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How to Spend the Day at New York Botanical Garden with Your Kids

How to Spend the Day at New York Botanical Garden with Your Kids

You don't want to miss NYBG's current artist installation KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature.


At 250 acres, the New York Botanical Garden is the largest botanical garden in the U.S. It’s also an educational institution and teaching center, and a fun way to take a “forest bath” in the heart of the Bronx—just 20 minutes via Metro-North from Grand Central Terminal. NYBG was founded in 1891, and today it boasts more than 1 million plants, spread across 50 gardens and collections. 

Must-See Exhibits at New York Botanical Garden

Permanent Features at NYBG

You can hike through an old-growth forest and get a glimpse into what once covered the entire region. You can scramble over a 14,000-year-old boulder, while your kid can try to squeeze through it. Everyone can, and should, stop to smell the many, many roses blooming in the eponymous garden. 

The Enid A. Haupt Conservatory looks like a “glass palace,” according to one young visitor. The historical glass building is divided into 11 different zones or regions, from the spiky cacti of the American Southwest to the verdant lush leaves in the Palms of the World gallery. NYBG’s outside gardens are a mix of careful landscaping and wild, native growth.        

A definite must-do for families is the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden. The fun begins at the entrance, as kids get to brush past several vertical streamers. Packed into the 12 acres are a playhouse, maze, discovery center (with hands-on activities), and lily pad-filled pond. Take part in a self-directed scavenger hunt, or time your weekend visit to catch a read-aloud or performance.     

KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature

While NYBG makes for an entertaining adventure year-round, currently on view are works by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama (through Oct. 31). One of the most famous artists in the world, Kusama was born in Japan in 1929. Her work is whimsical and approachable, relying heavily on primary colors and polka dots, bringing a playful, exuberant spirit to paintings, sculptures, and installations—and love of pumpkins—to NYBG. It’s a hard heart that won’t smile at an ancient tree wrapped in bright red-and-white fabric, for example, or a plump glittering pumpkin sitting stolid among sumptuous foliage. A mixture of old and new work, Kusama’s art feels tailor-made for the current moment, as the city starts to reawaken after the pandemic.    

kusama cosmic nature new york botanical garden
A young visitor admires "I Want to Fly to the Universe," an installation that's part of KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature; photo by Garrett Ziegler

  
Kids of all ages respond to the joyfulness at play in Kusama’s work, but they’ll especially enjoy frolicking beneath the “Dancing Pumpkin” (2020) in front of the conservatory, and posing near the vibrant “I Want to Fly to the Universe” (2020). Signage, with quotes from Kusama, help enrich the experience: “Forget yourself and become one with nature! Obliterate yourself with polka dots!” This earnest belief in the power of art and nature will affect even the most cynical of teens. 

You might find yourself talking about physics and/or eternity, thanks to the installation “Pumpkins Screaming About Love Beyond Infinity” (2017). Visitors enter a dark room, in the center of which is a box filled with differently sized, gradually illuminating pumpkins. The box is lined with one-way mirrors, so the pumpkins seem to extend in every direction forever. Beginning in August, NYBG will feature an all-new “Infinity Mirrored Room—Illusion Inside the Heart” (2020), an immersive installation in which visitors can see themselves alongside the pumpkins. (Special tickets will be required.)  

Temporary Exhibits at New York Botanical Garden

Mark your calendar for these temporary exhibitions at NYBG:

For the holidays, the botanical garden hosts the train show and a light show. The annual Holiday Train Show features model trains gliding past NYC landmarks made from twigs, leaves, seeds, and other botanicals. Generally, the New York Botanical Garden train show begins around Thanksgiving and runs a week or two into January.

NYBG GLOW, the botanical garden's light show, washes the garden in colorful, dazzling lights after dark.   

new york botanical garden train show
The Holiday Train Show features recreations of NYC landmarks made out of natural materials; photo by Garrett Ziegler.

Postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Orchid Show promises to be bigger and better when it returns in spring 2022. The annual exhibition showcases—you guessed it—orchids, in all their delicate luminosity.

