Gondolas on Central Park Lake

Gondolas in Central Park

New York is absolutely abuzz with activity in the summer time, particularly in Central Park. On any given day, there are so many things a person could do that it seems impossible to even know about all of your options. Perhaps that’s why when Liam Daniel Pierce told his friends that he was a gondolier in Central Park, they told him to go jump in The Lake. “When I tell old school New Yorkers about the gondola, they like to tell me that it FLAT OUT does not exist. But there have been gondolas there since the lake was dug out.”

A gondola in Central Park in 1894
A gondola in Central Park in 1894

It’s true. We have gondolas in Central Park. If you head over to the Loeb Boathouse, you can rent one for $45 for a half hour ride and you could find yourself being serenaded to a version of “That’s Amore” with personally customized lyrics.

One of Central Park’s architects was well known for his love of boats. Frederick Law Olmsted, who visited Venice with his sons to broaden their education in landscape architecture, would later bring gondolas to the Chicago World’s Fair of 1898.

Gondolas at the 1898 World's Fair in Chicago
Gondolas at the 1898 World’s Fair in Chicago

“[Olmsted] wanted the lagoons and canals strewn with waterfowl of all kinds and colors and traversed continually by small boats. Not just any boats, however: becoming boats. The subject became an obsession for him. His broad view of landscape architecture included anything that grew, flew, floated, or otherwise entered the scenery he created.” – Erik Larson, The Devil in the White City

Central Park gondoliers in 1900
Central Park gondoliers in 1900

However, it was not Olmsted who suggested gondolas for Central Park and one must wonder if Venice or Central Park actually inspired his “becoming boats” in Chicago. Central Park’s Lake was first opened to the public in 1858 (before construction was even completed) and it was opened in the winter for people to ice skate on. Boats were first put on The Lake in 1860 but it wasn’t until 1862 that Central Park received its first gondola. The boat, an authentic Venetian gondola named Maiden City of the Sea was given to the park by park commissioner John A.C. Gray. It was some time till there was a gondolier to regularly charter the vessel but after that, the boat became a park favorite. It received enough usage that by the 1890s, another Venetian gondola replaced the original gift.

Central Park's Venetian Water Festival
Central Park’s Venetian Water Festival

As late as 1936, a “Venetian Water Carnival” was held on a yearly basis in the park. After live music and dancing at the Mall, people would find their way down to The Lake where, according to the Department of Parks, “Venetian peasants” took to brightly lit swan boats and gondolas to sing and play mandolins. The event also included an “Approach of the Doge,” a “Dance of the Nymphs,” a fireworks display, and even featured a 60 piece orchestra.

To learn more secrets of Central Park, sign up for one of our Central Park tours.

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A Whopping Seventeen Concerts Will Take Place in Central Park this June 21st

harmonica concert in central park
Anyone can join in this harmonica concert, even Mike Bloomberg

For many, Central Park conjures up images of woodlands, meadows, and lakes. But some people associate the park with something else, drum circles, saxophonists playing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to children, and diehard hippies strumming out Beatles songs. On June 21, there will be even more street musicians in the park though. Or perhaps we should call them lake musicians.

Each year on the first day of summer Make Music New York takes to the streets with over a thousand free open air musical performances. When we say music, we’re talking anything and everything: funk, punk, jazz, you name it. The festival is showing Central Park some love too, bringing two classical concerts to The Lake, five folk music performances at The Great Hill, traditional Indian music at The Dairy, three free for all concerts that anyone can join, a string orchestra, and a French hip-hop concert by IAM.

Lake Music
At 7:30am and 8:15pm, six trombones standing on opposite sides of The Lake will face their conductor situated in a boat in between them to play Canadian Composer R. Murray Schafer’s Music for Wilderness Lake. At 5pm, a 144 singers will perform Schafer’s 50 minute piece Credo which was intended to be sung by twelve separate but coordinated choirs. As if that wasn’t spectacular enough, the will do this while sitting in boats on The Lake. The Lake is found in the center of the park at 72nd Street. If you need more help, check out our map of the park.

