So it was as much a surprise to me as it might be to those who know me, that today found me in the Bronx visiting the New York Botanical Garden. In four previous visits to New York I had never made it to either the Botanical Garden or to the Bronx Zoo. Today I was tempted to visit the zoo, but remembered that Wednesdays are 'pay-what-you-wish' days at the zoo, and it being Thursday today, I decided to leave that institution for another week.
"The New York Botanical Garden is a botanical garden and National Historic Landmark... The 250-acre (100 ha) site's verdant landscape supports over one million living plants in extensive collections. Each year over one million visitors visit the garden's remarkable diversity of tropical, temperate, and desert flora, as well as programming that ranges from exhibitions in the Haupt Conservatory to festivals on Daffodil Hill." [Source: Wikipedia]While I freely admit that I was never much of a gardener, that does not mean that a well maintained plot of land does not interest me, and to my surprise I enjoyed my visit far more than I thought I would. It might have had something to do with escaping the mad rush of Manhattan's crowded noise filled streets. You can almost convince yourself that you are out in the country far from Midtown as you amble slowly along well kept paths, past towering sequoia's, and thousands of flowering plants, acres of manicured lawns, and clipped hedgerows.
...Come to think of it, you are far from Midtown, and you are in what little is left of once open countryside. However, the ever present hum of surrounding traffic, and the distant sound of car horns and the sirens of emergency service vehicles provides a constant reminder that the city is just 'out there' waiting to swallow you up when you leave the relative peace and quiet of the gardens.
As noted in the quote from Wikipedia, a regular schedule of exhibitions are programmed throughout the year at the Botanical Garden, and currently the exhibition of note is that of the American glass blowing artist/sculptor, Dale Chihuly. Simply titled, CHIHULY, the exhibition runs now through until October 29, 2017, and presents dozens of stunning creations that defy the imagination. That something as fragile as glass can be colored, heated, bent, twisted, and shaped into the myriad forms that Dale Chihuly manages to achieve, has to be seen to be believed.
...Numerous large sculptural works are placed throughout the grounds of the garden, and are waiting to be discovered as visitors walk around the huge site. Others are on display in the gallery's of the LuEsther T. Merton Library, while still more are placed carefully throughout the massive Enid A. Haupt Conservatory -- a wonderful architectural gem if ever there was one.
By the way, if you find the prospect of walking for hours around the 250-acre site daunting, fear not. The Botanical Garden has very thoughtfully provided people movers (or trams as they are called), that follow a long winding circuit around the grounds with stops at a number of key locations where visitors can alight or rejoin the trams As they circle the site. A pre-recorded audio commentary is played throughout the ride which draws attention to a range of trees and plants, landscape features of interest, and historical information about the gardens and their formation.
...As you would expect, there are daily tours that focus on different areas of interest to visitors, such as the Perennial Garden, Native Plant Garden, Thain Family Forest, a Bird Walk, Notable Trees, the Conservatory, and others. In addition, musical performances are also programmed over the summer months. I left the site just after 6:00pm, but if I had stayed on I could have enjoyed live music from performers that were setting up equipment on a temporary stage. The music was due to begin at 7:00pm and go through until 10:00pm, but after five hours or so on site, I was more than ready to call it a day.
There are two major dining options at the Botanical Garden; the Hudson Garden Grill is the more upmarket of the two, with waiters on staff to administer to your every need. The Pine Tree Cafe located by the main entrance is a far more casual affair, and I suspect a more economical option as well. There are also a number of very casual 'street food' style dining options available. These are provided by the Burger Truck, and The Cantina, both of which operate from Tuesday to Sunday. Meanwhile the Taco Truck and the Conservatory Plaza Bar are advertised as operating on weekends only. However, I did see the Taco Truck setting up for service this evening near the stage before I left, so you never know. Also according to the weekly What's On sheet, since the last four dining options mentioned above are outdoor venues, they are open "Weather permitting."
...Oh, and most importantly, the restrooms were large, clean and well maintained. And no, I don't have photos of those. You wilI just have to take my word for it.
Finally, if I, an indifferent gardener, could find much to enjoy and appreciate at the New York Botanical Garden, I can only imagine that keen gardeners will feel they have found a little piece of heaven right there in the Bronx -- and who would have ever thought that? If you have the time and the interest, I have no hesitation recommending a visit.
IF YOU GO
2900 Southern Blvd, Bronx.
Open: Tuesday through Sunday
Hours: 10:00am - 6:00pm
Prices: Adult: $23; Senior: $20;
Phone: +1 718-817-8700