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New York City Local’s Guide to Central Park

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Did you know that Central Park is New York City’s most visited attraction? Crowds hoard around the same over-visited attractions to the point where we almost lose the very purpose Olmsted and Vaux designed the park for. In the hustle and bustle of city life, locals need green spaces for our wellbeing – even researchers agree: exposure to greenspace reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, preterm birth, stress, and high blood pressure.

So how can we find the tranquility we crave in such a tourist hot spot? You go off-the-beaten-path. Below, a roundup of the lesser-known parts of Central Park to explore:

Charles A. Dana Discovery Center

Completed in 1993, the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center is Central Park’s newest structure. It currently stands as a visitors center and the HQ for the park’s catch and release fishing program. Visitors will have to hike uptown to Harlem Meer, but it’s well worth it to be rid of the crowds.

Seneca Village 

Before Central Park’s existence, Seneca Village was the first and largest African American community in New York City. In 1856, the state seized lands to construct the park, the homes were razed and forgotten until the ‘90s when Roy Rosenzweig and Elizabeth Blackmar’s book “The Park and the People: A History of Central Park” was published. To restore the lost history and raise awareness on racial injustice, archeological digs began in 2011.  Among artifacts uncovered were foundations of Seneca Village. Today, visitors can take tours of the site and learn about the full history of New York City.

Photo: centralparknyc.org

The Loch and the Ravine

#localsknow that there are waterfalls in Central Park. For those looking to find peace and tranquility, head to the North Woods where you’ll find the Loch and the Ravine.

Photo: centralparknyc.org 

Hallett Nature Sanctuary

For more than 80 years, this four-acre section of Central Park was overrun by weeds and invasive species. In 2016, the area was restored to its original glory as a bird sanctuary complete with paved pathways that make visitors forget that they are in the middle of a city. The Hallett Nature Sanctuary is only open for limited hours, so make sure you check before you go.

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The Belvedere Castle 

After 15 months of renovations, the whimsical Belvedere Castle has reopened to the public. Situated in the heart of Central Park, the castle dates all the way back to the first designers, Frederick Law Olmsted, and Calvert Vaux, in 1858, as an accent to the surrounding greenery. While this spot may not exactly be a secret, it’s worth a visit before the crowds arrive.

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