The Road Less Travelled: the New York Botanical Garden (Bronx, NYC)
People come to New York City for the glitter and the glamour along with every possible manifestation of escape, success, entertainment and power. They come to revel in the history, the design, the art and the innovative food choices. (Where else can you sample a myriad of cuisines without having to hop on a plane?) Because there is so much on offer it’s impossible to get bored in NYC, though there are some sights that visitors are wont to overlook simply because they’re too busy navigating the concrete chaparral of Manhattan. In this case I’m talking about the gaping and bountiful gardens scattered across the five boroughs; places like the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and, its big sister, the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) in the Bronx.
Though walking around a park or garden may not seem like the most exciting thing to do, it is a most lovely escape from the rush and constant tumult of big city life. It is impressive that in an urban centre of eight million plus people beautifully maintained and sweeping green spaces exist. Places where you can while away a morning or afternoon admiring vibrant peonies or perfumed conifers. Gardens where you can shut off your mind and get away from it all. Spaces where you can get back in touch with nature. Where you can be reminded of yourself.
Place where you can, you know, really stop and smell the roses.
Established at the turn of the 20th century, the NYBG was founded by botanists Nathaniel and Elizabeth Lord Britton. Their idea was to create a non-profit entity in cooperation with the city and state of New York where plant research could be carried out (with the goal of preservation in mind) and garden staff would also “maintain and improve the gardens and collections at the highest horticultural standard and use the Garden itself as a venue for teaching the public about plant biology, horticulture, and the natural world generally.”
And with more than 50 plant and garden collections to choose from, they did their job. They did it well.
Since its inception the NYBG has collected more than 7.3 million plant specimens. While I’m a big fan of the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens (due to sheer proximity of course) there is no denying that the NYBG has the more impressive collection of vegetation/flora, and with almost 240 acres to wander through it’s big enough to get lost in. A facet that is sometimes a necessity when you’re in a city like New York.
A fantastic place for travellers/residents with children, the garden is also a great getaway for adults (couples and singles alike) as there are many cultural events to partake in during any given month including educational talks, gardening seminars, as well as musical performances and events centered around food (Mario Batali? Yes, please!) and much more.
While the NYBG is open year round–I enjoy it most in October/November/April–the best time to go is probably late spring or early fall when most of the foliage and floret are in full bloom. Yes, it still might be blistering and muggy during that time but in the face of the dazzling colour and sweet verdure that surrounds you your frustration over any sweat-soaked clothes will gradually melt away. I promise.
Just remember to liberally apply sunscreen and take an umbrella for shade if needs be.
To get to the NYBG by public transport take the B, D, 2, 4 or 5 lines from Brooklyn and Manhattan. A quicker alternative however, is taking a Metro North train from Grand Central Station, which will cut down the 1+ hour long subway trip to a mere 22 minutes and you arrive in front of the main entrance to the garden. Be warned however, that Metro North trains depart/arrive approximately every 30 minutes (and sometimes longer on the weekends/holidays).
New York Botanical Garden
2900 Southern Blvd, Bronx, New York
Admission: $20 weekdays and $25 on weekends.
Open every Tuesday – Sunday from 10:00 – 18:00.
Winter hours (10:00 – 17:00) are in effect from January – February.