New York Botanical Garden: A local’s guide to an urban oasis
Planning a visit to the New York Botanical Garden? We’ve put together this handy guide with everything you need to know including our top tips on exploring this legendary green retreat. We’ll cover:
- The New York Botanical Garden – overview, mission & history
- What to see and do and when you’re there
- 2020 Special Exhibitions
- The essentials: how to get there, ticket prices and navigating the grounds.
Here we go!
New York Botanical Garden – overview, history, and mission.
What is the New York Botanical Garden?
The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) is both a National Historic Landmark site and a scenic spot for a day trip, weekend excursion, or special occasion. The NYBG is world-renowned for its iconic collections and gardens, its global research network, and its extensive programs in plant science education. The NYBG is comprised primarily of outdoor collections, although there are generally several indoor events and exhibitions happening at any given time throughout the year as well. More than one million people visit the Garden annually, making it one of the most popular destinations of its kind in the world. Just an FYI: the NYBG is made up of 250 acres (the largest botanical garden in the U.S.) that are open in all weather conditions, so don’t let the weather hold you back and be prepared for a substantial bit of walking and exploring!
The New York Botanical Garden is a global educational and research hub renowned for its advocacy for plant life. The Garden serves as a museum of living plant collections that are intricately housed in gardens and landscapes across its extensive grounds. The NYBG also provides comprehensive education programs in horticulture and plant science. There are wide-ranging research programs through the International Plant Science Center. The Garden’s mission is to “preserve and protect plant life, to foster education in plant science, and to improve human understanding of and interaction with the environment on a global scale.” It has more extensive educational programs on offer than any other botanical garden in the world.
The New York Botanical Garden has a history that spans more than 125 years. The Garden was established in 1891– with its existence largely being the result of an 1888 visit to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew (a suburb in south-west London) by eminent British botanists Nathaniel Lord Britton and Elizabeth Britton. The husband and wife duo believed that New York should also have an iconic botanical garden much like London’s– with the mission of “advancing the public understanding of plants”, along with being “a repository of rare and valuable plant specimens”, and “leading original research in botanical science.” The Garden’s location in Bronx Park was chosen because of the site’s picturesque terrain, featuring a rock-cut gorge and 50 acres of forest that are located right along the Bronx River.
What you’ll see
Today, the New York Botanical Garden is designated as a United States National Historic Landmark site. Its vast landscape of 250 acres includes several dozen specialty gardens and collections, with more than one million plants throughout. During the 125+ years since its founding, the NYBG has remained as a stunning urban oasis for both NYC locals and visitors from around the world. It’s a beautiful location for a relaxing family visit, a popular educational spot for school field trips, and a stunning destination for special events and parties such as birthday celebrations, galas, and weddings.
The NYBG also serves as a “living museum” and has been a long-standing global hub of plant science. Working with scientists around the world who conduct basic and applied research on plants with the primary goals of protecting and preserving them. Currently, more than 100 scientists in nearly 50 countries are engaged in 250 international research collaborations with the NYBG, and this number is constantly growing.
The NYBG is one of the top two freestanding botanical gardens in the world where plant and fungal research is conducted. The Steere Herbarium is the second largest herbarium in the world–housing 7.8 million plant specimens that represent every plant and fungi group from around the world. And when it comes to sources for plant research, the NYBG is beyond compare; its LuEsther T. Mertz Library is the largest botanical and horticultural library in the Western Hemisphere, housing more than 11 million archival items spanning 10 centuries.
What do see an do at the New York Botanical Garden
When to Visit:
The NYBG is open all throughout the year, but given the predominantly outdoor nature of the exhibitions, it’s great to visit from late Spring through early Autumn to fully bask in the splendor of the gardens in full bloom. If you wrap up warmly, winter strolls through the forestry are also an amazing experience.
Here are some of my absolute must-sees:
The Enid A. Haupt Conservatory:
The Enid A. Haupt Conservatory is an astounding Victorian-style glasshouse. Work began to construct this magnificent building in 1899 and was completed in 1902 at a cost of $177,000. Roll forward to the 70s and this gem was in a serious state of disrepair. Fortunately, the building was saved from demolition thanks to a $5M contribution from the esteemed publisher and philanthropist Enid Annenberg Haut. In recognition of Enid saving the day, the conservatory was renamed in her honor.
Inside today you’ll find 2 of the absolute must-sees on the entire estate. First up is the incredible Lowland Tropical Rainforest – home to a hugely diverse plant and animal population. The air feels warm, sticky and humid – as you might expect from a rainforest! You’d literally never know you were in the middle of The Bronx at this point.
Second up is the Deserts of the Americas. This is the Yin to Lowland’s Yang. Here the air is dry and close yet the Deserts abound with plants and wildlife. Some of the enormous cacti structures are truly a sight to behold.
The Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden
Typically in bloom from May to October.
Understandably a very popular spot in the summer. Here you’ll find one of the world’s most sustainable rose gardens home to over 650 varieties of this venerable bloom. If you’re here in mid-summer the scent can be quite heady! Originally designed by landscape architect Beatrix Farrand back in 1916 the garden wasn’t actually completed until the late 80s thanks to support from a kind David Rockefeller (who named the garden in honor of his wife Peggy). One of the finest examples in the world (I’ve been to Kew as well!).
The Native Plant Garden
The Native Plant Garden is an epic display of the diversity of North American plants. This 3.5 acre site was expertly designed by Sheila Brady (from the renowned landscape architecture firm Oehme van Sweden). Here you’ll find around 100,000 native trees, wildflowers and other plant species carefully orchestrated in a harmonic symphony. A great spot to pull out your meditation app for a quick 10.
Thain Family Forest
The Thain Family Forest features over 30,000 distinguished trees, many of which are several centuries old. This woodland remains one of the oldest reminders of what this landscape used to look like before we humans decided to pour a few trillion pounds of concrete in and around the area. Open year-round the walking trails are as fun in a foot of snow as they are in flip-flops come July and August.
If you’re here in early spring you might just be lucky enough to witness the glorious spectacle at Daffodil Hill. A sea of bright yellow and white early bloomers fills the meadows. It’s a truly glorious sight.
Lilian and Amy Goldman Stone Mill
This is one of the oldest tobacco mills in the entire country. Requiring a fair bit of maintenance around 10 years ago it remains a resplendent site on the NYBG grounds.
The Garden’s Farmers Market
From June 12–October 30, 2019
Running every Wednesday from mid-June through to the end of October, the Garden’s farmers market is a mesmerizing collection of fresh local produce and artisanal goods. Expect exquisite organic produce, freshly baked sourdough loaves, tempting pastries, and other delectable goods. There’s even a valet service for your veggies who’ll keep your items chilled whilst your stroll around the Gardens.
2020 Exhibitions at the New York Botanical Garden :
The NYBG abounds with special events and exhibitions throughout the year (generally with several happening every single day and several special exhibits occurring every month) – from special exhibitions and informative lecture series to garden fairs and immersive art installations.
See the event calendar here and check out some of their ongoing events below:
The Orchid Show: Jeff Leatham’s Kaleidoscope:
Every Saturday, February 15, 2020 – Sunday, April 19, 2020
Features the astounding floral creations of famed designer Jeff Leatham (artistic director of the Four Seasons Hotel George V, Paris and floral designer to the stars). The exhibition is an array of captivating installations and designs, color experiences, and visual effects like the turn of a kaleidoscope. Thousands of orchids provide bursts of forms and colors that are revealed through overhead arches, vine-inspired ribbons, mirrored sculpture, dramatic lighting, and other artistic embellishments.
Kusama: Cosmic Nature:
Every Saturday, May 9, 2020 – Sunday, November 1, 2020
This special exhibition is a multisensory, immersive art installation by contemporary Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. The installation is a window into Kusama’s multifaceted art, featuring vibrant paintings of plants and flowers and amazing floral and vegetal sculptures; a greenhouse where visitors transform the interior with floral stickers; and an immersive outdoor “mirror room” installation that responds to changing light throughout the day and seasons.
- Group Tours: Entrance to the NYBG includes access to the Tram Tour. For guided tours, school visits, and dining packages, contact the Garden to make arrangements.
- Team-Building Workshops: The NYBG hosts fun DIY team-building experiences for staff groups or for private celebrations with family or friends. Expert instructors lead fun, hands-on workshops on a wide variety of topics. Workshops take place in classrooms onsite at the NYBG in the Bronx or at their Midtown Education Center in Manhattan, located at 20 West 44th Street.
- Classroom Rentals: various-sized classrooms in the Watson Education building and the Midtown Education Center are available for educational seminars, corporate meetings, or other events. For larger gatherings, lectures, and presentations, NYBG’s 430-seat lecture hall is also available.
- Photo & Film Shoots: Commercial shoots and shoots for special occasions/events must be booked privately.
- Birthday Parties: Birthday packages are available for Saturdays & Sundays. The two-hour-long events must be booked in advance and start at $975.
- Weddings/Showers: The NYBG is an idyllic spot for wedding receptions, bridal showers, or other private events/parties. Contact the Garden to make arrangements.
New York Botanical Garden: the essentials:
Tuesday – Sunday; 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
*closed on Mondays with the exception of special dates (primarily national holidays)*
Need a place to stay?
