iCelebrating LGBTQ Pride in Central Park – Emma Stebbin’s iconic Angel of the Waters

Emma Stebbins

Emma Stebbins

Central Park has a long and celebrated history with the LGBTQ community, starting with the commission of Bethesda Fountain from artist Emma Stebbins.  It was the earliest public artwork by a woman in New York City history.  It was also the only sculpture included in the original plans for Central Park. It was cast in Munich and officially dedicated on May 31, 1873.

Bethesda Fountain - Emma Stebbins' Angel of the Waters

Bethesda Fountain – Emma Stebbins’ Angel of the Waters

The Park Commission required that the sculpture be dedicated to “Love,” and this was a directive that the sculptor seems to have interpreted literally.  The face of the Angel of the Waters statue is believed to be modeled after that of her lover, Charlotte Cushman, a leading actress of both the American and British stages. The women made no secret of the fact that they were partners in what was then known as a “Boston Marriage, a nineteenth century  euphemism for a lesbian relationship.

Stebbins’ sculpture depicts the biblical “Angel of Bethesda”, a biblical symbol of healing and purity, resting on a base surrounded by four cherubs, which in turn represent “health,” “purity,” “peace,” and “temperance.”  This theme was considered particularly appropriate as a symbol of the healthful benefits provided by the water from the Croton Aqueduct (opened in 1842), then stored in Central Park reservoirs.  At the fountain’s dedication, Stebbins shared a pamphlet that spoke of the Angel as a healer.

Playwright Tony Kushner understood the symbolism of the curative powers of the water from the biblical fountain of Bethesda and, appropriately, set the final scene of the Perestroika section of the AIDS-themed play Angels in America (1993) at this location in Central Park.

Central Park - Gay Pride
Emma Stebbins & Charlotte Cushman

Emma Stebbins and Charlotte Cushman

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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