I recently read an article that designated NYC (tied with Singapore) as the most expensive city to live in… yay for winning! And seriously, a lot of things are really expensive (housing, food, fuel, tolls, parking, entertainment… I think that covers just about everything), however…, big ol’ however, there are some things you can find to do for free sometimes.
We’ve lived in NYC for almost five years (our five-year anniversary is in February) and we have never stepped foot in the Botanic Garden. Partly because time, but partly because money. It’s $18 per adult, which isn’t crazy, but I can walk to the beach for free or take the subway and visit Central Park for free… there are just a lot of free options around
People have been encouraging us to go since we got here. Well, we recently discovered that we can get “affiliate” tickets to some attractions for free with our library card through the Culture Pass. They don’t make it particularly easy, and some of them are limited to once a calendar year, but FREE! YES! And the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is one of those attractions. So you have to reserve the ticket through the library, and then you have to use that ticket to purchase a ticket from the attraction. Also, and I’m going to bold this for any of the New Yorkers that might be reading this and don’t know, the culture pass ticket will indicate that you reserve for a specific day, but you can use the tickets anytime in a 30-day period, this is a lie! You HAVE TO USE THE TICKETS ON THE SPECIFIC DAY. We learned this the hard way when we arrived and they wouldn’t honor my husband’s tickets. He had made a reservation for him and his mom on one day, and then realized we weren’t going to be able to go on that day, so when I got my ticket I booked it for the right day. So we had two tickets they wouldn’t honor and two tickets that they would. It was confusing but worked out okay in the end.
Obviously, a botanic garden is going to be more exciting in the spring and summer, and maybe the fall with the leaves changing color, but don’t let that deter you from visiting in the winter, there is still plenty of beautiful things to see in the winter (but I will for sure be back in the springtime… I want to see the cherry blossoms).
So, on a chilly, rainy Sunday morning we headed off to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Since it was raining and we had my mother-in-law with us we decided to drive rather than take the subway. Traffic wasn’t terrible and there is a paid parking lot right next door (shared with the Brooklyn museum). We paid just over $10 for around three hours. Which is super cheap parking in the city.
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is comprised of 52 acres and officially opened in 1911 with native plants being the first display created.
The Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden is one of the first stops in the garden, the design was completed in 1915 making it one of the first public Japanese gardens in the U.S. (it’s one of the oldest outside of Japan), and it is a lovely, peaceful place to sit and enjoy being in nature. The area is wooded with evergreen trees (cedar trees, Japanese white pine, eastern white pine, Japanese red pine), and lots of maple and cherry trees.
The Cherry Esplanade was closed, and we skipped the rose garden since there aren’t any roses this time of year (seriously, I can’t wait to go back in the spring) so we walked through the Rock Garden. There were some lovely trees and lots of plants to enjoy, but I was a little disappointed in the rock portion of this garden. I love rocks, so I was hoping for a big variety, with lots of identification tags, but alas, just a few were identified, it was mostly trees and plants around some boulders.
The Herb Garden, on the other hand, was fabulous; tons of plants with descriptions along with the medicinal uses of the plants or historical origins/uses. Granted, a lot of the plants were cut down for the winter, but the identifications were still there!
At this point, it was cold and rainy and we were in need of a bathroom break, so we cut through the Water Garden to go to the Steinhardt Conservatory. The conservatory was completed in 1988 and its collections are amazing. I feel like I’m using a lot of superlatives, but really, if you enjoy outdoor spaces or plants, it’s hard not to geek out over all the things.
The conservatory is made up of six areas. The Trail of Plant Evolution is on the main level; the room is warm and brimming with plants from all over, including a baby Baobab tree from Africa. Baobab trees have a spot in my heart from my time in Malawi. They’re stunning majestic trees, and how they survive drought conditions is rather marvelous (they are a “stem-succulent” tree and they store water in their stems [trunks] https://nph.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1469-8137.2005.01618.x). Also on the main level is the Bonsai Museum. I’ve been fascinated by bonsai since I was a little kid; I still have the book my mom bought me when I was ten on how to grow bonsai, it’s a cheesy book written in the 70’s, but I love it. Across from the Bonsai Museum is the Warm Temperate Pavilion… I’m not saying it was boring, but I just saw the place a day ago and I can’t really remember what the room was like.
The downstairs pavilions include the Aquatic House and Orchid Collection, the Desert Pavillion, and the Tropical Pavilion. I could live in these rooms. There is something so special about being surrounded by so many plants. The air in each of the pavilions is conditioned specifically to support the plant life… humidity levels, air circulation, temperature, and the air just felt good, like you could breathe more deeply.
10/10 go visit the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens any time of year. I’ll probably post an update when I go in the spring or summer.