New York Botanical Garden invites you to be Alice in ‘Wonderland: Curious Nature’

Through Oct. 27, the New York Botanical Garden hosts their inspired exhibit, “Wonderland: Curious Nature.”
Photo ET Rodriguez

In 1865, Lewis Carrol published one of the most celebrated novels in the history of literature, influencing equally heralded songs, art and movies. And the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) is joining in on the obsession with, “Wonderland: Curious Nature.”

Inspired by the cult classic, “The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland,” the NYBG’s latest exhibit invites visitors to fall down the rabbit hole and dive into the whimsical décor across the grounds. Ogle at the giant topiary rabbit; a house built of bricks made from mushrooms and a life-sized, white on white chess board by Yoko Ono.

“We’ve been talking about Wonderland as a theme for a while now,” said Joanna L. Groarke, NYBG’s vice president for exhibitions and programming. “It’s a story that famously begins and ends in a garden and it involves all of these outdoor experiences, so for us it felt like a perfect match.”

The Red Queen made an appearance at the NYBG’s “Wonderland: Curious Nature” on Saturday, June 29.Photo ET Rodriguez


Brothers (l.) Charlie and Aidan Holway, pictured with their “Mimi,” were visiting from Gainesville, Florida, and received free entry to “Wonderland: Curious Nature” with their costumes.Photo ET Rodriguez
The Ace of Spades joins in on the family fun playing bean bag toss with the kids on Saturday, June 29. Photo ET Rodriguez

Through Oct. 27, the buildings and grounds at NYBG will be activated with events pulled straight from the fantastical story of told to a real-life Alice in 1862 by her neighbor Charles Lutwidge Dodgson — aka Lewis Carrol — according to the garden’s exhibit. In June, Wonderland Nights illuminated the garden with FoldHaus Art Collective’s, “Shrumen Lumen” (2016). The mushroom-shaped sculptures made, of corrugated plastic, moved and pulsed with a rainbow of colors. Today, they stand still and white, but will brighten the darkness once again in the fall when nights become shorter.

On June 29 and 30, Mad for Summer Family Weekend marked the end of class for public school students who were encouraged to dress up in theme with the wayward book of childhood fantasy for free entry, filling the garden with scurrying dormice, little Alices in blue dresses with white aprons and hopping rabbits running late for a very important date.

“The Jack is my favorite card in the deck and also, 10 and three together make 13,” said Aidan Holway, who celebrated his 13th birthday a few weeks prior and was wearing a makeshift vest of playing cards. Holway, from Gainesville, Florida, was visiting the garden with his family on Saturday, June 29 for the curious exhibit.

On the lawn outside the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, a soundtrack of psychedelic music played, with one song specifically reminiscent of Jefferson Airplane’s famous “White Rabbit.” Children packed their own satchels of tea — red for Party Time, made with hibiscus, mint and thyme or blue for Sleepy Time, made with butterfly pea flower, chamomile and catnip. The Ace of Spades joined in on the bean bag toss and the Red Queen carried a giant tulip as her scepter as she greeted visitors.

Sir John Tenniel, “Painting the Roses Red” (1864 06 1865); wood engraving, on view at the Mertz LibraryPhoto ET Rodriguez
Agus Putu Suyadnya, “Tea Time” (2024); acrylic and spray paint on canvas on view at the Mertz Library.Photo ET Rodriguez
Patrick Jacobs, “The Grin” (Three Portals for Alice) (2024); diorama, on view at the Mertz Library.

Over at the more than 125-year-old LuEsther T. Metz Library live the real treasures: a collection of multi-media art, some works vibrant and new and others from the antique novel itself.

On the sixth floor, you can find wood carvings and pencil drawings by the book’s original illustrator, Sir John Tenniel, including iconic scenes, like the Queen’s henchman painting the roses red, sans the red paint. In the lobby, the terrarium portals by Patrick Jacobs, literally embody a wonderland. A tiny, grinning rose tree, set against a nebulous background, is lit by a radioactive glow. And while the painting of a rabbit-eared astronaut, drinking tea, amidst a lush background of jungle foliage looks like it was made specifically for the exhibit, Agus Putu Suyadnya’s “Tea Time” (2024) is yet another example of how influential and impactful Alice and her adventures have been on people far and wide.

“The guest curator, [Jennifer Gross], was wonderful in really embracing the theme of the story, this idea of exploration and this idea of seeking adventure, mystery and pleasure in a garden,” said Groarke.

Upcoming events include Fantastic Fungi Weekend on Sept. 14 and 15 where scientists will offer explainers on our mycelium friends along with a disco by Tarun Nayar who uses mushroom bioelectricity as one component to his trippy songs. Themed food and drink options are also available throughout the exhibits run, like The Cheshire Cat Masala chai and Mad Hatter brownie bites.

Let your curiosity be your guide, but don’t lose your head as you lose yourself in the wonder and remember, “not all who wander are lost.”

The perpetually late rabbit sits at the reflecting pool across from the giant Rolex clock by the visitor’s center at NYBG.

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This article was updated on July 1 at 11:44 a.m.

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