Being the proud owners of lush gardens and beautifully landscaped backyards, our parents probably have ten green thumbs between them. But apparently that’s a recessive gene. Because the two of us? We’ve killed cacti. (Yes, plural. More than one cactus, on more than one occasion.) So instead of putting a sad ficus in the corner of our cramped apartment, to get our green fix we make our way out to the New York Botanical Garden and enjoy the Best Pretend Backyard Ever.
Ringing in at a mind-blowing 250-acres, the gardens are great for everything you might want to do if you really owned a giant estate: take a stroll around your Reflecting Pool, meditate at your Rock Garden, dine al fresco at your Picnic Pavilion and take a ride on your multi-car tram (you know you’d own one). Even though NYBG seems out-of-the-way, your trek will be rewarded: you’ll find that due to the large variety of flowers which bloom at different times, no two visits are alike and the excursion always feels fresh and exciting. In addition to the magnificent grounds (which are beautifully lit for the holiday season), NYBG also runs some great exhibitions and events throughout the year.
We recently made our way out there for the famous Holiday Train Show, an annual tradition since 1992. Model trains run along a track flanked by landmarks created entirely of bark, leaves and other natural materials (150 in all!). You’ll have to let that sink in for a moment when you look at that replica of Grand Central Station: creator Paul Busse and his team built that replica, to scale no less, using the same stuff people rake off the ground in the fall. It’s pretty incredible. So don’t make the mistake of assuming this show is limited to train lovers: anyone can appreciate the amazing amount of creativity and detail that has gone into putting this show together. We highly recommend that you make your way out there before January 18, because there is no way our description or pictures can do it justice.
2900 Southern Blvd.
Bronx, NY 10458
Tuesday–Sunday, typically 10 a.m.–6 p.m.
They are open some holiday Mondays too. For specific hours on the day of your visit, check their website here.
Tip: If you’re going out to the gardens on a weekend, the trains only run hourly from Grand Central, so plan accordingly. Also make sure to to take advantage of a discounted fare by purchasing the City Ticket: you can find additional details here.
Pair it with:
Lots of gluten from Breads Bakery
The easiest way to get to NYBG is via the Metro-North Railroad from Grand Central Station, where a 20-minute ride to the Botanical Garden station drops you right across the street from the entrance. Before you head over to Grand Central, make a short detour to Bryant Park and hit up the Breads Bakery kiosk where you’ll find loads of delicious baked goods. Our favorites include the Chocolate Babka (we’re not alone on this one, it was voted best chocolate babka by NY Magazine and consistently makes other “Best Of” lists) and the Gouda Cheese Straws. But we’ve sampled many (okay, most) of their offerings and have yet to be disappointed. It’s also our go-to for holiday fare: they have seasonal offerings that can be ordered ahead and picked up from their main location in Union Square. We still dream of the Shepherd’s Pie from Thanksgiving 2014. *sigh*
42nd Street and Avenue of the Americas
Mon – 7am-10pm
Tue-Sun – 7am-9pm