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Belvedere Castle, Central Park

Belvedere Castle across Turtle Pond View of Central Park from Belvedere Castle Opening the door to Belvedere Castle

The most challenging part of a visit to Central Park might be deciding how you want to spend your time. Beyond the green space visible from the park’s perimeters — the shaded walkways, expansive lawns, rock outcroppings, and lakes — Central Park provides space for a number of family-friendly attractions and diversions. The carefully architected landscape of the park means these features are rarely obvious until you come upon them, and to my mind there’s no more enchanting surprise than Belvedere Castle. The flag-flying turret emerges out of the trees as you approach, and before you know it you’re standing high atop Vista Rock at the base of the castle’s stone walls.

Designed by Calvert Vaux, one of two designers of Central Park, the fanciful structure’s intended purpose didn’t originally extend beyond being pleasing to look at and offering lovely views of the park. Today the views remain, but the castle also houses one of Central Park’s five visitor centers as well as the equipment that records New York City’s official weather information.

View of Belvedere Castle from the far side of Turtle Pond Central Park vista from Belvedere Castle View from the top of Belvedere Castle window of Belvedere Castle

Once inside the main entrance of the castle, a narrow stone staircases spirals up to one of two upper levels. Make your way to the very top and step outside for commanding views of Central Park. To the north, the Great Lawn stretches out, ringed by baseball diamonds. Right below you’ll see Turtle Pond (see if you can spot any of the five species of turtles swimming or sunning!) and the Delacorte Theater, home of Free Shakespeare in the Park, a summer tradition in New York. The view to the south stretches over the treetops of the Ramble, one of the wildest parts of Central Park and the perfect place to leave the city behind and feel completely immersed in nature. Above you is the turret containing instruments designed to record wind speed and direction and temperature (rainfall/snowfall are recorded just south of the castle).

In addition to the views, the castle can be great fun for kids with active imaginations. To them you’re in a real castle, looking out over not Central Park, but your kingdom. It’s not a pond you see below you, but a moat. My daughter loved imagining dragons lurking at every turn, and we left talking about knights and horses and fairy tales. A little slice of magic, right in the middle of the park and the city. Happy exploring!

Details:

  • Visiting the castle is free, and it’s open 10:00 am – 5:00 pm daily, except Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.
  • There are not restrooms at the castle, but you can find them nearby at the Delacorte Theater.
  • Free guided walks the landscape surrounding the castle for families with children aged 5+ are scheduled throughout the year. Check the events calendar, and look for “Discovery Walks for Families: Belvedere’s Kingdom”
  • The castle is a short walk from the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the east side of the park and the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater on the west side of the park, both of which I’ve written about previously.

 


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