Bettina’s Take:The Winter Wonderland Ball at the New York Botanical Garden

nina garcia

For 12 years in a row, the Winter Wonderland Ball at the New York Botanical Garden has been a magical kickoff to the holiday season. Impeccably turned out Manhattanites find their way to the magnificent Conservatory in the Bronx, where the Holiday Train Show still inspires amazement as it winds through a landscape that features replicas of well-known New York landmarks.

The evening benefits the Garden's Children's Education programs, with classes and workshops for kids of all ages, particularly underserved children in the Bronx.

The WWB has a reputation for being a particularly fun evening. "It's not like going to the Plaza, where you can walk out at any time and take a taxi," said one guest. "It's a commitment to get here, so people are prepared to stay, have fun, and dance until the end."

This year was particularly balmy, although freezing temperatures and blizzards have never deterred guests from attending in the past. The original dress code was white and silver. This year, St. John underwrote the evening, and the dress code was white and black.

"I wear white because the theme is Winter Wonderland," said co-chair Nina Garcia, stunning in a long white crystal-studded Ferragamo. "Every year that I come here, all the women make an effort to wear white, and it looks so beautiful."

"A lot of us have been coming here for 12 years. It's glorious, festive, holiday-like. Everyone has a great time and just cuts loose on the dance floor. Many people still honor the original white and silver theme," said co-chair Alexandra Lind Rose, wearing St. John.

New York Botanical Garden

The Conservatory smelled like fresh dew—a great escape from smog and car exhaust. There would never be enough time to closely examine each and every extraordinary plant.

"This evening is the best combination of fun, dancing, great people, a beautiful setting and a great cause," said co-chair Alexandra Lebenthal, in a slinky black silk St. John dress and a Judith Leiber clutch. "In addition to the beautiful flowers, this place has more than a million plant specimens, more than any place on earth. They use them for pharmaceutical research and for climate change research, so it's really beauty, and brains, and fun."

After drinking a few Domaine de Canton cocktails and admiring the sheer beauty of the place, it was time to sit for dinner in the tent, where not one, but two DJs guaranteed that only a few curmudgeons didn't find themselves on the dance floor.

"It's always such a beautiful party, it gets everyone into the holiday spirit. It's so festive," said Tinsley Mortimer, as midnight came around, and we all lined up to leave.

Photos: Nina Garcia; the Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden