The Good: Free, There is history there. . .
The Bad: In New York City, there's pretty much history everywhere! (Not much to do).
The Basics: Being a free place to go in NYC keeps Castle Clinton National Monument out of the "avoid it" column . . . barely. Castle Clinton is hard to get to with nothing to do once there.
On my recent trip to New York City with my partner, we went all over Manhattan or at least as much as we could do in the four days we were in the City. We did the trip our way, which was to plan less and experience things organically and enjoyably, which is why we arguably did not get as much out of some places, like the Museum Of Modern Art (reviewed here!). But for all our lack of planning, there were some places where we did enough, but there simply was not much - or much that interested us - to do. One of those places was Castle Clinton National Monument and the lack of activities is probably why it has taken me so long to get around to reviewing it.
Castle Clinton National Monument is in Manhattan, at the southernmost tip at Battery Park. Battery Park is a small, open space with grass where there are vendors hawking things for tourists and food carts. We were in the area of Battery Park because we had been told about the free daily Staten Island Ferry, which seemed like it might be fun to ride. It was. The point of departure for the Ferry on Manhattan is right next to Battery Park.
At the tip of Battery Park, looking out onto New York Harbor is Castle Clinton National Monument. The best way to find it is either Mapquest directions for Battery Park or, if you go to New York City, drive south past Wall Street and try to find parking. Castle Clinton National Monument is in Battery Park and in winter, it is chilly on the tip of Manhattan, so bundle up! In Spring and Fall, it's fine and in Summer Castle Clinton offers a refuge from heat . . . in parts.
Ease Of Local Transport/Parking
Battery Park cannot be reached by car. The nearest parking is about two blocks away and it gets expensive quickly. We lucked out when we visited; on Sunday mornings, one of the nearby towaway zones becomes legal to park in and as a result, we were able to park right on the street. There are signs for Battery Park in Southern Manhattan, but by the time you see them, there is nowhere decent to park. Castle Clinton, then, becomes more ideal for those who are walking around New York City for the day anyway.
Castle Clinton is wheelchair accessible, but one needs to keep in mind that there are no good places for standing to even unload a wheelchair-bound person near Castle Clinton, so even the mobility challenged need to consider if it is truly worth getting this historical building checked off their "to see" list. For me, it's a pretty easy decision.
Castle Clinton National Monument is a free national monument which was a good place for my partner and I to warm up when the wind got pretty bad in Battery Park as we awaited the ferry. There are helpful park rangers, if one needs one for any sort of problem while in Battery Park, but otherwise, Castle Clinton is a historical marker that one might tour and learn about its history. There is a single closed building at the front gate - which is where we warmed up - but the rest of the Castle is open air, so it is pretty much whatever the temperature is outside inside the facility.
There are three tours a day (10 A.M., noon, 2 P.M.) which feature a park ranger walking the visitors through the various parts of Castle Clinton and describing its history. This is pretty much a human-driven presentation that is virtually identical to the reading materials found in the gatehouse where the models of Manhattan through the years are kept. It is hardly interactive and the guide sounded pretty bored as he described how Castle Clinton began as a fort designed to protect Manhattan from waterside attacks, it became a center of entertainment before the fears over immigrants compelled it to be turned into an immigration checkpoint. Later, it was an aquarium.
See? I've just saved you the time waiting for the tour. Because Castle Clinton National Monument is a historical building that has been preserved and restored to its - equivalent of - glory, there is not much to see there. It is not like there are huge sections illustrating the various eras the building went through. As a result, most of the tour is the park ranger wandering with visitors through the castle telling them what the building was at various points in time. The tour takes twenty minutes. The basic information took you how long to read? The tour pretty much pads out what I just wrote and what the first displays in Castle Clinton illustrate. One can get just as much walking through on their own without waiting for the tour.
At least it is free.
Castle Clinton National Monument does not have anywhere to eat in it. In Battery Park, though, one may buy food from carts.
Just as Castle Clinton is not a dining hotspot, there is nothing to buy here. There are, however, free pamphlets for other, more interesting, places in New York City. In Battery Park, adjacent to Castle Clinton, there are people selling souvenirs and t-shirts.
Castle Clinton was a fort in the War of 1812 which has the distinction of never being fired upon, nor ever firing weapons at anyone. In a city loaded with historical and cultural milestones, a place where nothing really happened becomes far less interesting than the thousands of places where things DID happen and are happening now. For those planning a trip to New York City, this can be safely near the bottom of one's list of things to see.
For other places in New York to visit, please check out my reviews of:
Lincoln Center For The Performing Arts
For other travel reviews, please visit my Travel Review Index Page for an organized listing of all I have reviewed!
© 2012, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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