The New York Botanical Garden has long been one of my favorite places in the city. Although I enjoy sharing my beloved haunts with my 6-year-old son, we had only visited this 250-acre Bronx oasis for the annual Holiday Train Show because I worried that he just wouldn't be that into plants and flowers.
But I was so intrigued by the garden's slate of seasonal programing for kids, I decided to bring him and I'm so glad that I did. The NYBG is a fantastic destination year-round, but in summer it's a particularly vibrant place with lots of enriching activities for families. During our visit, we smelled, explored, planted, tasted, cooked and learned a lot. In fact, my son loved our outing so much, he didn't want to leave! (He's still bummed that we never made it to the Rose Garden).
Here are the best things to do at the New York Botanical Garden this summer with your kids in tow.
Take the Tram Tour
The garden boasts 50 themed flower-and-plant-filled plots to explore, and the best way to see them all is to take the 30-minute tram tour. The tram picks up and drops off at four major attractions, including theEverett Children's Adventure Garden and the Ruth Rea Howell Family Garden, and prerecorded narration highlights fun facts, interesting plant varieties, historical buildings, and ancient plants and trees.
Get Your Hands Dirty
Our first stop was the Ruth Rea Howell Family Garden, where kids can Dig, Plant, Grow! every day after 1:30pm. This hands-on garden is aimed at families, and everyone is encouraged to get in on the action. My son dug for worms, planted bean seeds, layered mulch around the basil and watered the plants. There are monthly themes throughout the summer. July celebrates Sweet and Stinky edible plants, like garlic, onion and herbs, with daily cooking demos at 2 and 4pm. We made onion and herb confetti to sprinkle on feta cheese-topped crackers. We also went on a scavenger hunt, made nature crafts and potted a basil plant, which we took home.
Upcoming themes and events include: Pickle Me! (Saturday, August 6-Friday, August 26): Kids can make cucumber pickles and go on a pickle parade to harvest vegetables.
Global Gardens Summer Harvest (Saturday, August 20-Sunday, August 21): Kids can explore different cultures in this international garden.
Mario Batali’s Edible Garden (Saturday, August 27-Sunday, September 25): Kids can harvest the fruits and veggies in the Babbo Beets, Beans, Garlic and Greens Garden, the Otto Pizza Garden or Batali’s Berry Patch. The season comes to a delicious close with a special cooking demo by the famous orange-shoed chef.
Wander Through the Forest
Our next stop was the Children's Adventure Garden. To get there, we decided to go through my absolute favorite part of NYBG: the native Forest. As we walked past indigenous plants and trees and a lovely waterfall, and listened to small animals scurrying and birds tweeting, the city seemed to fade away. (My son worried we might run into a bear!) This section provides a glimpse of what the city looked like once open a time.
Explore the Children's Adventure Garden
The Everett Children's Adventure Garden is abuzz with a program called Flowers to Fruits. Kids can make a field notebook and record all of the different flowers and pollinators they see, or study the frogs, turtles and wildlife that live in the pond. Inside the air-conditioned Discovery Center, children can create pollinator stick puppets, plant kidney beans, draw plant pictures or hunker down with a book on bees, birds or bugs. Preschoolers will particularly enjoy the interactive Farm to Table exhibit in the greenhouse, which teaches them where food comes from and lets them pretend to be farmers or chefs.
Relax on Metro-North
Getting to NYBG is part of the adventure when you have kids in tow. Sure, you could drive, but the 20-minute ride from Grand Central to the Botanical Garden Station on Metro-North gives families quite an eyeful, and leaves you across the street from the Mosholu Gate entrance. Visit the website for alternative ways of getting there.
2900 Southern Boulevard
Admission: There are two different packages. The All-Garden Pass
($20 for adults, $8 for children ages 2 to 12, free for kids under 2) gives you access to everything, including special exhibits and the Children's Garden. Grounds-Only Pass
($6 for adults, $1 for children under 13, free for kids under 2 and to all on Wednesdays and 10am-noon on Saturdays) is just what it sounds like: not much
. You're better off splurging for the higher priced option.
For additional seasonal fun, check out our Summer Fun Guide.