The Bronx is a treasure trove of family adventure and the New York Botanical Gardens is one of the biggest gems with its own 250 acres of diverse landscape. (Yes, the Bronx has one of the greatest botanical gardens in the world!) Founded in 1891, the Garden serves as a living museum, educational institution, and a renowned plant research and conservation organization. This National Historic Landmark contains 50 different garden and plant collections. And for a real discovery, there’s also a “50 acre tract of original, never-logged, old growth New York forest!”
The old-growth New York forest, aka Thain Family Forest, is located at the heart of the Garden. It is “the largest existing remnant of the original forest which covered all of New York City before the arrival of European settlers in the 17th century.” This forest was never logged despite the growth of the emerging city around it. You can walk along Native American hunting trails, search for marks left by glaciers, and walk among trees that date back to the American Revolution. The forest “contains oaks, American beeches, cherry, birch, tulip and white ash trees, some more than two centuries old.”
The Forest is split by the Bronx River, the only fresh water river in New York City. The Bronx River continues through the Bronx Zoo, many neighborhoods and eventually into the East River, connecting to the Long Island Sound. Did you know that Native Americans used the river as a boundary for different Sachem (chiefs)? There is some terrific history to be uncovered in this adventure. Along the shores of the river you will also find the landmark Stone Mill, aka the Lorillard Snuff Mill, built in 1840 and a stone foot bridge.
In this World of Plants you will find living collections of tropical rain forests, cactus-filled deserts, palms from around the world, aquatic and carnivorous plants, and much more showcased year-round. We had the opportunity to visit the New York Botanical Garden during the Orchid Show which runs up to April 22nd. Located in the Conservatory, the orchids are displayed as “living sculptures” which highlight the “complex beauty of these stunning flowers.” This New York City Landmark is a must see, even if you only view it from the outside. It is “an 1890s-vintage, wrought-iron framed, ‘crystal-palace style’ greenhouse.” The architecture alone made us feel as though we were transported back in time. (You will need an All Garden Pass to enter this building.)
This 2.5 acre garden is open from April to November. It is peaceful and intimate and is certain to make you feel more relaxed. There are some spots to sit and rest or enjoy. This beautiful garden requires an All Garden Pass for entry and it is a must-see on your agenda if you plan to purchase the pass.
There’s so much more to see! Benenson Ornamental Conifers (37 acres), Rockefeller Rose Garden, Everett Children’s Adventure Garden, Mertz Library & Art Gallery, Native Plant Garden, Azalea Garden and more. If you plan to check out all the sights, make sure you wear comfortable walking shoes and bring sunscreen. It is quite a hike getting around the entire 250 acres. To be honest, our family has never entirely walked the property due to time constrains. We’re usually tying these trips in with visits to Fordham university (Another great destination. Cross the street and tour the grounds if you have time. Cross the street again on the other side of Fordham and you will be at the Bronx’s own Little Italy, Arthur Ave!). We’ve definitely cheated by adding a tram ride to a destination and then walking back towards another. The tram is considered a tour feature with narration and does require an All Garden Pass, however we’ve hopped on without the pass (possibly because there were no crowds). You can hike through and enjoy the majority of the grounds with a general admission which allows access to the outdoor gardens and collections in addition to the Children’s Garden. The vast majority of the park (trails and all) is stroller and wheelchair friendly.
Some of the things you probably won’t see are the “extensive research facilities including a propagation center, 550,000-volume library, and an herbarium of 7.8 million botanical specimens dating back more than three centuries.” The New York Botanical Gardens is “one of the world’s most comprehensive plant research and conservation programs, which includes fieldwork to discover new species, active collaborations to promote forest and habitat protection, and plant molecular biology.” If you have a serious interest in botany, conservation, and/or ecology they offer adult education, out of school programs and outdoor workshops. Visit: https://www.nybg.org/learn/
Want to learn more about the salamander researched above? Visit: https://news.fordham.edu/science/calder-center-50-seeking-secrets-salamanders-skin/
- 2900 Southern Blvd., Bronx, NY
- The Garden is open year-round, Tuesday to Sunday, and select holiday Mondays.
- Hours are typically 10 a.m.–6 p.m, but there are some exceptions.
- Visitor Parking– Tuesday–Friday: $15 per vehicle
Saturday, Sunday, Monday openings, and holiday weeks: $20 per vehicle
- Do’s & Don’ts https://www.nybg.org/visit/tips/
- Children under 2 are free
Save some money:
- Grounds Admission is free to everyone all day on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 9 a.m.–10 a.m. This does not include admission to the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, Special Exhibitions, Rock Garden, or Tram Tour.
- The New York Botanical Garden is pleased to participate in the IDNYC program, in it’s third year, by providing a complimentary Community Grounds Membership to all New York City residents with valid IDNYC cards. Learn more.
- AAA members receive $2 off full-price adult All-Garden Pass tickets on weekends and Mondays and $4 on weekdays.
- WNET Channel THIRTEEN members receive $2 off full-price adult All-Garden Pass tickets.
- You can bring a picnic lunch and enjoy it at the Clay Picnic Pavillion inside the Garden not too far from the main entrance.
Family Adventure Rating ♥♥♥♥
Cost– Your biggest expense is transportation and parking if you take advantage of the admission discounts. A family of five can enjoy the grounds starting at about $40 (free admission, parking, tolls, gas) and go up to $145 plus food. You can always save money by car pooling, packing a picnic lunch, and bringing your own water bottles.
Parking & Transportation– Parking is an expense at the Garden and the lot can fill to capacity. The website offers some parking garage options, but you can also park at Fordham University which is directly across the street for $15 any day (Insider Tip). Getting to the Garden via Metro North Railroad or Subway requires a little extra walking or a bus ride, but may be more convenient during peak travel times. Parking in the Bronx is not easy to find without a lot or garage.
Location– This section of the Bronx is a terrific location to explore. It’s also close to the Mosholu parkway, Pelham Parkway and Bronx River Parkway to allow for options of getting in and out. There have been several movies filmed here for its unique ambience, history and diversity. When you explore the area, you will have a newfound appreciation for the Bronx.
Day Trip or Overnight– Let’s call this a day trip since the Bronx isn’t known for its Hotels. It’s also pretty easy to get in and out of the Bronx (barring peak commuting times) from the surrounding areas.
Experience- This is a terrific family adventure even for the family members that think it will be boring (insert Teenage boy wincing at the thought of spending the day in a flower garden). This is a great place to disconnect from your technology and reconnect with nature. You can’t beat ambience, exercise, and family bonding!
Combination– The Bronx is huge so we’ll just stick to this general area. Within walking distance you have the Bronx Zoo, Fordham University, and Little Italy. If you have the time and energy for the walking, then you can combine a few of these together. However, I would stick to daylight hours since the city can be tricky at night. For the ultimate combination, watch A Bronx Tale before you go and then have an early dinner in Little Italy at Ann & Tony’s Restaurant , family owned since 1927, or a slice at Full Moon Pizzeria.