If you’re visiting from out of town, it might be of interest to you that the NYBG has a partnership with the Grand Hyatt New York. The package offers a discounted hotel rate using offer code NYBG at the time of booking your stay, in addition to All-Garden Pass Admission to NYBG and round-trip tickets to the NYBG on Metro-North. Booking is on the Grand Hyatt New York’s website.
Transportation to the New York Botanical Garden :
The New York Botanical Garden recommends public transportation as the quickest and easiest way to get there (as parking may reach capacity at peak times). The public transportation options are the Metro-North Railroad and Subway, in addition to several MTA bus lines (check bus routes and schedules from your location):
- The New York Botanical Garden is just a 20-minute ride from Grand Central Terminal (in midtown Manhattan)– Take the Metro-North Harlem local line to the Botanical Garden Station, which is located directly across the street from the Garden’s Mosholu Entrance.
- If you plan on taking the Metro-North, it might be worth checking out the Garden’s partnership with Metro-North through the NYC Getaways program, which provides discounted All-Garden Access Passes along with Metro-North tickets. Get more info here.
- Another option for discounts is the City Ticket program, which grants 50% off-peak fare on weekends. Get more info here.
To Bedford Park Blvd. Station (B, D, or 4 trains)
- From the station, buses are available that will take you to the Mosholu Entrance (see below). Otherwise, you can walk roughly eight blocks along Bedford Park Blvd. turning left on Southern Blvd. and walking just one block to Mosholu Entrance.
To Allerton Ave. Station (2 train)
- From the station: Walk three blocks west on Allerton Ave, then turn left onto Bronx Park East and walk two blocks to Waring Ave. This will get you to the East Gate entrance. See below if the East Gate entrance is closed.
There are three primary entrances to the Garden. How you get there and when you’re visiting will determine which entrance you should use.
- Located at 2900 Southern Blvd.–serves as the primary entrance for visitors (especially recommended if you’re traveling by personal vehicle, arriving early in the morning, or leaving late in the evening).
- Generally, open from around 7 a.m. until 30 minutes past public event end time (this varies but is late in the evening most days).
- Garden visitors and staff arriving via personal vehicle and most MTA bus lines are directed to this entrance.
- Located at the corner of Waring Avenue and Bronx Park East.
- Pedestrian-only daytime gate for visitors and staff arriving via MTA subway line 2 to Allerton Avenue station.
- Open during regular Garden hours for daytime access only; typically 10 a.m. until 30 minutes past regular hours of operation. For early morning or evening event access, use the Main Entrance or Mosholu Entrance.
- Address: 2950 Southern Blvd. between Mosholu Parkway and Bedford Park Blvd.
- Open daily during regular Garden hours.
- Personal vehicle access is limited to staff, private event attendees (e.g. wedding guests), conferences and lecture attendees, adult education students, and pre-approved delivery and service vehicles.
- Garden visitors and staff arriving via Metro-North Railroad to Botanical Garden station, subway lines B, D, and 4 to Bedford Park Boulevard stations, and some MTA bus lines are directed to this entrance.
- Garden visitors arriving via personal vehicle do not have access to this entrance; if arriving by a personal vehicle you will be directed to the Main Entrance or NYBG garage.
Tickets to the New York Botanical Garden:
For standard admission, you will need to bring either mobile or printed tickets to enter the Garden. You can buy tickets ahead of time online or in-person at the Garden on the day of your visit.
All-Garden Pass: Standard 1-day all-access tickets are available at the following costs:
|Adults: $23||Adults: $30|
|Seniors (65+): $20||Seniors (65+): $28|
|Students (with valid ID): $20||Students (with valid ID): $28|
|Children (2–12): $10||Children (2–12): $15|
New York City Resident Grounds-Only Pass:
Grounds Admission is available to NYC Residents Only; it must be purchased onsite and proof of residency is required. *Grounds Admission includes access to outdoor gardens and collections, but doesn’t include access to the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, the Mertz Library Building, the Rock Garden, Special Exhibitions, or the Tram Tour.*
|Seniors (65+): $7|
|Students (with valid ID): $7|
|Children (2–12 years): $4|
|Children under 2: Free|
- Free Grounds-Only Admission: Grounds Admission is free for all visitors (regardless of residency) all day on Wednesdays and from 9:00 –10:00 a.m. on Saturdays.
- Membership: If you plan to visit on several occasions, you may want to look into membership options rather than 1-day tickets. Membership is available for individuals, families, and groups. See membership options here.
Need some help navigating the New York Botanical Garden grounds?
Interactive Mobile Guides are also available on-site to help you navigate the grounds and exhibits. You can also check out their interactive map online here.
Everything else to help you plan your visit can be found on the NYBG website (basic information, exhibits, tips for visitors, etc.):
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