“Lots of people come to run here,” Jake, a park worker who’s taken out a map and is highlighting the best run routes, informs me. “There’s a 90 year old priest who comes here every day in those little shorts.” He chuckles, and adds, “You can’t quite call what he does ‘running,’ but it’s really aggressive walking.”
What Makes It Great
I can see why the priest decides to run the paved paths of the New York Botanical Garden nestled in the middle of the less-than-scenic Bronx. In July, the flowers are in full bloom and the park smells like summer. It’s hard to walk down the pathways, it’s tempting to (pardon the cliché) stop and smell the roses. With so many different types of flowers and trees, it’s a good thing the paved pathways are well-maintained, since it’s hard to focus on what’s right in front of you—there’s a riot of colors just begging to be stared at.
Running the outer loop is roughly a 5K, and the fastest way to bomb through a workout or quick run after a long day at work. Otherwise, take one of the many trails that zig-zag through the garden for a more leisurely run. Most of the roads are paved, but there are also some well-maintained trails.
The best part about the NYC Botanical Gardens, the guard at the gate tells me, is the security. Running along, especially as a woman, and especially on trails and smaller paved paths in the city, can be dangerous—especially if the only time she has to run is ultra-early, or late in the day as the sun is setting. That’s why the guard is so proud of the 150-man security team that keeps the gardens safe.
The Gardens aren’t cheap, admittedly, but they’re worthwhile—and free on Saturday mornings if you get there from 9-10 AM! Otherwise, it’s $13 per visit or $6 for students, but if you live in the area, it’s worth springing for the membership, $80 for unlimited visits plus two guest passes.
If you get there before opening hours, just walk down the block to the Webster Café—one of the few spots left in the City where you can score a full sit-down breakfast for under $7. The waitress will call you ‘honey,’ or if she really likes you, ‘bubellah,’ and the coffee won’t be anything to write home about, but the French toast will fill you up and the side of bacon will be oddly perfect. It’s a great stop before or after your run, especially if you need a break from the more upscale fancy food that you’ve found downtown.
Who is Going to Love It
You won’t make it through a run without pulling out your phone to capture a shot of the perfect lily, or the way the branches curve ‘just right’ on that tree, unless you really focus on keeping your head down. There are beautifully manicured gardens and forests that look like they’re out of a story book. But if you are after a serious run, it’s completely possible. The level of security at the park also makes it completely safe—or at least, as safe as a city run can possibly be.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
The NYC Botanical Gardens are located at 2900 Southern Boulevard in the Bronx.
The gardens are open year-round, though with shorter hours in the winter, and even normal hours are from 10 am to 6 pm (9 am opening on Saturdays) so late or early runners are out of luck when it comes to making this a regular spot.