The grounds and gardens of Wave Hill—a secluded oasis spread out over 28 acres in the northwest corner of the Bronx—are spectacular year-round, but in the summer they look particularly vibrant and lush. For fans of flowers, trees, plants, sweeping views, forest bathing, and serenity, there's really no other place quite like it anywhere in or around the city. Here's everything you need to know before heading there.
WAVE HILL THE MTA WAY
The easiest, most relaxing way to get here is to hop on a Metro-North train at either Grand Central or 125th Street in Harlem, from which it's a straight (and quite scenic) shot up the Hudson to the Riverdale station.
MTA Away Deal: We have a year-round Wave Hill package that includes discounted round-trip rail and admission.
Once you've stopped admiring the view from the Riverdale platform, you can walk to the gardens--it takes about 15 minutes. Note: There's a pretty steep hill at the start, but the Bronx neighborhood's startlingly quiet, mansion-lined streets are a delight to stroll through. You could also take one of Wave Hill's free shuttle buses, which run every hour from the Metro-North station.
The subway will also get you close. Just take the 1 train to the last stop at Van Cortlandt Park and grab the free Wave Hill shuttle bus in front of the Burger King at West 242nd Street. If MTA buses are more your thing, the BXM1 and the BXM2 express lines will get you up there from the east and west sides of Manhattan, respectively. More locally, take the BX7 or BX10 buses--the Wave Hill stop for all buses is at 252nd Street and the Henry Hudson Parkway, then it's a six-minute walk to the front gate.
GROUNDS & GARDENS
There are more than 4,000 varieties of herbaceous plants, trees, shrubs, and vines packed into Wave Hill's 28 acres, a truly remarkable collection that gives credence to the garden's claim of being a "museum without walls." But you don't need to know anything about horticulture or landscape design, or even the name of a single tree or flower to appreciate this place, as even the most aimless wandering around the grounds offers lovely sights and surprises at every turn.
The Pergola, with its nifty framing of the Hudson and Palisades, is loaded with tropical and annual container plantings this time of year. Nearby, at the Marco Polo Stufano Conservatory (technically a "glasshouse"), you'll find an astonishing array of plant life, including Wave Hill's collection of over 1,100 cacti and succulents.
The Aquatic and Monocat Gardens add a nice bit of drama to your journey around the grounds (the inky water hints at secrets, are there frogs lurking around in there?), and the Wild Garden, located on a hillside and flush with flowers, hides a charming carved-wood bench and gazebo that's been around since 1910.
There's even a series of forested trails to explore, in what's called the Herbert and Hyonja Abrons Woodland. You won't get lost--everything's well marked, if discreetly so--but you will feel like you've stumbled into some magical land that’s outside of NYC, yet somewhat unbelievably isn’t.
After you've finished your adventures, there are plenty of comfortable wooden chairs scattered about the lawns, and shady spots to place them if you want to chat with a friend, read, or even doze off.
Please note that Wave Hill does not allow blankets to be spread out in the lawns, or outdoor chairs that you brought from home, or recreational games like frisbee. This place is a garden, not a park – so be prepared to just soak up the surroundings.
ARTS & EDUCATION
There are several indoor areas open to the public, used for art exhibitions and Wave Hill's many educational programs. Wave Hill House, the gray fieldstone mansion constructed in 1843 that anchors the estate, is home to classrooms and studios, and Glyndor House, an impressive building in its own right, is where you'll find the dedicated art gallery space.
The current exhibition at Glyndor, which runs through the end of August, is called Water Scarcity: Perpetual Thirst, and features works that examine how the lack of clean drinking water for billions of people is linked with many other issues, such as food insecurity, land rights, and the planet's ongoing refugee crisis.
Wave Hill partners with several local schools for their educational efforts, but there are some more casual, drop-in classes available for visitors. The Family Art Project, for example, is a free workshop held every Saturday and Sunday either inside Wave Hill House, or on the lawn out front, with lots of supplies and guidance from a team of interns.
FOOD & DRINK
The Café, located within Wave Hill House, features indoor dining areas as well an expansive, tented patio out back. This is a counter service restaurant operated by Great Performances, a Bronx-based catering company, and you'll find hearty salads, burgers, brisket sandwiches, and some impressively loaded-up hot dogs on the menu , with everything is reasonably priced. Beer and wine is available as well.
You can also bring your own picnic to Wave Hill, but remember: no blankets allowed on the lawns. You'll be able to find plenty of other areas to settle in for lunch though. For example, grab one of the dedicated picnic tables near Glyndor House, which come complete with shade umbrellas.
15 minute walk from the Metro-North Riverdale station, or take the free shuttle bus. You can also take the 1 train.
Wave Hill is located at 4900 Independence Ave in the Bronx and is open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Admission: $10 (Adults), $6 (Students & Seniors 65+), $4 (Children 6+), free to members. (You can also save money with our MTA Away Deal.) More details at wavehill.org.
If you head to Wave Hill, tag us in your photos on social media: @MTAaway