Alice and her cast of storybook friends found their way to Central Park in 1959, when philanthropist George Delacorte commissioned this bronze statue as a gift to the children of New York City. Inspired by the zany characters of the Lewis Carroll classic Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the sculpture was also meant as a tribute to his late wife, Margarita, who read Alice to their children. Engraved around the statue are lines from his nonsensical poem, The Jabberwocky.
The sculpture is a favorite among children, who love to climb atop it and explore its varied textures and hiding spaces. Through the years, thousands of tiny hands have literally polished parts of its patina surface smooth.
Created by the Spanish-born American sculptor José de Creeft, the piece depicts Alice holding court from her perch on the mushroom. The host of the story's tea party is the Mad Hatter, a caricature of George Delacorte. The White Rabbit is depicted holding his pocket watch, and a timid dormouse nibbles a treat at Alice's feet.
Location : East Side at 75th Street
A gentle slope overlooking the Lake with views to the Ramble, Cherry Hill offers a contemplative space perfect for picnicking, reading, and sunbathing.
Named for the cherry trees that bloom across its landscape in the spring, Cherry Hill was originally intended as a scenic turnaround featuring a decorative watering trough for horse-drawn carriages. Its central ornamental displays a decorative finial and frosted glass lighting globes. It was designed by architect Jacob Wrey Mould, the same designer of the carvings and Minton tile ceiling at Bethesda Terrace.
Visitors flock here in the spring to take in the beauty of the blooming forsythia and azaleas. A short walk west leads to Wagner Cove, on of Central Park's hidden oases of calm. Tucked into a shady corner of the Lake, the Cove features a small rustic boat landing.
Location : Mid-Park at 72nd Street west of Bethesda Terrace
Hernshead, a promontory that juts out into The Lake, is named after what must have once been the shape of a "hern" or heron's head, and a bird often sighted in Central Park. Hernshead is planted with seasonal flowers and aquatic plantings and was restored by the Central park Conservancy in 1988.
Hernshead is a miniature woodland landscape overlooking the Lake. Olmsted lavished horticultural attention on this site, first with a grove of London Plane trees and then with a variety of herbaceous plants and shrubs. Hernshead is planted with seasonal flowers and aquatic plantings. Spring is Hernshead's season with blooming azaleas, Virginia bluebells, Dutchman's breeches, and daffodils. Violets add diminutive dots of color amid the unfurling fern fronds. Most striking of all, in late June, is the copse of flowering white Mountain Laurel, a rare sight in Central Park.
Hernshead was restored by the Central Park Conservancy in 1988.
Location : West Side between 75th and 76th Streets.
Strawberry Fields is a living memorial to the world-famous singer, songwriter and peace activist, John Lennon. During his career with the Beatles and in his solo work, Lennon's music gave hope and inspiration for world peace and his memory and mission lives on in Strawberry Fields.
This tranquil section of Central Park was named after one of Lennon's favorite songs, "Strawberry Fields Forever." Recorded in 1966, the song's title comes from an orphanage in Liverpool, England where Lennon used to go to play with the children. His aunt, who raised him, disapproved but he insisted it was, "nothing to get hung about." Hence, the song's famous lyric.
Strawberry Fields was officially dedicated on October 9, 1985, the 45th anniversary of Lennon's birth. Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono Lennon, worked with landscape architect Bruce Kelly and Central Park Conservancy to create a meditative spot. The black-and-white mosaic was created by Italian craftsmen and given as a gift by the city of Naples. Based on a Greco-Roman design, it bears the word of another of Lennon's songs: Imagine. A designated Quiet Zone in the Park, the memorial is shaded by stately American elms and lined with benches. In the warmer months, flowers bloom all around the area. Along the path near the mosaic, you'll find a bronze plaque that lists the 121 countries that endorse Strawberry Fields as a Garden of Peace.
Location : West Side between 71st and 74th Streets.
There are plenty of dogs to see in Central Park, but the Balto statue has been a favorite for almost a century. The piece pays homage to the famed sled dog who battled tundra conditions in Alaska and helped save the state’s children.
