2. Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre

Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater Exterior
Photo Credit: Merissa Blitz/City Parks Foundation

This charming marionette theater has a rich Swedish history that predates its home in Central Park, and it wasn’t always used as a theater. The Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre was built in Sweden and brought to America in 1876 to as the Swedish exhibition at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. The structure was enchanting in its traditional Swedish architecture, soon allegedly catching the eye of Frederick Law Olmsted. He was reportednly inspired bring it to New York and it was installed in Central Park in 1877. The Cottage was originally used as a tool house, then a restroom, an entomological laboratory, and headquarters for the Civil Defense, according to the Central Park Conservancy. In 1947 it became the workshop for NYC Parks’ traveling marionette theater and in the 1970s became a permanent theater.

Since 1973, children and adults alike have come to the theater to see paupers, princesses, genies, and giants grace the stage. The theater is now showing a modern take on Sleeping Beauty called “Wake up, Daisy!” about a girl living in the heart of New York City. The joy of puppetry makes it out of the small cottage as well, taking the show on the road across the five boroughs. The CityParks Puppet Mobile is the oldest operating company of its kind in America, showing free puppet performances and workshops in neighborhood parks, schools, and recreation centers throughout the city.