Visitors to New York’s famous Central Park can now get a guided tour of the attraction, voiced by a galaxy of stars.
Yoko Ono, Jerry Seinfeld, Matthew Broderick, Anne Hathaway, Whoopi Goldberg, Glenn Close and Sigourney Weaver are among the 30+ celebrities who have recorded special messages about the park’s landmarks.
Tourists and locals will be able to call a special telephone number on signs throughout the park to hear about specific features on their mobile phones. They share history, trivia and personal memories of the park on the new audio tour.
“I am honoured to welcome you to Strawberry Fields,” Yoko Ono says on her segment, explaining the origins of the meditative monument to husband John Lennon’s life and work. [Tel: 646-862-0997, then 36#]
“This is where I learned to skate,” Whoopi says of Wollman Rink. “Yeah – me. On skates!”
The tours are aimed at both tourists and New Yorkers who want to learn more about the park, Central Park Conservancy President Doug Blonsky said.
“People have a whole different respect for things when they know the history of it,” he said.
The messages, which average two to three minutes long, also highlight the work of the conservancy, and a message afterwards suggests people support the group’s efforts.
Celebrities Offer Tour of Central Park, by CellphoneBy JENNIFER 8. LEE, The New York Times, June 24, 2009, 7:30 AM
On Tuesday, dozens of celebrities began offering guided tours of Central Park highlights. But it’s all done over cellphone — the modern mobile equivalent of the museum-wand audio tours.
It’s a mix of trivia, memories and history (both personal and general). Yoko Ono introduces Strawberry Fields, named for a Beatles song in honor of her husband John Lennon. Jimmy Fallon discusses the North Meadow, one of the fields where the casts of “Sex and the City” and “Law and Order” have played ball. Whoopi Goldberg talks about Wollman Rink, where she learned to ice skate.
“We’ve wanted to do this for a long time, but the challenge was technology,” said Doug Blonsky, president of the Central Park Conservancy, which manages the park under a contract with the city. The logistics of renting, keeping track of, and returning the audio wands was a considerable hassle.
But cellphones, now that people carry them by default, were a natural solution. The conservancy has marked 40 sites with green signs with a dial-up number — (646) 862-0997 — and an extension to punch in for the specific location. “You don’t look like a tourist necessarily. You can pretend you are talking on the phone,” Mr. Blonsky said.
The conservancy contracted with Guide By Cell, a San Francisco-based company which provides tours for some 500 clients, including botanical gardens, national and state parks, aquariums and zoos, universities, and museums. In New York City, other customers include Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, The Museum of Modern Art and The New York Historical Society.
The conservancy reached out to a number of public figures they knew had a connection to Central Park. “For Alec Baldwin, the Great Lawn made sense — many times I’ve seen him out there throwing the football,” Mr. Blonsky said. The celebrities were either brought into a recording studio, or — as in the case of Martha Stewart — did the recordings in their own studios.
More locations are coming. “Central Park is an endless story,” Mr. Blonsky said.
And who says you have to be on a cellphone? You can dial the numbers, 646-862-0997, and punch in the numbers from anywhere.
- Extension/Location: Narrator
- 1/Alice in Wonderland: Whoopi Goldberg
- 2/Arsenal: Commissioner Adrian Benepe
- 3/Balto: John Stossel
- 4/Belvedere Castle: Lee Goldberg
- 5/Bethesda Fountain: George C. Wolfe
- 6/Bow Bridge: Julia Louis-Dreyfus
- 7/Carousel: Kelly Ripa
- 8/Cherry Hill: Nonworking
- 9/Chess & Checkers Mandy Patinkin
- 10/Children’s Glade Kelly Ripa
- 11/Conservatory Garden Candice Bergen
- 12/Conservatory Water Glenn Close
- 13/The Dairy: Danny Meyer
- 14/Delacorte Theater: Anne Hathaway
- 15/Grand Army Plaza: Regis Philbin
- 16/Great Lawn: Alec Baldwin
- 17/Harlem Meer S. Epatha Merkerson
- 18/Heckscher Ballfields: Scott Clark
- 19/Ladies’ Pavilion: Tea Leoni
- 20/The Lake: Penn Jillette
- 21/Loeb Boathouse: Meredith Vieira
- 22/The Mall: Jerry Seinfeld
- 23/Minton Tile Ceiling: Sigourney Weaver
- 24/Naumburg Bandshell: Paul Shaffer
- 25/North Meadow: Jimmy Fallon
- 26/Obelisk: Philippe de Montebello
- 27/The Pond: Sarah Jessica Parker
- 28/The Pool: Susan Lucci
- 29/The Ramble: Isabella Rossellini
- 30/The Ravine: David Copperfield
- 31/Reservoir: Kevin Bacon
- 32/Arthur Ross Pinetum: Martha Stewart
- 33/Rumsey Playfield : Neil Patrick Harris
- 34/Shakespeare Garden: Marcia Gay Harden
- 35/Sheep Meadow: Matthew Broderick
- 36/Strawberry Fields: Yoko Ono
- 37/Tennis Courts: John McEnroe
- 38/Tree Care: Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
- 39/Turtle Pond: Jason Alexander
- 40/Wollman Rink: Whoopi Goldberg
- 41–47/Park Entrances: Doug Blonsky