Planning a big vacation and want to see some magnificent landscapes on your trip? We're here to help you discover the top 12 best botanical gardens in New York.
We’ve chosen 12 botanical gardens in NYC's area based on Yelp reviews. They include Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Highland Botanical Park, Innisfree Garden, New York Botanical Garden, Old Westbury Gardens, Queens Botanical Garden, Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden plus four more to enjoy.
This article lists the top 12 best botanical gardens in New York. We’ll discuss what makes each one unique and why they are so popular for both locals and tourists. Some of them have some pretty interesting history, while others cater to specific plant-loving types of crowds. Then, we’ll wrap it all up with how these gardens benefit society.
Personally, I’ve just started visiting botanical gardens here in Riverside County, CA. They are a very educational resource for people who garden and want to improve their overall landscape. So far, my favorite has been UC Riverside Botanic Gardens, which boasts itself as the Inland Empire’s nature oasis and living museum.
What is a Botanical Garden?
Also known as a botanic garden, they are institutions with collections of documented plants. Their main reasons for cultivating crops are:
- Scientific Research
In 2018, the criteria for what now defines a botanical garden was updated by Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI). The organization now places more emphasis on conserving threatened and rare plants than ever before.
BGCI developed a comprehensive Accreditation Scheme. This helps them, as well as consumers, distinguish between botanic gardens and gardens.
Top 11 Best Botanical Gardens in New York
The Big Apple is known for so many things, from skyscrapers to single slices of pizza, from hit movies to hit songs, and of course, its crowded streets and noisy traffic. But what many people don’t know is that NYC is also full of lush landscapes and countryside. So, I decided to create a list of the top 11 botanic gardens in New York.
This list is based on Yelp reviews and only includes gardens with the following:
- Outstanding Customer Service
- Unique Plant Collections
- Educational Programs
Note: This list is in alphabetical order.
1. Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Brooklyn Botanic Garden can be found in the hippest community in the Big Apple. It’s comprised of 26 different garden spaces. Some of the top features of this place include:
- Bluebell Wood
- Celebrity Path
- Children’s Garden
- Composting Exhibit
- Daffodil Hill
- Magnolia Plaza
- Visitor Center
Situated in the trendiest neighborhood of New York City, Brooklyn Botanic Garden is made up of more than a dozen separate gardens. The Discovery Garden lives up to its name, as it offers learning opportunities about gardening and protecting habitats for visitors of all ages.
The Discover Garden is a very popular attraction. It’s dedicated to helping kids of all ages learn about and discover habitats and wildlife that can be found in East Coast gardens. Children are encouraged to use hands-on experience to explore animals, plants and nature within various habitat spaces.
2. Clark Botanic Garden
The Clark Botanic Garden has been around since 1969. It serves the NYC community through its educational facility as well as its botanical museum. Together, they feature more than 5,000 species of plants and flowers throughout 12 acres of land.
Here, special emphasis is placed on the following:
- Teaching kids about nature
- How pollinators and other insects engage with plants and flowers
This botanic garden’s claim to fame is its official Daylily Garden brought to you by the American Hemerocallis Society (AHS). The purpose of this display garden is to educate the public about how to use modern daylilies effectively and aesthetically in gardens and overall landscapes. It’s one of only 325 US-based gardens dedicated to daylilies.
3. Highland Botanical Park
Highland Botanical Park is mainly known for the gorgeous flower displays it contributes to the city’s Lilac Festival in May of every year. It also boasts of year-round collections of plants for visitors to enjoy on 150 acres of land.
This place offers much more than gardens to visit. Some other activities include:
- Ice Skating
- On-Site Lodging
- Highland Park Bowl
- Lamberton Observatory
- Warner Castle and Sunken Garden
- AIDS Memorial
- Athletic Fields
- Lilac Arches
- Kids Playground
The Sunken Garden can be rented out, but only for taking pictures. However, the Lamberton Conservator and Lilac Arches are available for event rentals, such as family gatherings, weddings and receptions.