What are New York Botanical Garden’s COVID guidelines?

The New York Botanical Garden is open to the public with a variety of COVID-19 safety precautions, including face masks for all visitors (regardless of vaccinated status), timed tickets, social distancing and reduced visitor capacity, and frequent cleaning and disinfecting.



Visiting New York Botanical Garden

Where is NYBG located?

The New York Botanical Garden is located at 2900 Southern Blvd., Bronx. In addition to the main entrance, NYBG has three other public entrances:

What are NYBG’s hours?

The New York Botanical Garden is open Tuesday-Sunday and Monday federal holidays, 10am–6pm. On Saturdays in May and June the Garden is open until 9pm.

How can I get to NYBG?

You can drive to NYBG, take public transportation, or ride your bike.

Metro North: Take the Metro-North Harlem local line to Botanical Garden Station, located directly across the street from the garden’s Mosholu Entrance. See the MTA website for schedules and maps, and note that exact fares depend on when you’re traveling.

As a participant in Metro-North’s New York City Getaways program, NYBG offers discounted Garden Pass and rail tickets—including savings of up to 20 percent on tickets. 

Subway: Take the B, D, or 4 train to Bedford Park Blvd. station. From the station exit, take the Bx26 bus east to the garden’s Mosholu Entrance. Alternatively, you can walk eight blocks down the hill on Bedford Park Boulevard (approximately 20 minutes). Turn left onto Southern Boulevard and walk one block to Mosholu Entrance.   

Take the 2 train to Allerton Ave. station. From the station exit, walk three blocks west on Allerton Avenue. Turn left on Bronx Park East and walk two blocks to Waring Avenue. At the park entrance, walk up the small hill leading directly to the garden’s East Gate (daytime access only).

Please note: East Gate is open during NYBG’s normal daytime hours. Use the Mosholu Entrance for evening event access.

NYBG also offers free bicycle racks at all entry gates. However, bike riding is not allowed inside the park.

Is there parking at NYBG?

Yes! Parking costs $20 per vehicle. Though, parking is free for active supporting-level members and above with a valid parking pass. 

Enter via the Main Entrance at 2900 Southern Blvd. for on-site parking. During peak visitation times, vehicles may park at the off-site lot, located at 401 Bedford Park Blvd. (near the Mosholu Entrance).  

How much are New York Botanical Garden tickets?

Advance ticket reservations are required. All visitors must have mobile or printed timed-entry tickets for admission. Tickets are available for online reservations in installments.

Note that there is a different pricing structure depending on whether you get access to the grounds and galleries, and whether you’re a New York City resident. Proof of residency is required.

  • KUSAMA Garden & Gallery Pass: $35; $32 seniors and students (with valid ID); $15 children ages 2-12; free for children younger than 2.
  • KUSAMA Garden Pass: Residents: $15; $7 seniors and students (with valid ID); $4 children ages 2-12; free for children younger than 2. Non-NYC residents: $25; $22 seniors and students (with valid ID); $12 children ages 2-12; free for children younger than 2

Can I become a NYBG Member?

Absolutely! The garden offers several levels of annual membership options, all of which include unlimited admission for a year, special discounts, member-only previews, reciprocal benefits at more than 300 gardens in North America, and more. The family membership includes free admission and other benefits for 2 adults and up to 5 kids (16 years or younger), plus 2 complimentary member passes.

Is NYBG accessible?

Wheelchair loans are available. Due to terrain, some parts of the NYBG are not accessible. However, NYGB’s buildings and tour vehicles are accessible. See the NYBG Accessibility Map for further details.

What other family attractions are near NYBG?

The Bronx Zoo, the city’s largest zoo, is within walking distance. Also nearby is historic Arthur Avenue (sometimes called New York’s “Other Little Italy”), home to gelato, pizza, mozzarella, and more.

Is NYBG on social media?

The New York Botanical Garden is on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

For more information, visit nybg.org, or call 718-817-8700.

Main photo by Garrett Ziegler

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Jessica Allen writes about food, culture, travel, and New York City, where she lives.

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