The NY Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show

December 10, 2012 |  Category:   art + design holidays life nyc outings

We had a fantastic weekend. How was yours? It always feels good to have a stellar day at a holiday market, particularly when you’ve stayed up late preparing for the show after a hard week. It makes it all worth it. Thanks to our friend Megan who took both the girls for a sleepover Friday night which enabled us to work uninterrupted through the night organizing for the market and made setup in the early morning easy at the event site. Since the girls weren’t home, I put on the first season of American Horror Story while we worked and pretty much powered through the entire season in one sitting. What a crazy show (though Breaking Bad is still my first love). After the holiday fair, we went to our neighbor’s annual holiday party where she made this (among other yummy things) and now I want to eat it every day. We don’t go to many holiday parties if at all because of the busy season so we appreciate that our neighbor Amy puts on a fantastic party every year that makes it easy for us to say yes and makes us happy that we live where we do.


And another rare thing happened on Sunday. Brunch. Can’t even tell you the last time we went to brunch as a family. I’m telling you, it is a rare thing. We decided at the last minute since we would be taking the car out anyway that we weren’t limited to places in our neighborhood and I remembered Buttermilk Channel. This restaurant is on my long list of places to eat that everyone raves about, particularly for brunch. We got dressed quickly, threw some stuff in a bag for the day and headed over to Carroll Gardens. There was a line already forming as we drove by, but we luckily found a parking spot nearby and made our way in as they were just seating people. I love a good brunch and wish we did it more often!
The big outing of the day, however, was the Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden up in the Bronx. I don’t know how well known this train show is to anyone outside of NY, but this is a holiday tradition in the city and one of those things that I’ve wanted to do every year but never really had the time for. The photos here don’t do the show justice. Besides the fact that I seemed incapable of taking a decent photo all day (which was frustrating), this is something that needs to be experienced in person. All the buildings and bridges are replicas of iconic landmarks and historic townhouses, the majority from NY, and made from leaves, bark, fungi, twigs and other plant matter. The details as you can see are amazing. The show is large with 140 buildings in total and winds all around the conservatory.
Here are some tips about the show if you’re planning on going. You can buy tickets online and they’re timed in 15 minute increments because the show is so popular. Don’t be late. Once you get there you’ll still wait in line to enter because they need to wait for people to exit the show before they can let more in. But that’s not it. Once you are in the show you are still waiting in line to enter the main exhibition space. This is deceptive because the models and trains do start here in this large room and the line is “loose” since people start taking photos and the crowd is milling about, but it’s slow moving. This is when the kids start getting antsy and complain that “this is boring” and you wonder whether you’ve made a colossal mistake spending $100 for tickets for the entire family (tickets aren’t cheap), just to wait in line to be herded at a painfully slow pace. But don’t give up hope. Once you get into the main exhibition space, the crowd thins and you can leisurely take your time around the show. There is still a path and a line to follow, but at that point, it is very pleasant. For this reason I would go on the early side of the day.
Also, if you can find parking right outside the Gardens do so because parking costs an additional $15 which was sort of a shocker when we pulled up to the parking booth. Aside from that, we had a nice time at the Gardens. It’s been quite rainy the past 4 days so the weather wasn’t great which prohibited us from wandering around the gardens but there was plenty of stuff for kids to do at the Gingerbread exhibition as well.
Ok, now you know that it’s not all fun and roses when a family outing is involved, right? There’s always some sort of National Lampoon’s Vacation-type mishap that happens at some point, right? Because it was rainy and we were parked a bit away from the entrance, Mark decided he’d get the car and pick us up. I started to get suspicious when quite a bit of time passed and he didn’t show up. Turns out that he couldn’t drive to where we were and he was forced to exit the garden because he was on a one way road. So you know how when the Griswolds go to Paris in European Vacation and they get stuck in that circular road around the Arc de Triomphe and can’t find the way out so they keep driving around and around? Well, the girls and I decided to head out in the rain towards where the car was parked and when it was clear that he wasn’t anywhere in the parking strip, we walked and walked around the perimeter of the garden to look for an exit onto the street which we couldn’t find. Meanwhile, Mark was driving around the perimeter of the garden looking for us through the iron gates. Let’s just say that there was a lot of driving around and a lot of walking around and a lot of missing each other and a lot of cursing…

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  • Phoe December 10, 2012 at 11:30 am

    This is AMAZING.

  • Rowaida Flayhan December 10, 2012 at 11:34 am

    Wow looks beautiful would love to visit it one day, thank you for sharing Jenna

    Best wishes and Happy holidays xoxo

    PS Still thinking and remembering of your sweets , delicious!

  • Joy December 10, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    We’re going to this soon and now I REALLY can’t wait. Great pictures.

  • Sora December 10, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    Thank you for sharing the train photos. I can see my girls getting lost in this world. They still love trains and are very much into the miniature world. Your “mishap” story made me laugh b/c we all know we would be cursing too!

  • carmen December 10, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    Hey lady, we were hit with sticker shock when we first visited the gardens earlier this year. You may want to get the family membership. It covers two adults and children for $120. It also comes with complimentary parking passes and guest passes. I’m not sure why they don’t advertise it as you’re paying for the visit because honestly, the prices are kind of insane.

  • jaime @ sweet road December 10, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    Beautiful! This looks so cool… If I had a lot more time I would love to make a little world like this.

  • Marie Hansen December 10, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    What a magic place! I was fascinated !! Thank you. Marie :-)

  • Helle December 11, 2012 at 4:32 am

    Ehm, I would have thought that in these mobile phone days calling up and agreeing where to meet would be an option???? :-))) – even I, the consumate electronics refusenik have one!
    The exhibition looks amazing, I especially liked what looks like a small pumpkin on wheels on the train track.

  • Anne-Marie December 11, 2012 at 10:11 am

    If these are bad photos, it must be amazing! So much work in those beautiful models and gardens.
    Sorry you ended up missing each other in the car – yes it must have been very annoying! But it reminds me of my dad and how kind he’s always been, not wanting us to get wet and cold walking in the rain to the car. Your girls have a lovely dad!

  • Karen L. December 11, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    I love the holiday train show! I discovered it a few years ago and made a special outing out there with my husband when we visited family in the East Coast. At the time, we were able to buy tickets and walk in, so it must have picked up in popularity since then? Now that we have a kid, I’d love to bring her there, but not until she’s older and can deal with crowds.

    Your photos of the exhibit look great, too (to my untrained eye).

  • krystal/village December 11, 2012 at 4:02 pm

    that looks like a seriously awesome show, that would definitely be cool to go see..