Betty and Veronica join a long line of bears living in Central Park

Welcome Grizzle Bears Betty and Veronica to The Central Park Zoo
Welcome Grizzle Bears Betty and Veronica to The Central Park Zoo – photo by Julie Larsen Maher/Wildlife Conservation Society

Bears have existed in Central Park since 1859 when a young park messenger named Phillip Holmes unwittingly became the caretaker of a young black bear cub. A wealthy New Yorker insisted that guards in the park take the trained cub as a symbolic gift. It was a way of saying, “thanks for bringing this wilderness to the city, here’s some wildness for you.”

Holmes job as messenger meant that he essentially carried out odd tasks for park employees. This was the first time he’d taken care of a wild animal but would not be the last. New Yorkers were so taken by the bear that more gifted animals began to arrive until the area where the zoo currently is situated became a “menagerie” for the animals to live. Holmes would eventually become the nation’s first zookeeper.

Bears living in an earlier version of the Central Park Zoo
Bears living in an earlier version of the Central Park Zoo

Much has changed since Victorian times and our city’s zoos are now home to many animals who might, under normal circumstances, not have survived in the wild. Betty and Veronica, who have moved into the habitat formerly belonging to Gus the polar bear, are two such animals.

The newest residents of the Central Park Zoo.
The newest residents of the Central Park Zoo. – photo by Julie Larsen Maher/Wildlife Conservation Society

These beautiful grizzle bears were rescued from Montana and Wyoming when officials deemed them a threat to humans in their respective areas. Bears such as these have typically shown repeated signs of violence and aggression and are often shot. Instead the Wildlife Conservation Society brought them to The Bronx Zoo where they’ve lived since 1995.

Veronica the Grizzly Bear - photo: Julie Larsen Maher
Veronica the Grizzly Bear – photo: Julie Larsen Maher

Zoo officials have reported that these seasoned grizzlies, who know prefer games to violence, will open the Grizzly Bear exhibit in Central Park but it will eventually become the home of three young cubs. The cubs recently lost their mother and the zoo officials need time to work with them before they introduce them to the public.

“It’s a new species and a new exhibit,” Jim Breheny, the society’s executive vice president for zoos and aquariums, told the New York Times. “That’s why we’re sending Betty and Veronica down there. They’re really solid, they’re responsive animals, they really like each other, have great relationships with their keepers. And they’re beautiful.”

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Jazz and Colors brings Central Park a swinging soundtrack

Jazz and Colors
This coming Thursday, in addition to the beautiful changing leaves and the crisp feeling of autumn, Central Park goers will be treated to music by thirty different ensembles spread out throughout the park. They’ve all been given the same set list with songs by Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Billy Strayhorn, Dizzy Gillespie and more. The idea being that as you move throughout the park you’ll experience a seamlessly shifting soundtrack. This beautiful idea is called Jazz and Colors and it’s sponsored by Jazz at Lincoln Center.

The music starts at noon on Thursday, November 7th and goes all the way to 4pm. It just so happens, we’re giving a park tour during the concert… bonus! But even if you don’t join us, head over to the park. It’s going to be magical.

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Wollman… er Trump Rink… opens this weekend.

Serendipity at Trump/Wolmann Rink
Serendipity at Trump/Wolmann Rink

Ice skating season opens this weekend in Central Park at… umm… well, we’re not really sure what to call it anymore. The famous rink, featured in the movie Serendipity, which was originally built with money given to the city by philanthropist Kate Wollman, used to be called Wollman Rink. If you Google, Wollman Rink, almost everything on the internet refers to it by this name… except the rink itself. It is now calling itself Trump Rink. True, Mr. Trump restored the rink in 1986 after it had been closed for several years. Trump then operated the rink, then didn’t, then came resumed operations in 2001. Since that time, the Trump Organization has spent a significant amount of money in capital improvements on the rink. Nobody could say that he hasn’t been a huge supporter and friend of the rink and the park. Our company has personally made it a point in the past to thank The Trump Organization for its many contributions. But what about Kate Wollman’s contributions? The Trump name now appears on the rink’s website (, Facebook account, and Twitter profile and we can’t seem to figure out what prompted the change. We reached out to the Central Park Conservancy and they didn’t seem to know the rink had been “renamed.” When we called the rink, they informed us that it has been called Trump Rink for the past two years. Yeah… it hasn’t. While Mr. Trump certainly has the right to receive credit for his philanthropy, both philanthropists really should receive credit.

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Camping in Central Park is illegal, unless you know what we know…

camping in central park
Tents are pitched in Central Park.

So, you want to camp in Central Park? We’d advise against it. It’s illegal. Take our tour instead. But, if you happen to be free the evening of Saturday, August 24, there’s a loophole. New York City’s Urban Park Rangers have set the night aside to escort several lucky people into our glorious park to spend an evening under the stars. If you want to be a part of the experience, you’ll need to enter a lottery. If you don’t get a chance to camp in Central Park, don’t worry. There are also opportunities in other city parks including Alley Pond Park, Inwood Hill Park, Prospect Park, and Pelham Bay Park.

Not sure what to expect of city camping trips? Our friends at Downtown Traveler went earlier this year and seemed to have a great time. Apparently there were drum circles, cheesy games, and seedy hiking trips. They recommend bringing snacks, headlamps, and a camera that can take photos at night. Their best tip though is to set your tent up next to a family with kids as they tend to go to bed earlier and stay quiet. Smart!

So, who’s feeling adventurous? Will you be camping in a city park anytime soon?

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