If you want to see some of the most beautiful sites in New York City during the Spring months when Mother Nature truly works her magic then I would suggest going to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden to see Daffodil Hill and Magnolia Plaza.
The sign when entering Daffodil Hill in the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens
This is when everything is in full bloom during the early Spring. There is nothing like it and it is so breathtaking with a quiet elegance. On this clear and sunny Thursday afternoon, the gardens were quiet so I had plenty of time to take pictures and enjoy the beautiful views.
Daffodil Hill at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Hundreds of Trumpet Daffodils are in bloom on a hill just off the Japanese Gardens flanked by hundred-year-old trees and it just plays into the backdrop of the greens and browns of the trees and lawns. I can’t tell you on a beautiful sunny day how breathtaking it is just to sit and admire these elegant flowers. It really is a site to see.
Daffodil Hill in full bloom
I love the way these hundreds of flowers make such a beautiful statement and there is such a burst of colors between the yellows and oranges of the daffodil flowers. This only lasts for about two weeks and then the flowers hibernate again.
The side view of Daffodil Hill from the walkway
Daffodil Hill just off the Japanese Gardens
Daffodil Hill is right next to the Magnolia Plaza that was also in peak bloom when I was at the gardens. The trees of the Magnolia Plaza bloom the last week of March and these delicate trees petals do not last more than a week. When I got close enough to them to take pictures, I noticed that some of them were starting to curl already.
The area between Magnolia Plaza and Daffodil Hill
Not all the trees were in bloom yet but these delicate trees are very sensitive to the weather and I have noticed that the petals don’t last as long. Most of the trees were in full bloom but there was not much a smell to the trees. Still everyone was taking pictures in every direction between the Magnolia trees and Daffodil flowers.
The Magnolia Plaza in full bloom
The sign in the Magnolia Plaza
The edge of the Magnolia Plaza
The pathways in the afternoon
The Magnolia trees make such a bold and colorful statement
The array of colors in the Magnolia Plaza
The Magnolia Plaza facing Daffodil Hill in the distance
The Sundial in the middle of the Magnolia Plaza
After taking dozens of pictures of the Magnolia Plaza and Daffodil Hill, I walked over to the Rock Garden. There were not many flowers in bloom there yet as they come out later in the month. There was still an array of daffodils and a few crocuses still in bloom. The Rock Garden was quiet and perfect to walk around in as I had this part of the garden to myself.
The Rock Garden in the early Spring
The Rock Garden in the early afternoon
I headed to the northern part of the garden and visited the Japanese Gardens, where the cherry blooms started to bloom. These graciously landscaped gardens were created in the traditional Japanese form with a combination of trees and shrubs to balance the garden.
Entering the Japanese gardens from the path
The Japanese Gardens pool with traditional buildings
The Japanese Gardens in the early Spring
Before I left the gardens for the afternoon, I stopped in the gift shop and looked around. They have some wonderful things to buy including a section of Brooklyn made products. There is also an array of plants, books and decorative products to buy.
The Gift Shop at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens
The Brooklyn made products and book selection at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens
After my visit to the gardens, I stopped at Bahn Mi Place at 824 Washington Avenue for lunch. I had one of their classic Bahn Mi sandwiches with ham and pate on a chewy hard roll. The food here is consistently good and their sandwiches are excellent.
You have to order the sandwich with a Medium spicy sauce. It adds to the complexity
The sandwiches are excellent. The flavors of the fresh vegetables and meats with the spicy sauce makes complex flavor. The bread is fresh and chewy and don’t be fooled by the size of the sandwich. It is larger than I thought and very filling. See my review on both TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com.
I took my lunch and ate on the steps near the Brooklyn Museum and just enjoyed the afternoon. I people watched and enjoyed the cool, sunny weather. It was nice to escape from classes for a couple of hours and just relax and not think about school or work. It has again become a bit stressful between the two but I will handle everything.
I look forward to this time in the gardens and is one of the reasons why I keep my membership. I love to look at the hundreds of daffodils in bloom and watching as they sway in the wind and just want to look beautiful. It is the most amazing site every Spring.
The Prospect Park Zoo is one of my ‘go to’ places along with the Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Botanical Garden when visiting Brooklyn. The three popular destinations are all in the same neighborhood and if you have a full day is worth the subway ride from Manhattan to visit.
