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The Secret History of Central Park: 6 Spots to Explore

Hidden secrets and tucked-away treasures await in Manhattan’s most popular park.

Measuring an impressive 843 acres, Central Park is a verdant urban oasis — and so much more: in addition to popular gathering spots such as Wollman Rink, Sheep’s Meadow, and Bethesda Fountain, this sprawling Manhattan green space is home to a bevy of secluded must-sees. Check out these six secret spots during your next visit to the Big Apple.

1. The Whispering Bench

Located in the Shakespeare Garden — a four-acre wonderland of plants and flowers dedicated to everyone’s favorite Bard — the Whispering Bench is the perfect place for a moment of relaxation with a friend or loved one. The “bench” is a 20-foot block of carved granite that serves as a seating area, and if you and a companion sit on opposite sides of the bench and whisper, you’ll be able to hear one another other’s every word.

The Whispering Bench is located within Shakespeare Garden at Central Park’s 79th Street Transverse.

2. Bank Rock Bay

While Bank Rock Bay isn’t the only place to birdwatch in Central Park, it’s possibly the most secluded. For those with an interest in ornithology, this small inlet is home to nearly 200 species of birds. Bring some binoculars, relax among the trees, and see what you can find. If bird-watching isn’t your passion, simply enjoy the natural surroundings, which are particularly beautiful when the leaves change color in autumn or the flowers begin to bloom in spring.

Bank Rock Bay is located on the west side of The Ramble between 77th and 78th Streets.

3. The Ramble Cave

The Ramble makes up 36 wooded acres of Central Park — and boasts a storied history. Now a favorite spot for birdwatchers, this area was once a hub for criminal activity: hidden in the Ramble’s stone cave, seedy characters with violent intentions would lie in wait for unsuspecting passersby. Nowadays, the Ramble Cave is closed off, but you can still spot the stone staircase leading to the cave’s mouth.

The Ramble Cave is located below the 79th Street Transverse.

4. The Blockhouse

If you head northwest, you’ll find the oldest building in the park, which dates back to the early 19th century. Constructed as a fortification during the War of 1812, the Blockhouse is the only military fort still standing within the park’s confines. To an unwitting visitor, the blockhouse may be easily overlooked as a square, roofless structure built of old bricks, but in its heyday it once housed a fully functional cannon.

The Blockhouse is located at 109th Street and Central Park West.

5. Pet Christmas Tree

This Central Park treasure remains a secret to this day — at least as far as its exact location is concerned. In a park with countless trees, only this one helps people pay respects to their late pets by offering a space to hang photos, toys, and tokens of remembrance. Out of respect for the practice, the location of the tree is not publicly disclosed — but perhaps you’ll happen upon it one day during a December Central Park stroll.

6. Hallett Nature Sanctuary

If you had tried to visit the Hallett Nature Sanctuary in 2015, you’d have found it closed off to the public. In fact, it had been that way since 1934, when Robert Moses designated it a private bird sanctuary protected from public access. As a result, it became overgrown with invasive plant species until the city began restoration projects in 2001. Now open daily to the public, the sanctuary is home to a wide variety of birds, plants, and small critters such as raccoons, rabbits, and woodchucks.

Hallett Nature Sanctuary is located on the east side of the park from 60th to 62nd Streets.

You can’t expect to explore all of Central Park’s hidden nooks and crannies in one day. Fortunately, however, Affinia has an offer that gives you plenty of time to explore. Book four nights for the price of three, or three nights for the price of two. What are you waiting for?

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