Each year, roughly 40 million visitors flock to Central Park. And each year, crowds of tourists who don’t bother to do their research miss out on some of the best things the New York attraction has to offer. Central Park is so much more than Sheep Meadow, the Loeb Boathouse and the Central Park Zoo (though we love those things dearly). If you know where to look in this massive 843-acre playground, you can find some of its lesser-known secrets and greatest gems.
You may be surprised to learn Central Park’s North Woods is home to several waterfalls. Many visitors never venture this far north, but it’s worth the trip to the Ravine, which was designed to resemble the Adirondacks in Upstate New York. Interesting fact: The man-made waterfalls flow with New York City’s drinking water that’s piped in — not that we recommend you having a sip. Located on the West Side of the Park from 101st to 110th streets.
One of Central Park’s greatest treasures is its formal Conservatory Garden; each takes on a different design style: Italian, English and French. These six acres feature trickling fountains, inviting park benches and manicured flora. The beautiful scenery is just one more reason to head to the northern end of Central Park. Fifth Avenue and 105th Street.
This garden is filled with blooms mentioned in the Bard’s literary works and those that filled his personal garden in Stratford-upon-Avon. You can expect to find corresponding plaques with popular quotes by the famed writer. (And if you’re a fan of Shakespeare, you should check out the award-winning Something Rotten playing 13 blocks south of the park at St. James Theatre.) You’ll also find the famous whispering bench here. If you and a companion sit on opposite sides of it and one person whispers a message, the other will be able to perfectly hear the hushed tones. Located on the west side of the Park and 79th street.
If you head uptown to the Harlem Meer (“meer” is Dutch for “lake”), visitors can borrow fishing equipment just outside the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center. The one “catch” is that, if you do hook a largemouth bass or bluegill, you must release it. The fishing center is open mid-April through mid-October. Located at 110th street and Fifth Avenue.
Jog Central Park’s Most Famous Path
The Jackie Kennedy Onassis Reservoir features a 1.58-mile jogging path perfect for taking in sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline. This picturesque path can inspire even the laziest sightseer to lace up his running shoes! You may recognize the famous stretch from scenes in Sex and the City, The Devil’s Advocate or Woody Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters. Bonus fact: the Yoshino cherry trees located along the east side of the Reservoir are thought to be some of the last original trees left from Japan’s gift to the U.S. in 1912. Spans from 86th to 96th streets.
Who would think that you could take in a puppet show in the middle of Central Park? But anything is possible in the Big Apple. Head to the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre for a classic-yet-innovative takes on popular children’s stories. Shows are guaranteed to delight and tickets are relatively inexpensive. Jack and the Beanstalk will be performed through August. Located on the west side of the Park at 79th Street.
The young (and the young-at-heart) love Conservatory Water, a place where visitors can rent radio-controlled sailboats just like a scene from Stuart Little. Nearby, the Hans Christian Andersen statue, located just west of the pond, is where storytelling takes place in the summer every Saturday, (11 a.m. to 2 p.m.) rain or shine. Bird watchers also flock here in search of the hawks that frequent the area. Bring your binoculars! Located on the East side of the Park from 72nd to 75th streets.
Enjoy a leisurely afternoon at the Chess & Checkers House. Staff here will provide chess pieces, checkers, dominos or even backgammon boards. This building is located mid-Park in a shaded pergola at 64th Street. In the event you get lost locating it or any of the other sights, remember that you can always figure out where you are in the park by checking streetlamp posts, which have silver plaques on them that list the street numbers.