Laying poolside and walking through a French garden are just a few of the hidden gems that Central Park has to offer. Since 1858, this green space has offered itself as a haven to the harsh contrast of the surrouding concrete lining its 843-acres. Whether you’re a first-timer or a resident, you won’t regret spending the day delving into the changing landscapes of Central Park. Rent a bike, pack a picnic, and spend the day enjoying the hidden gems that this park has to offer.
New York’s melting pot of design influence has found its way into the lush greenery of Central Park, where 6 acres of land has been molded into Italian, French, and English escapes. Take the main entrance on Fifth Avenue between 104th and 105th street through the 1894 Parisian built, Vanderbilt gate. This iron gate originally at Fifth Avenue and 58th, stood guarding the Vanderbilt Mansion.
As you walk down the steps, let your eyes wander around the large Italian inspired lawn surrounded by yew hedges. Begin your immersion into days when a stroll around the garden was at the height of sophistication as you walk down one of the two allées. Each lined with white and pink crabapple trees that bloom in spring. Benches sit beneath them to allow time to admire your surroundings as you drift further away from the juxtaposition of the city streets.
To the north spiralized walkways decorated with germander and spring tulips surrounded by Japanese holly occupy the space leading you inward towards the Three Dancing Maidens fountain by German sculptor, Walter Schott. As spring turns to summer and moves into fall, the garden transforms with autumn Korean chrysanthemums completing the life cycle of this metamorphic experience.
Walk towards the southern region of the Conservatory Garden to find five seasonal flower beds and mixed displays of trees, shrubs, and perennial plants. Let the breathtaking beauty of the intimate space settle in as you enjoy the water lily pond featuring the Frances Hodgson Burnett Memorial Fountain created by sculptor Bessie Potter Vonnoh. This fountain with its delicate details and birdbath is in tribute to the British novelist and playwright, who brought so many stories to life including, The Secret Garden, which is depicted here by its main characters.
In a city that never sleeps, this space has been officially designated as a quiet zone to escape the stress of noise pollution. Take a moment to breathe in the sweet scent of seasonal flowers as the world slows and the butterflies swirl around you. This hidden gem is designed to enjoy as you take a stroll or read a book among the English, French and Italian design.
Too many days of being drenched from humidity and the city sun beating down roasting your skin can you leave you feeling like a sun-dried tomato. Take a break by relaxing in one of the best-hidden gems in the city, Lasker pool at Central Park East and Malcolm X Blvd. Enjoy the wading and Olympic pool, open daily from 11 am-3 pm and 4 pm-7 pm.
One of my favorite aspects of architecture is when a public space can transition between seasons. Utilizing these resources is incredibly important with such a large population and also what makes Lasker Pool and Rink so incredible. Once city streets are adorned in Christmas lights and the air becomes brisk the pool transforms into a rink. One side is used for high school hockey and the other for all ages skate.
Your experience at Tavern on the Green begins the moment you step onto the property. As you’re greeted by a doorman in a top hat, the history of this iconic restaurant washes over you. Since 1870 this building has seen several transformations. It comes from humble beginnings as a gothic revival housing for 200 Southdown sheep, which spent their days occupying the nearby meadow. With a renovation of the park by Robert Moses, known as the master-builder of mid-20th century New York City, in 1934 it was transformed into a restaurant as the sheep moved to Brooklyn. During the 40s and 50s, they added a large outdoor patio, and The Elm Tree room was created.
In 1976 Tavern had undergone a lavish renovation brought to life by New York Businessman and grandson to one of the founding fathers of Warner Bros. Pictures, Warner Le Roy. With the addition of the Crystal Room, Tiffany stained glass, and Baccarat chandeliers, celebrities flocked to the newly reimagined location.
