The Bronx is grabbing the cultural and culinary spotlight this spring. Watch a Cuban film at the Havana Film Festival, sip a cocktail under a spectacular chandelier of orchids at the New York Botanical Garden, or indulge in the most delectable mole this side of the Rio Grande, all just a quick subway ride from Manhattan.
Here are seven free and low-cost reasons why a trip to the Bronx should be on your must-do list this season.
What: Orchid Evenings at the Orchid Show: Chandeliers
When: Saturdays, March 14, 21, 28, April 4, 11, 18; Thursday, March 19 (LGBT Night); and Friday, April 17; 6:30–9 p.m.
Where: New York Botanical Garden
Why: The Orchid Show is a visual extravaganza, but the deal is sweetened at dusk, with a potent potable in hand. Enjoy live music filtering through the flowers during this elegant soiree. Tickets cost $35, $25 for members and include a specialty cocktail.
How to get there: B, D or 4 trains to Bedford Park Blvd. Station. Walk eight blocks down the hill on Bedford Park Blvd. to the Mosholu Gate entrance. An alternative is Metro-North to Botanical Garden Station.
What: Ride the Bronx Trolley
Where: A free reception kicks off the festivities at Longwood Art Gallery at Hostos Community College, 450 Grand Concourse
When: First Wednesday of the month except January and September. The reception starts at 5 pm, trolley departs every hour on the half-hour, from 5:30 until 7:30.
Why: Get a free overview of Bronx cultural attractions as you ride an early 20th-Century trolley car. Stay on for the entire loop or hop off when the mood strikes. Trolley riders are treated to live onboard performances, so don’t be surprised if a Shakespeare sonnet or modern dance company liven things up.
How to get there: Ride the 2,4 or 5 to 149th and Grand Concourse.
What: Bronx Museum Havana Film Festival
Where: The Bronx Museum of the Arts
When: March 27 at 6pm
Why: Cuba has taken center stage. If you’re among those adventurous travelers waiting for direct flights and easy visas, a slice of Cuba is coming to the Bronx, thanks to the Havana Film Festival. On March 27 at 6pm, the Bronx Museum will pay homage to the masters of rumba with a free screening of Rumba Clave Blen Blen Blen followed by a live musical performance.
How to get there: D or B to 167th Street Station. Walk south along the Grand Concourse for two blocks. An alternative is the 4 to Yankee Stadium. Walk three blocks east to Grand Concourse and four blocks north.
What: Lehman Center for the Performing Arts
Where: 250 Bedford Park Blvd. West
Why: Enjoy big name entertainment without spending big bucks when you head to the leafy Lehman College campus. This state-of-the-art venue has a stellar lineup of events on tap all year. Spring highlights include the Russian National Ballet Theatre performing Swan Lake on April 12 and the legendary Puerto Rican Masters salsa arrangements on June 6. Kids receive a special discount, so bring the family.
How to get there: Take the 4 or D to Bedford Park Boulevard, three blocks from campus.
What: An Beal Bocht Café
Where: 445 West 238 St.
When: Open daily
Why: Live music, poetry readings, and art exhibitions with a Gallic twist make this intimate and inclusive gastro pub the epicenter of Irish cultural life in NYC. Of course, there’s a noteworthy selection of draft offerings from the hyper-local favorite Gun Hill Brewery Gold to that Emerald Isle’s stalwart, Guinness. The traditional Irish breakfast is a fortifying repast, served daily until a civilized 4pm.
How to get there: Take the 1 train to 238 Street and walk three blocks west.
What: La Morada
Where: 308 Willis Ave. at East 141 Street, Mott Haven
When: Open daily for lunch and dinner
Why: Savvy gastronomes know that the food of Oaxaca is the most refined and prized of Mexico’s regional cuisines. Family-run La Morada is as authentic as it gets. The menu includes five distinct moles, complex sauces made with dozens of spices with chili pepper as the unifying ingredient. If you want to sample the prized nut-laden mole blanco, you’ll need to make a special request, as it’s not on the menu. Don’t expect excessive heat; spice and depth of flavor is what’s on the plate. This is regional Mexican home cooking at its finest. Count on low prices and a warm welcome.
How to get there: Take the 6 to 3rd Ave./138.
Where: Meeting point depends on the specific tour
Why: Noshwalks curates guided culinary walking tours. Participants sample savory tastes that showcase the borough’s diverse cultural makeup. Itineraries include Italian classics on Arthur Avenue or the exotic flavors of Ghanaian cuisine near the Grand Concourse.
How to get there: Directions are given when you book.
Allison is a native New Yorker, who has lived in Rome, Tuscany, Melbourne, Toronto and Los Angeles. She frequently contributes travel pieces to Family Travel Forum, using her own children as guinea pigs as they travel the globe. She is fluent in Italian and Spanish and laughably adequate in French. Her background as an Early Childhood Educator gives her an added understanding of what it takes to travel with kids in tow. She firmly believes that the most important part of education takes place outside of the classroom, on the road, around the world. She never misses a chance to sample local delicacies, as her love for travel goes hand-in-hand with her love for food and wine. Follow Allison at @gourmetrav.