4. Innisfree Garden
The Innisfree Garden has been open for public enjoyment since 1960. This 150-acre botanical garden is well-known as a tranquil place for flower lovers. It features numerous waterfalls and streams and boasts of being an American Stroll Garden because of its combination of:
Designed with sweeping landscapes in mind, this NYC botanical garden is the essence of romantic thoughts. Its claim to fame is the design principles behind its traditional Japanese and Chinese garden styles. These principles involve manipulating the ecology of the garden slowly instead of taking from the environment itself.
5. New York Botanical Garden
Sitting on 250 acres of land, New York Botanical Garden features thousands of flowers and plants within 50 different garden spaces. Let your nose do the thinking for you as you explore the many fragrant varieties of greenery. This place also offers the following courses to its visitors:
- Flower Classification
- Cover Gardening
- Professional Horticulture
This botanic garden’s outreach program offers a program for local residents called the Bronx Green-Up. It provides technical assistance, training and education to inspire residents of NYC to help improve their communities through gardening and landscaping projects.
6. Old Westbury Gardens
The Old Westbury Gardens is a constantly evolving facility filled with 200 acres of lakes, ponds and greenery. There’s also an old mansion you can rent out to host weddings, showers, concerts, family reunions or even gardening classes.
Here are just some of the things to do at this botanical garden:
- Tour the Gardens
- Tour the Westbury House
- Great Pine Railway
- Sunday Concerts in the Gardens
- Children in Bloom Summer Cocktail Party
Visitors of all ages tour these gardens in-depth to learn from educators and Master Gardeners within the New York City community. There are various tours and lectures held related to landscape architecture and design, history, art and horticulture.
7. Queens Botanical Garden
At Queens Botanical Garden, the tagline is “where people, plants and cultures meet.” It features multiple gardens with contrasting themes. They are blended together so well that visitors almost feel like they are transforming from one world to another as they tour the garden spaces.
Some of the learning experiences offered here include:
- Group Programs
- Teacher Learning
- Kids Programs
- Workshop in a Box
- QBG at Home
These are some top-of-the-line botanic garden educational programs open to both kids and adults. They provide training to local teachers to help them start and maintain gardening programs at schools within their NYC communities.
8. Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden
Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden is located on Staten Island’s north shore, right across the Bayonne Bridge from Jersey City. What many visitors like most about this garden is that it offers flexibility for visitors to enjoy however they please.
Some events and displays to discover here include:
- Botanical Gardens
- Heritage Farm
- NYC Compost Project
- Educational Experiences
- Visual and Performing Arts
- Landmark Buildings
- Historical Structures
- Rentals and Permits
Come out and learn the art of properly caring for horticulture, including plants and flowers. Or bring the family or a date and take a long stroll through the gardens on a nice spring or summer afternoon.
9. Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion State Historic Park
Featuring 50-acres of flower-filled gardens, Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion State Historic Park is home to one of the only two public gardens in the entire New York State Parks System. At this NYC botanical garden, you’ll find 13 different gardens to visit and tour:
- Peacock House/Aviary
- Italian Garden
- Japanese Garden
- Rose Garden
- Sub-Rosa Garden
- Old-Fashioned Garden
- Blue and White Garden
- Pansy Garden
- Moonlight Garden
- Greenhouse Conservatory Complex
- Roman Bath Garden
- Rock Garden
- Children’s Garden
From the German language, Sonnenberg translates to – sunny hill – in English. First developed over 110 years ago, this place provides a diverse display of greenery that will impress any gardener, landscaper or horticulture enthusiast.
