The parking lot was jam packed on Member Day, November 19th, as long standing and new members of New York Botanical Garden came to see the amazing architectural wonders ingeniously constructed from a variety of plant parts that are the showpiece along with the fun trains that comprise one of the most enjoyable exhibits at the Garden. The Holiday Train Show® (Saturday, November 20, 2021 – Sunday, January 23, 2022 from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.) a favorite of New Yorkers, features new additions to its collection which now numbers over 190 structures.
After the trials of COVID, the shut down and restricted access of the last year, the Garden ushers in the 30th year for the train exhibit whose landmark building collection is designed by Applied Imagination’s team and then situated throughout the Haupt Conservatory and galleries in collaboration with the NYBG staff over a two week period.
In celebration of the NYBG Holiday Train Show’s 30th year, the creative team at Applied Imagination re-created one of the central aspects of the Garden: the LuEsther T. Mertz Library Building with the Lillian Goldman Fountain of Life, and the John J. Hoffee Tulip Tree Allee. These buildings and attendant features were declared a New York City Landmark in 2009. The care and effort taken to manifest these structures took thousands of hours of work. Take a moment to appreciate the designs and materials used to create the display. Especially appreciate the myrtle topiaries that simulate the Tulip Tree Allee.
The Holiday Train Show® may be appreciated on many levels. From the vantage point of a child’s, one delights as more than 25 model trains of various gauges careen, zip and plow along the miles of track laid down between the brilliant foliage and flowers and plantings graded to maximize happiness. For adults, there is always the astute appreciation of the craftsmanship and design of the New York landmarks.
Whether in daylight or evening twilight, there is magic in being swept away into a miniaturized world of perfection created with loving artistry and passion that spills out into the hearts of the visitors of the exhibit who return many times during the season bringing friends, grandchildren and sweethearts. The holidays wouldn’t seem complete without the Garden’s Holiday Train Show® accompanied by a wealth of activities for children and adults during the Winter season.
For children, there’s the “Evergreen Express” in the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden (November 20, 2021–January 23, 2022). Make sure to dress warmly as you climb onto a kid-sized play train and move through additional activities at the mini-train table having fun with the wooden train cars. Along the way of your adventures which might including hiking through the landscape, stop at the outdoor musical instrument station for family jam sessions on marimbas, amadindas and drums. For self-guided explorations with your kids be aware of the times: daily (10 am-5 pm) Guided activities (click here) run on weekdays (1:30-2:30 p.m.) Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays (10 a.m.-2:30 p.m.) The Everett Children’s Adventure Gardens is included in all ticket types.
Exclusive benefits for Members of the NYBG are always welcome and prized. For members entrance to The Holiday Train Show® is free and the parking lot becomes swamped so you may have to park at the Fordham University parking lot across the street. Also, make your reservations online to schedule the days you want to visit so you aren’t closed out. The next Member Day is Friday, January 7, 2022 when you can take advantage of exclusive benefits, including free parking, 20% off at the NYBG Shop, 15% discount at all dining venues, and up to 4 half-price tickets for guests. For more Member benefits, CLICK HERE. If you aren’t already a Member of the Garden, sign up online today.
Throughout the show there are additional features to make your visit enjoyable and memorable. The Uptown Brass will be presenting festive selections of classical and popular holiday favorites. These professional musicians have been featured in venues throughout New York City. They will be performing for your pleasure on November 19, 20, 21, 26, 27, & 28; December 5, 23, 26, 27, 28, 29, & 30th at the Leon Levy Visitor Center (1, 2, & 3 p.m.) For more information about The Uptown Brass CLICK HERE.
In the Garden’s Sounds of the Season, listen to solo performers roll out the red carpet and rouse your spirits on weekends through December 26th in the Conservatory Entry Tent from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. beginning with Louis Apollon (November 19 & December 4). Louis Apollon is a Brooklyn-based jazz-folk singer-songwriter. Other musicians include the Bronx-based DJ Collective and Community Organization Uptown Vinyl Supreme (November 27, 28, December 5, 11, & 12) and Darren Solomon (December 4) the Clio and Cannes Gold Lion award-winning composer, producer, bassist and keyboard player. For more on the musicians and additional performers CLICK HERE.
Another favorite, Holiday Classes are back where you will learn how to fill your home with the warm scents, tastes, and textures of the season. Interesting offerings include styling magnolia leaf wreaths and making decadent fruit preserves. For more information on other class offerings CLICK HERE.