On a nice day, the best place to start is the Brooklyn Botanical Garden at opening, then head over through the back part of the garden to Prospect Park and walk to the entrance near Flatbush Avenue and go past the carousel and enter the Zoo past the old Leffert’s Homestead. The Zoo is just past that.
The best part of the Prospect Park Zoo is that like the Central Park Zoo it is small enough to see in one day and be able to enjoy the exhibitions in one afternoon and still have time for lunch.
The main focus of the zoo when you walk through the gates is the seal tanks. These playful animals spend most of their time swimming around or sunning themselves on a warm day. During the feeding schedule, it is interesting to see how they interact with the trainers.
Walking further into the zoo you will walk past the Hall of Animals, where all the smaller animals and amphibians like frogs, snakes and turtles are located. These are a lot of fun for the smaller children who may not see these things in their backyards or even in the parks anymore.
Beyond that is the Barn, where your horses and cows are located and they even have a pair of turkeys, which makes for interesting conversation for children who wonder where they come from at Thanksgiving. The turkeys here are more bred than the wild ones you will see in the woods.
Next to the Hall of Animals is the Animal Lifestyle exhibition where a lot of the gorillas and monkeys are located. It is funny to watch their mannerisms and see ourselves and out behaviors in them. I guess a couple of thousand years never really separated us that much and we still are a lot alike.
From there you will take the Discovery Trail to see more familiar animals that you might see in every day nature such as deer, foxes, porcupines, ducks and geese in a more natural habitat where they can roam free. The space is limited but they look a lot happy to move around than some of the other animals.
All trails lead back to the Seal Tanks where the popular feeding time gathers a crowd and you will see the care that many of the trainers and zoo keepers give to their residents. There is a lot of love for these animals that is given and I can see a lot of respect.
A trip to the snack shop and gift shops at the zoo are expensive and cater to the tourists. They are not as nicely merchandised as the Bronx Zoo or the Central Park Zoo. Still they are fun to visit once or twice.
The Prospect Park Zoo is still a nice afternoon out for families and a nice way to communicate with nature.
The History of the Prospect Park Zoo:
The Prospect Park Zoo is a 12 acre zoo located in Prospect Park, Brooklyn and as of 2016 houses 864 animals. The zoo was originally part of the plan of Prospect Park as a “Zoological Garden” in the western part of the park. The zoo was not part of the finished plan in the park in 1874 by designers Fredrick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux.
The park design included a Wild Fowl Pond in the northern part of the park that was stop off for water birds and a Deer Paddock in the southern part of the zoo where deer lived in a penned area.
In the 1890’s, gardens were created for park enjoyment and a informal Menagerie was created by the Brooklyn Parks Commission, George V. Brower, when the donation of small bear, white deer, seven seals, a cow and twelve peacocks came into the possession of the park.
In 1934, Parks Department head Robert Moses set a plan to reconstruct the City’s Parks and under the Works Progress Administration started to revamp the park system. In March of that year architect Aymar Embury II set to design the new zoo with six new buildings and centered by a Seal Pool.
By the 1970’s, the zoo faced disrepair and was neglect for the animals. It was considered one of the worst zoo’s in the country according to the press and finally in 1980, the Koch Administration signed a 50 year agreement with the NY Zoological Society, now called the Wildlife Conservation Society, which was also administrating the Central Park and Queens Zoo.
The park closed in 1988 for a five year, 37 million dollar renovation that gutted all the pits and cages but saved the historic buildings and statuary. The new zoo opened in 1993 with a new name, “The Prospect Park Wildlife Conservation Center” and a philosophy of educating children. The zoo along with the Queens Zoo have had some shortfalls in the past but have the full support of the Society and the public since the early 2000’s. Still the zoo remains popular with families from all over Brooklyn and the world.
(This information is provided by Wiki and the Wildlife Conservatory website and I give them both full credit for the information)
I have visited the Lefferts Historic House a few times when visiting the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, The Brooklyn Museum and the Prospect Park Zoo, all of which are in the same cultural district of the neighborhood. The house is located near the entrance of Prospect Park just behind the Brooklyn Botanical Garden and right next to the zoo and the carousel.
