THE BRONX SURPRISES AND DELIGHTS NEW YORK CITY VISITORS
Best Bets in the Borough Include Yankee Stadium, the New York Botanical Garden and the Bronx Zoo
New York, NY (August 1, 2006) – Quick: Which is the only borough of New York City that isn’t on an island and has more parkland than any of the others? Surprise, it’s the Bronx. This borough at the northernmost tip of the city and the only one attached to the mainland, has more parkland than any of the other boroughs, a renowned botanical garden, a world-famous zoo, stately mansions, historic sites, a Little Italy, beaches, even an island reminiscent of a New England fishing village. From history to attractions, and more, here’s the beat on The Bronx.
Background and History
The Bronx is named for Swedish commercial sea captain Jonas Bronck who in 1639 became the first European settler to establish himself in this area. In 1898, when the city became the sum of all of its boroughs, this area was called the Bronx, after the river that ran through the middle of it. During the `20s, the building of the elevated subway line increased population, Yankee Stadium was built, and the mile-long Grand Concourse was fashioned as New York’s Champs Elysees. Today, the Bronx has a population of 1.4 million people. Famous residents through the years include entertainers Jennifer Lopez, Rita Moreno and Regis Philbin; athletes Lou Gehrig and Jake La Motta; authors E.L. Doctorow, Edgar Allan Poe and Mark Twain; statesmen John Adams and Colin Powell; and designers Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren. The Bronx County Historical Society (718-881-8900, www.bronxhistoricalsociety.org) provides a link to the past and present with tours, lectures, educational programs, art shows, and concerts that showcase the diversity of the destination.
The Bronx has a greater percentage of green space than any other urban area in the country, with 24 percent of its 42 square miles being parkland. Van Cortlandt Park (718-601-1460, www.vancortlandt.org) covers nearly two square miles and has boating, horseback riding, cricket, golf, picnic spaces, and tennis. The oldest public golf course in America, Van Cortlandt Golf Club (718-543-3114, www.americangolf.com) features excellent greens, tight fairways, water hazards, and a lakeside clubhouse. Garden greenery is at its most magnificent at the New York Botanical Garden (718-817-8700, www.nybg.org). Fragrant delights on its 250 acres include 27 specialty gardens and the prized 50-acre forest, the largest remnant of woodland that once covered all of New York City.
The mighty Hudson River and dramatic Palisades (cliffs on the west bank of the Hudson River) provide the backdrop for the neighborhood of Riverdale, a hilly enclave of estates. Another must-see attraction is Wave Hill (718-549-3200, www.wavehill.org), an acclaimed public garden and cultural institution in a spectacular setting whose 1843 mansion was home over the years to Mark Twain, Theodore Roosevelt, and Arturo Toscanini.
Museums and Attractions
A must visit destination is the famous ballpark, Yankee Stadium (718-293-4300, www.newyorkyankees.com). Make sure to get tickets in advance but if you’re not here during a home game, you can take an exciting behind-the-scenes tour that includes a walk on the field and exciting stories about the Bronx Bombers. The Bronx Zoo (718-367-1010, www.bronxzoo.com) is the largest urban zoo in the country. It is home to more than 4,000 animals representing more than 600 species. There are more than 60 landmarks and historic districts in the Bronx, including the beautifully restored 19th-century wooden Edgar Allen Poe Cottage (718-881-8900, www.bronxhistoricalsociety.org), where the great writer penned many of his most enduring works, including “Annabel Lee.”
The beautiful Bartow-Pell Mansion (718-885-1461, www.bartownpellmansionmuseum.org) dates back to 1654 when Thomas Pell, an English doctor from Connecticut bought the land from the Siwanoy Indians as part of a 55,000-acre tract; it opened as a museum in 1946. The Van Cortlandt House Museum (718-543-3344, www.vancortlandthouse.org), the 18th-century plantation home of the Van Cortlandt family and the first military encampment of the Revolutionary War, now features a collection of historical artifacts. The Valentine-Varian House (718-881-8900, www.bronxhistoricalsociety.org), the second oldest house in the borough is the site of the Museum of Bronx History. Art enthusiasts should check out the Bronx Museum of the Arts (718-681-6000, www.bxma.org), featuring contemporary art exhibits by emerging artists.
The Bronx has its own Little Italy (Belmont-Arthur Avenue Local Development Corp., 718-933-6968 or 718-295-2882, www.arthuravenuebronx.com) on Belmont and Arthur Avenues. A feast for the eyes and stomach with colorful food markets overflowing with fruit and vegetables, salamis and sausages, homemade mozzarella, pastries, and breads, a rainbow of olives, and palaces of pasta. To get here, take the 4 or D subway (718-330-1234, www.mta.info) or Metro-North commuter rail to Fordham Road, then take BX12 or BX22 bus to Arthur Avenue. Off the borough’s northeast shore, City Island (718-885-9100, www.cityisland.com) looks and feels like a New England fishing village with its boat yards, sail makers, antiques shops, art galleries, and seafood restaurants. Across the way is Orchard Beach (718-885-2275), a ribbon of white sand on the shore of Long Island Sound. The Riverdale Garden (718-884-5232, www.theriverdalegarden.com) headed by Chef Michael Sherman, serves sumptuous American cuisine in a romantic setting that features a scenic garden.
The Bronx Culture Trolley is a free program of the Bronx Council on the Arts (718-931-9500, www.bronxarts.org) that runs on the first Wednesday of each month (except January) providing travel in a replica of an early 20th-century trolley car. The Surprising Bronx Bicycle Tour by Bike the Big Apple (201-837-1133, www.bikethebigapple.com) takes riders on a five-hour ride on the East River Greenway, through Woodlawn Cemetery and along the sparkling Bronx River to Arthur Avenue for lunch, then to Poe Cottage. Hush Tours’ Hip-Hop Cultural Sightseeing Tour (212-714-3527, www.hushtours.com) runs every Saturday with celebrity guides discussing rap, deejays, graffiti art, and break dancing. SusanSez NYC Walkabouts (917-509-3111, www.susansez.com) takes visitors to the Bronx Zoo, New York Botanical Garden, Wave Hill, City Island, Arthur Avenue and other areas.
Exploring this popular borough is easy with the Bronx Tourism Council (www.ilovethebronx.com), which provides more information on neighborhoods, accommodations, attractions, museums, galleries, and the performing arts. For more information about the Bronx and other New York City boroughs log onto nycgo.com.