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The New York Botanical Garden is a brilliant testament to the plant kingdom. Contrasting the city's concrete neighborhoods, the Garden is a cool and refreshing refuge. With thousands of species from all over the world, the Botanical Garden and its glassy structure are built upon 250 acres of forest. It is the largest of its kind in any city in the U.S. and is one of many highly-rated experiences in the NY area.

Visitors can spend an informative, relaxing, and stimulating afternoon exploring the diverse flora. This is a short guide on how to do it.

  • Location: New York Botanical Garden
  • Address: 2900 Southern Boulevard, Bronx, NY 10458-5126
  • Hours: 10 AM - 6 PM
  • Entrance: $30 for adults and $15 for children under 12
  • Contact: +1 718 817 8700

The Story Behind The New York Botanical Garden

The Garden was founded in 1891 by the affluent botanist Nathaniel Lord Britton and his wife, Elizabeth. The socialite couple took a trip to London in 1888, where they visited the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew.

The beauty of the gardens inspired in them the ambition to transform New York into a world-class city. After all, in the view of history, a great city is defined by its capacity to host an accumulation of human greatness.

Therefore, the Botanical Garden — an extensive collection of plants from the farthest corners of the world — would catapult New York into a global and historical hub of human progress.

The Garden was built on the northern half of Bronx Park, which is naturally forested and supplied by the freshwater Bronx River. The land is fertile and raw and is therefore perfect for hosting a wide variety of flora.

Related: Creepy Crawly Carousel: A Unique Bronx Zoo Attraction

Those species of flora that cannot survive in the New York climate and soil are housed in the iconic Greenhouse Conservatory, which is architecturally inspired by European Royal Greenhouses of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

The New York Botanical Garden is a serious hub for education and research. The Garden employs over one hundred PHDs researching the various subsets of botanical science.

What To See In The New York Botanical Garden

Spanning 250 acres of land, there is a lot of ground to cover. Visitors can pick and choose their favorite environments to customize the experience, as seeing everything could take multiple visits.

Many of the attractions are also seasonal, so getting the full experience may depend on the time of year. Luckily, there are some exhibits that are in bloom 365 days a year.

The Conifer Arboretum is an expansive mini-forest of pine trees. There is a tranquil walkway through the forest, which is a great way to get some shade and cool down. In the diverse thicket of conifers, each species is clearly labeled and marked.

Depending on the season, the pine needles can be verdant green or powdery blue. There are over 250 mature pine trees in the 37-acre forest, and species originate everywhere from the tall mountains of Japan to the boreal forests of Alaska to the alpine groves of the West Coast.

The Thain Family Forest is an original old forest. On the forest walk, visitors will trace the steps of Native American hunters, see the remnants of glaciers, and even recount moments from the Civil War. This part of the Botanical Garden is relatively untouched as it predates the Garden itself.

Nestled against the Family Forest is the three-acre Rock Garden. See the sculptural and textural variety of exotic stones and rocks from quarries far away.

The Rock Garden is a feast for the eyes, especially in the fall against the backdrop of colorful trees. It is all the more meditative as there is a perennial waterfall gently cascading down the rocks.

Right outside the main Conservatory, in the tropical pool, is a stunning collection of floating water lilies and lotuses. Many of these rare species have been appreciated and preserved by ancient religions such as Buddhism and Old Egypt Pantheism.

These floating florae bloom in the summer, making it a seasonal attraction.

Related: Insider Guide To NYC's Best Parks (That Aren't Central Park)

Romance abounds in the famous Rose Garden, one of the most popular attractions in the Garden. Over 650 species of roses bloom during the spring, summer, and fall. The air is heavily perfumed with fragrant flowers that come in a variety of colors, but none more iconic than blood-red.

When To Visit The New York Botanical Garden

Visit the Garden at any time of the year. There are seasonal events for every season, as some plants bloom in the winter, while others bloom in the spring.

The forests are especially beautiful in the fall, and the native flora section is quite pleasant in the winter, while the blooming aqua-flora are in full bloom during the balmy summer.

How Long Does It Take To Explore The New York Botanical Garden?

It takes around three hours to explore the Botanical Gardens. This is the ideal time frame for a visit as it is extensive without being exhaustive.

Of course, true aficionados will have no trouble spending entire days here without running out of plants to explore.