Friday, February 18, 2011

Central Park

The Pond with peek a boo view of Gapstow Bridge
A Central Park audio tour is available for free download from  There is a short ad for the Jumeirah Essex House Hotel at the start (they funded the creation of the audio tour), but other than that, the whole tour is really an interesting detailed description of the history and highlights of Central Park (originally designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux) from Central Park South up to about 79th Street and back down.

I have enjoyed the Park innumerable times (I used to live a couple of blocks from the Park back in the late 90s) but this tour taught me about many of the sights that I had previously not thought much about and taken for granted. For instance, there are magnificent statues at Artists' Gate, which is at Central Park South and 6th Avenue/Avenue of the Americas of three great liberators of South America (appropriately at the head of Avenue of the Americas), Jose de San Martin, Simon Bolivar (above right), and Jose Julian Marti Perez (above left). With the weather unseasonably warm yesterday (reaching the low 60s), I jumped at the chance to take this 2+ hour tour (there is a shorter family version available as well).

I was amazed to find that the 5+ acre zoo houses over 130 species ranging from polar bears and California seals (see right) to tarantulas.  I was also lucky to catch the playing of the Delacorte Musical Clock (which plays one of 26 tunes every half and whole hour from 8 am to 5 pm); granted this is not much of a show for adults, but may be fun for young kids (whose special area of the zoo lies just beyond).

I followed the tour next to the famous statue of Balto, the Siberian Husky that led the final leg of the relay of sled dog teams that saved Nome, AK from a diphtheria epidemic in 1925 by traveling almost a thousand miles through white-out blizzard conditions.  Once can see various portions of the statue are well worn and shiny from the innumerable hands that have petted this dog or rode on his back for a photo.

I won't go on in too much more detail, except to provide photos (and identifying captions) several other highlights of the Park that the audio tour explained.  If you have the time and stamina, (and the weather is cooperative), I would recommend you take the tour and learn about things like like the 121 countries endorsing Strawberry Fields as a garden of peace in honor of John Lennon, who was shot outside his home at the Dakota (just west of the Park); the obelisk (the oldest object in the Park with a questionable acquisition); the dairy (established to provide safe milk for the children of NYC); and the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain (which commemorates the completion of the Croton Aqueduct, which was hoped would prevent the continued spread of infectious diseases that was plaguing the City) (see right).

Alice in Wonderland Statue

The Obelisk, located behind The Met Museum
The Dairy, built in 1870 in the Victorian Gothic style
Belvedere Castle, where NYC temperatures are recorded
Wollman Rink, built in 1949, now operated by Trump

Giant bubble man, usually by Bethesda Terrace or The Mall
Bow Bridge, cast iron bridge often in Woody Allen movies

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