My objective this weekend was to see if it was actually worth going to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden during the winter time. The short answer is yes, it certainly is. However, you should keep in mind before you go that it’s not going to be the lush green wonderland that it is during the warmer months (at least not on the outside). The garden is probably at its peak winter beauty right after a snowfall, but the snow has been evading us in NYC this winter, so I had to settle for visiting on a regular chilly, gray day.
Side note: The lack of greenery outdoors is most likely why the Brooklyn Botanic Garden offers free admission on weekdays from December through February. Winter weekend admission is regular priced, but being the cheapskate that I am, I got around this by taking advantage of the NYC library systems’ Culture Pass, where you can use your library card(s) to score free admission to dozens of NYC cultural institutions, including the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG).
So what is there to do in a botanic garden on a gray, winter day? Lots, as it turns out. The BBG offers its own winter itinerary that tells you which flowers you should look out for and what other plants are in season. But I had my own agenda: visit the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden and get to the Steinhardt Conservatory to see the Bonsai Museum. As you can see from the pictures above and below, taking a stroll along the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden is a lovely activity in any season. It’s hard to tear your eyes away from the wooden torii and the chunky koi fish.
The best part about visiting the Brooklyn Botanic Garden during the winter when the outdoor plant life isn’t popping is that you can fully dedicated your time to exploring the Conservatory without feeling as though you’re missing out on the rest of the garden. Even if the rest of the botanic garden somehow disappeared (kind of like it does in the winter), the Conservatory would still hold its own as must-have experience. What makes it so worthwhile is that it isn’t your ordinary greenhouse; in addition to having a bonsai museum, the conservatory is divided into four sub-gardens, each with its own climate. There’s the dry Desert Pavilion, the Tropical Pavillon, the Warm Temperate Pavillion, and the very educational Trail of Plant Evolution. If you’re looking for a warm escape from the winter, this conservatory is the place to be.
If you have more time at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, be sure to stop by the Aquatic House with its collection of tropical and wet-environment plants and orchids. My visit was only an hour and a half long because it started to drizzle but it would be easy to spend a good two or three hours at the botanic garden, especially if you stop for a bite to eat at the garden’s Yellow Magnolia Cafe.
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