North of 97th Street
As Frederick Law Olmsted originally intended, the northernmost section of Central Park, between 97th and 110th Streets, becomes more rugged and wild, filled with secret waterfalls and craggy cliffs. But at 105th Street near 5th Avenue is the lovely, formal Conservatory Garden. Actually three gardens in one, the Conservatory blooms from late spring through early fall. Its most popular spot is the Secret Garden, named after Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic book.
Just above the Conservatory is 11-acre Meer Lake. Up until the mid 1990s, this lake—like much of the park above 97th Street—was avoided by New Yorkers fearful of crime. But since then, the Central Park Conservancy has poured millions of dollars into the area, and it’s been vastly improved. Meer Lake is now stocked with some 50,000 bluegill, largemouth bass, and catfish, and is a favorite fishing grounds for youngsters who are given free poles.
On the edge of Meer Lake is the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center (10 a.m.–5 p.m. daily, free admission). The center houses natural-history exhibits and offers hands-on science programs.
© Avalon Travel and Sascha Zuger from Moon New York State, 5th Edition