Image: Bronx greenery
Kathy Willens  /  AP
Lisa Henderson and her daughter Sabrina admire snapdragons at the New York Botanical Garden in New York last month.
updated 7/2/2008 9:17:10 AM ET 2008-07-02T13:17:10

Ladies and gentlemen, the Bronx is blooming!

Despite its urban image, the Bronx has 7,000 acres of park land, about 25 percent of its total area. In addition to Yankee Stadium and the Bronx Zoo, the borough's green spaces include the New York Botanical Garden; a 19th century garden overlooking the Hudson River called Wave Hill; and Van Cortlandt and Pelham Bay parks, where you can bird-watch, play golf and ride horses.

New York City is touting the Bronx's green attractions in a new promotion. "Most people don't think of the Bronx like that. We want to open their eyes to the actual physical beauty of the Bronx," said George Fertitta, CEO of NYC & Company, the city's marketing and tourism organization.

It's quite a turnaround for a place that once symbolized urban decay. "Ladies and gentlemen, the Bronx is burning," sportscaster Howard Cosell famously said during a 1977 Yankees game, as footage aired of a building in flames near the stadium. An epidemic of arson plagued the city at the time.

New York is a different place now, billed as America's safest big city and attracting a record 46 million tourists last year. Many of those tourists are repeat visitors, and "their appetite for something other than Times Square and the Statue of Liberty is enormous," said Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion Jr., who got an enthusiastic reception talking up the Bronx at a recent tourism conference in Berlin.

Green spaces only comprise part of the Bronx's attractions. There is also Italian food on Arthur Avenue, a hip-hop music tour, a bed-and-breakfast called Le Refuge Inn, and saltwater swimming at Orchard Beach. For more information, visit the Bronx Tourism Council Web site at  or NYC & Company. Meanwhile, here are some highlights.

Green spaces
Sure, the Bronx Zoo has wild animals from around the world, including a new exhibit called Madagascar. But for native wildlife, check out the Bronx River, which runs alongside the zoo. Turtles sun themselves on rocks, a red-winged blackbird calls, geese march by the shore. On a recent day, a wayward duckling hopped out of the water and drew a crowd, attracting more attention than a nearby buffalo exhibit.

You can walk along the river without paying admission to the zoo; the trail starts near the totem pole in the zoo parking lot. The Bronx River Alliance, which is restoring the waterway, hosts events and paddling on the river; . If you want lions and tigers too, the zoo is open daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (5:30 p.m. on weekends); adults, $15, children 3-12, $11.

Image: Bronx greenery
Kathy Willens  /  AP
A woman walks through the entrance to the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden at the Bronx's New York Botanical Garden.
North of the zoo is the New York Botanical Garden, a National Historic Landmark that dates to 1891, Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., $20. A tram takes you around the garden's 250 acres, which include a children's garden, forest, rock garden, and a Victorian-style glass conservatory. The vast rose garden's 3,000 plants include varieties that bloom continuously spring to fall. An outdoor exhibit of 20 Henry Moore sculptures is up through Nov. 2.

Yves Soulier, a tourist from France, visited the garden recently with his wife Anne. He said the Bronx had a reputation as "a hard banlieue," using the French term for the outskirts of a city. "I have read this in the books," he added. "But we like the flowers and plants here."

In the northwest Bronx is Wave Hill, with a dozen themed gardens, panoramic views of the Hudson River and princely frogs in a lily pond. It's open Tuesday-Sunday, 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m., admission $6.

Image: Bronx frog
Kathy Willens  /  AP
A frog rests on a lily pad in the aquatic garden at Wave Hill, a public garden and cultural center in the northwest Bronx along the Hudson River.
Now a city-owned public garden, Wave Hill was once a private estate whose guest list included Charles Darwin, Mark Twain, Arturo Toscanini and Theodore Roosevelt. A photo exhibit opens Sept. 9 called "Surprisingly Natural: the Nature of the Bronx." Hawks and eagles are often spotted during the garden's bird walks, which resume in the fall.

The Bronx is home to two large parks, Van Cortlandt and Pelham Bay. Both have golf courses, horseback riding and historic house museums: Pelham's Bartow-Pell Mansion, and the Van Cortlandt House, built in 1748 and the Bronx's oldest building.

Jack Rothman leads free birding tours around Pelham Bay Park and in the City Island area. His Web site lists bird-watching expeditions around the city, and includes a section called, "What does a guy from the Bronx know about birds?"

Turns out he knows plenty. "You hear the birds before you see them," he said, pausing to listen to a concert of bird songs, trills and whistles along a wooded path in Pelham Bay Park. Over the course of an hour, a shushing sound he made, known among birders as "pishing," coaxed into view a yellow-throated warbler, a red-winged blackbird, an Eastern towhee, a willow flycatcher, and an orchard oriole.

Under a rusty bridge, he pointed out swallows nesting, and in the marshes, egrets fishing. "It's hard to believe this is the Bronx," he said.

Dining
Not far from the zoo and Botanical Garden is Arthur Avenue, the Bronx's very own Little Italy. "You don't eat here, you're missing everything," said Robert Francella as he ordered lunch at Mike's Deli inside the Arthur Avenue Market, 2344 Arthur Ave.

David Greco, who owns Mike's Deli, looked over platters laden with delectable prosciutto, handmade smoked mozzarella, pepper pecorino cheese and bruschetta, and proclaimed, "I'm in Italy every day!"

In the mood for lobster? Head to City Island, a slice of New England in the northeast Bronx, with seafood restaurants, small shops and Le Refuge Inn, a bed-and-breakfast with a well-regarded restaurant; 718-885-2478, $125 single room, $145 double, prefix dinner, $50.