As a part of the festivities during the Winter Season, celebrate the waning of sunlight with the brightening of NYBG’s GLOW, an enchanting outdoor color and light experience (November 24, 26, 27; December 2, 3, 4, 9, 11, 16, 17, 18, 23, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30; January 1, 6, 7, 8, 14, 15, 21, 22 from 5 p.m. – 10 p.m.). GLOW’s pageantry lights up NYBG’s iconic landscape and historic buildings turning them to whimsical beauty after the sun sets. This otherworldly illumination has been expanded to an additional 1.5 -miles of spectacular.
If is possible to see both The Holiday Train Show® and GLOW at a reduced price and savings. CLICK HERE. You will feel welcome with all of the activities offered. Talented performers dressed up in holiday costumes, stilt-walkers and other artists will stop for your selfies and family photos. And returning is the deft ice sculptor, always fun to watch as chips of ice are narrowed into figures and shapes. Taste local cuisine from the Bronx Night Market and enjoy a cocktail, beer, wine, and more from one of the festive. seasonal bars. For additional information and ticketing CLICK HERE.
Look for my future posts with specific details about the wondrous architectural collection created by Applied Imagination from natural materials i.e. twigs, leaves, seeds from trees and fruits, pods, gourds, acorns, bark, fungi, pine cone scales, nut shells, nuts and more. I absolutely love The Holiday Train Show and GLOW to usher in winter and waning sunlight as we move to the darkness of the shortest day of the year. Knowing I can venture to the Garden to lift my spirits with family and friends makes the light deprivation in our northern clime seem worth it. CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS AND PROGRAMS.
If you have not been to Bar Car Night of the NYBG Holiday Train Show, this weekend will be your last chance. The entire week, the cold has softened into the sunshine and snow melt. It would be a wonderful time to go with friends, partner, spouse, lover, blind date, seeing date or just yourself. Have a few drinks, saunter through the gorgeous conservatory and various galleries appreciating Applied Imagination’s love letter to New York and NYC and go home refreshed and ready for a new week.
The show’s main Palms of the World Gallery features the new exhibits of Mid Town Manhattan and the show is splendid with some of the seasonal decorations still hanging and lights twinkling. everywhere. One of the most popular of the NYBG shows, ‘Bar Car Nights’ is the time to leave the kids at home and enjoy the quiet, low surrounding conversations as you note the incredibly imagined replicas that pay homage to old world Victorian New York and the twentieth century.
The show advances our historical knowledge of many buildings and structures that have either been demolished or destroyed. Five bridges of New York (Brooklyn, Queensboro, Manhattan, Hells Gate and the George Washington sparkle their lights as trolleys and passenger cars slip quickly over the bridge trestles. One also notes various sections of Manhattan-Museum Row, NYPL,Central Park, Morris Jumel Mansion, Park Avenue Armory, Mid-town Manhattan-Empire State Building, East Side/West Side Row Houses; Brooklyn-Coney Island’ Queens-the TWA Flight Center, the Bronx-Poe Cottage, NYBG Haupt Conservatory, Yankee Stadium, Hudson River Valley mansions and more.
Whether you move slowly observing all of the sustainable, botanical wonder (stems, leaves, twigs, see pods, pine cones, acorn caps, cinnamon, etc.) that create finials, roof tops, gables, windows, decorative elements and stones, or just jet through taking in the overall sensual experience, you will feel wellness spark your soul. The creative energy, joy and love demonstrated by the details of the structures and placement among the NYBG’s finest living panoramas and water features will delight. It is worth it to take a trip for the evening magic and variety of visual and aural sights that will titillate, yet soothe your senses.
The show enjoying 26 years at the New York Botanical Garden has been engineered, created and lovingly collaborated to delight and enthrall by the team at Applied Imagination. Applied Imagination’s baton has passed from creator and founder Paul Busse to his daughter Laura Busse Dolan. She discussed her Dad’s evolving the show over the years. Laura Busse Dolan has fulfilled and maintained her Dad’s intention to create a world of New York grandeur in miniature. And around the fantastic replicas wholly created with sustainable plant parts and biodegradable materials, 25 gauge trains leap, choo-choo, slip smoothly.
The amazement of Bar Car Nights for me always becomes noting the differences of the daytime Holiday Train Show and the cold wintry evening in the shadowy NYGB. The Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, a fountain of sunlight streaming brilliantly through the latticework and glass cheers. The delicacy of the replicas, the intricacy of their botanical components from magnolia seed pods to cinnamon sticks, bamboo, eucalyptus, acorn caps and more fascinate. How does the team innovate the use of a twig or bark for various buildings to simulate Senator William Clark’s guilded-age mansion? Clearly, their intimacy and knowledge and experience with materials and collaborative efforts prompt them to top themselves each year as they place the buildings among gorgeous flowering shrubs, orchids, palms and water displays.
