Many people know about the New York Botanical Gardens and Van Cortlandt Park, but some are unaware of a hidden jewel in Riverdale, overlooking the Hudson River and Palisades: Wave Hill.
Originally built in 1843 as a country home, Wave Hill has grown into a 28-acre public garden and cultural center, whose mission it is “to celebrate the artistry and legacy of its gardens and landscapes, to preserve its magnificent views, and to explore human connections to the natural world through programs in horticulture, education and the arts.”
What makes Wave Hill unique, is that “[f]amilies are invited to enjoy the outdoors in unstructured settings, as well as through programs that focus on being creative and active, whether it’s the weekend family art project, a tour of the gallery, or yoga in the gardens,” according to Martha Gellens, the assistant director of marketing and communications.
Summer is an ideal time to visit Wave Hill. This year, for the first time ever, Wave Hill will be hosting The Mow-Down: A Garden Hoedown on July 16 and 17. It is “a homage to the humble, hard-working grass family,” with “grass-tastic” drop-in family activities. Participants can make their own grassy hats and “sod-kick,” a figure made from rye grass, soil, and nylon stockings that will sprout hair, much like a Chia Pet. They can also attend a master basket-making demonstration, take a guided walk, enter relay races on the Great Lawn, and groove to “the bluegrass-inspired sounds of Astrograss.” You can also take advantage of Target Free Days, every Tuesday and Saturday morning, throughout the summer.
Wave Hill is home to Glyndor Gallery, formerly the site of the home of George Walbridge Perkins and his family, until it was destroyed in 1926. Perkins dubbed it “Glyndor House,” a moniker derived from letters of his family members’ names. Glyndor Gallery displays the work of emerging contemporary artists and offers artist’s talks. The adjacent Ecology Building hosts family art projects, among other programs. July’s Saturday family art projects include See the Algae, where visitors sketch their own algae composition and assist in the creation of a communal ecosystem; Resounding with Feet, where visitors join dancers, work on a surprise carnival or present an original folkloric scene; Hats, Mats and Baskets, which includes the construction of a communal wigwam or roundhouse; Shades of Summer, where visitors customize their own colorful sunglasses; and Crayon Flowers, where artists form their own wax mosaic flowers from crayon slivers baked together under the sun.
Wave Hill also offers summer programs in bird-watching. Birding Along the Hudson, is a walking tour led by a New York City Audubon naturalist. The walk goes along the Riverdale Ridge, which overlooks the Palisades, and showcases the Hudson River’s varied local and migratory avian population. Parents and children 10 years and older will learn how to spot a green-backed heron, or distinguish between a red-tailed hawk and a broad-winged hawk with their own binoculars.
If your teens have been asking to get a little closer to our buzzing friends, they’ll have an opportunity to do just that on July 9. Children 12 and older, with a parent or guardian, are welcome to sign up for Beekeeping: Summer Hive Inspection, where they will inspect the summer nectar flow within the hives, and hear about proper management techniques for a colony — all during its most productive season. Guided by urban beekeepers, participants may find themselves infected with the excitement that has spread from community gardens to backyards and city rooftops.
Outdoor yoga classes are a unique opportunity for 2- to 4-year-olds and their parents or guardians to learn relaxation and breathing techniques in a playful setting. After all, they might master the cobra pose, jumping frog, twisty owl, and downward dog. Classes are held every Friday, weather permitting. What a wonderful way for our young yogis to show off their natural flexibility and spend quality time with their families!
Families can take advantage of the drop-in weekly nature stories in the garden nook, with a new “mystery” reader each Tuesday morning. The story-time project is perfect for children ages 3 and up, with an accompanying adult.
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Families can also join the Garden Walks, Gallery Tours (in cooperation with the Bronx Museum of the Arts), and the History Walk, or, attend Sunset Wednesdays or the Bronx Beat Music performance on July 13, if their children are game. Wave Hill has no shortage of activities, and, as Gellens has indicated, it is “a natural space” and “a refreshing oasis,” which “encourages the whole family to enjoy a naturally-inspired visit.”
Risa C. Doherty is an attorney and freelance writer from East Hills, New York.Wave Hill [West 249th Street at Independence Avenue in Riverdale, (718) 549-3200]. Wave Hill is free for children under 6 and members. For more information, visit www.wavehill.org. Free shuttle service is available from the Metro-North Riverdale station and the 242nd Street subway station for the 1 train.
Beekeeping: Summer Hive Inspection, July 9, 11 am. Children 12 and older with parent or guardian. $20 members, $30 non-members. Equipment provided. Registration required.
Birding Along the Hudson, July 10, 9:30 - 11:30 am. July 24 off sight. $10 members, $18 non-members. Registration recommended.
Bronx Beat Music performance, July 13, 7 pm. Free with admission to grounds.
The Mow-Down: A Garden Hoedown, July 16 - 17, 10 am - 4 pm. Free.
Yoga Together, every Friday, from 10 to 11 am, weather permitting. $15 members, $23 non-members; includes adult and one child, $5 each additional child.