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The Freemasons have long been a mysterious force in both American and European history. The group in New York City however has become more open to inquisitive eyes in the last decade, reaching out for new members and becoming more active in community service. If you are looking for a little bit of Freemasonry in your explorations, there are some interesting locations you can visit in the city.

1. Grand Lodge of Masons

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Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins-Crystal Palace-Central Park-American Museum of Natural History-NYCImage via Smithsonian

So you know about the dinosaur fossils that are in the American Museum of Natural History. But there are allegedly dinosaurs buried under Central Park (!). Some believe they are located near 106th Street, others think they are near the former convent of St. Vincent. Either way, what is known is that they aren’t real dinosaur fossils but full size models by artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, who was commissioned by the comptroller of Central Park, who had seen his work on display at the 1854 Crystal Palace in London.

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By the time New Amsterdam was founded in 1664, sundials had been around for millennia. More than that, they’d been replaced by clocks and were antiquated time-keeping objects. Nonetheless, sundials continued to persist and can be found all over New York City. While a few them are in working order, the sundials are remarkable for their historical range, with pieces constructed anywhere from the late 17th century to the present day. These 10 NYC sundials range widely in style and age, creating a mosaic of artistic periods. These unexpected sightings in New York City can be easily mistaken for just art pieces, so when you’re walking around keep an open eye.

1. Sun Sculpture, New York Hall of Science, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park

Sun-Dial-Queens-Flushing-Meadows-Science-Hall-World-Fair-Untapped Cities-Nasha Virata

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Topiaries of jumping ponies mark entrances to Central Park Horse Show.

Topiaries of jumping ponies mark entrances to Central Park Horse Show.

It was a different New York, back when the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden opened the fall social season, and the swells dressed in black tie to attend. As the New York Times once pointed out, the 1887 registry for the show listing attendees and directors formed the basis of the first Social Register. But all that ended in 1996, when the National moved to East Rutherford, NJ, of all places, and ”the white-tie balls at the Waldorf-Astoria gave way to parties at the local Sheraton.” (Today the National is held in Wellington, FL.)

Now, amazingly, a few of the world’s finest riders and horses are competing at Wollman Rink in Central Park. Beginning last night September 18th, with the $210,000 Central Park Grand Prix through the Central Park Dressage Challenge on Saturday, Sept. 20th, and closing on Sunday, Sept. 21st, with the Central Park Polo Challenge, the Central Park Horse Show is giving New Yorkers a fine taste of the old days. Nestled among trees and wandering paths in the southern section of the park, the oddly shaped Wollman Rink is on the small side for Grand Prix jumping, much less polo. But the organizers have done a magnificent job of making it work, with the enveloping skyline of Central Park South lighting up the horses and riders.

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There is something magical about finding a place in Central Park where you can look all around you and not see any buildings poking above the treetops. It’s as if you’ve found a portal in the middle of the country’s biggest city. Such spots are surprisingly rare because of how narrow Central Park is and the height of its surrounding buildings, but they can definitely be found. We’ve listed seven of our favorites below. If you know of any others, feel free to add them to the interactive map above or leave a comment on the post!

1. The Loch

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Just below the Pool is a charming little manmade waterfall that flows into the Loch, which winds its way northward through a ravine. The Lochs course presents multiple opportunities for building-less spots because of its low elevation and overhead vegetation. Apparently we weren’t the only ones who enjoyed the scenery; you can make out a man painting the landscape on the far right of the above panorama.

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demographics-new-york-JIA-untappedcities-nick-realeA demographic breakdown of NYC reveals that which you probably already knew: few people live in parks.
Image Source: Wikipedia (Public Domain)

If you’ve ever wondered who, if anyone, lives in NYC’s larger parks, allow the Department of City Planning’s official population record of Joint Interest Areas (JIAs) to put your questions to rest. As defined by the Department of City Planning, JIAs are, “public parks, waterways, major government installations, and similar land uses which are not located within bounding community districts,” though they take up large enough plots of land to be independent of the city’s 59 communities. There are currently 12 such areas with population records, including surprising places like Central Park, LaGuardia Airport and JFK Airport, and the Queens Gateway National Recreation Area.

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