The NYBG Holiday Train Show ends on 15 January. This is the last week and weekend of the show. You may check for tickets HERE. Bar Car Nights end on 13 of January, this Saturday. Pick up tickets by CLICKING HERE.
If you missed The Holiday Train Show select programming this year because you were out of town, the show will be presented annually and you should mark your calendar for special events that happen during the winter season inclusive of the Holiday Train Show. From music to dance, from movies to poetry readings, the New York Botanical Garden is a hive of activity for the entire family. If you are a New Yorker, you probably are apprised of this. If you are a global traveler, this is one of the places to be during the Christmas and Holiday season. If you can’t make it this year, check for the show around Thanksgiving in November of next year.
The Holiday Train Show is always a spectacular reaffirmation of what is beautiful, shining and creative in the human spirit. This year seems more so against a backdrop of tumultuous, grimy political scandals and redundant “breaking news” moments that jar the nerves and chill one’s core. I heartily appreciate an escape from the unsettling thesis of chaos to the antithesis of children’s screams of laughter and twinkling, colorful Holiday lights of assurance. The felt innocence is more lovely than the low details of worldly goings on. And I am uplifted to remember that throughout the labored struggles of men and women who strive to retain power, there is something more worthy and spiritual in the human soul that the season reminds us to seek and direct our attention to.
Thus, for me especially this year, and for the friends I visit with, The Holiday Train Show in the New York Botanical Garden is a sanctuary of refinement, a haven of peace. Amidst the lovingly arranged pageantry, the plantings strike poses between the stunning miniature replicas of New York’s icons, historical landmarks and stupendous structures of the gilded age, made into museums or torn down because they were too expensive to maintain.
As I note the complexity of the constructions from plant parts as tiny as a barely seed and as large as a gourd, and wander slowly in amazement at the specificity of creation, solace is delivered in cupfuls and happiness in bushels. I take picture after picture, trying to stir my memories about the location of the recreations in previous years.
If I take my time without rushing to the show finale, my memory serves me. The Poe house is situated more prominently this year on the opposite side of the central theatrical showcase. I am glad because I am writing a play about Poe and I feel akin to this replica. For example, I know that Poe’s wife Virginia Clemm died of tuberculous in Poe Cottage which is in Fordham in the Bronx a few miles from the Garden. The replica is modest, a no frills structure which is a miniature facsimile of the real Poe Cottage. The Poes were impoverished for all of their marriage a terrific irony considering just one of Poe’s short handwritten letters brought in almost $100,000 at auction a few years ago.
I see that the New York Public Library (Stephen A Schwartzman building) is up front and center as it should be. The Fifth Avenue Manhattan library with the stentorian lions is under renovation and receiving technological updates that will be completed by 2020. I note that the Coney Island display is prominent with the Elephantine Colossus, Wonder Wheel (now a film of the same name by Woody Allen about Coney Island and gangsters), The Steeple Chase, Luna Park, the Cyclone (with moving parts) and more. These structures backdropped with waterfall and reflecting pools are encircled by sauntering trains lazily enjoying their pace in the 360 degree central showcase of the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. Last year they were in the Palms of the World Gallery.
As I appreciate the Elephantine Colossus so carefully and brilliantly created out of variously shaped gourds and other plant pieces, I consider Leslie Salka’s (Director of Applied Imagination whose creations we love) comments about the construction of the replica of the Elephant shaped hotel. The unusual structure was an example of the period’s novelty architecture, designed by James V. Lafferty to bring in tourists. The seven-story building, which served as a hotel, concert hall and amusement bazaar, stood above Surf Avenue from 1885 to 1896 when it burned down. Leslie decided they should include the hotel in the Coney Island display in memoriam of Topsy the female elephant who was electrocuted in Coney Island’s Luna Park in 1903.
Topsy’s demise had been all but forgotten until someone noted a film had been made of her electrocution and clips of it were included in a Ric Burns documentary about Coney Island. After Burns’ film the subject of Topsy’s death has been featured in popular culture and media and has been the subject of poetry, fiction, songs and journalist Michael Daly’s book about her. Contrary to belief there is no purported direct association of Topsy’s death at Luna Park with Thomas Edison. Though Edison did electrocute animals 15 years earlier during the War of Currents when he was attempting to demonstrate the dangers of alternating current, he was not responsible for Topsy’s death. The Elephantine Colossus replica is gorgeous and the backstory of Topsy’s life and death, the preservation of the film clip, and her rise to celebrity is a notable piece of history found in The Holiday Train Show if you enjoy digging deeper.
