Somewhat like New York City itself, Central Park is divided into two parts.
There’s the nature, and then there’s the landmarks. I suspect—especially if the temperature is above 65 degrees and the sun is out—many park visitors are content simply being outdoors, looking at water and greenery. There is little in the world that compares with the beauty of nature, especially for longtime Manhattan residents. In fact, the suggestion of a walk in Central Park is often a harbinger of happiness. But learning first-hand about the park’s landmarks can be just as thrilling.
Receiving considerable attention of late is the Central Park Legendary Landmark Tour, an hour-and-a-half-long excursion offered by Central Park Conservancy guides. The Conservancy has been offering the tours for years, but they seem to be growing in popularity, as both tourists and residents are eager to learn more about the park’s history.
Tours begin at Belvedere Castle, the highest point in the park. You’ll see the Shakespeare Garden and learn about the 3,500-year-old Obelisk: Cleopatra’s Needle. Of course, you’ll also stop at Turtle Pond, the most recent water body added to the park’s design.
If you take the tour or watch the videos about Central Park’s Turtle Pond, the man-made body of water got its name from the five species of turtles—apparently decedents from pets in city apartments—that live in the pond year round. (Sometimes, on sunny days, you can spot Red-Eared Sliders basking on the flat base of Vista Rock.) They share the pond with the city’s birds and damselflies.
Inevitably, there is information about the marvels of Central Park everywhere—and no wonder, for these landmarks justify their fame. But the guides, informed and friendly, really tell the stories best. With time, each of us creates our own relationship with Central Park, and for those interested in taking the tour—the next one is on April 7—or exploring the slightly-less-travelled paths on your own, I invite you to discover its wonders.
For more information, visit nycgovparks.org.