Offbeat New York

Central Park

There's always something happening in the city's largest oasis of green.

Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875) is best known for his children's stories such as The Emperor's New Clothes, The Little Mermaid, and The Ugly Duckling. Hans Christian Andersen is meant to be climbed on. The two favorite spots for climbing are on top of the open book displaying the opening lines of The Ugly Duckling and on the freestanding duck. It's located in the park at 74th Street near Fifth Avenue

At the northern end of Conservatory Water sits the Alice in Wonderland sculpture -- one of Central Park's most beloved pieces, a bronze grouping of characters from Lewis Carroll's 1865 classic Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Alice holds court perched on a giant mushroom, reaching toward a pocket watch held by the March Hare, the host of the book's zany tea party. This is another sculpture that is meant to be climbed on and enjoyed by children of all ages.

The Central Park Carousel -- There has been a carousel in Central Park since 1871. The current carousel, with the largest hand carved figures ever constructed, was made in 1908 by the Stein and Goldstein Company of Brooklyn, for a trolley terminal outside of Coney Island. It became the reigning carousel when the original merry-go-round was destroyed by a fire in 1950. The outside horses are 3/4 the size of an actual horse. A Ruth Sohn band organ playing a Wurlitzer 150 music roll provides the music and is original to the Carousel. To this day the Carousel and its figures are hand painted. For more information on the carousel visit Central Park Carousel. But, for up-to-date information on visiting this wonderful amusement call the carousel directly at 212-879-0244.

Guided tours -- like Cross Park Promenade -- a hidden bench that tells time, miniature boats powered by the wind, a magnificent sculpture celebrating fresh water, and a glorious drinking fountain for the city's equine population. These are just some of the the sites along the way on this east to west walk through the Park. Meet inside the Park at Fifth Avenue and East 72nd Street in front of the statue of Samuel F. B. Morse. Tour is approximately one hour long.

And this one Seneca Village Tour -- Meet inside the Park at the southeast corner of 85th Street and Central Park West. Seneca Village was Manhattan's first known community of African-American property owners, on land that would become Central Park. Tour covers the history of the village, the property owners, and what New York City was like at the time. Call 212-772-0210 for directions. Tour is approximately one hour.. Their website provides a weekly schedule of free and low-cost experiences.

Central Park Conservancy Tours allow visitors to discover the park's history, ecology, and design on free, volunteer-led walking tours that have themes such as Waterways and Vistas and Statues and Monuments. Visit CentralParkNYC.org for more information.

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