If the thought of colder weather is already making you shiver, New York City’s indoor landscapes may be the cure for your winter blues. From Brooklyn to the Bronx, the Big Apple surprisingly boasts some of the most brilliant displays of flora and fauna, including birds, butterflies and cacti from around the world.
Arguably the most well known of New York’s gardens, the New York Botanical Garden displays some of the most spectacular foliage in the city. While the outdoor garden is open year-round, the indoor conservatory offers a warm welcome to those trying to escape the bitter wind chill. The annual Holiday Train Show is a must-see for families, but the exotic tropical plants, palms and desert cacti inside are not to be missed.
As a former homestead to an industrialist millionaire, The Frick now showcases some of the most renowned displays of Western European art in the Big Apple. Although most of the greenery lies in the surrounding outside gardens, there is a small indoor area that contains quaint fountains and simple tropical shrubbery. This touch of greenery will satisfy anyone who wants a breath of fresh air and a meditative hour among artwork.
The Central Park Zoo’s indoor Tropic Zone may surprise you with its ability to mimic the feeling of a real rainforest. While most of the exhibits are either behind glass or pushed away from the path of zoo-goers, the Tropic Zone imitates the excitement of trekking through a foreign landscape, complete with the soothing sounds of nature. From the forest floor to the canopy, you can also experience a wide variety of animals that live naturally alongside the exotic plants.
While the majority of its splendor may lie outside, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is home to five pavilions, including the Desert Pavilion, Aquatic House and Tropical Pavilion. Rivaling the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx with its array of plant species from nearly every continent on the planet, there’s truly something for everyone. Experience waterfalls, tropical plants from the Amazon basin, Madagascan plants, mangrove trees, orchids, desert cacti and more.
The Ford Foundation Atrium features a lush subtropical garden that has been providing city dwellers with a consistent source of fresh air since 1967. With 160-foot-high (47.7-meter-high) ceilings, trees provide a small sense of wilderness, as plants are not confined to waist height. Generally well lit and low-key with a welcoming entrance and winding paths, this atrium is an easy check off on any urban dweller’s to-do list.
The Butterfly Conservatory allows visitors a hands-on interaction with plants and insects that have remained interdependent for hundreds of years. Without the restriction of glass or ropes, museum-goers can experience an energetic room with colorful brilliance that the city lacks in its coldest months. It’s also great for anyone looking to brush up on their butterfly knowledge or the chance to have a great monarch land on your nose.
Winter does not mitigate the brilliance of Wave Hill’s indoor garden and cultural center. Flourishing monkey plants, nutmeg bushes, old lady cacti and paintbrush lilies are just a small sample of the massive blooms taking place in the upcoming months. With multiple glass buildings that span the world’s biomes, Wave Hill, located right next to Riverdale Park, is a steady crowd-pleaser. The outdoor gardens are also open in the colder months and showcase a winter wonderland of snowy conifers for those looking to embrace the seasonal spirit.
“Nature Within Walls” is how The Met likes to think of its Chinese-themed indoor garden, which is not far from the truth. Like Shanghai itself, the garden has the ability to take on an abstract and out-of-place feeling, as its old-world origins clash with the modern ways of the dominant West. For anyone looking to get a taste of a place far from the city sidewalks, The Astor Chinese Garden, amid the hundreds of intriguing museum pieces, is the place to spark your creativity and imagination.