I love Manhattan, but when I need a break from the concrete canyons I head to the Bronx and the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG).
One of the country’s most beautiful historic landmarks, the garden is filled with lush flora, intriguing exhibits, and exciting family-friendly programs and activities. The botanical garden is an ideal 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 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.
The New York 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, as well as major multi-dimensional productions, weave a single visual 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.
NYBG Annual Orchid Show
Every February, the season’s grey winter days are brightened by the staging of the garden’s annual orchid show in the Enid Haupt Conservatory. Each year, a new theme is chosen and the designers go all out.
In 2017, Thailand took center stage. In 2018, it was the creations of famed Belgium floral designer Daniel Ost, and in 2019 it was Singapore, where the orchid is the national flower.
Schedule a date night with your significant other and enjoy an Orchid Evening where the beauty of the production is even more magical illuminated against the night sky in the glass observatory. There’s drinks and a pop up food market. A DJ and dancers will provide entertainment.
Note: You must be at least 21 -years-old to attend. It’s recommended you purchase tickets in advance. Evenings sell out quickly.
Check here for more orchid-related events and programs.
The Annual Holiday Train Show
If you’re in New York for the holidays you’d be remiss not to check out the garden’s annual Holiday Train Show. This past season, over 175 New York landmarks were featured from all five boroughs, the Hudson River Valley, and other locations in New York State in the Enid Haupt Conservatory.
According to website, each building was made from “natural materials such as bark, twigs, stems, fruit, seeds, fungus, and pine cones,” and as always, created in miniature with exquisite detail.
In keeping with tradition, new replicas debuted 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 were 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!
Families can rely on a wealth of kid-friendly programming including drop-in nature exploration or gardening activities in addition to experiences that complement major exhibitions. Garden members also benefit from more formalized, longer-term series which 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
Seniors (65+): $20
Students (with valid ID): $20
Children (2–12): $10
Children under 2: Free
Seniors (65+): $25
Students (with valid ID): $25
Children (2–12): $12
Children under 2: Free
For more admissions information, click here.
For tips on how to make your visit more enjoyable, click here
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 or being cold in the winter, everything is inside.
For other great activities in New York City check out