16 Things You Never Knew About Central Park
Ghosts! Gators! Guinea pigs!
There’s nowhere quite like Central Park: sweeping views, lush greenery and a few thousand of your closest friends drinking rosé. But how well do you really know the city’s backyard? Here, 16 facts that’ll make you see Central Park in a whole new light.
1. As America’s first major landscaped public park, Central Park is entirely man-made. Even those picturesque waterfalls flow with NYC drinking water. (But, um, find a water fountain if you’re thirsty.)
2. The park’s design was inspired by the popularity of one of the city’s only green spaces at the time: Green-Wood Cemetery.
3. Alligators in the sewers might be a myth, but a gator was spotted in Central Park in 2001. Other conspicuously out-of-place critters seen in the park include a boa constrictor and a herd of guinea pigs (don't worry--not at the same time).
4. GPS not working? Take a look at the four-digit number on the nearest lamppost. The first two numbers indicate the nearest cross street, while the last digit tells you which side of the park you’re on (even equals east, odd equals west).
5. When the city purchased the 843 acres of land for the park in 1863, it cost $7.4 million--slightly more than the U.S. spent on Alaska a handful of years later. (And today that amount might nab you a West Village townhouse…if you’re lucky.)
6. It might be haunted. Legend has it, a pair of Victorian-era sisters loved to ice-skate on the lake--so much so that even though they died more than a century ago, you can sometimes still catch them taking a spin (in any season).
7. Rumsey Playfield was once home to the Central Park Casino, a Jazz Age hot spot for socialite mayor Jimmy Walker, Ziegfeld Follies dancers and big-shot tycoons. Kind of makes Summerstage look tame in comparison, no?
8. It’s a great place for a wedding…as long as your guests don’t mind standing. Chairs, tables and tents aren’t allowed because of the damage they cause to the lawn, but that doesn’t stop thousands of couples from tying the knot (in comfortable shoes, presumably) every year.
9. Before the park was known for rare Pokémon sightings, a real-life new species was discovered there: a realllly tiny centipede.
10. Hot-dog vendors can pay nearly $300,000 a year to operate in prime areas of the park. And you thought your rent was bad.
11. Central Park has its very own app. Along with maps and event listings, you can explore points of interest with the help of celebrity-voiced audio guides. Hi, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Neil Patrick Harris!
12. In 2007, a sassy raccoon decided to camp out inside one of the NYC Parks Department offices in the historic Arsenal building for a few days. (Nope, this isn’t an episode of Parks and Recreation. It actually happened.)
13. The park may be a youthful century and a half old, but it’s home to a monument that’s much older--the towering obelisk known as Cleopatra’s Needle, a gift from Egypt that dates back 3,500 years.
14. The Great Lawn used to be a reservoir, and part of the first urban water-supply system. After it was decommissioned, there was talk of using the space for an opera house, a sports arena or a giant parking garage (shudder) before it became the green expanse it is today.
15. At 2.5 miles long and half a mile wide, Central Park is bigger than the entire principality of Monaco.
16. Ever notice how the south end of CP feels different from the North Woods? The park was designed to mirror the different regions of New York State: The manicured formality of the city to the south gradually becomes a pastoral landscape inspired by the Adirondacks. Mind blown.