Daytrippers

Hidden-Away Castle Brings Touch Of Magic Kingdom To Central Park

Many folks have never seen the mini castle, nestled inside the big city.

“We’ve been to Central Park 30 times, and I didn’t know it was here,” says Christopher Herwig of Manhattan.

But Belvedere Castle, built as a whimsical lookout in 1871, sits atop Vista Rock.

“The castle is the highest man-made point in Central Park,” says Sara Cedar Miller, a historian with the Central Park Conservancy. “It has a beautiful view of the great lawn, which used to be the reservoir.”

In 1919, the castle became the home of the National Weather Service.  When instruments became computerized and staff left, everything changed.

“It just became an abandoned wreck.  People vandalized it,” says Cedar Miller, explaining how the Conservancy took over, revitalizing the structure and turning it into a learning center.

Meteorologists continue to use the machines to report the “official” weather for Manhattan.
Kids can borrow backpacks, filled with trail maps and binoculars, just perfect for spying the 275 species of birds that live in the park, a true work of art.

“So often I compare Central Park to Disney Land … and I say, ‘We have our own Magic Kingdom Castle right here,’ ” says Cedar Miller with a smile.  “You can spend the whole day here doing something with the kids and it will be memorable.  We are a repository of incredible memories of people’s childhoods.”
There is no cost to walk through the castle.  Families can even take part in year-round free programs, such as storytelling and bird of prey demonstrations.  Also, the Conservancy offers several opportunities to take a Belvedere’s Kingdom Walking Tour throughout April and May for $15 per person.  Click here to visit the Central Park Conservancy’s website for more information.

 

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