Thank you to the New York Botanical Garden for providing my family and I with complimentary admission to their annual Holiday Train Show! This review is completely my own.
If you had told me five years ago that I would be traveling the region for train rides, train museums and train shows, I would not have believed you. However, in 2019 alone, we have taken train rides as far north as Maine and all the way down in Pennsylvania, we’ve been to train museums and lots of model train railroad shows. So naturally, when we were invited to a Holiday Train Show, we could not pass up that opportunity!
Even though we are This Connecticut Mom, we enjoy sharing a good daytrip with our readers! With winter break upon us and the holiday season, this is a perfect time to take a drive down to the Bronx to check out their annual Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden.
For those that are unfamiliar with the area, The Bronx is just outside of New York City and not too far from the border of Connecticut.
If you are familiar with the Bronx Zoo, the New York Botanical Garden is literally right next door.
We drove in through the Merritt Parkway, and used Waze to find our way. Once you get close to the Botanical Garden, there are plenty of signs that help you find your way.
We visited on a Sunday. And it was a popular day to be there! It actually took us a good ten minutes just to get through the gate!
You will want to use the main entrance which is located at 2900 Southern Boulevard.
At the main entrance, you’ll stop to pay for parking. Parking on the Botanical Garden grounds is $20 on weekends (Friday-Sunday) and $18 during the rest of the week. When that lot is full, you can also find parking at the NYBG parking garage and at other independent lots/garages.
We were able to get a parking spot pretty close to the main gate, which was good because it was really cold on the day we visited!
Right through the main entrance, you’ll find the ticket booths. You can buy your tickets online ahead of time or you can purchase them at the gate.
The All-Garden Pass will give you access to current garden exhibitions, the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, the Tram Tours, Garden grounds, art galleries and the Holiday Train Show. The prices below reflect weekend admission. The weekday admission is slightly less. There is a lot to do here and we only made a small dent in it!
Since we were doing the train show, we were also given a pass for a specific time that we could enter the show. Once you have that ticket, you can go either at the time on the printed ticket or any time after it. You just can’t enter before. This helps control the crowd inside the train show.
Once we had our tickets, we made our way into the Botanical Garden. Even though it is winter and off season, it was still a beautiful place! The entire space is 250 acres with over a million living plants in their collection. It’s an amazing place and even more amazing when you realize it’s just miles from the largest city in our country.
Right after the main entrance, you’ll find their bathrooms, a small cafe and the gift shop.
We arrived at lunch time and actually grabbed some food in the Pine Tree Cafe. They offer pre-made sandwiches, pizza, soup, salads, snacks, drinks and coffee. There is also a sit-down restaurant located on the grounds, the Hudson Garden Grill.
Across from the cafe, you’ll find the gift shop.
They offer a number of things for sale including live plants and bulbs. I was tempted to take home a bulb. Instead, I opted for some smaller memorabilia!
As you enter further into the botanical garden, you’ll find maps for the entire grounds to help you find your way around. You will also have received a map when you checked in at the ticket booth. For a place this large, you will definitely need that map!
We did not have to wait that long for our chance to enter the Holiday Train Show; so after a quick lunch, we headed in.
This year, the Holiday Train Show is located in a different location than years past. Because of renovations to the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, the usual home to the Train Show, this year they have set things up in an immersive indoor winter wonderland just adjacent to the conservatory. What makes this amazing is that they had an opportunity to plan and design a completely different train show than ever before. So for those that have been to the train show in the past, this year it is completely new for everyone.
The entrance to the Holiday Train Show was just next the conservatory dome. You’ll see plenty of signs and tour guides.
As you can see, sometimes there are long lines to enter the train show. We had a good time and were able to cruise right in.
Right before you enter the show, we were led into a small room with a video presentation that explains the Holiday Train Show. A small summary, the entire show is from the creative mind of artist Paul Busse. Busse designs and builds the displays on his Kentucky property with his design company Applied Imagination. With other artists, they create an amazing, completely all-natural train display. Everything you see comes from plant parts and wooden pieces found throughout his property in Kentucky. Busse has produced the New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show since 1992.
Pictures and videos honestly do not do this any justice. Seeing this in real life and taking the time to look at every little detail, and realizing this is all hand-made; it is just amazing.
As you move through the exhibit, which has two entrances and moves in a single direction, you will spot more than 175 scaled iconic buildings and structures from New York City including Yankee Stadium, the New York skyline, The Statue of Liberty, the NY Library and more. It’s like a miniature New York City, made entirely from bark, leaves and other natural materials.
My favorite spot was the skyline and the Statue of Liberty.
Of course, you’ll want to take time to check out the trains too! There are more than 25 G-scale model trains and trolleys passing by on the half-mile of track.
We even caught a familiar face!
And make sure you look up! You’ll see them whizzing above too!
My son’s favorite train was the trolley!
We spent quite a bit of time in here, just watching the trains go by and taking in all the details that the artists include in this magnificent display.
After our time in the Holiday Train Show, we decided to spend some time exploring the Botanical Garden grounds. Since it was cold, we didn’t wander too far but we did check out the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden which is open year-round.
Even though it was freezing, he didn’t seem to notice! He had a great time exploring everything they had outside!
We also found a little pond with ducks!
We also found more trains in the Children’s Garden!
He made himself at home inside this little glass house with trains and tracks. At least it was warm in there! We let him stay for a while just so we could thaw out.
In the Children’s Garden, we found the Discovery Center which had indoor activities including toys, books, a greenhouse and special activities. They also had bathrooms in here as well.
We spent at least a good hour, if not longer, exploring the Children’s Garden. It was a lot of fun. If it had not been so cold, I think we would have found ourselves more motivated to take a tram ride or head to the other areas but we definitely enjoyed the parts of the New York Botanical Garden that we did experience.
Even though it was winter, it was definitely a beautiful place. We are happy to have made the trip to make to experience the gardens and the Annual Train Show. I would love to go back in the spring and summer, though, when everything is in bloom! I imagine it must be incredible.
For now though, we will always have a fond memory of our visit to the New York Botanical Garden for their Annual Holiday Train Show, and they will always have a place on our Christmas tree!
The Holiday Train Show runs until January 26. This Connecticut Mom readers can save 20% on All-Garden Pass Tickets. Just use code HTS20 online at nybg.com.
*Valid only when you use code HTS20 online at nybg.org . Valid for All-Garden Pass visits made from November 23, 2019–January 26, 2020. Valid on weekend tickets after 4 p.m. from November 23, 2019–January 26, 2020. Not valid anytime from December 16, 2019–January 1, 2020. Offer subject to availability. Orders are limited to 6 tickets. Not valid on Special Event tickets or group tours. Discount cannot be combined with any other promotional offer or applied to previously purchased tickets. Discount may be modified or withdrawn without prior notice. Tickets are not refundable or exchangeable.
This about sums it up…
2900 Southern Boulevard – Bronx, New York
Holiday Train Show (2019) Schedule:
November 23, 2019 -January 26, 2020
Day time All-Garden Pass access to the Holiday Train Show is from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday to Sunday. Open on Monday, December 23, 2019, December 30, 2019 and January 20, 2020. Closes at 3 p.m. on December 24. Closed on Christmas.
- Over 250 acres of landscape and gardens
- Holiday Train Show included with All-Garden Pass
- Children’s Adventure Garden included with admission
- Lots of walking- wear comfortable shoes and dress warmly while outdoors during winter season
- Tickets sold online or on site
- Food for sale at two locations
- Gift Shop
- Strollers welcome on grounds but cannot be brought into the Train Show
- Family friendly
- Parking available on site, for a fee; offsite parking also available, for a fee