New York City has so many unique experiences, but I never thought I’d find myself taking a Sunday stroll through a country estate. Wave Hill is a 28-acre public garden and cultural center in the Bronx that overlooks the Hudson River and the Palisades. Originally built in 1843 as a country home, it was later rented by notable NYC tenants like Theodore Roosevelt and Mark Twain. In 1960, it was given to the city to be used as an institution for the advancement of art and nature. And what a gift! With the rolling hills, gorgeous landscaping and breathtaking views, this is a beautiful way to spend the afternoon with the family.
We decided to venture out to Wave Hill for Father’s Day this year. We drove our car, but it’s also a straight subway ride on the 1 train to 242nd street, where a Wave Hill shuttle picks up passengers every hour. After parking the car, we meandered through a path that led us to a giant pergola with unbelievable views and gorgeous flowers. My 5-year-old and his 7-year-old cousin took off running through the expansive green rolling hills. The view itself would have been worth the trip, but we had more to see, and we rounded up the kids and herded them towards the Wave Hill House for lunch.
The cafe serves delicious, casual fare like fresh tuna salads or croque monsiers on weekends (during the week they also offer a high tea service), with plenty of options for children like chicken fingers and macaroni and cheese. We carried everything out to the verandah, which must be the most beautiful outdoor seating at any restaurant in New York. We gave the fathers gifts, drank tiny bottles of Prosecco and pretended for an hour that we were vacationing in an Italian vineyard. After fueling up, we headed down the path in front of us, for a half mile walk through the woodlands. Rustic benches and gazebos dotted the way, and the kids led the march, pointing out mushrooms and birds along the way. Eventually we came up to the gallery building, where we stepped into the air conditioning to see one of Wave Hill’s continuous art shows which showcase nature themes. Continuing onward, we discovered hidden shaded nooks, an herb garden and a conservatory full of tropical plants. The kids played hide and seek in the aquatic garden, a formal flower bed surrounding a shallow pool full of koi fish. The only thing we didn’t find in time was the weekly kid’s art programming, but this gives us a reason to return.
At last when we were truly tired, we made a last stop at the gift shop, where I bought some botanical tea towels and chocolates for the kids. Although there were many other families there with us, the expanse of the grounds kept the experience feeling personal to our family, like discovering our own Downton Abbey.
Wave Hill: West 249th Street and Independence Avenue (main entrance), Bronx NY. Hours: March 15- October 31: Tuesday – Sunday: 9am-5:30pm Admission: $8 adults; $4 students & seniors; $2 children 6+; free to members and children under 6. Parking: $8/ vehicle onsite, offsite parking is free with complimentary shuttle. Subway: 1 train to 242nd Street. A free shuttle goes 10 minutes past every hour from 9:10am- 3:10pm in front of Burger King on the West side of Broadway.
Upcoming Events: FREE family art programming happens every Saturday and Sunday between 10am-1pm at the Learning Center. This Saturday, visit Wave Hill’s edible plants with visiting artist and sculptor S.E. Nash, then see the inner structures of vegetables through the lens of a microscope to inspire a mixed-media collage out of cardboard pieces, recycled materials and burlap. Sunday, July 12, is a family nature walk at 1pm.