By Lynn O’Rourke Hayes
Awash in color, scent and texture, gardens are a welcome gift from the natural world. Here are five places where beauty is blooming:
1. Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania
Families are encouraged to explore the more than 1,000 acres of gardens, woodlands, meadows and fountains as well as a 4.5-acre conservatory that comprise this Pennsylvania gem. Ask about family story time and scavenger hunts in the Children’s Garden, guided visits to a meadow and invigorating seasonal programs. Kids will want to scout for the dozens of whimsical animal statues that can be found throughout the garden. Visible in all sizes, shapes and colors, some are more than 100 years old. You’ll also find an entire garden area dedicated to the art of topiary. Learn how the pros train plants, shrubs and trees into shapes while marveling at more than 20 examples including a 20-foot-high wedding cake topiary.
If you can’t visit the garden anytime soon, consider enrolling in a free online course through which you will learn “Everything About Orchids.” You’ll gain valuable insights from the garden’s experts, learn about Longwood’s outstanding orchid collection and how you can grow and enjoy orchids in your own home.
The course is self-paced and available through Jan. 6, 2021.
2. Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix
Tucked within the red-hued landscape of Papago Park, the Desert Botanical Garden hosts one of the world’s finest collections of desert plants. The garden is home to rare, threatened and endangered plant species from around the world. Families enjoy the magical Butterfly Pavilion where beautiful winged creatures, native to the Southwest, sip nectar and gently perch on young visitors. You’ll learn about the butterfly life cycle in the caterpillar nursery and observe butterflies emerging from their chrysalis. Also, check out Cocoon, a space for creative garden play. Currently, advance ticket reservations are required.
3. Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Brooklyn, New York
During the best of times, toddler discovery, tree detective and family weekend programs combine to make this an outstanding place to inspire young naturalists. The expanded Discovery Garden, created for the youngest garden guests, provides hands on opportunities to investigate plant and animal life in an immersive landscape. Don’t miss the winding pathways and unique beauty of the Japanese Gardens, for which the BBG is noted. For now, advance timed tickets are required for entry.
4. Magnolia Plantation, Charleston, South Carolina
See camellias, daffodils, azaleas and scores of other species in bloom within America’s oldest public garden. Founded in 1676 and open for visitors since 1870, the expansive and historic plantation is home to the last large-scale Romantic Garden left in the United States. Naturalist guides will help the kids spot alligators, turtles, egrets and herons in their native habitat while on a tram tour of the plantation’s wetlands, marshes, lakes and forests. A 45-minute history tour details Magnolia’s role in moving from slavery to freedom. Kids will love the petting zoo and nature center where they can get friendly with white tail deer, pygmy goats and other small creatures. Check the website for program updates.
5. West Seattle Bee Garden, Seattle
Discover the busy world of bees during a self-guided visit to this intriguing bee garden. Your family can safely learn about the importance of honeycomb, nectar, honey and pollen and why we need to preserve the bee population. Take time to walk through the adjacent park and talk about plants and their role in the pollination process. Ask about updated plans for the annual festival, which includes activities for kids, music and enhanced educational programs.
Lynn O’Rourke Hayes (www.LOHayes.com) is an author, family travel expert and enthusiastic explorer. Gather more travel intel on Twitter @lohayes, Facebook, or via FamilyTravel.com
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