Editor’s Note: The Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx is one of the best winter break activities in NYC you can do indoors with your children. Tickets are on sale now for this year’s show, which runs from Nov. 20, 2021, to Jan. 23, 2022, marks the 30th year of this beloved tradition. Here’s a review one of our members did of a past year’s show (most of which still holds true).
The annual train show is one of my 4.5-year-old son’s favorite things to see, and this is his third year in a row attending. The show combines major “attractions,” model trains and model architecture, with the buildings of New York City, complete with bridges, made out of plants (remember, this is the Botanical Gardens).
The Holiday Train Show was about the same as previous years, with a few new buildings but younger children are unlikely to remember what they saw the previous time. (New for this year: a new replica of the LuEsther T. Mertz Library Building along with the iconic Haupt Conservatory.)
Building highlights among the 175 featured include Yankee Stadium, the Empire State Building, the Apollo Theater, and the Brooklyn Bridge. They even have the Little Red Lighthouse to complement the George Washington Bridge. The trains are all large scale and extremely cool. The kids like to get close-up (unfortunately, there is very little you can actually touch) and it’s also fun to watch the trains go overhead across the bridges.
The Holiday Train Show can get very crowded, especially during peak season, which is why I suggest getting tickets for the start of the day Tickets are timed, which means you can’t enter until the time on your pre-purchased ticket, but once you are in, you can stay in as long as you like.
The exhibit is one big loop, and you can go around the loop as fast or as slow as you like, but as one dad pointed out, you might have to deal with a “codger bottleneck” or a pack of school kids. Security prefers that you not go the wrong way on the path. My daughter (15 months), enjoyed walking through, so I stayed at her pace anyway. A couple of the dads made two loops because their kids were napping during the first go round
The Holiday Train Show is a little pricey but it’s a good chance to do an activity you can only do in the winter here in NYC. Strollers aren’t allowed, as there is no room, so bring a carrier if your child doesn’t walk. However, there is stroller parking for those parents that do bring their strollers. I drove up to the New York Botanical Gardens with a friend, which is the easiest way to get there, but parking is expensive, if you don’t have a Wildlife Conservation Society membership. Metro-North is also a fast option, and right across the street. To get there via the subway requires a bus or a schlep as well.
All in all, The Holiday Train Show at New York Botanical Gardens is a fun experience, if not a little redundant for me on my third trip. Fortunately, the kids loved it and that’s what matters!
— Josh Kross
NYC Holiday Train Show info
- Location: New York Botanical Gardens, 2900 Southern Boulevard, Bronx, NY
- Hours: Generally, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday to Sunday and Monday federal holidays.
- Tickets: $18 to $32, children under 2 get in free. Timed entry. Buy in advance. Buy tickets.