Back in 1925, the hardy Siberian husky led more than 20 sled dog teams through cold snow and even colder temperatures, all to bring the medicine needed to fight a diphtheria epidemic. The teams made the 674-mile trip from Nenana to Nome in just 20 hours.
Balto became an instant hero and media darling, and New Yorkers were quick to show their support. The bronze sculpture, created by Frederick G.R. Roth, was dedicated that same year on December 17.
Location : East Drive at 67th Street
The Chess & Checkers House is one of five visitor centers run by Central Park Conservancy. Chess and checkers players are welcome to borrow pieces from the Conservancy staff, or bring their own. Dominos and backgammon are also available.
Soon after the Park was opened in the 1860s, it was criticized by local newspapers for its lack of facilities for children and their caregivers. The commissioners responded by creating a Children's District in the southern part of the park. The features included the Dairy, the playground (now Heckscher Playground and Ballfield), a children's cottage (since demolished), and the Kinderberg, or "children's mountain," where the Park's largest rustic shelter once stood. In 1952, private funds enabled construction of the Chess & Checkers House to replace the Kinderberg. In 1986, Central Park Conservancy restored the building and built the rustic pergola surrounding the house to provide shade for players.
Location : Mid-Park at 64th Street
Belvedere Castle is one of Central Park's five visitor centers. Calvert Vaux, co-designer of the Park, created the miniature castle in 1869 as a whimsical structure looking out on the reservoir to the north (now the Great Lawn) and the Ramble to the south. Belvedere provides the highest and best views of the Park and the adjacent cityscape. The castle's name is fitting, because it translates to "beautiful view" in Italian.
"Right now, the temperature in Central Park is...." That information, heard frequently on radio and TV, originates here at Belvedere Castle. Since 1919, the National Weather Service has taken measurements of New York's weather from the castle's tower with the aid of scientific instruments that measure wind speed and direction. In a fenced-in compound just south of the castle, other weather data such as rainfall are recorded and sent to the weather service's forecast office at Brookhaven National Library on Long Island. After decades of deterioration, Central Park Conservancy renovated and reopened the castle in 1983 as a visitor center and gift shop.
Location : Mid-Park at 79th Street
The 20-acre Lake is the largest of Central Park's naturalistic water bodies.
Park designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux created the Lake from a former swamp, for boating in the summer and ice-skating in the winter. In 2012 the Central Park Conservancy completed the comprehensive restoration of the Lake and its surrounding landscapes. With the water's edge having slowly crumbled and eroded through the years, the Conservancy set out in 2006 to stabilize its shoreline. The team excavated and removed excess sediments, then reconstructed the shoreline with rustic boulders on a stabilized gravel base. Using coir logs, created from the binding of coconut fibers with biodegradable netting, the Conservancy reconstructed the vast shoreline Staked at the base of the slope where the normal water level meets the shoreline, the logs serve to protect the Lake's edge from erosion until plants can become established. The coir logs are a sustainable solution to the Lake's restoration, and one that's helping preserve the beauty of its lush landscapes and the health of its wildlife habitat.
Location : Mid-Park from 71st to 78th Streets.
The Conservatory Garden is Central Park's six-acre formal garden. It is divided into three smaller gardens, each with a distinct style: Italian, French, and English. The Garden's main entrance is through the Vanderbilt Gate, on Fifth Avenue between 104th and 105th Streets. This magnificent iron gate, made in Paris in 1894, originally stood before the Vanderbilt mansion at Fifth Avenue and 58th Street.
The Italianate center garden is composed of a large lawn surrounded by yew hedges and is bordered by two exquisite allées of spring-blooming pink and white crabapple trees. A 12-foot high jet fountain plays on the western end of the lawn, backed by tiered hedges and stairs that lead up to a wisteria pergola. On the walkway under the pergola are medallions inscribed with the names of the original 13 states.
The northern, French-style garden showcases parterres of germander and spectacular seasonal displays of spring tulips, and Korean chrysanthemums in autumn, all within an ellipse of Japanese holly. In the center is the charming Three Dancing Maidens fountain by German sculptor, Walter Schott. To the south is the very intimate English-style garden. There are five mixed borders of trees, shrubs and perennial plants, and five seasonal beds featuring spring bulbs that are followed by annual flower displays. A slope of woodland plants lines the western edge of this garden. At the center is sculptor Bessie Potter Vonnoh's lovely Frances Hodgeson Burnett Memorial Fountain, a tribute to the author of the children's book, The Secret Garden. The children — a girl and a boy, said to depict Mary and Dickon, the main characters from the classic — stand at one end of a small water lily pool.