Hill Folk
At 11:00am, singer/song writer Cynthia Goddeau kicks things off, guitar in hand with an hour set. Then at 12 noon, singer Elaine Romanelli, who’s been compared to Sarah McLachlan, switches things up when she steps behind the piano. Later at 2:00pm, Joe Miller brings some country flair to his folk music in an acoustic guitar and vocals set. Immediately after at 3:00pm, coffeeshop and bar veteran Paul Tabachneck will share covers of his favorite pop-rock songs and some originals of his own. Finally at 4:00pm, The Folk Music Society of New York and NYCStreetsingers shares an hour and a half of old fashioned folk goodness. The Great Hill is found on the West Side of the park at 104th Street. If you need more help, check out our map of the park.

Never Too Late To String
The New York Late Starters String Orchestra claims The Great Hill at 6:30pm to perform chamber music. Their chamber orchestra is comprised of amateur adult performers who discovered their passion for music later in life. Stop by and hear this unique group comprised of players from 18 to 80 years of age give an hour and a half concert. The Great is found on the West Side of the park at 104th Street. If you need more help, check out our map of the park.

That Time You Performed In Central Park
Throughout the day there are three “mass appeal” concerts. In other words, anyone can join one of these concert if they want to. At 4:00pm, flutists will gather at Wollman Rink (approximately where 63rd Street and Sixth Avenue would be) for a two hour concert of prepared pieces with sightseeing performances. For more info contact [email protected]. At 6:00pm, you can bring a harmonica to Stranger’s Gate (106th Street and Central Park West) even if you’ve never played one before in your life. After a quick harmonica lesson, everyone will perform in an interactive concert. Contact Jia-Ye He at [email protected] to sign up. Lastly, at 7pm, accordionist Melissa Elledge will lead an all-accordion performance of “In C” (1964) by Terry Riley which anyone may join at Dalehead Arch (64th Street on the west side of the park). To sign up, and get sheet music, email [email protected]. If you need more help, check out our map of the park.

Journey Through India
Experience India in front of a Swedish Cottage with ensembles directly from India. Featured performers include vocalist Falu and group at 4:00pm. At 5:30pm, Jin Won, Woman of Tabla from Taalika, followed by Taalim Tabla Trio/men of Tabla (Kaumil Shah, Michael Lukshis, and Archit Krishna) Lastly, at 6:45pm the Hindustani Vocalist Samarth Nagarkar. If you need more help, check out our map of the park.

Summer Stages Makes Music Again
Maybe it was planned or maybe it was serendipity, but it just so happens that French Hip-Hop group IAM is performing at Rumsey Playfield (in the center of the park below 72nd Street) at 7pm. The group incorporates the sounds of Ancient Egypt, Africa, China, Japan, India and American music. They’re recent album, Paid in Full, was called “the greatest Hip-Hop album of all time” by Rolling Stone. If you need more help, check out our map of the park.

You might be tempted to say something like “only in New York” but Make Music NY happens simultaneously with similar festivities in over 500 cities globally. If you feel like doing more than just watching, MMNY is looking for some volunteers for the day to help row singers into location, hand out programs and other such things. You can email [email protected] if you want to volunteer.

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Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Park Locations

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Central Park is an integral part of the film Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Our guests on the tour and visitors to the website have been asking us specifically about locations for the film so we’ve put together a map of locations used in the film:

Filming Locations in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

You’ll see there are two scenes filmed at The Lake. One takes place on the northwest border of the lake:

lake location

Oscar (Thomas Horn) is on a scavenger hunt that his father (Tom Hanks) has sent him on. At another point in the film we see Horn and Hanks on the southern side of The Lake at a swing set that was brought in just for filming. Behind the swing set we can see The Lake and Bow Bridge.

Hanks and Horn at Bow Bridge

Hanks Swings

In the second image above you can see the orange net in place because of the restoration that is still happening on the southern side of Bow Bridge. Lastly, in another moment of the scavenger hunt we see Oskar down near Wollman Rink scaling one of the park’s prominent natural rock formations.

Horn by Wollman Rink

To learn more secrets of Central Park, sign up for one of our Central Park tours.

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