As husband-and-wife botanists Nathaniel Lord Britton and Elizabeth Gertrude Knight Britton explored the majestic Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Elizabeth asked a question that would bloom into something huge.
"Why couldn't we have something like this in New York?"
When the couple returned, they threw themselves into exploring that idea. In 1891, the state set aside land for the project, and private financiers including Andrew Carnegie, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and J. Pierpont Morgan matched the city's financial commitments. In 1896, Nathaniel Lord Britton became The New York Botanical Garden's first director.
Today, the garden's mission is to be "an advocate for the plant kingdom," aiming to lead the charge to document every species of plant and fungus on the planet. Varied terrains unfurl across its 250 acres, including rolling hills, waterfalls, and 50 acres of the forest that once blanketed New York City. All told, there are more than a million plants within 50 gardens and plant collections.
Visitors can learn how to manage their own plants at the Home Gardening Center, which opened in 2005, then enter the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory—a New York City landmark that was unveiled in 1902 as the country's largest Victorian-style glass house. Rotating exhibitions and family events give visitors a reason to come back every season, and there are plenty of hands-on activities for kids, such as digging in the dirt until they reach hot magma in the Ruth Rea Howell Family Garden.
As the recession deepened, Metro Art & Frame owner Bo Okuyan found that demand never slackened for one market of art collectors: parents. Mr. Okuyan's business savvy caught the attention of the New York Times' Michael Winerip in 2010, who noted that a steady supply of finger paintings and crafts had caused Bo to rethink his definition of art. “All kids are artists, that’s how we look at it now,” he said. Whether upgrading fridge-hung stick-figure portraits to a permanent gallery or framing a more traditionally priceless painting, Mr. Okuyan and his staff begin with a complimentary consultation, tailoring each project to fit home or office aesthetics and personal style. Metro Art & Frame's acid-free mats center photographs, oil paintings, or post-modern puddles of spilled milk in an ornate, gold-leafed frame or elegant black one. Five types of glass and two flavors of plexiglass guard sensitive paintings from light damage with UV protection, and the shop's selection of contemporary and classic prints lets patrons fill in the gaps in their home galleries.
Brazilian Jujitsu dominates mixed-martial-arts competitions and has captured the imaginations of hundreds of aspiring fighters, including Tito Hatz, the head instructor and current owner of East Coast United. To hone his skills, Tito travelled to Brazil to train under members of the Gracie family, the clan credited with originating modern Brazilian Jujitsu. As an instructor, he believes in sculpting bodies of all ages and genders into the physiques of elite athletes. Students at his gym grapple through the traditional exercises of Brazilian Jujitsu or pummel unseen opponents with the lightning foot, fist, elbow, and knee strikes of muay thai kickboxing. Those interested in professional fighting undertake training in a blend of the two arts in mixed-martial-arts classes. Certified yoga instructor Maywatte Hartz teaches relaxation and mental focus in her Vinyasa yoga classes, which focus on mastering deep breathing and flowing movements.
As they enter the training circle at Curves, female guests come face-to-face with the smiles of other women. And just as points on a circle share a common distance from the circle's center, workout participants share the experiences of those nearby by trading stations throughout the 30-minute training session. One minute is spent on a piece of strength-training equipment built for feminine frames and designed to work two opposing muscle groups with a single movement. Exercisers then move on to a recovery station, where they run, jog, or dance to maintain heart rates and keep platforms in place during momentary losses of gravity.
Inside Uptown Sports Complex's 16,000-square-foot facility, the cracks of baseball bats, the beats of hip-hop dance classes, and the rallying cries of cheerleaders combine into a constant, energetic din. The complex gives visitors of all ages plenty of outlets for their energy, such as baseball and gymnastics training camps for youngsters and Zumba dance classes for adults. Kids' classes typically take place after school and during the summer; check the class schedule for current class offerings.
Every once in a while the muddled sounds of conversation, music, and cue balls clanking against pool tables spill onto the corner of 236th Street and Broadway. The source of the sounds is The Bridge Tavern, a neighborhood pub with an emphasis on the community. Its ceiling stretches over the establishment with a mural dedicated to Kingsbridge and another mural celebrating the Yankees. Amid a row of Bronx street signs and a wraparound bar, servers fuel the chatter with beer, wings, and half-pound burgers.