NYC Explorer: Fun Facts about Central Park

We’ve spent the past few weeks discovering NYC’s museums and history…today we’re going to pause and enjoy some rest and adventure in gorgeous Central Park.

Did you know that Central Park welcomes over 42 million people every year? Still the park exudes solitude and transports visitors from the bustle and hectic NYC streets to ambling parkland…Central Park feels more like a day in The Adirondacks than the middle of America’s largest city.

Central Park was created in 1858 as America’s First Landscaped Park. The New York City Legislature funded the park’s creation to create a public place for all New Yorkers to gather.

Designed by renowned landscape architects, Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux, the park is a gathering place for all people and the JEWEL of New York and America’s City Parks.

The 843 acres includes picturesque lawns, rambling streams, meandering trails and several man-made lakes. The design is inspired by the great public parks in London (Hyde Park, St. James) as well as working to create a mini best of New York State, with features emulating scenic spots like The Adirondacks (The Ramble in Central Park)

I thought it would be fun to share some facts about Central Park – the history, sites and natural beauty of this AMAZING forest amid the skyscrapers

Fun Facts about Central Park

  • Central Park is the first landscaped public park in the United States
  • It was inspired by the large public grounds of London and Paris
  • In 1853 the state legislature authorized the City of New York to use the power of eminent domain to purchase the land to create a park
  • This was not without controversy as a community of Irish and German Immigrants and African freedman were displaced in building the park
  • A contest was held in 1856-1858 to find the best design for the park
  • In 1858, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux’s Greensward Plan was selected by the park commissioners.  Their design stood out because it created a unique picturesque design that didn’t simply ‘fit into New York City,’ but transported you to a pastoral parkland.
  • According to Olmsted, Central Park was “of great importance as the first real Park made in this country – a democratic development of the highest significance…” 

Getting to know the Landscape

  • At 843 acres it is larger than the country of Monaco
    • Ironically Central Park is not the largest park in NYC – that honor belows to Pelham Dam
  • The park is completely man-made landscaping.
  • The park has eight bodies of water including ‘The Lake’ and ‘Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir
  • The Reservoir is 106 acres with 1 billion gallons of water pumping out of the lake annually!
    • The Reservoir used to be used as water supply backup for the city, but is now decommissioned as an ‘aquaduct.’
  • There are 9,000 benches in Central Park. You can help support the park foundation by adopting a bench to memoralize a loved one. Click here for more info
  • The park has three woodland landscapes including: The Ramble, The Ravine and The North Woods
    • The Ramble is easy to get lost in and ideal for a hiking adventure. It’s thirty-six acres mimic the forests of upstate NY with winding paths and intricate trails, rustic bridges, a meandering stream, dramatic rock outcroppings and dense foliage. You really feal as though you are in the middle of the Upstate’s Catskills or Adirondack Country.
      • Pro Tip – be aware that if you enter the ramble you can get lost in the trails that wind into another scenic view and no destination. I tried to cut across from The MET to The Natural Science Museum but got ‘lost’ in The Ramble for an hour. I wasn’t disappointed though – the scenery and solitude is breathtaking.
    • The Northwoods is forty acres of scenic forested beauty with trees, vegetation, tumbling cascades and a network of hiking trails. This is popular bird watching spot. There are 210 species of birds that frequent Central Park each year
    • The Ravine – amble around a Scottish inspired ‘Loch’ (Lake) and dense forests. Waterfalls cascade over rocks emulating the feel of the heart of the mountains right in New York.
  • Central Park is a bird lovers paradise – over 210 species of birds have been spotted in the park.

Central Park – Arts & Film Scene

  • Central Park is a gathering place for the arts hosting concerts and stage events throughout the summer (and beyond). Check out a list of the biggest concerts in Central Park’s history here.
  • You can discover a list of upcoming concert events in Central Park here.
  • Shakespeare in the Park has offered free theatre in Central Park for over 61 – check out The Bard’s season here
  • Central Park is the most filmed spot in the world. Over 500 movies have been shot in Central Park including my favorite: Home Alone 2

Fun sites in Central Park

  • Ever dreamed of climbing a castle or pretending you were the Lord or Lady of the Land? In Central Park you can be transported to a land far away without leaving the city. The Belvedere Castle is a stone castle in the heart of the park where you can get spectacular views of the scenery and enjoy a stop in the visitor center and gift shop
  • Central Park Zoo: It’s a ZOO at The Central Park Zoo you can learn about AMAZING animals from all over the world. The Zoo comprises seven acres of Central Park and is not to be missed
    • 1,487 animals representing 130 species
    • 1 million visitors a year
Red Panda at the Zoo – credit Zoo website
  • Strawberry Fields: Memorial to John Lennon after his death. It continues to be a pilgrimage site for thousands of music fans…Name comes from The Beatles song ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’
  • Bethesda Fountain and Terrace: One of the most recognizable spots in central park, this area was designed by architect and Park co-designer Calvert Vaux with his assistant, Jacob Wrey Mould
  • Mall and Literary Walk A grand promenande that feels like a scene out of Paris or London. Carriages make their way through this elmed lined setting
  • Cleopatra’s Needle The Obelisk was created around 1425 BCE in Heliopolis, Egypt, an area north of modern-day Cairo. It sits on a rocky hill known as Greywacke Knoll, across from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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Purpose of American Nomad: To share my love of travel, history and museums with others. Follow American Nomad on facebook here.

About: American Nomad is written by Adele Lassiter, a travel enthusiast with a background in history, art and technology sales. In addition to running American Nomad, Adele is an artist and published author of cozy romances. Check out her cozy romance novel, Solitude Lake on Amazon (Adele Darcy)

I’ll be launching my travel podcast (and art podcast) soon!

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