Whether it is the romance of travel or the fascination with technology, traditional visions of the December holidays would hardly be complete without images of a miniature train creeping around the Christmas tree or of children sprawled on the floor lost in an imaginary journey. At the 11th annual Holiday Train Show in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory at the New York Botanical Garden, large-gauge model trains and trolleys chug along 1,000 feet of track past replicas of famous area landmarks that occupy more than 6,000 square feet and two galleries. Using natural botanical materials such as leaves, twigs, bark, berries, pinecones and gourds, the exhibit is a remarkable reproduction of the Hudson Valley landscape and urban skyline. The rural section includes waterfalls, creeks and a 25-foot overhead trestle, while the cityscape incorporates more recognizable elements such as the Brooklyn Bridge and the New York Public Library. Like any miniature train set that would be constructed in a suburban basement, lovingly added to year after year, this year’s show features new structures as well as returning favorites. New to the exhibit are the Apollo Theater, Grant’s Tomb and the New York Stock Exchange, joining the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. Some kids will be able to recognize the landmarks and others can use the miniatures as points of reference for future city excursions. Guest experts will offer special seminars on urban planning and the history of the railroad, Grand Central Station and the Botanical Garden, using the train show as a template. The Enid A. Haupt Conservatory is lit up for the holidays, creating enchanting Holiday Reflections that begin at dusk. Along the row of honey locust trees leading to the entrance, 80 spheres twinkle with white lights, and a festive tree trimmed by designer Philip Baloun welcomes visitors. Don’t miss Gingerbread Adventures, on display at the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden from November 29 through January 5. Here, children can view larger-than-life bunnies baking batches of gingerbread to make houses decorated with frosting, candies and other goodies. They’ll discover the ingredients that make up a classic gingerbread recipe, investigate the plants that make gingerbread possible, and explore a life-size gingerbread house. Also in the Adventure Garden is the Children’s Tree Garden, from December 7 to January 5, featuring a display of trees decorated with handmade ornaments made by Bronx school children. While families may not appreciate the cool spray of the waterfall at the Beker Family Adventure Point in the middle of December, the William and Lynda Steere Discovery Center and Bendheim Kids Herbarium offer more seasonal and indoor activities. The Everett Children’s Adventure Garden is worth a return trip in warmer weather when kids can sit on giant pads around the edge of a fountain that is part of an exhibit on how plants live and make their own food. The New York Botanical Garden is the type of attraction where a family may begin their association with a specific exhibit, but once acquainted, will return often. And while there are formal gardens of every variety, this is hardly a staid Victorian model meant solely for repose and introspection. From toddlers to teens, the garden is proactive and engaging for children and families whose interests run the gamut from scientific to artistic.
The New York Botanical Garden is easily reached via car or public transportation, located at Exit 7W off the Bronx River Parkway and Fordham Road in the Bronx, and at its own station stop on the Metro North Railroad. Open 10am-6pm year-round Tuesday-Sunday and Monday holidays, excluding Thanksgiving and Christmas, from. The Everett Children’s Adventure Garden is open 1-6pm on weekdays and 10am-6pm on weekends and Monday holidays. Garden Passport admission is $10 adults, $7.50 seniors and students, and $4 children 2-12, and includes admission to the grounds, the Conservatory, the Adventure Garden, and a tram tour. Grounds admission is free to the public all day Wednesday and on Saturday from 10-noon. The park will close at 3pm on December 24. Botanical classes and tours are also available. For more information, call (718) 817-8700 or visit www.nybg.org.