August 21, 2017

Exploring with Kids: Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens

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I’m here in Boca Raton, Florida this week with my family and yesterday we finally hand the chance to visit the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens. We tried to go when we were here in April, but sadly, we chose to go on a day when it was closed. It was a beautiful day and the kids really enjoyed spending time learning about the gardens and Japanese culture.

It was about a one mile walk through the gardens, so it was pretty easy to do with four little ones (my oldest is eight). Be sure to pick up a Visitors Guide, which does a great job of identifying and explaining the various gardens and memorials. You can also pick up a Self-Guided Audio Tour in the museum store for $3 each. Check out the Family Fun Track for commentary, questions and ideas geared toward kids.

Our favorite part of the visit was definitely the Japan Through the Eyes of Child exhibition that we came upon about two-thirds way through the gardens. We learned all about an elementary school classroom in Japan, as well as a Japanese home, shops and train station. It was fun to sit on the tatami mats, check out what might be inside a typical Japanese refrigerator and investigate typical box lunches (bento boxes).

Follow the Morikami Museum on Facebook to get the latest scoop on special events, cultural demonstrations and family activities. In just a few days (August 13), the Bon Festival takes place, featuring taiko drum performances, traditional Japanese folk dancing, ghost stories and a street fair.

If you can’t make it to South Florida, here are a few more Japanese gardens worth checking out:

  • Anderson Japanese Gardens (Rockford, IL): These beautiful gardens offer a place of peace and tranquility. Make note that the third Thursday of each month is Donation Day, so you can enter the gardens for free and make a donation if you choose. Call at least three weeks in advance to schedule a guided tour through October 31.
  • The Japanese Garden (Van Nuys, CA): Enjoy self-guided tours Sunday through Thursday of this “garden of water and fragrance.”  During the summer, you and your kids can enjoy a docent-led evening tour on Tuesday and Thursday nights at 6:30 p.m. through September 1 (by reservation only). Enjoy the annual Origami Festival each October.
  • Portland Japanese Garden: Located just outside Portland (Oregon), this authentic Japanese garden sits on 5.5 acres and offers three guided tours daily through October (10:45 a.m., 1 p.m., 2:45 p.m.). Tours last 45 minutes to one hour. Also, take a look at the downloadable school programs so that you can enhance your child’s learning with five lessons for three different school age groups.

Have you taken your kids to a beautiful Japanese garden? I’d love to hear about which one(s) you’ve been to and how your kids enjoyed the experience.

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