The house sits on a plot of the park to give it the look of the house when it sat in a rural setting in Brooklyn about twelve blocks away. When walking into the house, there are a few rooms that are furnished and have period pieces in them to show what the house must have looked like in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. Most of the house is used for touring and for groups doing projects and games. You can’t go upstairs anymore. The house will be going through a renovation soon so watch the website for more information on that.
The historic objects of the house
The outside of the house has wooded grounds with a working garden, an outside oven and historic objects that bring the period back to tourists and residents alike of what life must have been like when it was a working farm. When in season, you can walk amongst the vegetable and flower gardens and talk to the docents about the history of the house.
The house is part of the Historic House Trust and part of the Prospect Park Alliance.
History of the Lefferts Historic House:
The Lefferts family was one of the original settlers in Brooklyn with Lefferts Pieterson buying 58 acres of land here in 1687 and built the original homestead on that property. In 1776, the house was destroyed by American troops before the Battle of Brooklyn so that the British could not use it. The house was rebuilt in 1783 by one of his descendants (Prospect Park Alliance).
The current house was the home of Continental Army Lieutenant Pieter Lefferts and was built in 1783. It was originally located on Flatbush Avenue near Maple Street. When Pieter died the house was passed onto his son, John and then when John passed, the house was inherited by his daughter, Gertrude Lefferts Vanderbilt. The house was lived in by four generations of the Lefferts family.
With impending development of the area around the house at the end of the 19th century, John Lefferts estate offered to donate it to the City on the condition that house be moved to City owned property for historic preservation and protection. It was opened as a museum in 1920 by the Fort Green Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (Wiki).
The house is currently used as a Children’s Museum and Cultural site and open year round.
I have been a member of the Brooklyn Botanical Garden since 2002 and have never been bored on a trip to the gardens. In every season there is something new to see.
On a recent trip to the Gardens in 2021, the Garden was ablaze with the colors of almost a thousand purple crocuses that lined the hills on the Prospect Park side of the lawns. Beautiful purple and while colors were in full bloom and Mother Nature shined in the COVID era with all of us socially distanced but still enjoying the park.
Crocus Hills ablaze in purple in 2021
In the beginning of the Spring, Daffodil Hill is in full bloom and is a very impressive site. Hundreds of trumpet Daffodils line the hill of this side of the gardens surrounding the old oak trees.
Daffodil Hill in the Spring of 2023
There are fields of yellow on yellow and yellow on orange flowers surrounding the paths against the backdrop of the green lawns. The whole hill is a sea of yellows and whites against the trees which are bursting with new buds. This beautiful scene lasts only about a week to two weeks at full bloom in the first weeks of April.
Daffodil Hill in Spring 2023
Daffodil Hill with the Magnolia Plaza in the background
Magnolia Plaza where all the old flowering Magnolia trees bloom in full force in the Spring. The bright white and pink flowers are quite brilliant in colors and the sweet smell of the trees is wonderful. All the trees were just bursting with colors of pink, mauve and white.
Magnolia Plaza in the Spring of 2023
When it comes to the end of the season, you will be walking into a snow shower of colorful petals practically ‘snowing’ on you. You can smell the sweet petals on the flowering trees, and it is the most amazing site with the daffodils on the hill in the background. The scents of everything are just enjoyable. It is Mother Nature at her best.
The beauty of the Magnolia trees in the Magnolia Plaza
The next beautiful display is the Cherry Blossoms’ that bloom at the end of April. It is ablaze in all sorts of shades of pink and white. It brings the whole city out to see Mother Nature’s display of art.
The Cherry Blossoms Esplanade in 2023
The big Japanese festival happens during this time and the park is full of all sorts of artists, dancers and musicians who have come to perform for the many members entering the park.
The Cherry Blossoms in 2023
The Cherry Blossoms were just blooming in April of 2023
In 2021, the growing season on the Cherry Trees was hit with many days of rain that knocked the petals off the trees early. Still, I was able to get into the gardens by the end of the first week of May and they were still spectacular but limited in their petals. There are many species of Cherry Trees, so they are timed differently in flowering.
The Cherry Blossoms in the Japanese Gardens in Spring 2023
In 2022, the fluffy cherry blossoms were in full bloom, like a graceful wish. When I went to visit them in early May, they were in full bloom and all the paths in the main garden were awash with pink and green. With the lawn being a deep green, the effect was really beautiful, and people were all over the place taking pictures and smelling the flowers.
