The Northern part of Central Park is not one we’ve explored much as a family. I’ve biked and run through the area near Lasker Rink and Harlem Meer myself but wasn’t sure how to get a four year old with little legs over there. It turns out the number 2 or 3 subways stop at 110th street, right on the North end of Central Park, essentially at the Meer. So we went and made an afternoon of it.
Harlem Meer (meer = lake in Dutch) is a man-made body of water with natural shorelines which lies below the sites of several forts built for the war of 1812. The Charles A. Dana Discovery Centre is a recent addition, built in 1993, which lends out fishing rods for catch and release and children’s “Discovery kits” – free with a piece of ID and phone number. The kits include binoculars, a magnifying glass, clipboard, paper, pencil crayons, a pamphlet guide to wildlife in NY and vegetation in NY all packed in a cute child-size back-pack. The only rules: have the equipment back by 4pm and don’t catch the turtles.
We borrowed the equipment and walked around the Meer, set up a picnic lunch just north of the Conservatory garden and tried out hand at fishing. The park provides corn kernels as bait so we didn’t even have to dig for worms (hooray!). For a long time nothing happened, then I caught the first fish (I used 3 kernels as the bait). While mine was the first, my husband actually caught four fish today. I was close to catching a few more but just as they were nibbling at the corn a hungry turtle would come out of nowhere and I’d pull out, scared to accidentally hook it.
While we adults were fishing, our four year old was busy exploring the nearby clearing and discovering what kind of trees we were sitting near. He learned that Canada Geese are not big ducks or swans, that “boy ducks” are more colorful than their counterparts and that NYC ducks are bold and will come close if they see you eating bread.
After fishing and exploring we stopped at the nearby playground and enjoyed some ice cream. We will definitely have to do this again this summer.
One last thing: walking along Central Park North from the East corner of the park toward the subway you may notice a building with all of the windows boarded up. Among stately pre-war apartment buildings, it caused us to do a double take. It is the Lincoln correctional facility, a minimum security prison facing Central Park with the windows boarded up and an enclosed rooftop terrace. It’s an interesting location as it’s sitting on some choice real-estate…