7 Awesome Central Park Activities for Everyone to Enjoy
New York City's very own Central Park has a wide array of things to do. Here are 7 Central Park activities you can do to ensure that you have an amazing visit.
Do you know your movies? Are you a self-proclaimed movie buff? If you are, perhaps you can answer this question: What do the movies Madagascar, Home Alone 2, Stuart Little, Maid in Manhattan, Enchanted, and The Avengers have in common (a simple Google search won't provide any clues)?
Answer: All of the movies mentioned above have scenes filmed at Central Park.
The world famous park and internationally recognized landmark of New York City is an excellent place to visit. In addition to being a favorite film location, Central Park is also home to a variety of unique and fun things to do and explore.
1. For Literature Geeks and Kids: Spend Time on the Climbable Statues
Located at the Central Park Conservatory Pond on East Side at 75th Street, the Alice in Wonderland Margaret Delacorte Memorial statue is a must-visit for those who are avid fans of the classic Lewis Carroll stories. It was built in 1959 by Jose de Creeft, Hideo Sasaki, and Fernando Texidor after being commissioned by George Delacorte.
The statue is an 11-foot replica of Alice with some of the other famous Alice in Wonderland characters, including the Mad Hatter and the White Rabbit. Another feature of the memorial is the circle surrounding which is inscribed with the first line from another Lewis Carroll work, Jabberwocky: "'Twas brillig and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe." Definitely something for the bookworms out there.
Another statue located in Central Park that bibliophiles will love is the Hans Christian Andersen statue at 74th Street near Fifth Avenue west of Conservatory Water. Only a few years older than Alice and her gang, this statue was built in 1956 as a tribute to the famous Danish storyteller's 150th birthday.
Andersen is portrayed as reading to a duckling from a book – most probably encouraging it as he does in his Ugly Duckling story. On some summer and fall afternoons, children can gather at the foot of the large statue and listen to a free storytelling of the author's beloved fairy tales. Learn more about this activity at http://www.hcastorycenter.org/.
Another awesome thing about the Alice in Wonderland and Hans Christian Andersen memorials is that unlike most sculptures, kids are freely encouraged to climb onto the figures and play on them.
2. For Science Geeks and Birdwatchers: Enjoy the View at Belvedere Castle
The beautiful location isn't only for romantics, science geeks and birdwatchers – a look at Belvedere Castle is one thing you shouldn't leave Central Park without experiencing. The Gothic-slash-Romanesque structure was built in 1869 and it was originally supposed to be a folly (built strictly for decorative purposes). This meant that it had no real purpose at first and was only really for display. However in 1919, the National Weather Service took house in the castle and from then on Belvedere became the site for rainfall measurements and weather reports. Afterwards, the New York Meteorological Observatory also moved in and so on and so forth.
In the present day, visitors to Belvedere Castle can find microscopes, telescopes, different materials such as feathers and bones for an experiment with naturalistic methods, paper mache birds on a plywood tree, and a variety of year-long events. One thing to look forward to is during Halloween: the haunted castle event.
3. For Theater Lovers and Shakespeare Buffs: Watch Epic Performances at Delacorte Theater
At the very heart of Central Park lies the Delacorte Theater. The open-air theater with a large seating capacity (at 1,800 seats) is a public favorite to visit – and home to the Public Theater's productions of Shakespeare in the Park. If you're raring to watch a play in New York but don't have any cash on you, this is the perfect place to go to catch a free performance. Come prepared to wait, though, because tickets are only sold on the day of the performance itself, and there is usually a long line for them.
If you aren't so huge on Shakespeare, have no fear! The funeral has other non-Shakespearean plays as well, such as those by Chekov and Brecht. You can even catch some big name performances if you're lucky enough. Past guest artists include Meryl Streep and Al Pacino.
4. For Beatles Fans and John Lennon Devotees: Meander Through Strawberry Fields
"Let me take you down, because I'm going to Strawberry Fields / Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about / Strawberry Fields forever." - The Beatles
Strawberry Fields, named after the famous song of the Beatles, is a memorial dedicated to the late and great John Lennon. An interesting fact about Strawberry Fields is that its entrance is directly in front of the apartment complex where John Lennon lived and was murdered. The area of the park that Strawberry Fields is on was also the favorite spot of Lennon and Yoko Ono.
