Brooklyn Botanic Gardens – new Discovery Garden for kids

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

The girls and I went to check out Brooklyn Botanic Garden‘s newly expanded children’s Discovery Garden, which opened recently within the enormous Prospect Park (where T and I once got lost trying to find the zoo).

Meeting up with a school friend of Ts, we had a great time wandering through the gardens, letting the kids charge off at full speed with no concern for traffic or disturbing anyone. It was wonderful watching them let off steam like that, it can be hard to find somewhere open enough to let them really run here. Little B was determined to keep up, stumping along behind the four year olds in her clumpy wellies.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden - cherry esplanade
Running through the cherry esplanade

We were lucky with the weather, a beautiful crisp, clear, sunny autumnal morning that let the colours really glow. Getting there at 10am on a Sunday meant we had the place to ourselves for the first hour or so. Brooklyn friends of mine tell me this is rare, the park can get absolutely packed during peak periods such as the cherry trees in blossom in the Spring.

Discovery Garden at Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Discovery Garden

The Discovery Garden is tucked away at the southern tip of the Botanic Garden, past the Children’s Garden which is planted and tended by children aged 2-17. The website describes the Discovery Garden as an ‘immersive landscape’, designed to let the ‘next generation of naturalists’ explore nature through their hands, eyes and noses. There’s a path winding through a meadow, a marsh, woodland, fruit and vegetable patches and a four seasons garden. Our group was immediately drawn to the giant bird’s nest, enjoying exploring the branches and pretending to be a family of birds. “No grown ups allowed!” Fine by us, we were happy to sit on a bench and enjoy the sunshine.

B particularly enjoyed finding enormous pine cones and using a set of scales to weigh them against heaps of acorns, conveniently gathered in little buckets. She also had a lot of fun building with wooden shapes salvaged from the park.

We had picked up some free copies of the Field Journal, but our kids were too busy rushing about exploring to be able to concentrate on filling it out. Again, fine by us. There’s something so lovely about watching city kids get themselves deliciously muddy and sweaty in the fresh air and greenery so rare in NYC.

Free Field Journal for children at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Free Field Journal for children

Tips if you’re visiting Brooklyn Botanic Garden with your own kids:

  • There are a lot of rules, considering it’s outside. The security guards are everywhere, and take their job v seriously. No snacking, no climbing on boulders or trees, no picnic blankets, and absolutely no touching any plants. I like to think of myself as fairly rule-abiding, but we still managed to get told off on three separate occasions
  • The Discovery Garden is open daily except Mondays; it’s most easily accessible from the entrance at 455 Flatbush Avenue, at Empire Boulevard, Prospect Heights, although there are also entrances at 150 Eastern Parkway and 990 Washington Avenue
  • Tickets cost $12 for adults. Kids under 12 go free
  • As this park won’t permit your own food, unless you choose to eat outside the park, your options are limited. There’s a reasonably good cafe by the Steinhardt Conservatory with a children’s menu featuring the ubiquitous hot dogs and grilled cheese sandwiches for $4
  • If your kids still have the energy after their visit, there’s a large playground just outside the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, near the Eastern Parkway entrance
Brooklyn Botanic Garden's rules
There are a lot of rules at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden
This week’s Highs & Lows: 
  • 2.5 year old B’s speech is revealing so much more of her personality, making us laugh. To her big sister, during a squabble, “You’ve broken my feelings!” And whispered in the dark at 2am: “Mummy, I need to go party”, – meaning “I need to use the potty”. Her accent is developing a definite American twang now
  • Baking the Christmas Cake with T, a tradition begun by my paternal grandmother, and a real pleasure to keep up. I love love love Christmas cake
  • Going to see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular this weekend. This was on our NYC bucket list, and was definitely worth it, we had such a brilliant time. B slept throughout, but at least she didn’t wriggle and ask loud questions the whole time. T was transfixed – there were real camels, donkeys and sheep on stage for the Nativity scene, and a real ice rink for one dance number. My favourite was the classic Parade of The Wooden Soldiers, which was first performed in the 1930s. Definitely worth going if you’re ever here over the winter, I can see why some families come every year
  • Now the clocks have gone back, it’s definitely feeling darker and more wintry. So much harder to drag myself out of bed at 6.30am in order to get to school on time, and after-school activities feel like even more of an effort. I’m sure parents around the globe are feeling the same way…

Author: Alex

Hello. Toddling Round New York is my own little blog of our family's experience of moving young kids from London to New York... And of having a baby out here. They are my own baby steps of exploring this incredible city. I lived in five countries in four continents growing up, so you'd think I'd be good at this by now. Here you'll find stories and photographs of our adventures, the highs and the lows of expat parenthood, and some ideas I hope you'll find useful if you're in New York with young kids.

3 thoughts on “Brooklyn Botanic Gardens – new Discovery Garden for kids”

  1. Bizarrely, I was in both those places this weekend checking out areas to relocate family to. Wandered round Prospect Park on Sunday and saw all the queues outside Radio City Hall when meeting husband for lunch on Monday. Now wishing I went to the show! Will have to save it for next year with my girls. Thanks again!

  2. Haha! We were unable to visit without being told off at least once! Glad it’s not just me!
    Discovery garden looks wonderful. There is a nice cafe in the Brooklyn museum on the doorstep of the botanical gardens or the tiny cafe in the Brooklyn library does wonderful pie (called 4 and twenty blackbirds!)

    1. Hi Louise, great tips on the cafes, thanks for that. Also reassuring to know we weren’t the only ones being told off by the security guards! Alex x

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