October 20, 2017

Spring Break: A Botanical Garden + Free Admission for You

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I’ll be honest, the world headquarters of the American Orchid Society in Delray Beach was not at the top of my list of places to take my kids while on our spring break vacation in South Florida. Our original plan was to visit The Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens today, but it would have helped to double-check whether or not it was open. Yup, it was closed. Seriously?

Since we’d already driven 20 minutes and the American Orchid Society was just across the street from The Morikami Museum, we thought we’d give it a go. We weren’t there five minutes before a woman asked my husband whether he thought kids would enjoy the orchid gardens and my husband replied that we’d probably only be there another five minutes. Not a huge vote of confidence.

Surprisingly, we were there at least an hour and my older girls (ages 6 and 7) were quite engaged. When we arrived we picked up a handout listing the “Top 10 Garden Treasures” in the greenhouse and botanical gardens. The girls loved searching for each one (each was marked with a numbered plaque) and learning about the various plants, like the Autograph Tree, which has tough, thick leaves and anything “written” on them becomes permanent.

There are a number of botanical gardens across the country that are worth exploring with your kids. Here are a few gardens worth checking out:

  • Denver Botanic Gardens: A wide variety of children’s programs are available for kids as young as 18 months, which include interactive explorations, nature walks and plants to take home. Family Fun Nights take place on the fourth Friday of each month April to October (except July), providing a unique opportunity to explore nature at night in the Mordecai Children’s Garden.
  • New York Botanical Garden: The Children’s Gardening Program teaches kids ages 3 to 12 about planting, tending, harvesting and eating their own fresh produce. There are two gardens for kids: the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden and the Ruth Rea Howell Family Garden. Look out for seasonal hands-on programs in each garden, like The Buzz About Bees and Goodnight, Garden.
  • United States Botanic Garden (Washington, DC):Kids can become an official USBG Junior Botanist when they complete several adventures and an in-home activity. They’ll also receive a certificate signed by the USBG botanist, an official field journal and future “assignments” to keep watch on the plant world. Best of all, the program is free.

As a bonus, Friday, May 6 is National Public Gardens Day and you can get free admission to public gardens across the country, including the three listed above. Just fill out the online form to secure your place at your local garden and you’re all set.

Do you have a favorite botanical garden in your hometown that you like to visit? I’d love to hear more on how you create a wonderful educational experience for your kids at the gardens.

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