For over a year, many Long Islanders have been suffering from cabin fever. But as spring advances, it’s time for a different kind of "fever" — one that can’t be experienced inside, no matter how palatial your home. Spring fever, of course!
It’s time to get outside and smell the roses — or lilacs, or hyacinths, or gardenias — at a well-tended public garden in New York State. A few are close by and make for a reinvigorating day trip. A couple are at a distance and perfect additions to a weekend getaway.
The following gorgeous parks are currently open. Most require advanced ticket purchase and are accessible on select days.
NY Botanical Gardens
Bronx, New York
The New York City Botanical Gardens is the granddaddy of New York blossoming parks. Not only is it one of the oldest in the United States, but it is also, at 250 acres, the largest city botanical garden in the country. In addition to buildings, flower beds, and arbors displaying more than a million plants, this institution is a hothouse for research and learning — offering hundreds of courses and programs for babies to seniors. $25 garden, $35 garden and gallery. Open Tues-Sun 10-6, Mon. Federal Holidays, timed tickets only.
Bronx, New York
At a fraction the size of the New York Botanical Garden (28 acres), and just 5 miles away, Wave Hill is an unexpectedly exquisite retreat. Perched over the Hudson River, with expansive views of the Palisades, you can wander beneath vined arbors, around a reflecting pool, and through rock gardens, always keeping the river in sight. Two fieldstone mansions, one that played host to FDR and Mark Twain, are now used for programming and events. Open Tues-Sun 10:00-5:30, $10 entrance fee, $13 parking fee. Timed tickets only.
Untermeyer Park and Gardens
Yonkers, New York
Walk through the gated entrance of what appears to be a medieval castle wall into a Persian courtyard overlooking the shimmering Hudson River. Have we time-traveled back to the ancient world? Here, iconic columns and statuary stand over burbling canals in miniature. A long intricate mosaic staircase leads down nearly to the river’s edge. Quite unbelievably, this serving of Mediterranean majesty is in Yonkers — and visitors can enjoy it for free. . Open daily 9am-6pm. Free to enter, but advanced timed tickets required Friday-Sunday.
Lasdon Park and Arboretum
Katonah, New York
Suffice it to say that even many locals don’t know about this Westchester County treasure. And, at 234 acres, that’s a large tract of land to overlook. Guests can wonder miles of trails through specialized tree and plant collections, around a pond to the ornamental pavilion at the Chinese Friendship Garden, on narrow paths through a child-thrilling Dinosaur Garden, and around rings of colorful plantings and central fountain in the 1-acre square Lasdon Memorial Garden. Open daily 8-4, free.
Northern Duchess, Millbrook
The landscape of this "cup garden," a gigantic bowl-shaped depression in the earth, is both playful and beguiling. Water features and sculptural elements amaze at every turn. Landscape designer Lester Collins used large slabs of rocks sourced on site as "punctuation marks" and "signposts" on trails and within groves of trees. "Kids especially love it here," says current landscape curator, Kate Kerin. Open Wed-Sun 10-5, $10 adults, $5 kids. Advance timed ticket purchase required.
Stay nearby at Troutbeck, a luxury retreat in Amenia. Or the boutique Inn at Pine Plains in Pine Plains.
Cornell University Botanic Gardens
Ithaca, New York
Voted Most Beautiful College Arboretum in the USA, Cornell University’s Botanic Gardens are worthy of the acclaim. Start near the new modern Welcome Center (closed at the covid-moment) to get your bearings in this 3,000-acre multisection linear park along two banks of Fall Creek. The Garden includes the 100-acre F.R. Newman Arboretum, Bebe Lake, Mundy Wildflower Garden, Herbal Garden with interpretive signage, ponds, sculpture, benches, overlooks, perennial gardens, 15 waterfalls, paved paths and 35 miles of hiking trails within Cornell University borders. Daily dawn to dusk, free.
Stay where the action is at the boutique-like Ithaca Marriott Downtown on the Commons.
Worth The Trip To Pennsylvania
Care to cross the state border into Pennsylvania? You’ll be rewarded with these two world-class gardens: one that sees more than a million visitors a year. And the other — a smaller, meditative, formerly private garden favored by Martha Stewart.
Kennett Square, Pennsylvania
There’s a lot going on, on the campus of one of the world’s most spectacular public gardens. The sprawling 1,100-acre Longwood Gardens is undergoing a $250 million "re-imagining," bringing more acreage under glass (17 acres), a 32,000-square-foot."Chrystal Palace" over water, a Bonsai court, Cascade Garden, Mediterranean-style, walks and canals, restaurants, and more. This is in addition to the incredible gardens established by Pierre DuPont in early 1900s that attract more than a million visitors a year. The plan is to create this new "cinematic visitor experience" by Fall 2024. Open Wed-Mon (closed Tues), 10-6. Timed tickets $25 adults, $13 kids.
At 35 acres, Chanticleer, opened to the public in 1993, is smaller and more intimate than Longwood Gardens, 20 miles away. But this former private estate of the aptly named Rosengarten family is a genuine "find" in a rural landscape of rolling hills, farms, and country homes. Martha Stewart, in fact, is a huge fan. In spring, the magnolia and cherry trees burst into various shades of pink, and 250,000 yellow daffodils sprout from the earth. Open Wed-Sun 10-5, $10, rsvp for parking required.