When people think of New York, they mostly think of our monuments — the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, the Staten Island Ferry and even the Freedom Tower and Wall Street are the beacons of our fine state. However, we are not merely the brick and stone representations of commerce and transportation. Our state is thriving with activity from Oswego to Riverhead to Plattsburgh. One of my favorite excursions is to visit the various botanical gardens that dot the landscape and welcome tourists to stop and smell the roses. The best botanical gardens in New York can be found from the most rural to the most densely populated areas of our fine state, and they are seriously worth the trip.
Botanical gardens are a respite from the everyday rigors of life. Teeming with flora and vegetation, these institutions offer a myriad of educational and recreational opportunities that delight visitors — often year-round. The best botanical gardens in New York are so different from one another, and yet all have an eye toward conservation, which is amazing in and of itself. For instance, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden offers urban beekeeping courses to encourage people to build more colonies in unexpected areas and help with the massive bee extinction problem.
But whether you're looking to learn, or you're on the hunt for a relaxing way to spend an afternoon, there's a garden to suit your whims within driving distance in New York.
1. New York Botanical Garden
The New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, New York is home to New York City's annual orchid festival, which is happening right now as well as the annual toy train festival which happens between November and January of each year. Complete with nooks and areas that seem like they're positively enchanted, there's something for the whole family at this urban oasis. Hours are typically 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Ticket prices include adults for $28, kids for $12, and kids 2 and under are free.
2. Innisfree Garden
The Innisfree Garden in Millbrook, New York is astounding in its complexity. The gorgeous meandering gardens features the best of what Upstate New York has to offer in ways of native plants in an English style. Designed by the homeowner Walter Beck and acclaimed landscape architect John O. Simonds, the park is open April to October from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Ticket prices are great — the Innisfree Garden is free for ages 3 and under, and just $8 for everyone else.
3. Brooklyn Botanic Garden
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is just a few miles from my home, so I tend to visit frequently when weather permits. My kids love their discovery gardens, and I love the not-too-overpriced glasses of wine served with a view. It's the perfect excuse to let your kids run wild, because the Brooklyn Botanic Garden has tons of places where they encourage just that. Also, they have a kick*ss chili pepper festival every year that is more fun than you can shake a stick at. The hours are March through November from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., otherwise the hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For tickets, adults are $15 and kids are free.
4. Cornell University Botanic Garden
The Cornell University Botanic Garden is an educational garden open to the public on 35 acres of some of the most beautiful land in all of New York. Located in Ithaca, known for its majestic scenery and plunging gorges, this garden still somehow raises the standard for beauty even in an area with such a surfeit of loveliness. Open dawn to dusk year-round, it's easy to access and the best part? It's free.
5. Buffalo & Erie County Greenhouse
Southwest New York is normally known for winter squalls and ice wine festivals, but you'd be remiss in your planning if you didn't stop at the Buffalo and Erie County Greenhouse at least once to go through their impressive greenhouses and gardens. A short drive from the fantastic Niagara Falls, this garden is open year-round and offers tours daily. The hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and ticket prices are just $11 for adults and $6 for kids.
King's Garden At Fort Ticonderoga
If you like a little (OK, a lot) of history with your flowers, you'd do no better than going to the Revolutionary War site, Fort Ticonderoga and its King's Garden. Open from June through October, this working apple farm and battle fort has everything from apple picking to war reenactments, and it's a ton of fun. The hours are 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. with ticket prices going at $24 for adults and $10 for children.
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