The Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx experienced an awesome combination of dads, kids and trains recently as our NYC Dads Group met up there. It’s one of the best winter break activities in NYC you can do indoors with your children.
The annual train show is one of my 4.5-year-old son Miles’ favorite things to see, and this is his third year in a row attending. The show combines two 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 (Penn Station before it was torn down to build Madison Square Garden, for example) but as the audience are generally older folks and younger children, it’s unlikely they’ll remember what they saw the previous time.
Building highlights 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 suggested we get our tickets for the start of the day at 10 a.m. Tickets are timed, which means that 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 Stella (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