10. Narrows Botanical Garden
Narrows Botanical Garden is located in Brooklyn’s Upper Bay area. It was established in 1995 as a natural escape from the ins and outs of the crowds and noises of New York City. The mission of this outstanding place is to provide the community with a place to rest and relax by:
- Providing free cultural events to promote the arts
- Educate the public on garden and horticulture architecture
- Displaying gardens that bring joy to the people’s lives through visual appeal
- Teaching adults and kids ways to preserve and respect New York’s native vegetation and wildlife
This garden’s nickname, The Jewel of Bay Ridge, suits it quite well. This four-and-one-half-acre parkland and gardens space adds to the natural, urban landscape of the local area, making it Brooklyn’s sanctuary of natural majesty. Volunteers are always welcome.
11. Wave Hill
Featuring 28 acres of magnificent views and tranquil gardens, Wave Hill Botanical Garden is located just miles and a shuttle bus away from Yankee Stadium. This Bronx cultural center and public garden with gorgeous 180-degree views of Riverdale’s Hudson River and Palisades.
Some of the features of this renowned garden destination include:
- Pergola Plantings
- Flower Garden
- Herb and Dry Gardens
- T. H. Everett Alpine House
- Wild Garden
- Marco Polo Stufano Conservatory
- Paisley Bed
- Conifer Slope
- Herbert & Hyonja Abrons Woodland
- Aquatic & Monocot Gardens
The mission of this public garden in New York is to celebrate the legacy and artistry of its landscapes and gardens. This is done by preserving the outstanding views and exploring the natural world’s connection to humans through arts, education and horticultural programs.
12. 6BC Botanical Garden
The 6BC Botanical Garden is much smaller than most botanic gardens. But its landscapers continuously adapt to the seasons and make the most out of the space. Beginning as an empty plot of land originally cultivated by East Villagers, it now boasts of Lower East Side herb gardens and flowerbeds.
This garden derives its name, 6BC, from the following:
- 6 – It’s located on East 6th Street between B and C Avenues.
- B – Includes hundreds of native plants and immigrant plants, making it a true botanical garden
- C – First and foremost, it’s a community garden that was launched in the early 1980s
This garden is operated and managed by volunteers and community members, making it a Green Thumb Garden. Its goal is to provide a greener future for the local community by working with an array of environmental groups and garden coalitions to get the job done.
What Is the Purpose of a Botanic Garden?
Throughout history, the roles of botanical gardens have continuously evolved. They must keep adapting to effectively serve societal needs and challenges encountered in landscapes and gardens. They are all popular local and tourist destinations, collectively attracting about 500 million visits annually.
These are just some of the benefits botanical gardens offer both locally and nationally:
- Contribute to economies
- Help improve physical and mental health
- Key players in plant conservation
- Provide horticultural education to visitors
One of the key factors that place these botanical sanctuaries under the category of botanical gardens is the dedication to conserving plants worldwide. These are some of the great benefits of this practice:
- Research and Development – They study plant genetics and taxonomy, useful properties, phytochemistry and plant selections that survive the ever-changing and degraded environments. An emphasis is placed on threats caused by climate change.
- Educational Resources – This is a key resource provided by all botanic gardens across the country. They are dedicated to communicating the importance of achieving success by reaching out to more diverse audiences and conserving plants.
- Linking Plants to People – They help maintain native and ethnic knowledge to encourage using plant resources in sustainable ways. This helps improve the well-being of people while also benefiting the art of sustainable development.
- Cultivation and Horticulture Skills – These gardens sow and grow crops that would otherwise become extinct or endangered across the globe. This helps the rehabilitation and restoration of degraded habitats through the collection of seeds and living greenery.
About THE AUTHOR
Kiesha Joseph is an avid gardener dedicated to simple urban gardening on a budget. She enjoys sharing her Zone 9B Inland Empire, California experiences, as well as inexpensive DIY landscaping techniques. She loves experimenting in the garden, even if the project seems to be a failure. According to her, she does not learn from her successes. She learns from her failures. And that’s why she is determined to keep experimenting.Read more about Kiesha Joseph