I had to walk through the main lawn, the Japanese Garden and the back paths several times just to take it all in. The next rainstorm they would be gone again but for now you could bask in these gorgeous blossoms.
The Japanese Gardens in Spring 2023
The Japanese Garden in the Spring of 2023
When the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is in full bloom with these trees, there is nothing like it. The Japanese Festival had been cancelled and the blooms in Washington DC had bloomed two weeks early and Branch Brook Park in Newark had already peaked so this is where to be at to see Cherry Trees at their finest.
In 2023, the Cherry Blossoms in the gardens were the last ones to bloom behind both Washington DC and Newark, NJ. The species that is dominate in the gardens are the last to bloom and the big pink fluffy flowers were just sprouting in April of 2023.
The bluebells were blooming at the same time and showed their beauty in the gardens just as the trees started to sprout their buds. It was natures way of welcoming in the Spring. It is amazing to see all of this knowing that I was just in the gardens five months ago walking through the Christmas Light Show.
The Bluebells and Ironweed are in full bloom in April 2023
Right off the Cherry Tree Arcade is the paths leading to the back part of the gardens and you will see all the purple and blue Bluebells and Ironweed as well as the purple corn flowers lining the paths. It is quite spectacular as you see hundreds of these flowers surrounding the trees and walkways. I had never seen this before.
In June, The Rose Garden festival takes place with hundreds of types of roses blooming in the same time period. This is when the members Rose Night happens with an evening of music, cocktails and looking over the flowering bushes all over the gardens. They even create a Rose Petal cocktail for the event that is interesting.
Recently in May of 2021, the Garden sponsored “An Evening of Remembrance and Reflection” with the anniversary of the George Floyd incident and New Yorkers came out to show their support. It was an evening of jazz that brought members out on this warm spring evening. It also gave everyone a chance to walk through the Cranford Gardens which were in full bloom and perfumed the gardens with sweet scents of the flowers. There were roses of all colors in full bloom about two weeks ahead of schedule. So it was nice to see all the flowers at full peak lining the pathways.
Rose Garden Rose Night in 2017 and at “An Evening of Remembrance and Reflection” in 2021
In July 2021, as the Gardens have opened to the public since the COVID pandemic rules have lifted, there have been weekly Jazz Concerts in the Cherry Tree lawn. Recently I attended the concert of the Brownstone Jazz Ensemble who performed with a few guest singers. It was a cool sunny summer night and the perfect evening to have a picnic in the Gardens and enjoy the music.
Becoming a member of the Brooklyn Botanical Garden has its advantages too. In August, in the height of the summer they have the member’s movie night where members from all over the area sit in the Cherry Blossom field to watch an outdoor movie. I have seen family films “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”, “The Goonies”, “Moonstruck” and “The Fabulous Mr. Fox” (which was not too fabulous of a film). It is a nice evening of relaxing on the cool grass, eating a light picnic dinner and sitting under the stars watching a film. Could there be any other New York moment to enjoy?
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was the best film in the gardens
The Fall months bring the changing of the leaves on the trees and all the late flowers that come out in September and October. During the holiday season there is not much to see in the park, especially during the winter months outside but there is a tropical display under glass in the enclosed buildings on the property and the Bonsai Garden display of plants also in the glassed in enclosure. There are lots of walking tours of the new water gardens, rock gardens and of the Japanese Gardens.
The Japanese Gardens at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden
In the winter months though, there is a quiet elegance to the gardens. It is so quiet with all the plants in hibernation that it is nice to just walk through the gardens and imagine what they will look like in four months when Spring arrives again. Most of the gardens were shut due to COVID in December of 2020 but still you could walk around most of the gardens.
The Rock Garden in the Spring 2023
The Rock Garden at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens
The robin’s arrival in the garden means that Spring in on its way
Don’t miss the Japanese Garden’s during the winter months as the pine trees and green bushes add a little Spring to the cold months of the Winter. There is still so much green in this area of the gardens. There is something to be said about walking around the gardens in the cool weather.
The Cherry blossoms as you enter the Japanese Gardens
The complexity of the gardens show their true beauty from season to season when flowers and trees come into bloom and show their true beauty.
