There’s whimsy, joy, playfulness and grandeur at the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) right now. And it’s all only a 20-minute train ride away from midtown Manhattan. Which is totally on-point, actually. ‘Cause we’re talking trains. Specifically, the annual Holiday Train Show at the NYBG. We visited recently, and we’re sharing photos and what you need to know before you visit the annual Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG), a must-see for families with kids. And those who love trains, or flowers, or the holidays. So basically, like, everyone. It’s a magical holiday experience that you really need to have – this year, more than ever. All aboard, let’s go!
Is there actually a reason to visit a botanical garden during the holidays?
In December and the holiday season, the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) is a fine place to be, day or night. Especially if you’re craving beauty, nature, fresh air and serenity. And who doesn’t need a dose of that right about now?
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Happily, at holiday time, there are splendid vistas to be seen and admired at the Garden both inside and out. Yep, we’re talking the annual Holiday Train Show.
After you’ve run wild outside for a bit to work off those Lockdown 2.0 blues, head inside for a transformative experience.
11 reasons the holiday train show at the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) is a must-see
1. consider the joys of the railroad life
There’s just something magical about being near a train. The wild electric spark of anticipation when you know one is coming. The irrational joy you feel seeing the engine coming around a curve, or emerging from a tunnel.
The irresistible urge to read the signs on the boxcars to see what’s inside. And the adorable caboose at the end.
In the middle of a pandemic, in particular, what could symbolize freedom and adventure and discovery more than a train?
Sure, these are miniatures – but if you let your imagination roam free, these tiny trains deliver big fun. And a sense of escape from the everyday.
This, dear reader, is just one of the many reasons you should get yourself to the annual Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden.
Here are 10 more.
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2. experience an indoor tropical train tour of new york
If you haven’t visited the Holiday Train Show before, here’s a brief primer. It all goes down inside the magnificent Edith Haupt Conservatory. And yes, you have to have a prior reservation before you can visit.
Your admission gives you access to the entire Garden, which is splendid in its own right.
Especially when there are train conductors on stilts waiting to greet you as you arrive.
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3. see the new york region replicated in organic miniature form
The vignette that greets you as you enter the Train Show is a replica of the space you’re in: the Enid Haupt Conservatory. Pretty meta, no?
The initial series of structures are all from the Hudson Valley region – including the former Rockefeller Estate, Kykuit.
4. rediscover your inner child (and entertain your current little one)
Rain or shine, you’ll quickly become totally immersed in the joys of watching miniature trains race past New York landmarks, waterfalls and a wild tangle of tropical foliage.
Several of the train tunnels run through tree trunks – and a lattice of bridges gracefully carry them overhead, as well.
There’s water all around, adding a further rush of motion and a sense of momentum. And adorable little kids are, of course, everywhere.
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5. play find your favorite landmark
You can play “find your favorite landmark” with your companions rather easily at the Holiday Train Show: Yankee Stadium (or is it Citi Field)? The Metropolitan Museum? JFK? The Bandshell in Central Park? The Empire State Building? Check, check, check and check.
6. do some celebrity train spotting
Spoiler alert: Did we mention Thomas the Tank Engine makes a cameo appearance?
7. Marvel at the craftsmanship
The attention to detail is astounding and delightful. Each train car is carefully crafted. The tracks run past, over and though an organic forest filled with structures handmade from wood and moss.
8. catch some blooms
Of course, there are still some flowers blooming, even in December and the holiday season. And they’re not red or white – no poinsettia colors! Loving the hot pink.
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9. forget you’re at a miniature display
The industrial feel in the middle of a botanical conservatory makes for some truly memorable views.
For example, glance up at the right moment, and you might feel for a brief second that you’re actually in New York City, under an elevated train. But much, much better.
10. feel your curiosity rewarded
This is an exhibit that rewards curiosity and patience. Peer under the leaves, peek around a tree trunk, look up and down and all around, and you’ll see some special detail or inside joke that seems to have been left there just for you.
Watch the play of light and shadow and think about the passing of time and the passing of the miles as trains chug on.
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11. generate a spark of hope for the new year
It’s an uplifting experience to visit this show every year. In 2020, though, it moved us even more deeply.
The New York we love – the city of energy, brilliant lights, towering skyscrapers, a cacophony of voices and glorious noise. The one that has suffered so greatly, that has been left by some for dead, and yet will surely rise again – that New York is here.
It’s like looking a photograph of a distant loved one: not as good as being with them in person. But comforting nevertheless.
There are no whistles blowing on these mighty little trains – but we predict that like us, you’ll feel as if they’re singing softly to you. It may be far off, but it’s getting closer. Freedom, joy and release are coming ’round the mountain. Just you wait.
the holiday train show at the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG)
That’s our field report on the annual Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden. What do say, dear reader? Are you in? If you go, have a wonderful time.
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For access to insider ideas and information on the world of luxury, sign up for our Dandelion Chandelier Newsletter here. And see luxury in a new light.
Pamela Thomas-Graham is the Founder & CEO of Dandelion Chandelier. A Detroit native, she has 3 Harvard degrees and has written 3 mystery novels published by Simon & Schuster. After serving as a senior corporate executive, CEO of CNBC and partner at McKinsey, she now serves on the boards of several tech companies. She loves fashion, Paris, New York, books, contemporary art, running, skiing, coffee, Corgis and cats.