Central Park TV & Movie Sites Tour provided by “On Location Tours” Review by Andrea Santo Felcone

Did you know that William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878), poet, journalist, and editor-in-chief of the New-York Evening Post–the man Bryant Park is named after–is credited as the first to advocate for Central Park? Bryant put out a letter as a call to action for the public authorities to provide extensive open grounds for the public to use an area for shade and recreation. He wanted something city dwellers could enjoy without having to leave the city. In response to this plea, a design contest was held, and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, and architect/landscape designer Calvert Vaux won the competition. That was the beginning of Central Park–the first public park built in America–a park that has come to mean so much for so many.Central Park

This was only one of several interesting facts imparted by our friendly “On Location Tours” tour guide, Madeline, on the “Central Park TV & Movie Sites Tour” that my friend Abby and I attended on Saturday, May 4th. Madeline, like all of the guides that work for “On Location Tours,” is an actor, and as such was perfectly suited to provide details on television shows and movies that have been filmed in Central Park. Although this was primarily a television and movie sites tour, Madeline provided a good deal of historical detail about the park as well–information that was as fascinating as the park is beautiful.

Our small group (it was a bit of a damp day—tours run rain or shine) was composed primarily of out-of-towners: Canada, Minnesota, and Texas were represented; all were very eager to see and experience all that Central Park has to offer. My friend Abby and I were the only “locals” having come in from New Jersey. This tour was a great reminder to ‘be a tourist in your own city’ (or neighboring suburb) and explore Central Park, even if the park is literally in your own backyard. It is a gorgeous park, rich in history as well as local color. There are stories tucked into every corner and crevice, and it is easy to see why so many filmmakers would feature this setting in their movies.

Central Park On Location Tours

Madeline, our wonderful tour guide from “On Location Tours”.

Everywhere you look, there is something new for the senses to drink in; we saw three weddings, an entertainer making giant bubbles, a marionette puppeteer, various musicians—especially around ‘Strawberry Fields’ (the area in memory and tribute to John Lennon), horse-drawn carriages, turtles, ducks, etc. The list could go on and on. Unfortunately, we did not see the famed Mandarin duck who has taken up residence in Central Park—against all odds, as he should be in Asia—nor did we witness any marriage proposals, although chances are, both were present somewhere in the park that day.

Although Central Park’s 843 acres stretch from Eighth Avenue to Fifth Avenue, and from 59th Street to 110th Street, our walk covered the area from 59th Street to about 74th Street. Madeline kept the conversation flowing in a fun and breezy manner, and she gave out Tootsie® Pops for anyone who answered her movie trivia correctly. Madeline showed us the movie scenes she was describing, using an iPad, which made it easier to connect what she was saying about the film, to the corresponding location in the park. Although I had not seen many of the movies she described, that did not detract from my enjoyment of the tour. Of course, it was a more vivid connection when I had seen the movie: I was familiar with the scene where Carrie and Big of “Sex and the City” fall into the water near the Boathouse restaurant, and, when Carrie Fisher takes out her rolodex, inside that same restaurant, to help Meg Ryan find a new man in “When Harry Met Sally”. (Throughout the tour many movies and t.v. shows are discussed and they are listed on the “On Location Tours” website if you care to brush up ahead of time.) However, it was not necessary (at all) to know these films and shows to enjoy the tour. (In fact, even if you aren’t familiar with any of the movies/shows, the history alone is fascinating.)Central Park Tour

Madeline was very accommodating to the needs of the members of our group. My friend Abby was able to veer off, on occasion, to pet a wide variety of dogs (with their owners’ permission, of course). Abby has resolved to pet 2,019 dogs in the year 2019, and this Central Park visit greatly increased her overall numbers. We bonded as a group as everyone pointed out pups for Abby.

For anyone concerned with how difficult the walk is in terms of its physicality, most of the tour took place on flat ground, only two sections included mild hills, so it was not too strenuous. Also, there is a mid-tour break where participants can get water, snacks from cart vendors, or visit a bathroom.)

There were many highlights, but some that made a great impression:

  • The rock under Manhattan, “Manhattan Mica Schist,” creates the strong foundation to support the city’s skyscrapers.
  • The park was built below street level to block out noise. It took more gunpowder than was fired at the whole Battle of Gettysburg to create Central Park.
  • Central Park’s Bow Bridge is, in real life, the site of many romantic proposals, but in the movies, ironically, the site of many break-ups.Central Park Tour
  • The angel sculpture, “Angel of the Waters,” in Bethesda Fountain, was designed by Emma Stebbins. At that time, it was very unique for a woman to receive this type of commission. (Bethesda Fountain has appeared in dozens of well-known movie scenes.)

On the whole, even in less than ideal weather, we enjoyed our tour very much. “On Location Tours” is very well-run. Detailed directions are provided on where to meet the tour guide, and the tours run on schedule. Our guide was lovely and well-informed. (Bring some cash to purchase a snack, water, and to tip your tour guide.)

In addition to English, the tours are also given in Spanish, French, German and Chinese. There are several fun tours to choose from, including bus tours, in New York City and Boston. Themes cover a wide-range, including: Superheroes, “Sex and the City,” “Seinfeld,” and TCM Classic Films. For more about how to book a tour, please visit: https://onlocationtours.com/tour/central-park-tv-movie/

(Although our tour was complimentary, our opinions are our own.)

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