Even people who have never stepped foot inside Central Park feel like they know its green benches, tree-lined mall and beautiful fountains thanks to countless movies and TV shows set in the park. From animated films to rom-coms to thrillers, Central Park looms large in pop culture as a classic backdrop on the big screen.
A new tour from the Central Park Conservancy highlights the park's most iconic moments on film. The Central Park Summer Movies Tour runs through Saturday, September 30, offering your chance at a main character moment. Tickets cost $35 per person.
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More than 500 movies and TV shows have been recorded in Central Park, making it the most filmed location in the world. While one tour can't possibly highlight all 500 scenes, the Conservancy's tours spotlight more than enough to delight casual fans and film buffs alike.
On the 90-minute tour, a Conservancy guide will stop at several filming locations, holding up pictures of scenes shot there and seeing if attendees can correctly identify the corresponding movie. While we won’t spoil the fun of the tour, we’ll note just a couple of spots you’ll see on the tour.
While passing by the Central Park Zoo, you'll learn about the movie Madagascar, which was based on animals at the park's zoo. Later at Bethesda Terrace, you'll hear about the many movies filmed at this beloved location, including Avengers.
Anybody can film in Central Park, as long as they get permission from the Conservancy and follow the rules (no car chases, for example). Each year, the Conservancy fields more than 600 requests for filming and grants about 400.
Along the way on the one-mile walk, the guide will also share fascinating Central Park history, from facts about the design of the mall (it's the only straight path in the park) to little-known details about the armory (where New Yorkers in the 1800s dropped off unwanted exotic animals, leading to the creation of the zoo).
Desiree Rodriguez-St. Plice, a Central Park guide for public programs and a lifelong New Yorker, wrote the tour along with her supervisor at the Conservancy. She says the idea for a tour like this has been floating around for a while and the team finally got the chance to make it a reality. To create the tour, Rodriguez-St. Plice undertook a vast amount of research, reading, writing and walkthroughs.
We're getting to connect park history with a very celebrated thing like movies.
"We're getting to connect park history with a very celebrated thing like movies," Rodriguez-St. Plice tells Time Out New York. "It's connecting the two together, maybe inspiring more people to look more into the history because we made that connection there."
The tour tends to attract everybody from park first-timers to film fans and everybody in between.
"People get really excited when they see a movie that they know," Rodriguez-St. Plice says, adding that the tour inspires people to reminisce about their own favorite park memories.
I can attest to that nostalgia. On the tour I attended this week, I heard fellow tour-goers talk about their favorite places in the park, share memories of their own experiences filming in the park and even reflect on attending a Vietnam War protest in Sheep Meadow decades ago. Those real-life experiences rival the intrigue of the fictional stories on the silver screen.
This iteration of tours runs through September 30 (get your ticket here), but expect seasonal editions to come in the future. We hear a holiday-themed movie tour may even be on the horizon—Home Alone 2, anyone?