Bar Car Nights: Sip Under the Stars at the Holiday Train Show


With so much to do this holiday season, all the festivities can leave you frazzled. Whatever happened to the good old days, when Christmas was mostly about playing with toys? In that respect, the New York Botanical Garden has come to save the day. On a track that fills the entire conservatory, the most massive holiday train show you’ve ever seen has shrunk the city – every bridge and landmark – down to a whimsical model train exhibit that you could look at for hours. Naturally, this has family day written all over it, but the NYBG folks have also set aside some time for those who are only young at heart to check out the fantastical display without being run over by overstimulated toddlers. Better still, they’ve come up with a pretty ingenious way to do it while staying on-theme with Bar Car Nights, a series of 21+ evenings featuring music, art demonstrations, and–you guessed it–cocktails. Bring a date and let the zaniness of the holidays calm down (for tonight, at least) as you sip and swoon over Gotham in miniature.

For the past 23 years, designer Paul Busse has recreated all of New York inside the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory in miniature, using only plant bits. Concrete, brick, and metal are subbed out for twigs, leaves, and magnolia seeds. Thousands of tiny lights dot all the trees and plants, as if a child with all the creativity in the world was left to run amok – and the results are dazzling.

Warm up with a few sips of your complimentary cocktail before taking your date by the hand – you class act, you – and enter Busse’s magical little world. Your date spots a tiny St. Patrick’s Cathedral done entirely in sticks and greenery. Duck under the Brooklyn Bridge, scaled across the walking path, and snap a selfie in front of Radio City Music Hall, its red-letter sign made of radish seeds. Train cars zip past waterfalls and through tunnels, evoking childhood memories with each twist and turn.

After seeing the Holiday Train Show, your night isn’t over yet. Enjoy a soothing jazz set at The Pine Tree Café and snack on roasted chestnuts (the only thing missing is the open fire). Across the way, an ice carver sets a penguin free from a huge frozen block. Finally, feel the heat of Cirque de Light’s whimsical fire and light performances.

After a night of simple pleasures – surprising miniatures, live music – you head outside to gaze across 250 acres of winter wonderland. The gardens are open to you as well, and they’re perhaps their prettiest under the moonlight, in the company of your sweetheart.

Mastercard cardholders can take advantage of exclusive early entry to Bar Car Nights with a pre-party glass of champagne inside the NYBG’s Shop in the Garden. Visiting during the day with the family? Enjoy 10% off Holiday Train Show tickets, which include an all-garden pass.

Follow the Priceless Cities blog on Twitter.

New York Botanical Gardens

2900 Southern Boulevard Bronx NY 10458

(718) 817-8700

Get Directions

Our writers' favorites

- Enter Your Location -
- or -