by Wendy Giman, 12/18/2013
Photo: Keith Telfeyan
Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Tropical Pavilion
990 Washington Ave., 718-623-7200, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn
Built on a former ash dump in 1910, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden covers 52 acres and includes one of the oldest Japanese gardens in the United States. But to skip the crowds and stay warm in the winter, head to the Tropical Pavilion to wander through a tropical forest complete with waterfalls and streams. Built in 1988, the 6,000-square-foot glass building displays flora ranging from banana and tamarind trees to giant ferns. The greenhouse organizes plants by economic categories–ones that can be eaten, made into medicine or apparel or sold for commerce. Despite having more than 750,000 visitors a year, the pavilion feels like a sacred space. Thanks partly to the continuous misting system, there's white noise that dominates the 65-foot-high glass building. During the winter (November–February), weekday admission is free. If you needed another reason to head to this patch of serenity in Brooklyn: the C.V. Starr Bonsai Museum, where training of the miniature trees is ongoing, has more than 350 varieties, 30 of which are on display at a time.