leads through the center of the park to Bethesda Terrace. To the north is the Terrace Bridge, the Olmsted Flowerbed is to the south of the mall. The promenade was once designed so that a car could drive on it without any problems. Once they dropped off their wealthy passengers at the beginning of the mall and then stood ready to continue their journey on Bethesda Terrace. Even today, The Mall is a popular meeting place for young and old, where numerous street artists show off their talents. The extensive population of American elms (Ulmus americana), one of the largest and last surviving populations of these trees in North America, is striking.
Sheep Meadow is the best example of the vision Olmsted and Vaux once had for Central Park in the heart of Manhattan. Her design once provided for soft green areas that should give space for thoughts through their pure presence. Sheep Meadow has remained true to this intention to this day. The green area is a designated quiet zone without playing fields and events, which is only dedicated to relaxation, sunbathing and cozy picnics. At the same time, it was also the most expensive landscape in the park.
It owes its name to the sheep that grazed there at the beginning of the 20th century. It also achieved fame as a meeting place for anti-war protests and similar events in the 1960s.
Note : Sheep Meadow is open daily from 11am. The green area is closed in winter.
The Conservatory Garden is a six-acre section of the park in the heart of Manhattan that is divided into three separate gardens, each designed in a specific style. The main entrance to the garden is through Vanderbilt Gate on Fifth Avenue between 104th and 105th Streets. The magnificent iron gate, made in Paris in 1894, once stood in front of the Vanderbilt Mansion.
The Italian garden in the center consists of a spacious lawn, surrounded by yew hedges and bordered by two beautiful avenues. There is a pretty fountain on the west side of the park section, where the wisteria-covered pergola is located.
The northern section of the park is French-style and is home to beautiful tulips in spring and chrysanthemums in autumn. In the center of the park is the charming Three Dancing Maidens fountain, which was created by the German sculptor Walter Schott.
In the south is the idyllic English garden with its trees, shrubs and perennial plants. In the center of the park is the beautiful Frances Hodgson Burnett Memorial Fountain, a tribute to the author of the children’s book “The Secret Garden”. The main characters of the book, Mary and Dickon, stand in the form of sculptures at the end of a small water basin with water lilies.
The Conservatory Garden is officially designated as a quiet zone and offers an idyllic setting for a leisurely stroll, a wonderful wedding or a leisurely day outdoors with a good book.
Shakespeare Garden is four acres of land named after the famous English poet and writer. The garden is home to the flowers and plants mentioned in Shakespeare’s poems and plays, and is designed to evoke the landscape in which the English bard once lived.
In addition to the diverse plant species in the garden, there are numerous small panels in the garden with quotations from Shakespeare’s works, which in turn refer to the plants in the green area.
Notable buildings in New York’s Central Park
In the vast landscape in the heart of New York City, there are several buildings that are well worth a visit.
Belvedere Castle was designed in 1869 by the park’s designers, Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted, as a miniature castle overlooking the reservoir to the north. It offers the highest and best view over the park and the adjacent part of the city.
Here at Belvedere Castle, the National Weather Service measures New York’s weather from the tower using scientific instruments that determine wind speed and direction. Further data such as precipitation are measured in a fenced area in the south of the castle. So next time you hear “Right now, the temperature in Central Park is…”, this is where the data comes from. As Belvedere Castle fell into disrepair over the years, the building was restored by the Central Park Conservancy in 1983 and has been used as a visitor center ever since.
At the foot of Belvedere Castle is Turtle Pond, home to numerous turtles and a host of other aquatic life. Here you can wonderfully watch frogs and dragonflies and enjoy the peace and quiet. Because the Turtle Pond is one of the designated quiet zones in New York Park.
Dairy Visitor Center & Gift Shop
This Victorian house was created by architect Calvert Vaux and once served as a quiet refuge for children and their companions. In the 19th century, fresh milk and small meals were offered here. But times changed and the building fell into disrepair, so that it was demolished and converted into a maintenance room in the 50s of the previous century. In 1979 it became the park’s first visitor center and was completed in 1980 based on historical photographs.
Minton Tile Ceiling at Bethesda Terrace
The tile ceiling in the arcade of the Bethesda Terrace was created in the 1860s and is one of the park’s most significant architectural landmarks. A large staircase connects the mall with the underground arcade, which was intended to protect visitors from rain and heat. Her jewel is the magnificent Minton tile ceiling, which was designed by Jacob Wrey Mold. The arcade is the only place in the world where such Minton tiles are used for a ceiling. Over 15,000 of these tiles from the famous Minton Tile Company of England were installed in the Bethesda Arcade and ensure excellent acoustics, which is why street artists can be found there regularly.
Bethesda Terrace is the centerpiece of the park and has a beautiful flight of stairs that lead to the sculptured Bethesda Fountain. The local angel “Angel-of-the-Waters” is one of the most famous figures in Central Park. After all, he has already appeared in numerous Hollywood films.
Chess & Checkers House
Shortly after the park opened, local newspapers criticized it for the lack of facilities for children and their companions. As a result, a children’s area was set up in the southern part of the park, which included today’s Dairy Visitor Center, today’s Heckscher Playground and Ballfield, a now demolished children’s house and the children’s mountain. The latter replaced the Chess & Checkers House in 1952. The Central Park Conservancy converted the rustic pergola into a house in 1986 that provided more shade than the shelter. Today, the Chess & Checkers House is one of the park’s five visitor centers, where you can borrow games, tokens and more. In some cases, advance reservations are useful.
Other well-known buildings bordering the park are the luxury hotel “The Plaza” in the southeast as well as the Hampshire and Essey House. With a height of 210 meters, the Solow Building towers over the green lungs of New York.