I'm a freelance writer/photographer living in the East Village neighborhood of New York City.
Nestled in the Bronx at the New York Botanical Garden is a holiday tradition that's been "growing" for nearly 20 years. The Holiday Train Show, which covers more than 6,000 square feet with scaled reproductions of New York landmarks created from dried plant materials, returns this year with a new addition: the original Pennsylvania Station (1910-1964).
Visitors of all ages are delighted by the vast array of dimly lit and detailed constructions created by Paul Busse, a landscape designer and head of Applied Imagination. Busse has been creating the seasonal exhibit in New York since 1991, a unique venture that has helped the NYBG enjoy a steady stream of visitors during more dormant winter months. The Holiday Train Show has since become such a sensation that Busse has been commissioned to do similar exhibits in Washington D.C., Chicago, and New Orleans. The New York show remains his grandest, however.
Largely inspired by New York's rich architecture, the historical buildings and structures that comprise the exhibit provide a platform by which model trains can span three islands via bridges and tunnels hand assembled from twigs, branches, and bark. Winding passages, artful landscaping, and amazing details showcase important works of architecture including City Hall, the Apollo Theater, Radio City Music Hall, the Empire State Building, and the Brooklyn Bridge (reigning in at 28-feet long and 14-feet high!). Other favorites of repeat visitors include the Statue of Liberty, Guggenheim Museum, and even the Angel Bethesda of Central Park. Yet the miniature sights are not limited to urban dwellings. Over the years, the exhibit has grown to include some eye-catching landmark buildings of the Hudson River Valley. Architecture enthusiasts will note Van Cortlandt Manor House and Montgomery Place among the creations.
Though model trains can keep wide-eyed kids captivated for hours, younger gardeners might want to join their peers in some hands-on activities. The Everett Children's Adventure Garden, located nearby the main conservatory exhibit, hosts an on-going cookie decorating "workshop", a fun history lesson about cinnamon, ginger, and cloves, and the chance to make your very own field notebook. Other on-site children's activities include weekend puppet performances in the Arthur and Janet Ross Lecture Hall, and costumed, kid-friendly guests for spectacular greetings and photo-ops. A family can make a day of it by visiting the surrounding grounds, gift shops (stocked with beautiful garden-inspired gifts!), indoor cafés, and of course, the NYBG holiday tree.