The beauty of the Spring at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens
Being a member also has it privileges. You have a great restaurant in the late Spring and Summer months, the Magnolia Cafe, which has been closed because of COVID but will reopen soon. The Cherry Blossom Festival and Rose Garden Nights for members and the August Movie night which is really a treat. Hundreds of people picnicking on the lawn watching family friendly films like ‘The Goonies’ and ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’.
The gift shop at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens
The Lightshow in December 2022
The Lightshow in December of 2022
The Japanese Gardens during the Lightshow in December 2022
This is when it is great to be a member of the Gardens!
History of the Brooklyn Botanical Garden:
Early plans for Prospect Park called for the park to straddle Flatbush Avenue. The City of Brooklyn purchased the land for this purpose in 1864. When Fredrick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux brought their final plans to the city for approval in the 1860’s, they had eliminated the problematic decision along Flatbush. The northeast portion went unused, serving as an ash dump (WIKI).
Legislation in 1897 as the city moved toward consolidation reserved 39 acres for a botanical garden and the garden itself was founded in 1910. The garden was initially know as the Institute Park. It was run under the auspices of the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, which included (until the 1970’s) the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Children’s Museum and Brooklyn Academy of Music. It opened as the Brooklyn Botanical Garden on May 13, 1911 with the Native Flora Garden being the first established section (WIKI).
Harold Caparn was appointed as the landscape architect in 1912. Caparn designed most of the rest of the grounds over the next three decades, including the Osborne Gardens, Cranford Rose Garden, Magnolia Plaza and the Plant Collection. Construction of the Laboratory Building and Conservatory began in 1912 and the building was dedicated in 1917. The building-now simply the Administration Building-was designed in the Tuscan Revival style by William Kendal for McKim, Mead & White, the architectural firm that built the Brooklyn Museum, Manhattan Municipal Building and many other prominent New York City buildings. It was designated a New York City Landmark in 2007 (WIKI).
The cherry blossoms starting to bloom
The Magnolia trees in full bloom in 2023
The Specialty Gardens & Collections include:
The Cherry Trees
Japanese Hill-Pond Collection
Cranford Rose Garden
Native Flora Garden
Alice Recknagel Ireys Fragrance Garden
The Water Garden in April 2023
The Water Garden in April 2023
Plant Family Collection:
The Bonsai Collection
The Bonsai Collection
The Bonsai Collection
The Reflection pool by the Steinhardt Conservatory
The Garden Fountain
The Lion Fountain
The beautiful tulips in bloom by the reflection pool
The magnificent Fish Fountain by the reflection pool
Fighting Developers trying to build around the gardens perimeters:
Fight For Sunlight!
Text Sunlight to 484848 to help protect Brooklyn’s Garden from new buildings that would block vital sunlight to our plants.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Fight for Sunlight!
Brooklyn Botanical Garden’s Fight for Sunlight!
Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s plant collections are under serious threat from a proposed massive building development including two 39 story towers at 960 Franklin Avenue (the spice factory site) just 150 ft from the Garden.
The buildings for the ‘Fight for the Sunlight’ proposal (The proposal was struck down in 2022!)
Towers of this size would block hours of sunlight to the Garden’s 23 conservatories, greenhouses and nurseries. These facilities grow plants for the entire 52 acre Garden and serve as a hub for community and educational programs.
Current zoning protects the Garden’s access to sunlight by capping building height at this location. These laws must remain in place to prevent irreparable damage to the Garden. Join us in signing a petition to City officials to protect the integrity and beauty of Brooklyn’s Garden.
Three ways to take Action!
Enroll in mobile updates by texting SUNLIGHT to 484848. We’ll text you new ways to get involved and important upcoming campaigns dates.
Sign the Garden’s petition at bbg.org/sunlight urging elected officials to protect the irreplaceable assets of Brooklyn Botanic Garden and oppose high-rise construction at this location. While you’re there, opt in to receive campaign updates so you can make sure your voice is heard on this issue.
Check out our Fight for Sunlight exhibit in the Conservatory to learn more about this project and why it has to be stopped. Share your support on social media using #FightFor Sunlight to tag your photos taken at the Garden.
Magnolia Plaza and Daffodil Hill in Spring 2023
Disclaimer: Please call the Brooklyn Botanical Garden for more information on the gardens. The “Fight for the Light” campaign can be found online and on the Garden’s website for more information.