Though the tavern had to be shut down for several years it came back in 2014 with new owners Jim Caiola and David Salama. The ever-changing landscape provides for a truly magical experience. As you work your way through the dimly lit tavern-style room to the light-filled cream-colored main dining area to the outdoor patio with lights illuminating the sky above you will never regret the time spent at Tavern On The Green.
While it occupies my mind as one of the best hidden gems in NYC, it also holds a special place in my heart. My husband and I invited our wedding guests to join us for a cocktail at the outdoor bar when they all arrived. We mingled and toasted and enjoyed the live jazz band as we celebrated such a wonderful occasion.
Walk the path on 79th from the American Museum of Natural History to the Met and along the way you will discover Belvedere Castle, built by park co-designer Calvert Vaux in 1869. Upon reaching the top of the castle you will quickly find that it offers the highest view-point of the surrounding park.
Although gloriously whimsical this castle also serves an important purpose, since 1919 it has been used by the U.S. weather bureau as a station. Upon falling into disrepair in the 1960s the Central Park Conservatory renovated the miniature castle in 1983 and opened with a new visitors center and gift shop.
Much like this city, the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir has an overwhelming beauty. Holding one billion gallons of water and 40-feet-deep it was built as a temporary water supply in 1860, while the water system was shut down each year for two weeks. The reservoir was deemed obsolete in 1993 due to a third water tunnel and concern by Federal environmental officials about the possible contamination of an open reservoir.
At the time of its decommissioning, the debate was overwhelming. Ideas ranged from draining it and filling it, to creating more ballfields, which had been done previously in 1920 to the lower reservoir. Some suggested opening it to the public for boating, fishing, and swimming. In the end, the reservoir and it’s 1.58-mile running track have remained relatively untouched. During an update in 2003, a reproduction of the original iron fence was created to replace the chain-link fence constructed in the 1920s after a piece was found at the bottom of the reservoir by divers. A few of the famous guests of the track include Bill Clinton, Madonna, and Jackie Kennedy Onassis.
The boathouse began as a need for storage once boating on the lake had grown in popularity in the 1860s. By 1872 Calvert Vaux designed a two-story Victorian boathouse. In 1924 the original boathouse had been replaced, unfortunately not much is known about this building. With a $305,000 donation from investment banker and philanthropist Carl M. Loeb and his wife Adeline, the boathouse was updated to its current state. Sadly, Adeline had died just months prior to the dedication and opening in March of 1954. 64 years later the Loeb Boathouse stands as an iconic staple in the New York City restaurant landscape. It has won the OpenTable Diners’ Choice Award, making it one of the tastiest hidden gems on this list.
Lakefront property and upscale service are just a few of the reasons that the enchanting Loeb Boathouse has become cinematically iconic. The Oscar-winning, When Harry Met Sally, featured the property during one of its many iconic scenes. Marie played by Carrie Fisher flipped through her Rolodex of men trying to recommend dates for 3-day-single Sally, played by Meg Ryan. She then gave the world this bit of wisdom, “…the right man might be out there for you right now, and if you don’t grab him, someone, else will, and you’ll have to spend the rest of your life knowing that someone else is married to your husband.”
Spend an afternoon people watching and marveling at the architecure in the heart of Central Park. Ralph Lauren marked his 50th anniversary surrounded by this enchanting backdrop with celebrity guests Blake Lively, Nick Jonas, Anne Hathaway, Kanye West and many others. The grand staircase connects to the arcade adorned with Minton tiles, acting as shelter from the rain and heat.
Though I have never felt the need to rent a model sailboat, simply sitting and admiring the tiny boats floating around the small pond feels calming and reminiscent of a slower time. There’s no better day spent than grabbing a bottle of wine, lounging on the grass and gazing upon conservatory water watching the sailboats drift by. Grab refreshments from Le Pain or the beautiful copper-roofed Kerbs Boathouse with patio and restrooms. So iconic are the races held on Saturday mornings around 10 a.m. that writer E.B. White used the magical setting in his 1945 children’s novel Stuart Little.
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