Central Park is New York’s iconic 843 acre urban park in the heart of Manhattan. It was constructed from 1857 to 1873 and is a unique masterpiece of landscape architecture and is considered one of the most important works of American art from the 19th century.
Central Park is almost entirely man-made. One of the only natural features in the park is the metamorphic rock known as Manhattan schist which is around 450 million years old.
To create the park’s natural looking lakes and streams, existing swamps were drained, natural looking shorelines were created, and city water pipes were installed to provide the water.
The park’s vast meadows were created by filling the existing swampland with additional soil and rock, and existing rock outcroppings were leveled off with explosives.
The park’s three woodland areas were created by planting millions of new trees, shrubs, and vines across the existing barren rocky slopes.
All in all, over 10 million carloads of soil and landscaping material was used to build the park – placed end-to-end that would extend across 30,000 miles.
The park features a 6.5 acre zoo, a miniature castle, a beautiful conservatory garden, and a carousel, amongst many other bridges, ponds, and beautiful photo spots.
Central Park’s new zoo opened in 1988. It replaced an earlier version of the zoo that began in the 1860s. In 1934 it was modified with the addition of many new buildings around a central sea lion pool, which carried on to today’s 6.5 acre zoo.
The zoo is home to an indoor rainforest, an ant colony, a specially cooled penguin house – more than 150 species from around the world are featured here.
Natural exhibits try to show the animals in their natural habitats.
At the heart of the zoo is the sea lion pool where you can hear and see California Sea Lions being fed and performing some acrobatics.
The Tisch Children’s Zoo is a place where children can stroll through a nature trail visiting a barnyard full of friendly creatures – sheep, goats, alpacas, ducks, turtles, pigs and many other animals.
In the center of the children’s zoo is the Enchanted Forest where you can see realistic models of primeval oak trees, acorns, a giant spider and more.
In the central aviary there’s a complete habitat recreated with live turtles and frog along with birds.
Between the main Zoo and the Children’s Zoo is the George Delacorte Musical Clock, which is built on a triple archway of brick, featuring bronze sculptures of a Honey Bear and a dancing goat dating from 1935.
From 8 to 5 on the hour and half-hour, the clock plays one of 44 different tunes while a bear with a tambourine, a hippo with a violin, a goat with pipes, and a kangaroo and penguin with a drum dance around the base of the clock.
One of Central Park’s original designers, Calvert Vaux, created this miniature castle in 1869.
It was originally intended as a lookout to the north reservoir, now the Great Lawn and the Ramble to the south.
Belvedere Castle provides some of the best and highest views of the Park and the cityscape.
Since 1919, the National Weather Service has reported New York’s weather from the castle’s tower.
Bethesda Terrace overlooks the lake in the heart of Central Park and is constructed on two levels united by two grand staircases.
The mustard-olive colored carved stone on the facade of the building is New Brunswick sandstone and features magnificent carvings on each side of the building representing the four seasons and the times of the day.
Inside the arcade was created in the 1860s. Another arcade is underground and accessible by a grand staircase.
The highlight of the arcade is the magnificent Minton Tile ceiling designed by Jacob Wrey Mould, who also designed other decorative carvings throughout the Terrace.
Installed in 1869, there are more than 15,000 tiles made in England by the Minton Tile company.
The tiles are made of individually colored clays pressed together and fired in a kiln. The Bethesda arcade is the only place in the world where Minton tiles are used on a ceiling.
Over the years, this 50 ton ceiling fell into disrepair and was in storage until it was restored in 2000.
Bethesda Fountain is the main feature on the lower level of the terrace and was constructed from 1859 to 1864.
The eight foot tall bronze winged angle that appears on top of the fountain in the center of the pool was designed by Emma Stebbins in 1868 and unveiled in 1873. Stebbins was the first woman to receive a public commission for a major work of art in New York City.
The Conservatory Garden inside Central Park is a 6 acre formal garden that’s divided into three distinct smaller gardens of different European styles.
The garden’s magnificent iron gate was crafted in Paris in 1894 and originally stood at the entrance to the Vanderbilt mansion at 5th avenue and 58th street.
In the center of the conservatory is an Italianate garden composed of a large lawn surrounded by yew hedges and spring-blooming pink and white crabapple trees.
A 12 foot tall jet fountain dances on the western edge of the lawn backed by hedges and stairs that lead up to a wisteria pergola.
On the walk under the pergola are medallions inscribed with the names of the original 13 states.
The northern French style garden showcases spectacular seasonal displays of tulips, chrysanthemums, and Japanese holly.
In the center of this northern garden is the Three Dancing Maidens fountain sculpted by German sculptor Walter Schott.
The southern garden is an intimate English style garden featuring five mixed borders of trees, shrubs, and perennials. A slope of woodland plantings lines the western edge of the garden.
At the center of this garden is a fountain with to main characters from the classic book The Secret Garden, a boy and a girl, who are standing at the end of a small water lily pool. It was sculpted by Bessie Potter Vonnoh.
Named for Christopher Columbus, Columbus Circle is a traffic circle at the southwest corner of Central Park. It is the point from which all official distances from New York City are measured.
The circle was designed by William Eno and was completed in 1905 as part of the original plans for Central Park.
The monument at the center of the circle was created by Italian sculptor Gaetano Russo and was built in 1892 as part of New York’s commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ landing in America.
The monument consists of a marble statue of Columbus on top of a 70 foot granite column decorated with an angel holding a globe and bronze reliefs of Columbus’ ships – the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria.