For nature lovers, winter’s snow-white majesty can make it difficult to find your fill of greenery. Luckily, New York’s indoor gardens will satisfy anyone’s thirst for nature, even during the winter months. To break up your day of snow-capped sightseeing—and get a sneak peek reminder of the natural joys of springtime—plan a visit to one of these beloved indoor city gardens.
Ready to immerse yourself in a completely different landscape? The Central Park Zoo’s Tropic Zone is exactly as it sounds. Its protected animal exhibits are surprisingly effective in their ability to mimic the sights and sounds of the tropical rainforest. Admire the stunning variety of animals on display from the forest floor to the canopy, including a wide range of tropical birds, reptiles, insects, and a crowd-pleasing group of black-and-white lemurs.
Inside Ford Foundation’s headquarters on 43rd street (just a 17-minute cab ride from WestHouse) is an unexpected tropical greenhouse, home to magnolias, giant trees and garden terraces which slope down to mesmerizing pools of water. This garden, or greenhouse, thanks to the giant glass walls and ceilings, was built in 1967 and continues to be one of the main features of the charity’s New York headquarters. To sustain the plant life, rainfall is collected on the roof and added to the steam condensation inside the building to water the plants and fill the pools. If you’re a fan of sustainable architecture or tropical plant life, this indoor garden is a must-see.
Though the greenery incorporated into the Astor Chinese Garden Court is limited, the overall effect transports any visitor from their bustling city surroundings to a more tranquil and peaceful setting. Part of the museum’s permanent collection, this indoor court showcases the late Ming Dynasty’s architectural and artistic style—as well as their penchant for understated yet beautiful plant life.
The year-round display of exotic flora at the Steinhardt Conservatory is well worth the 30-minute subway ride down from WestHouse. Free with general garden admission, you’ll marvel at the plant and flower collection representative of tropical, desert and Mediterranean climates—and don’t miss the indoor waterfall!