New York Botanical Gardens: The Perfect Place To Laze Away A Day

By: Hugh Parker

There isn't a finer spot in New York City to spend a relaxing day then among the fragrant flowers of the New York Botanical Garden. Housing one of the most extensive collections in the world, this gem also contains some of the world's leading plant laboratories. Combined with a trip to the nearby Bronx Zoo, the New York Botanical Gardens are a great day trip off the island of Manhattan. The Gardens also represent an economical alternative to some of the pricier tourist sites in New York, with an admission fee of only six dollars. Public transportation is easy, as both MetroNorth and the New York City subway system service the Gardens.

Founded in 1891 with money generated in a campaign by Columbia University Botanist Nathaniel Lloyd Britton, the Botanical Gardens are located on the grounds of the former Belmont Estate, once owned by a tobacco magnate. The Gardens were declared a National Historic Monument in 1967.

A visitor could spend weeks ambling through the collection of the Botanical Gardens. Highlights include a full Japanese rock garden, a perfect place to relax with a book. The trees contained in this part of the Gardens include exquisite examples of the Japanese art of bonsai cultivation. Perhaps the most important part of the Gardens, at least from a historical standpoint, is the fifty-acre section of woodlands located in the center. These trees are the last remnants of the original woodlands that covered New York City before European colonization. This section utilizes the natural topography of the site to incorporate the Bronx River along with various ridges and hills.

Throughout the year, the Gardens are home to various festivals and shows, with subjects as varied as antique train exhibitions to the plants of Africa. The Gardens also often host art shows. Viewing art in these unique setting is an experience not to be missed.

For younger children, the Everett Children's Adventure Garden is a place to frolic and play among mazes and larger-than life flowers. For kids aged 2 to 12, this great section of the Gardens is an educational way to enjoy the grounds while parents take in the other exhibits.

It's not widely known that the Gardens serve a dual purpose. While providing an urban forest oasis to residents and tourists, the Gardens are also the home to several research institutions. They house a 50,000-volume library of books on botany, one of the world's largest collections. The newest of these institutions is the Pfizer Plant Research Laboratory, built with funding from a variety of sponsors, including the pharmaceutical company from which it takes its name. Its primary focus is on genetic research.

Make a trip to the Botanical Gardens part of your stay in New York City. It's one of the best ways to learn something while at the same time having a fun experience. After all, there's something to be said for enjoying your own little slice of nature right in the middle of one of the largest metropolises on the planet.

New York Guide
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