The Conservatory Garden is an officially designated Quiet Zone and offers a calm and colorful setting for a leisurely stroll, and intimate wedding, or an escape with a good book.
For many years the garden was tended by volunteers from the Garden Club of America and in 1983 it was restored by the Central Park Conservancy.
Location : East Side from 104th-106th Streets. Enter at Fifth Avenue and 105th Street, or 106th Street gate inside the Park.
Location : Mid-Park on the north side of 72nd Street
This area is popular with families and children because of the famous climbing sculptures, the story-telling programs, the model boats, the cafe, and the site in the children's classic Stuart Little. An ornamental pond was constructed as a reflecting pool for a glass conservatory, but when the plan for a structure was abandoned, the water body became the popular model boat pond, inspired by those in Parisian parks.
From April through October, children and boat enthusiasts come to navigate radio and wind-powered vessels across the shimmering waters. It's such a popular destination that writer E.B. White set the whimsical boat scene in his children's classic, Stuart Little, here. It was recreated in the 1999 film of the same name. Just east of the pond, visitors can rent a model boat or eat at the outdoor tables of the Kerbs Memorial Boathouse. Conservatory Water provides a serene background for a host of other activities. In the coldest winter months, the pond's water level is frequently lowered for free public ice skating. In the summer, the beloved Hans Christian Andersen statue west of the pond is home to a children's storytelling series. Birders also flock to the area, binoculars in hand, searching for signs of the famed red-tailed hawks of Fifth Avenue. In 1993, the Central Park Conservancy refurbished the Boathouse's terrace, incorporating the benches and planting beds you see today. The Conservancy later restored the pond, replacing the concrete stone with durable and attractive granite.
Location : East Side from 72nd to 75th Street
The copper-roofed boathouse stands east of Conservatory Water, Central Park's famous model boat pond, more formally known as Conservatory Water. The building features a cafe with light refreshments and has restrooms.
The boathouse replaced an old wooden structure in 1954. Inside model yachts are housed. The boathouse also features a cafe with a variety of light snacks and beverages, a delightful patio with beautiful, seasonal perennial planting beds On pleasant days, a variety of model ships, most remote-controlled, glide across the water. The sailboats are either privately owned or rented at a cart provided by the boathouse.
On Saturdays, beginning around 10:00 am, races are held on the water. It's at this spot that Stuart Little, the beloved character of E.B. White's story, sailed his fictional sailboat to victory. In 1993, the Conservancy refurbished the boathouse's terrace, incorporating the benches and planting beds you see today. The Conservancy later restored the pond, replacing the concrete stone with durable and attractive granite. The spot has also been a gathering spot for birders searching for signs of the famous Fifth Avenue red-tailed hawks.
Location : East Side at 74th Street.
The Mall, a quadruple row of American elms, is Central Park's most important horticultural feature, and one of the largest and last remaining stands of American Elm trees in North America.
The elms form a cathedral-like canopy above the Park's widest pedestrian pathway. and are one of the Parks most photographed features. The quarter-mile pedestrian path is the only intentional straight line inside the Park's walls. It was meant to address people gregarious needs Originally called the Promenade, the Mall was the place to stroll, wearing one's Sunday best.
Taking care of these trees is a full-time job for the Central Park Conservancy's tree crew. Each of the Park's thousands of trees are entered into a database, so they can be monitored by the Conservancy. The trees of Central Park have an important impact on the urban environment. They improve the quality of our air and water; reduce storm water runoff, flooding and erosion; and lower the air temperature in the summer. This is why Central Park is called the lungs of New York City.
