On Sunday I rushed off to Central Park just 10 minutes before noon for a unique tour given by the Central Park Conservancy called, 'The Castle and its Kingdom tour.'
The description of the tour, Take a walk around the lands dominated by Belvedere Castle, situated high on Vista Rock. Visit the tiny 55-acre realm on an eclectic tour of history and nature, had me looking forward to learning all about this structure and its surrounding area.
Tour-goers were to meet at the top of Belvedere Castle, located mid-Park at 79th Street. It was a warm Fall day, the perfect kind of day for sight-seeing in Central Park, an NYC attraction that has 35 million visitors a year.
View toward the Delacorte Theater
So for this tour we started at the top of the castle, taking in views of The Great Lawn, Turtle Pond and the Delacorte Theater below. We learned that the park's co-creator, Calvert Vaux, designed this castle as an observation tower or "belvedere", meaning panoramic viewpoint. Our two tour guides, who are volunteers with the Conservancy, then took us to the weather station next to the castle, which is used to measure the weather in New York City. We were standing right outside The Ramble when our main Tour Guide informed us that that is another tour in and of itself. So we walked along a trail past Turtle Pond (sans turtles, for some reason), toward the statue of King Jagiello on top of his horse, which was in the 1939 World's Fair in New York.
From here we were led to The Obelisk, an imposing 71 foot sculpture also known as "Cleopatra's Needle". It was transported to the US from Egypt in 1880, but not put up in the Park until the following year since it took so long to get it from the ship it came in on to the east side of the Park where it now sits on a restored and landscaped terrace. Behind the needle was the backside of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, plus a pretty good view of the Met's roof top where the current Big Bambu installation by Doug and Mike Starn is still up.
Following a few stops along the east side of the Park was a stop on the outer edge of the Great Lawn, which presented great views of the ballfields, Belvedere Castle and Midtown Manhattan's skyline.
The Great Lawn and Midtown Manhattan skyline
The Great Lawn and Belvedere Castle amid the trees
The tour ended at my favorite part of the Park, the Arthur Ross Pinetum, close to 85th Street and Central Park West entrance. From there I headed to my next tour...