There’s a New York holiday tradition that many tourists miss because it is off the beaten track and located in the borough of the Bronx (gasp!).

The Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Gardens is now in its 23rd year having started in 1992.  Really charming for young and old, it shows all the New York City landmarks recreated in bark, leaves, nuts, dried fruit and other natural materials.  The show is located inside the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory.

train at the new york holiday train show

There are about 150 buildings including some of the older buildings which made way for the new skyscrapers.

Senator Clark house on fifth avenue

Senator Clark House, located at Fifth Avenue and 77th Street. Built in 1904, demolished 1927.

More than a dozen trains whizz along the quarter mile track alongside these buildings through tunnels and overhead bridges.

washington bridge holiday train show

My children had the best time identifying mini versions of their favourite New York landmarks.

radio city music hall

Radio City Music Hall

New York city public library train show

New York City Public Library

My son’s favourite was the replica of JFK Airport complete with a little Concorde, the famous TWA Saarinen building and a runway.

JFK airport holiday train show

My favourite part was seeing the faithful recreation of the old mansions which were demolished.

vanderbilt mansion holiday train show

Detail from the roof of the Vanderbilt Mansion located at 660 Fifth Avenue, demolished in 1926

New York City would have looked so different in the 19th century with these ornate mansions lining the streets instead of the sleek glass and steel skyscrapers we are used to seeing today.  I did wonder why so many of the landmarks featured were older or demolished buildings.  Perhaps skyscrapers don’t look as good in twigs and bark because these botanical mini-buildings are really all about the detail.

Details: The New York Botanical Gardens is incredibly easy to get to from Manhattan.  The easiest way to get there is the Metro North Railroad from Grand Central Station to Botanical Garden Station which takes 20 minutes and is right across the street from the Botanical Gardens.  If you are driving, there is a handy car park located near the Botanical Garden Station.  The show is incredibly popular with New Yorkers and so I would advise you to get tickets beforehand.  Tickets are on timed admission so that you won’t have to stand around in the cold.  Let’s face it, there’s only so much outside fun you can have in a botanical garden on a cold winter’s day with young children in tow.