Thursday, November 16, 2023

Sneak Peek: New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show® Brings Back the GLOW & Magic: How to Plan Your Visit


In the town so nice, they named it twice, it’s only fitting that there are no less than two Holiday shows at the New York Botanical Garden.

NYBG's Holiday Train Show® returns for its 32nd Year, with more model trains and an all-new outdoor display.

Night and Day: The incomparable show “leaves the station” Saturday, November 18, 2023. 

I suggest you get there as soon as you can. And you may want a return trip. Or two! 

Plus, there's the NYBG outdoor Light Experience, GLOW to dazzle your senses, galore, Friday, 11/17.

Here's what the magic is all about:



The Holiday Train Show features model trains zipping through a

miniature wonderland of nearly 200 New York landmark replicas, each delightfully re-created from natural materials such as leaves, seeds, twigs, bark, acorns, and cinnamon sticks with an all-new, 800 square foot enchanted woodland outdoor train display.  

Here, the story is to see the woodland where the artists seek their materials to create the show, featuring acorns, plants, and mushrooms, with trains weaving at your feet and above your head.  

You’ll be spinning in wonder.


Next stop on the Holiday express: after passing through food and drink pop up hosting local culinary delights,

You arrive in a kind of welcoming foyer of exuberant, white, decorative trees lit up and pointing the way to a grand preview or a teaser of the big show. 


Here are displays of even more iconic New York tourist spots, including the ferris wheels at Coney Island:

Grand Central Terminal:  

Penn Station:

Kykuit ~ The Rockefeller “cottage.”  

Some years ago I visited the grand estate with my parents, Virginia and George, and can assure you the design here is a fitting homage.

As are all the replicas.

You must stop and marvel at the details that go into the compositions.

It’s a series of “pinch-me” moments when you try to wrap your head around the magic of using plant parts to make this artful display, made by the Applied Imagination team.

Entering the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, the main pool embraces a select vista of some New York favorite building, the Bronx ferry (who knew?!), and Lady Liberty.  

Check out her torch made of pomegranate and robes of palm fronds.


Set within NYBG’s iconic glasshouse, the Holiday Train Show is renowned for its vignettes of G-scale model trains enlivening botanical replicas of such famous New York landmarks as Grand Central Terminal, Rockefeller Center, Radio City Musical Hall, the Apollo Theater, and many other favorites, all crafted by the creative team at Applied Imagination in Alexandria, Kentucky. 

American steam engines, streetcars from the late 1800s, and modern freight and passenger trains travel along overhead trestles, through tunnels, and

across soaring structures such as the Brooklyn Bridge and the George Washington Bridge.

Even long-time, hardened New Yorkers will find themselves as tickled as first-time tourists, beholden to the shimmering sites and glowing cityscapes. 

A New York Holiday “special” for sure, the tradition powers up new, fanciful experiences this year for kids of all ages. 

In addition to the exhilarating Train Show, you can feel the magic of NYBG’s festively illuminated landscape and historic buildings, along with beverages and

light fare available at one of NYBG’s outdoor bars and the Bronx Night Market Holiday Pop-Up and you can indulge in the Adults-Only Fan-Favorite Bar Car Nights*.

*Fan-favorite Bar Car Nights, for adults age 21 and over, on three select dates, Thursdays, December 7 and December 14, 2023, and Friday,January 5, 2024. Bar Car Nights feature adults-only nighttime viewing of the Holiday Train Show and NYBG GLOW, with light bites and curated beverages available for purchase as visitors journey through the exhibition with friends and loved ones.

NYBG GLOW will take place from 5 to 10 p.m. on the following dates: 

Friday, November 17;

Saturday, November 18; 

Friday, November 24; 

Saturday, November 25; 

Friday, December 1; 


Unique to the world of garden railways, Applied Imagination’s installations have garnered nationwide acclaim for over 30 years. Inspiring audiences of all ages through our inventive use of botanical materials to create iconic botanical models and sculptures, perfectly paired with universally beloved G scale model trains that transport visitors to an immersive celebration of the natural world.

These exhibitions and botanical artworks are created at their workshop located in the rolling hills of Alexandria, Kentucky just outside of Cincinnati, Ohio. Founder Paul Busse is retired and his artistic vision lives on, continuing to elevate through their inspired creative team under the direction of Paul’s daughter, Laura Busse Dolan.

Laura told me that the story behind the new, outside display was that she and her team wanted to create “an enchanted woodland experience with these oversized plant sculptures and animals to tell the story of how we harvest these material to create the heart of the holiday train show ~ so that we celebrate the the forest and nature to create these architectural landmarks. “


Tickets for the Holiday Train Show, NYBG GLOW, and Bar Car Nights are on sale now at

Also noteworthy is the fun and education signage. 


The exhibition will include interpretive signage that explores some of the plants used to create the Holiday Train Show replicas. The signage will link to exclusive content in the Bloomberg Connects app that tells these plant stories, using preserved plant specimens from NYBG’s William and Lynda Steere Herbarium, the largest plant research collection in the Western Hemisphere, with nearly eight million specimens. The Holiday Train Show signs draw a connection between The New York Botanical Garden’s cherished annual exhibition and its

Plant Research and Conservation program.

And for heaven’s sake, please be sure to stop and take in all the plants that grace the exhibits.  I saw ferns, hellebores, camellias, orchids, cyclamen, conifers, poinsettias, moss, and more amidst the twinkling lights. 

How many more can you and your plant posse ID?


For the Children Especially

During their visit, children can enjoy a Holiday Train Show Treasure Hunt through the Bloomberg Connects app and as part of the Evergreen Express Winter Activity Guide, a colorful booklet that will inspire them to explore the collections of plants growing at The New York Botanical Garden. The guide features tools and ideas to engage their senses and spark their curiosity and imagination.

Enjoy this glorious Holiday New York tradition.  It will leave you glowing…



  1. It truly is spectacular. I saw it for the first time many years ago. Have seen it many times since. Always seeing something I missed. Thanks Leeann for a wonderful visit to see it again.

    1. Thank you so much ~ the Holiday Train Show indeed has that twinning charm of giving us the traditional look we love while always adding something new to delight us. I'm so glad you enjoyed the sneak peek here! You will love your visit this year! Happy Holidays.

  2. Great event. The level of detail is absolutely amazing.

    1. Thank you very much! I am a very visual observer and also very curious ~ and I always look to include the details in my writing reviews. I'm so thrilled you acknowledge and appreciate that dedication to give you that abundance of characteristics to paint the full picture xox