If you are new to the Big Apple, you may be wondering what you can do while on a Central Park bike tour. Luckily, there are many sights for you to see. One of the best places to visit is the Belvedere Castle. Here are just a few of the reasons this should be on your sightseeing trip.
1. Historical Significance
Belvedere Castle was built in 1869 on the highest natural spot in Central Park: Vista Rock. The rock used is Manhattan schist, and it came from the park itself. The sunken transverse road is also built from tunneling through the natural rock in the park. It still stands and holds up to all the traffic it gets, from lightweight Central Park bike tours to commercial trucks.
Calvert Vaux, who was one of the Central Park’s designers, decided to develop the castle on the rock because of the excellent views overlooking the Great Lawn and Croton Reservoir. In fact, the turret of the castle is the highest point of the park.
During the 1960s, the New York Meteorological Observatory gained automated equipment and moved to the Rockefeller Center, resulting in the castle being closed to the public. During this time, it suffered from vandalism, deterioration, and neglect. A restoration effort was launched by The Central Park Conservancy, helping it to reopen on May 1, 1983, as the Henry Luce Nature Observatory. Enjoying a Central Park bike tour here makes it even easier to take in the natural beauty.
Belvedere Castle started out as a shell with window and door openings. Then, in 1919, it became the center for the Meteorological Observatory. The weather station is now located south of the castle, and it is easy to see on your Central Park bike tour route.
There are many displays for the family to enjoy and learn how naturalists observe nature. You will find microscopes, skeletons, telescopes, and feathers. You will also find a plywood tree filled with papier-mache birds that can be found in Central Park. They help get people excited about spotting the park’s native species. In fact, Belvedere Castle is one of New York’s best birdwatching sites.
Free programs you can expect to find include astronomy talks, stargazing, birding programs, princess storytelling time, and a haunted castle for Halloween. Belvedere Castle overlooks the Great Lawn, which is loosely designed after an English landscape garden. It is full of beautiful plants that are home to tons of reptiles, amphibians, insects, and birds.
3. Cultural References
There are numerous references in movies and literature to the historical Belvedere Castle. If you have seen Count von Count on Sesame Street, you have seen some exterior shots of the façade. The movie “The Bostonians” with Christopher Reeve was filmed here. It makes appearances in many other films, such as “Stepmom” with Julia Roberts, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “Hannah and Her Sisters,” and “Prince Charming.” You may have read about it in such books as Douglas Preston’s “Reliquary” and JD Robb’s “Visions of Death.”