Central Park Casino

Central Park CasinoIt’s the hottest nightclub in Manhattan on a Saturday night with limos lined up for blocks. Glowering doormen carefully check the guest list before admitting the tuxedoed and bejeweled monarchs of New York society. The décor is all black glass and dark, glistening dance floors, with a sumptuous dining room and not one, but two of the hottest musical acts in New York. Money and power are well represented and very much attracted to one another as Wall Street mixes with Broadway and Hollywood, with a soupçon of Runyonesque mug shots for color. It’s 1930 and the place to be is the Casino in Central Park.

The Casino restaurant on the east side of the Mall near 70th Street had “never been noted for catering to the poor,” the Times dryly observed in 1929, but that year the restaurant became even more exclusive when it was transformed into a nightclub for New York high society.

It was, in effect, a gift from former song writer Jimmy Walker, elected mayor in 1926, to his friend Sidney Solomon, who had been in the hotel business and won Beau James’s affection by introducing him to his tailor. Walker had asked Solomon if there was anything he could do for him in return. As a matter of fact, Solomon replied, “I’d like to take over the old Casino in Central Park and make it an outstanding restaurant.” City lawyers evicted the Casino’s prior licensed operator in February 1929. To oversee his enterprise, Solomon promptly appointed a board of governors comprising prominent New York business and social leaders. Heading the board was Anthony Drexel Biddle, Jr., millionaire scion of the socially prominent Philadelphia clan and a friend of the mayor’s. “We feel,” Biddle explained, “that New York needs a dining place around which the cultured life of the city can rotate. … It will give Central Park a touch of the life and color that has been lacking for a number of years.” Even before the Casino had opened, former mayor John F. Hylan charged that it represented “a new seizure by royalty of the city property.” Biddle responded disingenuously: “All we wanted to do is something for the public.”

Solomon changed the exterior of Vaux’s original brick and stone building very little, but he recruited the Vienna-born designer Joseph Urban to redesign the interior in modernist style. The Casino would have a tulip pavilion, an orange terrace, a silver conservatory, and a spectacular black-glass ballroom. Walker and his mistress, Betty Compton, both reviewed Urban’s sketches before Solomon spent the approximately $500,000 it took to carry out the renovations. There would be tables for six hundred patrons and parking for three hundred cars.

Central Park Casino Dining RoomOn opening night, June 4, 1929, “a good deal of cynical talk was bandied about” among the crowd who watched the socialites arrive. In the fall mayoral campaign Fiorello La Guardia attacked Walker for leasing the “whoopee joint” in the park to his close friends for a ridiculously low rent — friends who, in turn, obtained some of their financing from gangster Arnold Rothstein (the man who reputedly fixed the 1919 World Series). The stock market crashed that same fall and federal prohibition agents raided the Casino. The elegant playground of the rich had become a symbol of decadence and corruption. Parks commissioner Robert Moses later replaced the Casino with the Rumsey Playground.

Central Park Casino

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Central Park Casino

Opening Night 10928

Central Park Bike Tour

  • Our bicycle tour has been ranked as one the top 5 things to do in Central Park by TripAdvisor. It is the only tour that covers the entire length of Central Park and it provides an excellent overview of the whole park.
  • The tour takes approximately 2 hours and it includes various stops along the way. On those stops, you can park the bicycle and go for a short stroll along some of the most stunning views of Central Park.
  • Including Bethesda Terrace, Strawberry Fields, The Bow Bridge, Balto and many more. In addition, you will also visit some of the hidden places in Central Park - the Ravine, the secret waterfall and of course our team’s favorite - the Central Park Ramble!
  • 2 Hours - $53 - Prices are per person
    Book Here.

Central Park Pedicab Tour

  • Allow one of our experienced tour guides to show you the beauty of the park from the back of a pedicab. Those iconic NYC pedicabs are one of the best things to do in Central Park!
  • Sit down and relax while your tour guide tells you about the history of the park, architecture, interesting trivia and of course points out the exact location of all those blockbuster movies filmed in Central Park
  • Reserve either 1 hour or 2 hour guided pedicab tour. If you are already in the park, don’t worry, we can send the tour guide to pick you up from one of the many designated pick up zones inside Central Park.
  • 1 Hour - $53 - 2 Hours - $89 - Prices are per person
  • Book Here.

Central Park Bike Rental

  • Biking in Central Park is one of the most enjoyable ways to explore the park and do it at your own pace.
  • You can pick up your bike from one of our convenient locations around the park. In case you are already inside the park, no worries, we can send our concierge to deliver the bike(s) to one of the many designated bike zones inside the park. At the time of booking, we will direct you to the nearest bike pick up station in the park.
  • Pack some light snacks and a water bottle, take one of the park maps we provide. When reserving your bike rental, you will have an option to include an audio guided tour.
  • 1 Hour $15 - 2 Hours $20 - 3 Hours $25 - All Day (9am -7pm) $40
  • Book Here

Things To Do

From The Philharmonic on the Great Lawn to Shakespeare in the Park to SummerStage, Central Park offers an endless array of things to do, see, hear – and, with two full service restaurants and several cafes, taste.  You can visit The Shakespeare Garden, take in a performance at the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater, take a ride on the Carousel – or just sit and people watch at Bethesda Terrace!

Contact Us

Contact Info

5th Ave. 
New York, NY, 10028

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