New York City isn’t just the concrete jungle where dreams are made: in spring and summer it’s also a fragrant oasis of flowers and lush greenery – if you know where to look. Our Arlo insiders have put together this awesome itinerary of botanical bliss. Here are a few of our favorite botanical garden getaways… right in the heart of NYC.
1. The Brooklyn Botanic Gardens
990 Washington Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11225
Perhaps the best known of the city’s botanic gardens, this sprawling, 52-acre garden was founded in 1910, and ever since has been providing New Yorkers and visitors alike with a tranquil retreat where you can stroll through stately plantings for every season. The garden is home to the marvelous Steinhart Conservatory, a Shakespeare Garden, bonsai museum, plus world-class special exhibits ranging from orchid shows to the famous yearly Cherry Blossom Festival. Located right by the can’t-miss Brooklyn Museum in the Prospect Park neighborhood, we recommend hopping on the train and taking in the sights of both if you have time. BBG is easily accessible from several subway lines, as well as bus service and the LIRR train.
2. The New York Botanical Garden (AKA: Bronx Botanical Garden)
2900 Southern Blvd, Bronx, NY 10458
Not to be confused with its similarly named sister, the 250-acre New York Botanical Garden located in the Bronx is the grande dame of city’s natural beauty, and a National Historic Landmark as well. The NYBG, as it’s known, is dedicated to education and conservation, and has unique offerings all its own (the most unusual of which may be the occasional spectacle of the resident Corpse Flower blooming for a brief, mesmerizing, and terribly stinky moment). From the stunning yearly chrysanthemum “Kiku” show, to the long, rambling paths through the forest (yes, there’s a forest in NYC!) you can stroll any time of year, to arboretums, herb gardens, and the elegant and airy Haupt Conservatory with its courtyard lily pond, you’re sure to see (and smell) something wonderful at the New York Botanical Garden. Plus, this gorgeous green space has the added benefit of being located near the world-famous Bronx Zoo, so a trip to both makes a great day trip with kids. It’s an easy and scenic ride on the Metro-North railroad from Grand Central.
3. The Conservatory Gardens
402 5th Ave, New York, NY 10029
This stately formal garden at the northern end of Central Park along Museum Mile has hosted more wedding photo shoots than possibly any other site in Manhattan. And justly so. Stroll through the imposing Vanderbilt Gate, and you’ll enter Central Park’s only formal garden—six stunning acres of grace and beauty, divided into three sections: French, Italian, and English style. Any time of year you visit, you’ll be treated to a profusion of blooms from tulips to mature heirloom roses to crabapple alleys to a riotous curtain of wisteria overhanging the natural slope of the hill. The large central lawn and fountain are iconic emblems of Central Park’s historic beauty, as well as a great place to take a selfie, of course! Be sure to check out the bronze medallions representing the original thirteen states under the wisteria pergola along the upper walkway, and the fountain of the Three Dancing Maidens as well. Ironically, the conservatory for which it was named was torn down nearly a century ago, but what remains is a haven for New Yorkers to relax and enjoy the meticulously maintained grounds.
4. Untermyer Gardens
945 North Broadway, Yonkers, NY 10701
For a step outside the hustle and bustle of the city, Untermyer Gardens in Yonkers may be a bit of a field trip, yet it’s a fascinating step back in time to the gilded age of gracious manors and robber barons. Once upon a time they were the home of Samuel Untermyer, one of the city’s most prominent lawyers and patrons of the arts, who himself bought the estate from former governor Samuel Tilden. Partly designed by famed 19th century beaux arts architect William Bosworth, the gardens today are a hauntingly lovely collection of mosaic-floored amphitheaters, Persian-inspired walled gardens, imposing statuary, and long, rambling paths that lead to stunning views over the Hudson River. Complete with architectural follies and burbling water features, these gardens are a mix of wild, semi-ruined, and recently restored. Educational possibilities include historical tours, architectural and garden design, and even the occasional “presidential tour” that gives you the full scope of these historic gardens, but must be arranged in advance. Entrance is free.
5. Wave Hill
675 W 252nd St, Bronx, NY 10471 (249th Street and Independence Avenue is the main entrance)
Another Bronx garden you won’t want to miss is Wave Hill, a nearly 30-acre former country home on the Palisades overlooking the Hudson River Valley. Since the 1840s, Wave Hill has hosted the likes of Theodore Roosevelt and Mark Twain, to name just a few of the famous guests that have graced the estate. Today it’s owned by the city, and its gracious grounds are open for all to enjoy. Check out environments ranging from woodland to aquatic features to herb gardens, flower gardens, rare trees, conservatories, and of course, breathtaking overlooks. For anyone who enjoys an idyllic afternoon of old-world opulence and serenity, Wave Hill doesn’t disappoint. Be sure to check their website for special events, tours, and seasonal exhibits.