The 2008 Zagat guide to New York City lists 26 restaurants in the Bronx, including Le Refuge Inn and Willie's Steak House, 1832 Westchester Ave., 718-822-9697, which also serves Latin food and offers live music Wednesday and Saturday nights.

Image: Mike's Deli in the Bronx
Kathy Willens  /  AP
David Greco, son of the owner of Mike's Deli, talks with customers inside the delicatessen, located in the Arthur Avenue Retail Market in the Bronx. The counter behind Greco displays Italian specialty meats and sausages.
Other Latin restaurants in the Bronx include Sabrosura, 1200 Castle Hill Ave., 718-597-1344; Cafe Sevilla, 1209 White Plains Rd., 718-792-3367; and Joe's Place, 1841 Westchester Ave., 718-918-2947.

Tours and transportation
The Bronx is easily navigated by car or mass transit. For help with subway routes, visit hopstop.com. Metro-North Railroad trains from Grand Central stop near Wave Hill, the New York Botanical Garden and the zoo.

A four-hour bus tour to Harlem and the Bronx, themed on the history of hip-hop music, is offered Saturdays, 11 a.m., by Hush Tours. It includes live performances and departs from near the Empire State Building. Tickets, $58, call 212-209-3370.

New York Visions offers "A Discovery of the Bronx" four-hour tour, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays, departing from midtown Manhattan, with stops including the Bronx Zoo, New York Botanical Garden and Arthur Avenue. Tickets, $55.

A free hop-off, hop-on trolley runs to City Island from the No. 6 train's Pelham Bay stop on the first Friday of every month, 5:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m.

A free Bronx Culture Trolley runs the first Wednesday of every month (except September and January), with stops at the Bronx Museum of the Arts and galleries, plus performances by theater companies, poets and dancers. The July 2 and Aug. 6 trolleys were scheduled to meet at 5 p.m., 450 Grand Concourse (near 149th Street stop on the 2, 4 or 5 train).

Yankees
This is the Yankees' final season in the historic stadium where Babe Ruth played. (A new stadium is under construction.) Tickets can be hard to come by. If Ticketmaster can't help, try StubHub.com. And don't worry: Nobody will interrupt the game to announce that the Bronx is burning.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Take a Bite Out of The Big Apple

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  1. A full moon rises over the skyline of New York City, as seen across the Hudson River in Weehawken, N.J., on April 25, 2013. (Gary Hershorn / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Commuters move through the grand hall of Grand Central Terminal in New York City on Jan. 25, 2013. Since its grand beginnings in 1913, when it was dubbed the greatest railway terminal in the world with an $80 million price tag, Grand Central has been an integral part of New York City. (Brendan Mcdermid / REUTERS) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Revelers cheers under falling confetti at the stroke of midnight during the New Year's Eve celebrations in Times Square on Jan. 1, 2014. (John Minchillo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. One World Trade Center overlooks the wedge-shaped pavilion entrance of the National September 11 Museum, lower right, and the square outlines of the memorial waterfalls in New York. (Mark Lennihan / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees walks back to the dugout after flying out in the fifth inning against the Cleveland Indians on June 13, 2011, at Yankee Stadium. Located in the South Bronx, the new stadium opened in 2009. (Jim Mcisaac / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Central Park was the first public park built in America. Its 843 acres include woodlands, lawns and water. Central Park was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965 and a New York City Landmark in 1974. More than 25 million visitors enjoy Central Park each year. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Saint Patrick's Cathedral is the largest decorated gothic-style Catholic cathedral in the U.S. The cathedral's construction began in 1858, and it opened its doors in 1879. (Vincenzo Pinto / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Skaters glide around the rink at the Rockefeller Center Ice Rink. The ice rink, open between October and April, has attracted more than 250,000 people a year since it first opened on Dec. 25, 1936. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Patrons line up outside the Apollo Theater in Harlem to see Amateur Night. Since 1934, Amateur Night at the Apollo has launched the careers of famous entertainers such as Billie Holiday, James Brown, The Isley Brothers, Luther Vandross, Michael Jackson, Lauryn Hill, and many others. (Jonathan D. Woods / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. The South Pool at the National September 11 Memorial in New York City commemorates those who died in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks after two hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center. (Justin Lane / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Pedestrians pass along a walkway under falling snow on the Brooklyn Bridge on Jan. 3, 2014, in New York. One of the oldest suspension bridges in the U.S., the Brooklyn Bridge connects Manhattan and Brooklyn. (John Minchillo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. The Statue of Liberty looms over a visitor as he uses binoculars to look out onto New York Harbor on Oct. 13, 2013, in New York. About 4 million people visit the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island each year. (John Minchillo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Coney Island features entertainment parks, rides, an aquarium, a public beach, a boardwalk, fishing and Nathan's restaurant. (John Minchillo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. New York City Subway dancer Marcus Walden aka "Mr Wiggles" performs acrobatic tricks on the subway while passengers watch Nov. 23, 2010. More than 4.3 million people ride the New York subway system every day. (Timothy A. Clary / AFP/Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. The Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park on the southern tip of two-mile-long Roosevelt Island - between Manhattan and Queens - was dedicated in 2012. (Paul Warchol / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York has been around since 1924 and includes large balloons, floats and performances. (Gary Hershorn / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Visitors view the Manhattan skyline from Rockefeller Center's "Top of the Rock" observation deck. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Pedestrians walk along a path on the High Line park on June 7, 2011, in New York City. The High Line was formerly an elevated railway 30 feet above the city's West Side that was built in 1934 for freight trains. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. The moon rises at sunset behind New York's Empire State building, which opened in 1931. At 102 stories high, the Empire State Building is the fourth tallest skyscraper in America. (Gary Hershorn / REUTERS) Back to slideshow navigation
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