The southern end of the Mall is known as Literary Walk. The statue of Christopher Columbus is the odd man out, since 4 of the 5 tributes here depict prominent writers. Nearby are Scottish poet Robert Burns and his compatriot, Scottish novelist Sir Walter Scott. A little farther north is Fitz-Greene Halleck, the first statue of an American to be placed in the Park. Ten years after his death, he was still so beloved that over 30,000 adoring fans came to the unveiling of his statue by President Rutherford B. Hayes and his entire cabinet. Today hardly anyone knows his poetry or his name, but everyone remembers their visit to the Mall.
Location : Mid-Park from 66th to 72nd Streets
Bethesda Terrace is considered the heart of Central Park. In their original plan, Park designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux envisioned a sweeping Promenade (the Mall) that led to a grand terrace overlooking the Lake. The magnificent carvings represent the four seasons and, on the side facing the Mall, the times of day.
Today, Central Park Conservancy employs a sculptor to care for the sandstone carvings and sculpture and a zone gardener and their crew to take care of the landscapes. In the summer, aquatic plantings such as water lilies and lotus are placed in the fountain, reviving a 19th century tradition.
Location : Mid-Park at 72nd Street
Find information on Park events and programs at the Dairy, one of the Conservancy's five visitor centers. Maps, guides, and gifts are also available, all of which support the Conservancy's mission. Park architect and designer Calvert Vaux originally created this charming Victorian cottage as a quiet retreat for children and their caregivers. In the 19th century, the Dairy became a source of fresh milk and snacks. Families came to drink milk and enjoy pastries and ices under the loggia and enjoy the cooling breezes coming from the nearby pond.
By the 1950s, the building had become dilapidated. The Parks Department tore down the decrepit loggia and turned the building into a maintenance shed. Then in 1979, the new Central Park administration cleaned up the building and turned it into the Park's first visitor center. A year later, Central Park Conservancy was founded and the loggia, recreated from historic photographs, was completed.
Location : Mid-Park between 64th and 65th Street
Ladies Pavilion is an important and charming example of 19th century American decorative arts. Architect Jacob Wrey Mould designed the ornate Victorian pavilion in 1871 as a shelter for trolley passengers. It originally stood near the Park's Central Park West and 59th Street entrance. When construction began on the Maine Monument in 1912, the pavilion was relocated inside the Park.
Central Park Conservancy made repairs to the structure in 1979.
Location : West side between 75th and 76th Streets
The Pond is one of Central Parks seven naturalistic water bodies. When Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux designed Central Park, they imagined an immediate reprieve from the City's streets. The Pond became a serene escape, just feet from Fifth Avenue. Despite the millions of visitors who walk by the waters edge each year, there is still a sense of solitude, particularly on the western arm bordering Hallett Nature Sanctuary. Hallett is a fenced-in, wooded promontory that juts into the Pond.
Behind Hallett's enclosures is a 3.5-acre ecosystem that mimics the wild, where small animals and birds can thrive in a secluded habitat. The Central Park Conservancy completed a reconstruction of the Pond in 2001, which included new shoreline and perimeter plantings, an island habitat for birds and turtles, a series of small pools and spillways, a cascade, and a series of seasonal floral displays at the edge of the large lawn.
Location : Central Park South between Fifth and Sixth Avenues
The famed Carousel, with its sweet calliope music and 57 magnificent horses, is the fourth to stand in Central Park since 1871. It is one of Central Park's most popular favorite attractions. It is said that a live mule or a horse, hidden beneath the Carousel platform, powered the original amusement ride from 1873 until 1924. The animals were taught to start and stop when the operator tapped on the floor.
The next two Carousels were destroyed by fire, the first in 1924 and its successor in 1950. Searching for a replacement, the Parks Department discovered the current vintage carousel abandoned in an old trolley terminal on Coney Island. The Brooklyn firm Stein & Goldstein crafted the piece in 1908, and it remains one of the largest carousels in the United States and finest examples of American folk art. In 1990, Central Park Conservancy restored the Carousel landscape and surrounding plaza. Each horse is also being restored.
Location : Mid-Park at 64th Street
Curving gracefully over the neck of the Pond at 59th Street, Gapstow is one of the iconic bridges of Central Park. It is the second bridge on the site. The first, a much more elaborate wood and iron bridge, designed by Jacob Wrey Mould, deteriorated and was replaced in 1896.
