The New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show

Hello everyone! I hope you're all shopped out, in-store and online. I've been wrapping presents to get ready for the holidays because I have a new little Christmas present due in a few weeks. I'm trying to cram the most holiday cheer in for my 2-year-old before I have to shuffle her off to her grandparents while I deliver. Our first stop: The Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden. Read our review below, and check out the Events page for a list of what’s going on this week.

On our Freebies list, Shake, Rattle & Roll, a multicultural music program for young ones along with their parent or caregiver, is offering a free trial class. Click here to reserve your spot at one of the locations throughout the county and visit their website to learn more and see a short video of a class.


Earlier this week we brought two 2-year-olds to visit this annual event, now in its 25th year. We upped the train quotient by taking Metro North there and back. It was an easy walk from the station to the entrance, and (probably to the commuters' dismay) our kids loved the train ride. One blew a whistle and said "All aboard!" at every stop while the other yelled "I ride the train!" constantly. Probably the most fun I've had moving between Mount Vernon West and Wakefield...

The show is fun for all ages, though kids and seniors seemed to be the dominating demographics. It's set up inside (warning: it's pretty warm in there!), and consists of gorgeous models of several New York City landmarks made of natural materials such as wood and plants. The details in the buildings are really stunning—we adults had a great time poring over the architecture of some of our favorite NYC landmarks. The toddlers didn’t pay much attention to the buildings, though. The fun for kids is that woven throughout the exhibit are tracks with several model trains zigzagging through. 

The exhibit starts with a small promotional documentary about the work involved in designing and staging the show, and then you are set free to roam at your own pace, meandering through a few large rooms that house the exhibit. There are no strollers allowed inside (but bring your carriage for the long walk from the main gate to the stroller parking area just outside the train show entrance.) We had no problem walking with our littles through the exhibit. A low wooden fence creates a pathway and a barrier, and all but the most bound-and-determined climbers will be able to walk through without being tempted to go into the exhibit. That said, it is possible to reach the don’t-touch trains and buildings over the fence, so you will need to keep an eye on them as they wander around.

Our toddlers were most awestruck by the trains zooming by and the small ponds and waterfalls that run throughout the exhibits. Take your time, as the show can go by quickly. We went early on a weekday and there were very small crowds, so we were able to backtrack to our favorite spots and linger for a closer look. Even with watching the trains go by for several cycles, stopping to take photos, looping back to our favorite miniatures, and a bathroom break, our self-guided tour lasted about 45 minutes.

Try to plan your trip to take advantage of the Gingerbread Café, a seasonal themed eatery at the Garden just beyond the exit to the train show that opens at 11am Friday through Sunday until December 19, and then daily throughout the rest of the show. We weren’t there when it was open this year, but last year we found it was a great cap to our day. The café serves lunch food, soups, and seasonal treats in a festively decorated tent. It’s the perfect spot to refresh your little one before the naptime haze sets in. Strollers welcome and high chairs available. Your Holiday Train Show ticket is good for admission to the rest of the Garden exhibits, but our toddlers were too pooped to brave any more walking. If you can make it to the main gift shop, it’s a great place to pick up holiday and gardening souvenirs.

This is our second of what we anticipate will be an annual family tradition. Though the show doesn’t change much from year to year, it’s such a lovely time, and a fun little adventure from Westchester. For those who don’t explore the city as much as we used to, it’s nice to come see it in wooden miniature. For more information and tickets, visit the New York Botanical Garden website.

That’s all for this week!

Andrea for BabyGotChat