By Jessica Allen
To many people, the Bronx conjures the most urban of images. But the truth is that this bustling borough boasts some outstanding natural features, from a meandering river to a public park so big it has not one, but two golf courses. Read on for our favorite natural attractions and greenspaces in the Bronx.
Bronx River Greenway
One Bronx River Parkway
Bronx, NY 10462
The Bronx River Greenway is an exciting project promising 23 miles of trails in Westchester County and the Bronx, stretching along the only freshwater river in all of New York City. Roughly 19 miles have thus far been rehabilitated and readied for biking, walking, running, and hiking; upon completion, the greenway will also link to oodles (not an official term) of parkland. What’s particularly astonishing is just how recently these areas were icky at best and dangerous at worst: the Bronx River Greenway speaks to the dedication of both concerned citizens and the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation.
2300 Southern Blvd.
Bronx, NY 10460
The largest metropolitan zoo in the United States, the Bronx Zoo features almost 650 species of animals, from the very large to the very small, the utterly ferocious to the absolutely cuddly, the truly exotic to the relatively commonplace. Spread across 265 acres of exhibitions, attractions, and wildlife habitats, the zoo takes visitors around the African Plains and the Congo, over to Madagascar, through the Himalayas, and into Asia. There’s a special Children’s Zoo too. You can hop an express bus from Madison Square Park or midtown. If you go, plan to spend the whole day—there’s just that much to see.
New York Botanical Garden
2900 Southern Blvd.
Bronx, NY 10458
A true jewel in the Bronx crown, the New York Botanical Garden features more than one million plants over 250+ acres. Said plants and acres are heightened by thoughtful exhibitions, such as one featuring the incredible glass sculptures of Dale Chihuly or another that replicated Frida Kahlo’s studio. NYBG refers to itself as “an iconic living museum;” such is the emphasis its curators place on education, conversation, conservation, and displaying botanicals, among them ferns, flowers, grasses, trees, and shrubs from around the world, at their very best. Expect to be impressed, expect to be awed.
Orchard Beach and Promenade
Bronx, NY 10464
Yup, it’s true: the Bronx has its very own beach. The 1.1-mile-long pubic beach was built as part of a project spearheaded by Robert Moses, using sand from landfills in the five boroughs and New Jersey. When it opened in 1936, the press immediately dubbed it the “Riviera of New York,” and more than 50,000 people showed up for opening weekend. Today you can shoot hoops, play volleyball, have a picnic, romp around two playgrounds, stroll the promenade, or simply soak up the sunny rays and salty sea air from Long Island Sound. You won’t believe you’re still within city limits.
Pelham Bay Park
Bronc County Line and Middletown Road
Bronx, NY 10464
Ask, and most folks will tell you that the largest park in New York City is Central Park—and they’d be wrong, wrong, wrong. The biggest park in the city is Pelham Bay. Just how big? This big: inside this lovely urban oasis could go three Central Parks. Nature abounds, as do tennis courts, riding and walking trails, and two golf courses. Perhaps our favorite thing to do, however, is to simply wander around and imagine what this area looked like when it was home to the Siwanoy, Dutch colonists, and the infamous Anne Hutchinson in the 17th century.
West 249th Street and Independence Avenue
Bronx, NY 10471
Wave Hill is the kind of magical place that makes you feel as if you’ve left the city’s hustle and bustle entirely. In truth, though, this 28-acre estate sits squarely in the Bronx, and looks out over the Hudson River to the Palisades just beyond. Here you can wander multiple landscaped gardens, including the flower garden, Abrons woodland, monocot garden, aquatic garden, and wild garden—designed to appear as if “planted by nature.” Check the website’s bloom guide before you go, to get a sense of what you’ll be able to see, smell, and admire. Just 30 minutes from Grand Central, Wave Hill makes the ideal destination for a lazy summer Friday.