The bridge offers postcard views of the surrounding cityscape. Facing south, you can see the famed Plaza Hotel and distinctive New York skyscrapers rising from above the Park's trees. Look southward in the winter and you'll see Wollman Rink's twirling skaters; in the warmer months you'll see the colorful amusements of Victorian Gardens.
Location : East Side at 62nd Street.
The Great Lawn was originally the site of the rectangular Croton Reservoir. When Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux were designing Central Park, they disliked the reservoir's rectangular shape, a contrast to their vision for a curvilinear, naturalistic landscape. The designers compensated by using dense plantings to camouflage the site from park visitors. The reservoir was drained in 1931 and filled with excavation material from Rockefeller Center and the Eighth Avenue subway.
A flurry of site proposals followed. Suggestions included a World War I soldiers memorial, airport landing pads, a sports arena, an opera house, underground parking garages, and even a vault to store motion pictures. Olmsted and Vaux's vision of a rural retreat ultimately prevailed. The oval lawn opened in 1937, with baseball diamonds added in the 1950s.
Through the years, the Great Lawn played host to memorable performances by Simon and Garfunkel, Diana Ross, Bon Jovi, the Metropolitan Opera, and the New York Philharmonic. Unfortunately, such large gatherings and unregulated use through the 1960s and 70s left the oval a "Great Dust Bowl." In 1997, Central Park Conservancy completed a major two-year restoration of the Great Lawn to its original splendor.
Location : Mid-Park from 79th to 85th Street.
One of the Park's most picturesque landscapes, the reservoir is 40 feet deep and holds a billion gallons of water. It was built in the 1860s as a temporary water supply for New York City, while the Croton Water system was shut down for repairs two weeks each year. At the time, it was unthinkable that a billion gallons of water would last less than two weeks. Today, some speculate that the City would go through that supply in just four hours. The reservoir was decommissioned in 1993, deemed obsolete because of the Third Water Tunnel.
President Bill Clinton, Madonna, and Jackie Kennedy Onassis (for whom the reservoir was named in 1994) have all run on the 1.58-mile track. For years, an unsightly seven-foot-high chain-link fence obscured the view. But when scuba divers discovered a piece of the original fence at the bottom of the reservoir, Central Park Conservancy commissioned a steel fence with cast-iron ornamentation, closely resembling the original. The current fence was completed in 2003, stands four feet high, and has opened up breathtaking views of the Park and surrounding cityscapes.
Central Park Conservancy reopened the Reservoir running track on May 27, 2015 after completing extensive renovations at a cost of $3 million, which was privately raised by Central Park Conservancy.
Location : 85th Street to 96th Street, from east to west.
Central Park's new, state-of-the-art Zoo was built when the Wildlife Conservation Society took over the management in 1984. It showcases animals from tropical, temperate, and polar zones around the world. Restrooms are available with admission fee.
A favorite with many visitors is the sea lion pool in the center courtyard. Its new design features glass sides so that viewers can watch these sleek carnivorous mammals gliding and spiraling under water. During feeding time (11:30 am, 2:00 pm, and 4:00 pm) the four sea lions perform simple tricks for their meal. Equally fine is the lush perennial garden surrounding the pool, with benches tucked into corners. Of course, the nearby penguins are perennial attractions.
Visitors can see vestiges of the old Zoo preserved in the new. Limestone reliefs by Frederick G. R. Roth of antelopes, birds, monkeys, lions, and wolves from the old animal houses have been incorporated into the new buildings.
The newest addition is the Tisch Children's Zoo. Probably the most popular with the stroller set are the domestic animal areas around the perimeter. Here children can get close to goats, sheep, a cow and a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig. A quarter in one of the dispensers will buy a handful of nutritious food for the animals to nibble out of your hand. Small bronze sculptures of the animals stand next to each pen. When a child touches a sculpture it emits the appropriate cry or squawk. Also in the area are models of giant turtle shells, fish heads, and rabbit ears that demonstrate the mechanisms of sight, sound and body structure.
