I love Manhattan, but when I need a break from the endless rows of concrete canyons, I head to the Bronx. Tucked inside the city’s northernmost borough is one of the country’s most beautiful historic landmarks: the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG). With lush flora, intriguing exhibits and exciting family friendly programs and activities, the garden is a perfect escape when I’m looking for a good old fashion nature fix and a dose of culture.
I first went to the garden a few years ago when a friend suggested that I meet him for a couple of hours of nature photography. To be frank, I was meh on the idea. I’d lived in Manhattan for over a decade and I’d never been, and I had no burning desire to go. I incorrectly assumed it was going to be a pain in the ass to get to. My friend quickly set me straight: the garden was an easy 20-minute train ride on Metro-North from Grand Central Terminal. I should stop whining.
I Should Have Gone Before
The train let me off across the street from the garden. I paid for my ticket, met up with my friend and off we went. I knew it wouldn’t take long before he teased me about it being my first visit and right on cue, he dove right in.
“You’ve seriously never been here before?” He said with a you-gotta-be-kidding-me face that suggested I’m a poor excuse for a New Yorker.
“Seriously,” I responded embarrassed and a little annoyed.
Avoiding the conversation, I made a B-line towards some striking yellow flowers with blooms the size of bread plates and took some pictures. While I wasn’t in the mood to fess up, I knew I’d missed out.
Without a doubt, I’d return.
The Botanical Garden
The largest of its kind in the United States, the Botanical Garden is over 250 acres of expertly curated indoor and outdoor gardens, plants, rolling hills, trees, sculptures and several bodies of water including the Bronx River, to explore. (New York residents are eligible for a free Grounds-only pass with access to the outdoor gardens and collections and the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden.)
But the spectacular grounds are a fraction of what NYBG offers. Annual exhibits are mounted throughout the year such as the highly anticipated Orchid and Holiday Train Shows, as well as major multi-dimensional productions that weave a single theme throughout the property. Previously lauded shows were based on the art and lives of Frida Kahlo, Claude Monet and Dale Chihuly. There are also night events, lectures and musical performances.
This Season’s Big Show
It’s the season for the garden’s annual Holiday Train Show and the spotlight has been turned on Lower Manhattan. Now through January 21, 2019, over 175 New York landmarks will be featured from all five boroughs, the Hudson River Valley, and other locations in New York State in the Enid Haupt Conservatory. According to the press release, each building is made from “natural materials such as bark, twigs, stems, fruit, seeds, fungus, and pine cones,” and as always, created with exquisite detail.
In keeping with tradition, new replicas will debut including the Woolworth Building, the Oculus, One World Trade Center, and the Terminal Warehouse. Veteran train show attractions such as the Statue of Liberty and other iconic structures and important landmarks are also celebrated in the showcase.
Snaking through this impressive Big Apple wonderland, are the more than 25 G-Scale model trains, vintage ferries, and trolleys on a track nearly a half mile in length. Your kids will go bonkers!
From the press release
During the Holiday Train Show, NYBG is open Tuesday–Sunday, and Monday, December 17, 24, and January 21, 10 a.m.–6 p.m.; Extended hours, 10 a.m.–7 p.m., Saturdays, November 24–January 19; Friday and December 26–January 1.
The Garden is closed all day on December 25 (Christmas); it closes at 3 p.m. on December 14 and 24 (Christmas Eve). The Enid A. Haupt Conservatory closes at 2 p.m. on November 28 and December 6.
All-Garden Pass tickets start at $23 for adults and $10 for children (ages 2–12) and differ during certain peak times and weekends. Members and children under 2 are free. Advance timed tickets are strongly recommended and are available at nybg.org. Discounts available for groups of 15 or more; contact Group Sales at 718.817.8687. For more information, please visit our Web site at nybg.org.
Families at the Botanical Garden
Families can rely on a wealth of kid-friendly programming including drop-in nature exploration or gardening activities in addition to experiences that complement the major exhibitions. Garden members can also benefit from a more formalized, longer-term series that take places one day each weekend over six weeks.
During the week, visitors can walk through the property on their own or take advantage of audio tours (Daily from 10 am – 6 pm) or spend a Saturday morning (11am-12pm) exploring the grounds on a Bird Walk with a naturalist.
A newly expanded three-acre Edible Academy gives kids and adults alike the opportunity to dive into “hands-on gardening activities; special cooking demonstrations,” and other year-round programs.
To plan your visit – check out What’s On on the garden’s website. You can see an overview of what’s offered throughout the year or filter a search by day, month or topic.
Botanical Garden Hours
Every day except Monday from 10 am-6 pm
From January 16 – March 2, the garden closes an hour earlier at 5 pm.
For admissions information, click here.
For directions and public transportation options, click here.
For tips on how to make your visit more enjoyable, click here
Photography lovers: NYBG is a great place to practice your landscape, floral and macro photography. The gardens are beautiful and unlike Central Park, you don’t have to worry about people getting in your way.