Fun Facts about Central Park
I’ve stumbled on to – and learnt – some really fun facts about Central Park over the years. I am quite sure I will remember more as I go along, but starting with five that are on the beaten track in Central Park.
1. Strawberry Fields
Strawberry Fields is an area within Central Park that is situated right across the road from the Dakota, where John Lennon lived with his wife, Yoko Ono. It is easily accessible from the West 72nd entrance, and is well known for the Imagine mosaic that is very recognizable and much photographed. Here are some pictures I have taken of it over the years.
After John Lennon’s death, the City decided to name a five acre area in Central Park right across from the Dakota, which is the building where he lived, and was shot outside, Strawberry Fields. Yoko Ono spearheaded an effort to build a memorial for John here by landscaping an area that needed some attention, and building a international Garden of Peace in which many countries donated plants and stones, truly in the spirit of all that John imagined. A list of the countries is given in a discreet plaque on one of the walkways here.
While this may not be news for most people – I for one learnt about the Garden of Peace and discovered the plaque only very recently – a really fun fact is that it is special to visit Strawberry Fields on two days a year – October 9, which is his birthday, and December 8, which is his death anniversary. On these two days, fans play tributes by gathering and signing songs. I chanced upon this once, and it makes for a very memorable visit!
2. Shakespeare Garden
Shakespeare Garden is located on the West side at 79th Street, and is fittingly close to Delacorte Theater, which has performances of Shakespeare plays every summer known as Shakespeare in the Park. This Garden only has flowers that find a mention in Shakespeare’s books, and is especially enchanting in the spring when they are in bloom.
While I love to visit the Shakespeare Garden on my walks through Central Park, and it tends to be on my way as there are restrooms next door – I just discovered a Whispering Bench that sits right at the top of the garden! I think I missed it all these years as you need to take the outer path to get up to this bench, and I like tend to wander among the flower beds for the most part. You can whisper from one end of the bench and be heard at the other, and it is a great place to soak in Central Park.
3. Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument
While Central Park has its fair share of statutes, it was only in 2020 that a monument by sculptor Meredith Bergmann depicting real women was unveiled on the Mall. Featuring Sojouner Truth, Susan B Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, all of whom are New Yorkers, this commemorates the Amendment that gave women the right to vote. It is a very welcome addition to the Park!
4. Delacorte Clock
The Delacorte Clock is at the Central Park Zoo, and features a menagerie of musical animals that announce the time every half hour between 8am and 6pm. This doesn’t work like clockwork unfortunately, it didn’t work a couple of times that was there at the right time to actually experience this, and then it finally did!
5. Bethesda Terrace
Bethesda Terrace is at the heart of Central Park, and is always finding its way into pictures, movies and memories. Overlooking the Lake and the Ramble, you can always count on finding some interesting people and performers here.
Interestingly, it is the only place in Central Park that has a street named after the designers of Central Park, Olmsted and Vaux.
The Bethesda Fountain is a well known landmark in the middle of Bethesda Terrace, but what makes it special for me is that it was designed by Emma Stebbins in the 1860s, making it the first piece of art designed by a woman in the City. The sculpture is also known as Angel of the Waters.
The Terrace features some spectacular tiles in its lower level, their color and vibrancy shining through even on the dullest of days. Some of these tiles are supposed to be original, which is amazing given the space is open to the elements.
There’s usually a performer in this space, and it makes for a very charming visit.
6. Bow Bridge
Bow Bridge is about midway through Central Park on 74th Street, west of Bethesda Terrace. It is a cast iron bridge dating back to the 1860s.
Bow Bridge is supposed to be one of the most photographed places in Central Park. Given the collection I have from over the years, and over the seasons, it is easy to see why this is so!