What I particularly appreciate about The Holiday Train Show is that there is something for everyone young and ancient. Children see the trains and love to hear and watch them. Adults see the history, and depending upon their day and mood go deep or gloss over the displays. No one sees all of it during each visit. If you glean 20% of the entire production which pays homage to history, trains, New York, the five New York City boroughs and their landmarks interspersed fancifully throughout the Garden’s botanical kingdom, you will have walked away with a treasure.
The Show is overwhelming. So one may jaunt through it appreciating the overarching dazzling spectacle and briefly glance at the replicas, taking a few moments to identify the name of a particularly striking recreation. Or you may more closely observe, inspect and take a leisurely microscopic view of how each of the replicas was assembled ingeniously with twigs, varieties of flower and grain seeds, pine cones, stems, leaves, nut shells, acorn caps, pods, gourds, varieties of moss, mushrooms, flowers, herbs, spices and more.
And the trains? Use your phone video feature to capture the particularly cool passenger trains or trolleys flying over the Manhattan or Queensboro bridge high above your head. Most NYC bridges (five out of the nine) are featured. Or snap the cute novelty cars painted with butterflies or other insects trolling back and forth over the tracks. All of the trains are G-scale, whether ancient or modern, whether locomotives and freight cars or diesel engines, electrified passenger trains, trolleys and streetcars. There are over 25 full fledged train set ups clanging, whirling, zipping, steaming, chugging, purring and careening over 1/2 mile of track situated between rocks, over bridges and water features, through tree stump tunnels and under low hanging tree branches throughout the conservatory.
In the 3000 foot 360 degree display whose extension was added a few years ago, you’ll see a grand memorial to traindome. You’ll note various New York historical station replicas that are throwbacks to a time when travelers stayed at inns before they journeyed to relatives. These have since been torn down to make way for flat-looking, rectangular, unappealing buildings signifying what has been lost to progress. You will note Grand Central Station saved by Jacqueline Onassis and the magnificent station that developers couldn’t wait to get their grimy hands on, the Beaux Arts beauty, built in 1910, Pennsylvania Station. The Applied Imagination replica is a memorial to history, grand architectural effort that remains timeless though Penn Station itself was torn down in 1963. But there the miniature building stands for us to admire at The Holiday Train Show. Just consider that for a second or two.
The Palms of the World Gallery exhibit is the glorious conclusion that sends you out into the sterling night of stars if you go to Bar Car Nights (December 22, 23, 29, 30, January 6, 13) with a date, friends or are just slumming by yourself. Or if brushing by the palm fronds with goodbyes to Garden staff dressed as train engineers you slip from the tropical paradise into the bright, cold atmosphere and sunshine with a beaming smile on your face because the final exhibit is just…just. Well! You’ll have to go and see the show and come up with your own descriptors. Marvelous? Rising? Scintillating? Neat? Memorable? Illustrious?
It’s all of that and more as the display in the large reflecting pool glimmers and splits into double images which lengthen the buildings and set them skimming across the water. This segment in particular memorializes why Manhattan is its own tribute to itself: skyscraper-particular, iconic, architecturally astonishing, mesmerizing, glowing. Whether its Rockefeller Plaza, Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, the GE Building, the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, St. Bartholomew’s Church, this is what tourists, natives and even botanical adventurers love about New York City. Take some time to especially view the last four replicas listed here, all of which are new.
I was struck by the extravagant details and was rather gobsmacked at the illusion which is created in this gallery. These buildings effect their namesakes, but are built with completely organic, sustainable materials, unlike their reality of concrete, glass and steel. The effect will draw you in as you remember the essence of the Applied Imagination’s vision to set a monument to nature’s ineffable and infinite botanical variety and the wonder of at plants’ creative usefulness as building blocks for humans. Read that sentence again, to ken the full meaning. Heart!
There is no leaving the Palms of the World Gallery after the first minute of arrival. You leave when you receive the full effect of the display upon your senses and decide that The Holiday Train Show is a celebration of the best of who we can be as creators and lovers of nature’s bounty of which we are an integral part.
For all the intriguing programming during the Train Show, from the Evergreen Express and family events, Billy Collins poetry reading and more, go to the Garden website HERE. For BAR CAR NIGHTS, HERE. To learn about Paul Busse artistic visionary, founder and 25 year creator of Applied Imagination replicas and themes with his team click HERE.