Now that New York City is well into Phase Four of the Covid-19 lockdown reopening plan, many of the city’s most beloved outdoor cultural sites are beginning to welcome visitors back. Though indoor attractions like museums are still temporarily closed, there are a variety of outdoor attractions now open (or opening soon!) where you can take part in fresh air activities while maintaining a safe social distance. You can visit the animals at all city zoos, including the Central Park Zoo and Bronx Zoo, get fresh produce from places like Queens County Farm, see outdoor art installations, and once again wander through the flowers of New York City’s beautiful botanical gardens. Check out all of the botanical gardens open once again this summer, and find out the safety measures in place at each location.
1. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx
One of the first botanical gardens to reopen its doors was The New York Botanical Garden. One million different types of plants grow within the Garden’s 250-acre site, the largest in the five boroughs. There are various types of natural settings you can wander through, including the Thain Family Forest, the Perennial and Herb Gardens, Chilton Azalea Garden, and the colorful Rockefeller Rose Garden.
The Garden has adopted a slew of new safety measures to mitigate crowds and facilitate social distancing. Visitors are required to book timed-tickets in advance of their arrival; this disperses crowds throughout the day. There are additional wayfinding signs that direct traffic, and all staff and guest over the age of two are required to wear facemasks. Group tours, Tram Tours, and public programming are still suspended, and a few indoor locations remain closed; those include the Haupt Conservatory, LuEsther T. Mertz Library, Edible Academy, Everett Children’s Adventure Garden, and the Hudson Grill. The Pine Tree Cafe Pop-Up and Hudson Grill Terrace are open for refreshments.
2. Queens Botanical Garden
The Queens Botanical Garden as we know it today evolved from the “Gardens on Parade” exhibit showcased at the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair. It moved to its current location, at the northeast corner of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, in 1961 and has since grown to a 39-acre oasis of blooming plant life. You can still see cedars from the 1939 fair today. The historic trees frame the iconic tree gate sculpture at the Garden’s Main Street entrance.
The Queens Botanical Garden is open to the public with new limited operating hours that are subject to change. Guests must wear a mask or face covering and maintain a six-foot distance while in the gardens. There are multiple hand sanitizing stations for visitors to use throughout the site, high touch surfaces are routinely sanitized throughout the day, and the garden is trying to reduce the use of paper materials, so check out a map online.
3. Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Starting August 7th, New Yorkers can once again stroll the grounds of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Located within in the Prospect Park neighborhood, the Garden offers thirty-nine acres of beautiful natural landscapes. New Yorkers can find respite in the zen Japanese Garden, visit the rock garden, smell the flowers in the fragrance garden, and soak up the beauty of the site’s many varied landscapes.
If you are a member of the Garden, you can gain early access starting July 31st. During Welcoming Weeks, free timed-entry tickets will be available to the public, and during that time, visitors are encouraged to pay if you can. Safety measures include required face covering, social distancing, the closure of indoor spaces, and guests are encouraged to bring your own water. Check the Garden’s website for new operating hours.
4. Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden, Staten Island
While indoor locations at the Cultural Center and Botanical Garden at Snug Harbor remain closed, the main grounds and gardens are open and free to all who want to visit. Snug Harbor hopes that the gardens will serve as “an urban oasis for the health and wellness” of the community.
Public programming, including operating hours for the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art and the New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden, are still suspended until further notice. For now, guests can visit any of the other various garden areas, including the White Garden, Rose Garden, and Healing Garden.
5. Wave Hill, Bronx
At Wave Hill, guests are treated to a series of distinct and intimate gardens along with sweeping views of the Hudson River and the Palisades across the way. The twenty-acres of natural landscapes are composed of gardens and woodland in the Riverdale neighborhood of the Bronx. Wave Hill has been a public garden since 1965, but it was originally a 19th-century estate that attracted such famous figures as Theodore Roosevelt and Mark Twain.
Admission to Wave Hill will be free for the first two weeks from its opening on July 30th. Guests are required to wear a face-covering while entering and exiting the Garden and when using the restroom but may remove it while walking grounds where social distancing is possible. All buildings on the grounds are temporarily closed, and on-site parking is not available, so plan ahead.
6. Narrows Botanical Garden, Brooklyn
The Narrows Botanical Garden is a unique volunteer-run garden in Bay Ridge Brooklyn. The four and a half acres of gardens that run along Shore Road offer a spectacular view of the Narrows waterway. Visitors to the park can enjoy the Native Plant Sanctuary, Lily Pond, Zen Garden, the Old and Modern Rose Gardens, and the Native Meadow Flower Hillside.
The Narrows Botanical Garden usually hosts a series of annual events, including outdoor summer movies and an autumn Harvest Festival. Events for 2020 are not yet posted to their website, but you are welcome to visit the gardens for free and take in the view of the water.
Along with New York City’s big botanical gardens, there are also many smaller community gardens throughout the city that have reopened for visitors, including the Jefferson Market Garden and the Lotus Garden on the Upper West Side.
Next, check out the Secrets of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden