North End Tour

Discover the northern area of Central Park — from the site of a military fortification to the Park’s only formal garden.

When Central Park designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux set out to create a great public space, they wanted visitors to find a beautiful place to escape the hustle and concrete of the City. The naturalistic Meer and the formal Conservatory Garden both serve as perfect resting places.

Visitors on the North End Tour will see three gorgeous formal gardens at Conservatory Garden, fish swimming in the Harlem Meer, and a historic fort built during the War of 1812.

Constructed from 1857 to 1873, Central Park is a unique and long-recognized masterpiece of landscape architecture. For Olmsted and Vaux, the Park was a “single unified work of art,” where visitors could experience varied, but seamlessly connected landscapes. Like every other work of art, the Park is entirely man-made. Its only natural feature is the metamorphic rock, called Manhattan schist, that’s approximately 450 million years old. To create the Park’s naturalistic lakes and streams, low-lying swamps were drained; to create the Park’s vast, undulating meadows, swampland was filled with soil, and rock outcrops were leveled with gunpowder; to create the Park’s three woodland areas, barren rock-strewn slopes were planted with millions of trees, shrubs, and vines.

As you walk along the Park’s paths, notice how scenery changes with the weather conditions and times of day. Come back throughout the year and marvel at the difference that seasonal foliage and vegetation bring to each carefully composed landscape.

This tour is roughly one mile long and should take about 60 minutes to complete.

Download a PDF. Also available in Spanish and French.

Exhibit

Landforms: A History of Central Park's Landscapes

Learn how natural features in Central Park's north end played an important role in shaping our City's – and our nation's – history.