No matter who we are or where we live, each year the return of spring makes for a special time in our lives, but this is most definitely the case in the one and only New York City. The temperatures are rising, the days are growing longer, and there’s something in the air that seems to promise happy days are here again. Most of all, the arrival of spring in New York City means that the trees are sprouting leaves, the flowers are blooming, and we’re all ready to get back outside and enjoy some fresh air.
One of the most memorable ways of marking the return of spring to New York City is by visiting one or more of its many spectacular gardens. Read on for some suggestions about where to go in order to celebrate New York City’s spring garden scene in style.
New York Botanical Garden
No springtime trip to New York City is truly complete without a visit to the New York Botanical Garden. A New York institution since the late 19th Century, the New York Botanical Garden sits on a grand 250 acres of land in the heart of the Bronx, making it the biggest city-based botanical garden in the entire United States. It is home to some 50 distinct garden spaces that support over a million plants. Favorite attractions here include the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden, the Maureen K. Chilton Azalea Garden, the cherry and magnolia trees in the Arboretum Collection, and the Native Plant Garden (which is devoted specifically to North American species). The New York Botanical Garden is also the site of one of the largest botanical archives in the world, the LuEsther T. Mertz Library.
The New York Botanical Garden is located adjacent to the Bronx Zoo, so if it’s an especially nice day outside and you’ve got your walking shoes on, make a plan to hit up both of these attractions on the same spring afternoon.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is another essential stop on any springtime garden survey of New York City. This 50-acre facility contains 15 separate gardens and 6 distinct conservatories. Particularly compelling aspects of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden include the Tropical Pavilion, Bonsai Museum, and the Discovery Garden. The “Cherry Walk” path that takes you along the garden’s scenic esplanade is resplendent this time of year, and the Lilac Collection comes highly recommended. It makes for a gorgeous (and educational!) excursion.
Keep in mind that Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s prominent location puts it near several other notable New York City attractions. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden itself is situated directly between the Brooklyn Museum and Prospect Park Zoo, with the Brooklyn Children’s Museum found just about 1.5 miles to the east. Prospect Park itself is an outstanding place to spend some time, too, if you want to soak up even more plant life in bloom during a New York City spring.
Located just off 5th Avenue, between East 104th and 106th Streets, Conservatory Garden has been a Central Park landmark since 1937. This six-acre plot has a formal design that divides the garden up into three parts: the French-inspired North Garden, the Italian-inspired Center Garden, and the English-inspired South Garden. Highlights of Conservatory Garden include lilacs, crabapple trees, tulips, and chrysanthemums, just to name a few plant varieties that thrive here. A great spot to snap a picture or indulge in some people watching is a water-lily pool dedicated to the memory of Frances Hodgson Burnett, author of the beloved children’s novel, The Secret Garden. There’s a statue in her honor, and the scene is flanked by magnolia trees.
If you’re looking to expand the scope of your outing, you’ll find El Museo del Barrio and the Museum of the City of New York just outside Conservatory Garden’s main entrance, which is marked by the stately Vanderbilt Gate.
While it may not be as famous as some of the gardens detailed above, Central Park’s Shakespeare Garden is well worth your time, too. In fact, this cozy, four-acre space is a can’t-miss attraction for literature lovers, or anyone who has ever enjoyed a production of one of William Shakespeare’s plays. That’s because this delightful garden has been planted entirely with an assortment of flowers, trees, shrubs, and herbs mentioned in Shakespeare’s works. Interspersed throughout the garden you’ll also find a series of bronze plaques that feature Shakespeare quotes discussing plants. Put it all together and it’s a terrific spot for a contemplative stroll on a beautiful spring day.
It’s worth noting as well that Shakespeare Garden is located in Central Park at the 79th Street Transverse. This puts it roughly halfway between the American Museum of Natural History (to the west) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (to the east). If you’re interested in pairing a springtime garden exploration with a visit to either one of these popular NYC museums, this right here might be the makings of a good itinerary.
You’ve been cooped up inside all winter, so when in doubt, just get out there and go on a bike or walking tour of New York City! During the spring months here, it’s not just the aforementioned gardens that are in bloom, but the entire city is full of life. As a result, most everywhere you adventure is liable to hold some type of spring surprise. Even a place like Fifth Avenue—legendary for its glamorous shopping destinations and bustling crowds—finds itself transformed during the spring months, when its sidewalks host thousands of flower installations that burst in colorful designs. Stop and smell the roses, or snag that perfect selfie—just whatever you do, be sure to enjoy the fresh spring air all around you!
Renting a bike and taking a carefree ride can be the perfect way to grab that fresh air and enjoy the blooming of these myriad New York City plant lives from a unique perspective. Or, just getting out and about on foot, you never quite know what springtime garden delights you might encounter!