Twigs, leaves and branches are used to build models of Manhattan's iconic buildings.
It’s a little bit Toy-Train-in-the-Tropics, a lot classic old-time New York, and a smashing hit with the wee tots – indeed, the New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show stands up to its hype.
Staged in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, the train show is a breathtaking display of lights, plants and a tiny historic view of Manhattan architecture.
It’s advisable to buy tickets ($20/adult, $10/child) beforehand, and for shows after 4 p.m.–viewing the exhibit at night, when the lights make everything dance, is key.
What you’ll see and smell: The conservatory is filled with that lush, wet oxygen that only comes from a mass of healthy tropical plants. Green is everywhere. Nestled in are small sculptural replicas of classic New York City landmarks made from all-plant material such as twigs, leaves and bark, and covered in a clear sticky firmament, including the Brooklyn Bridge, a Guggenheim made of wood and large disk mushrooms (incredible), and a Yankee stadium. Many of the buildings are replicas of old 5th Avenue mansions that were torn down in the 1920s during the Depression, run over by the heartless march of modernity, lit from inside with a golden glow.
Kids literally squeal with delight watching the trains come from dark tunnels and lush green bends to chuck-a-chuck past the buildings and plants. Clearly, adults (this one, for sure), are equally enthralled by the display. It’s just something you gotta go see if you live in NYC. The Brooklyn Bridge spans over the walkway and trains pass overhead, while another section features a waterfall coming from a huge split-0pen tree trunk.
Step out of the show at night to view the big old Cyprus trees lit up, and you’ll get a breather from the city hustle-bustle.
To get there we took the Harlem Local line from Grand Central Train Station to the Botanical Garden stop on a weekend afternoon, and spent the day wandering the botanical garden grounds, with rocks for kids to climb on and a massive holiday tree to take pics in front of.
This year, there is a “Gingerbread Adventures” play area for the kids, with a gingerbread playhouse to climb on and in, an education center where pretty unmotivated teens educate kids in stations on the origins of the ingredients of gingerbread (cinnamon comes from bark, sugar from sugar cane; etc.) My 5-year-old daughter did learn a bunch. The highlight of the gingerbread station is the cookie decorating, which you have to sign up for. They give you a cookie, some frosting and sprinkles and the kids decorate and eat.
There’s also a Thomas the Train puppet show and another puppet show as well, and a holiday shop featuring some cool stuff and tree ornaments.