The memorial has a few different features, including a circular mosaic that contains the word "Imagine" and a bronze plaque that lists the names of the 120 plus contributing countries. Annually on the dates of John Lennon's birth (October 9, 1940) and death (December 8, 1980), fans visit from around the world to give tribute to the man behind the music.
5. For Animal Lovers, Kids and Wildlife Conservationists: Stomp Around the Central Park Zoo
At 6.5 acres wide, the Central Park Zoo is a great place to spend a good portion of the day. Here, you'll be able to find and gawk at more than a hundred different species of animals. At this zoo, you can also get yourself involved in a lot of activities and with seven different exhibits to choose from, you won't run out of things to do.
There's the Alison Maher Stern Snow Leopard exhibit, which everyone always flocks to see. The white cats exude magnificence, even when they're simply stretching on the ground or seemingly staring into your soul. You can watch tricks and feed the adorable sea lions at the Central Garden & Sea Lion Pool. The newest additions to the Zoo can be found at the Grizzly Bear & Treena's Overlook exhibit. It's a joy to watch the large, hulking creatures roam around their spaces. The Polar Circle contains four different species: the tufted, Gentoo, King, and chinstrap penguins. You can also try to feed them. Asia is also just a few steps away at the Temperate Territory exhibit featuring snow monkeys and red pandas. On the other hand, the Tropic Zone has the emerald tree boa, the black-and-white ruffed lemur, poison dart frog, and the stunningly beautiful Victoria crowned pigeon. Last but not the least is the Tisch Children's Zoo, which is a great experience not just for kids but people of all ages. See the Patagonian cavy, Nubian goat, and pot-bellied pigs in action.
The zoo isn't only home to the animals but also to various events and programs that go on throughout the year.
6. For Families and Horse Lovers: Ride a Pony on the Central Park Carousel
Fun fact: the term for someone who loves horses is "hippophile", and this carousel – or more formally the Michael Friedsam Memorial Carousel – has 57 of them. Of the 57, 52 are jumpers or the ones that gallop, while five are standers. The Carousel also features two chariots.
The fourth installed carousel on the site after the previous two burned down, it was lovingly hand carved by Stein and Goldstein in 1908. The very first carousel, which was built in the 1870s, was powered by a live animal: a horse or mule situated under the platform that pulled the carousel along and was trained to behave according to cues by tapping sounds on the floor. After the rise of electricity, this first ride was then replaced by a more animal-friendly carousel, which was, of course, for the best.
The carousel's organ plays around 20 records of different tunes, from polkas to calliopes to marches, to waltzes and more. The ride itself costs $3.00 and is in operation every day.
7. For Egypt Enthusiasts and History Buffs: Snap Pictures at the Obelisk
If you've always wanted to be a nutty collector of something and envied those who had the diligence to scour the world for obscure stamps and Coke bottle caps, here's a suggestion for you. It'll be much easier for you to collect a picture with each of the three "Cleopatra's Needles" in Central Park, Paris, and London. And with a visit to the immensely popular Central Park attraction, you've got one down!
Who hasn't seen the Obelisk – or Cleopatra's Needle – featured in movies about mysteries and history and hidden treasures and secrets? Those who adore history will go crazy over these monuments, as they go farther back in time than even Cleopatra herself.
The New York needle was given as a gift in 1887 from the Egyptian Government to the United States though moving the huge, heavy load was no easy matter for the appointed persons. Weighing in at approximately 240 tons, the needle had to be shifted to a horizontal position (which gave everyone a lot of grief) and then rolled onto a ship, the SS Dessoug, on cannonballs (which gave everyone, even more, grief). Not to mention the ship had to have a hole cut into the starboard side.
The oldest man-made structure in Central Park, the Obelisk is a definite must-visit for every single person out there who has any plans at all to visit the park.
This list only gave seven of the numerous things to do at this well-known landmark. It needs to be noted that no one article could ever properly describe and enumerate all the things to do and see at New York's Central Park – so the best thing to do would be to go there and experience it for yourself. So what are you waiting for? Central Park awaits!
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