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Ride It, Ride It to the New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show

The Grand Central Terminal display at the Holiday Train Show. All article photos by Shani R. Friedman.

By Shani R. Friedman

Every winter, the New York Botanical Garden puts the festive touch on model trains, nature and New York with The Holiday Train Show. This favorite exhibition features the city’s most famous buildings and institutions made out of plants, giving visitors the chance to see landmarks like the Guggenheim Museum and Penn Station inventively constructed of bark, fruit, mushrooms and other living things.

I’m normally only marginally interested in nature or Christmas. But having missed the first quarter century of Train Shows, I decided to embrace both and had the distinctive experience of walking around the Botanical Garden after dark on one of the Bar Car Nights. My friend and I were lucky enough to get an unusually warm Saturday for our outing, although there is a fire pit and boozy drinks on hand if you aren’t quite as fortunate with the weather. Illuminated Snow Globe Dancers greeted us and the Cirque De Light provided twinkling Snow Queens who dazzled as they walked the grounds. Before going into the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, home of the Train Show, we checked out the Shake, Rattle & Roll Dueling Pianos in the Pine Tree Café where the fun and rousing musicians got the crowd joining in on such classics as “Baby Got Back” and “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant.”

This year’s spectacular showcases over 150 recognizable New York edifices including the Empire State Building, the Jewish Museum, the Brooklyn Bridge and the original Yankee Stadium. The structures are crafted by landscape artist Paul Busse and his amazing team at Applied Imagination. Busse has been involved since day one with the first show in 1992. Employing nearly a half-mile of track, more than twenty-five model trains and trolleys travel through tunnels, running underneath overhead trestles and past waterfalls. My favourite re-creation, hands down, was Coney Island. The artists incorporated the historic Cyclone rollercoaster, the Wonder Wheel and even the Elephantine Colossus hotel (an iconic attraction from the 19th century) for the display. The many photos I took are a testament to just how impressive it was.

Whether you go during the day or evening, the Holiday Train Show is a magical event that you won’t find anywhere else.


The Enid A. Haupt Conservatory display (made with honeysuckle!)

The Guggenheim Museum in mushroom miniature

One of the Cirque De Light Snow Queen performers strolling the Conservatory grounds

The very talented Shake, Rattle & Roll Dueling Pianos musicians at the Pine Tree Cafe

The Jewish Museum

The original Yankee Stadium

The TWA Flight Center at John F. Kennedy International Airport…

…with an additional landing strip!

The front of the Coney Island display, featuring the Wonder Wheel (left)

The back of Coney Island, including the Elephantine Colossus (left) and Cyclone (center)

The Statue of Liberty with Empire State Building in the background

Manhattan’s city skyline

The Holiday Train Show runs through Monday, January 15th. The final Bar Car Night is January 13th. To read more about both and to buy tickets, visit

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