I was born in the Bronx so I can say it. When someone thinks of Da Bronx, one’s first associations aren’t likely to be tied to art and nature.

Tell me the truth. What came to your mind? Were you thinking of…

mobs (in A Bronx Tale, the 1993 movie that’s now a Broadway show)?

gangs and crime (in Fort Apache, a 1981 movie)?

…the legendary New York Yankees (aka The Bronx Bombers)?

President Jimmy Carter’s famous 1977 visit to the South Bronx?

the current budding front-page romance between Bronx natives A-Rod and J Lo?

An inadvertent victim of “pop culture,” the Bronx is often maligned and has been grossly underrated.

But if you are visiting Manhattan (sometime chauvinistically referred to as the “city”), there are many reasons to carve out time to visit the Bronx – one of the four “outer boroughs” that along with Manhattan make up New York City.

Among these reasons: The Bronx has a world-class zoological park (the Bronx Zoo), its own Little Italy (Arthur Avenue) and the sprawling Woodlawn Cemetery, which houses the graves of jazz greats like Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton.

A green oasis in the bustling city

Gate to NYBG on Southern Boulevard in the Bronx

Gate to NYBG on Southern Boulevard in the Bronx

Dale Chihuly glass sculpture in the Garden

One not-to-be-missed Bronx destination is the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG), located only 20 minutes by train from Grand Central Station.

With a new Dale Chihuly exhibit returning to NYBG for the first time in more than a decade, the timing is especially propitious!

This urban oasis (often referred to as a living museum) boasts a 250-acre parkland site designed by many renowned landscape architects (including Calvert Vaux, John Brinley and the Olmsted Brothers).

The Garden houses well-preserved historic buildings that are worth the trip alone.

One of them, the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, a New York City Landmark completed in 1902, is the largest Victorian-style glasshouse in the country. And the Lillian and Amy Goldman Stone Mill – the oldest existing tobacco manufacturing building in the United States, built in 1840 – has been designated as both a National Historic Landmark and New York City Landmark.

Enid A. Haupt Conservatory at the NYBG

Enid A. Haupt Conservatory at the NYBG

One million plants and counting

The blooming daffodils outside the wrought iron gates belie all the richness and diversity of the more than one million plants living within the gardens. These include, but are not limited to:

  • more than 150 species of maple trees from around the world
  • early 500 lilacs representing 120 varieties
  • 150,000 new daffodils inside the gates
  • a four-season “Native Plant Garden” with 450 species among 100,000 native trees, shrubs, wildflowers, ferns and grasses
  • an 11-acre “Azalea Garden”
  • an orchid collection with nearly 7000 plants, and
  • the 50-acre Thain Family Forest, the largest tract of old-growth forest, like that which once covered most of New York City.

A spectacular portfolio of changing exhibitions, including its uber-popular Holiday Train Show attracts visitors from around the world.

Chihuly: The master of glass-blowing returns

Signage for the Chihuly Exhibit at the NYBG

Signage for the Chihuly Exhibit at the NYBG

Now, after more than a decade, the breathtaking artistry of glass master Dale Chihuly is once again on display at the New York Botanical Garden. Almost biographic, this major exhibition features more than 20 installations and early drawings that chronicle Chihuly’s life, work and travels around the world.

Dale Chihuly at the NYBG

Dale Chihuly at the NYBG

Dale Chihuly: The Artist's Shoe

Dale Chihuly: The Artist’s Shoe

Some works are old; some are new. Some works are encased behind glass but most have been “planted” in organic settings throughout the park including the tropical pool of the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. They appear so perfectly placed that they seem to have sprouted from the ground.

Although predominantly created from hand-blown glass, the works employ a variety of media (including neon). All showcase the artist’s exceptional ability to transform color, shape and light.

Chihuly Macchia Forest at NYBG

Chihuly Macchia Forest at NYBG

Chihuly Fire Orange Baskets at NYBG

Chihuly Fire Orange Baskets at NYBG

Chihuly Reeds at NYBG

Chihuly Reeds at NYBG

Chihuly is known around the world for his ambitious installations in public spaces and his work is showcased in more than 200 museums.

This installation in the NYBG offers visitors (and New Yorkers) a rare opportunity to see his iconic work in an incredibly beautiful setting.


What’s appealing to the over-50 traveler?

  • The New York Botanical Garden is a world-class plant museum that should be on every traveler’s bucket list.
  • The trip from Manhattan is easy via Metro North. NYBG has its own rail stop.
  • For door-to-door service, you can also use a ride-sharing service like Uber or Lyft.
  • If walking long distances is an issue, trams are available to take you from one area of the Garden to another. There are 9 tram stops.
  • Most areas of the Garden are wheelchair accessible. Wheelchairs are available at no charge on a first-come, first-served basis.

Take note

  • Because of the popularity of the Chihuly Exhibit, get tickets online in advance.
  • It may be crowded around different installations during peak visiting periods. Everyone stops to take photos! (Be sure to bring your own camera, fully charged).
  • Set aside at least two hours to spend viewing the exhibit. One can easily spend a day (or more) at the Gardens.
  • Since many installations are outdoors, check the weather forecast before planning your visit and dress appropriately.

IF YOU GO

  • The Chihuly Exhibit at the New York Botanical Garden runs from April 22 to October 29, 2017.
  • NYBG has partnered with the Grand Hyatt New York and Metro North to offer visitors a seamless trip to the Garden. An exclusive Chihuly package includes: admission to the Chihuly Exhibit; shopping and dining discounts at NYBG; round-trip tickets on Metro-North railroad; and a discounted hotel rate (using offer code NYBG at the time of booking).
Dale Chihuly, Red Reeds on Logs, 2017, The New York Botanical Garden

Dale Chihuly, Red Reeds on Logs, 2017, The New York Botanical Garden

  • With support from Bloomberg Philanthropies, NYBG  has created an interactive guide for visitors customized to the user’s location on the grounds.


*Lead photo: NYBG, all other photo credits unless otherwise noted: Jerome Levine


Disclosure:

The author was invited to a press conference announcing the opening of the Chihuly exhibt at the New York Botanical Garden.


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