In the center of the Children's Zoo is the Enchanted Forest. Artisans mimicked the colossal remains of primeval oak trees, acorns, and a giant spider. In the central aviary -- actually a complete habitat -- you will see live turtles and frogs along with birds. You'll also find one of the two children's theaters there. The other theater is in the central courtyard. A troupe of actors at the Acorn Theater in the Tisch Children's Zoo performs daily shows. Past shows include Eat Bugs and Metamorphosis Boogie.
Between the main Zoo and the Children's Zoo is the George Delacorte Musical Clock, which is built on a triple archway of brick. On the north side of the arches are Frederick G. R. Roth's Honey Bear and Dancing Goat bronze sculptures dating from 1935. From 8:00 am to 5:00 pm on the hour and half-hour, one of 44 tunes plays while a bear with tambourine, a hippopotamus with violin, a goat with pan pipes, a kangaroo and offspring with horns and a penguin with drum glide around the base of the clock. In addition, on the hour two monkeys on the top of the clock appear to strike a bell.
From about March 21 through June 21, the nursery rhymes are replaced by spring melodies such as April Showers, Easter Parade, Younger Than Springtime, April in Paris and It Might as Well be Spring. For the winter holiday season, from just after Thanksgiving to the second week in January, visitors can listen to such favorites as Winter Wonderland, Jingle Bells, Deck the Halls and Joy to the World.
Location : East Side between 63rd and 66th Streets
Shakespeare Garden is a four-acre landscape named for the famed English poet and playwright. The garden features flowers and plants mentioned in his poems and plays. Small bronze plaques scattered throughout the garden bear quotes from the Bard.
The garden was first conceived in the 1880s when park commissioner George Clausen asked the Park's entomologist to create a garden adjacent to the nature study center in the Swedish Cottage. In 1913, Commissioner Gaynor dedicated it officially to the works of Shakespeare. After years of neglect, Shakespeare Garden, just as most of Central Park, fell into disrepair. In 1987, Central Park Conservancy restored and expanded the garden, repaving paths and installing rustic wooden benches and bronze plaques with quotations from the Bard's masterpieces.
Location : West Side between 79th and 80th Streets.
Although today the Park's largest lawn without ballfields features people it was originally the home to a flock of pure bred sheep from 1864 until 1934. The sheep and shepherd were housed in a fanciful Victorian building nearby, what became the famous Tavern on the Green restaurant in 1934.
The 1858 design competition for Central Park required a parade ground for military drills, and winning landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux reluctantly included the parade ground in their Greensward plan. The Park's Commissioners and designers ultimately felt that military use conflicted with their vision of the Park as a quiet escape.
In the 1960s and 70s, Sheep Meadow became the scene for large-scale concerts, the televised landing on the moon, peace rallies and anti-Vietnam War demonstrations. But these events, and the lack of management and maintenance, led to the lawn becoming severely eroded — a virtual dustbowl. In 1980, it was restored and has been maintained by The Central Park Conservancy ever since. The meadow became the Park's first Quiet Zone, which means it's the perfect place to relax and unwind. Sheep Meadow attracts thousands of visitors, who gather to sunbathe, picnic, and enjoy this pastoral escape, free from the hustle and bustle of New York City, but with one of the best views of Manhattan's famous skyline.
Location : West Side from 66th to 69th Streets.
Skating on Wollman Rink is a winter tradition for New Yorkers and tourists alike, so many people have tied up their skates for the very first time on this ice. Ice skating is a long-standing and beloved tradition here in Central Park — as old as the Park itself.
The first part of Central Park to open to the public was the Lake, in 1858. That same winter, it filled with skaters. Soon after, skaters filled the 59th Street Pond as well. A century later, these water bodies were closed to skaters. Wollman Rink opened in 1950, a 33,000-square-foot venue built with a gift from Kate Wollman.
With its romantic backdrop, Wollman Rink puts visitors beneath the magical New York City skyline by day, and its twinkling lights by night. You can see why Wollman has been featured in films such as Love Story and Serendipity. Rink Hours Monday - Tuesday: 10am - 2:30pm Wednesday - Thursday: 10am - 10pm Friday: 10am - 11pm Saturday: 10am - 11pm Sunday: 10am - 9pm Fees Admission Monday - Thursday: Adults: $11.25 Children (11 & under): $6 Seniors: $5
Location : East Side between 62nd and 63rd Streets