Let’s face it, sometimes plants can be a little dull. Sure they produce oxygen and allow a plethora of animals to survive offering both food and shelter, but they also make us sneeze during allergy season and does anyone really enjoy raking all those leaves in the fall? However, visiting a botanical garden is a great way to share the natural world with your family. These gardens share the amazing beauty and diversity of plants (and often insects) with all those who enter.
Botanical gardens teach us about the amazing things that plants are capable of, they show us how everything in nature is connected. As my high school biology teacher used to say, “we all live downstream.” These gardens leave a lasting impression and instill a sense of wonder and awe. The allow us to have a fun afternoon or day filled with exploration, and discovery by taking in some of the most beautiful flora in the world.
One of my favorite places to take my daughter for the afternoon is a botanical garden near our home. Neither of us ever tires of getting to run around outside, enjoying the ever-changing floral displays, learning about different edible plants and the animals who rely on these trees, shrubs and flowers. The water features are always a big hit too! So take the day to explore something new, maybe the garden will become your favorite place too.
Photo Credit: Larry Albee via VisitWilmingtonDE
Kennett Square, PA
Adults: $23 Children (ages 5-18): $12 Children (ages 4 & under): Free
Longwood Gardens will delight your whole family! This lush former estate beautifully merges an appreciation for botanical beauty with a passion for education, the arts and architecture.
Spend the day climbing a cathedral in the trees, wander through the indoor children’s garden, make a splash in the garden of fountains, or take in a memorable concert in the open air theater. No matter the age or interest, there is a vast array of programming to excite and inspire even the most discerning visitor.
Photo Credit: Jen via MyMom’sHip (Strummin’ and Drummin’ Treehouse)
Adults: $11 Children (ages 3-15): $7 Children (ages 3 and under): Free
Tyler Arboretum consists of 650 acres, including 17 miles of hiking trails and is sure to please visitors of all ages. If you are looking to indulge your senses, stop by the fragrance garden to see if you can identify common herbal scents. Then head over to the meadow maze and make your way through a labyrinth of blossoms, all while enjoying the sights and sounds of nature. Don’t forget to stop by the butterfly house, you just may get the chance to see a butterfly emerge from a chrysalis!
Families are sure to love Tyler Arboretum and the children will love the adventure this whimsical garden creates, but a sense of adventure is a must! Wander down the magical path through villages of gnomes and fairies, past the mysterious door to the unknown, stop in at the goblin’s shack and end your journey by looking into a wizard’s magical crystal ball!
Adult: $12.50 Children (ages 3-12): $9 Children (ages 3 and under): Free
In 1937, Milton Hershey started a small rose garden that eventually developed into 23 acres of floral splendor known today as Hershey Gardens. Families will love the Butterfly Atrium which features the opportunity to get an up-close experience with hundreds of beautiful butterflies, and the opportunity to learn how to transform your own backyard into a butterfly haven. Children can indulge their sense of adventure and discovery by venturing through the Children’s Garden which features 32 themed gardens bursting with hands-on activities.
Photo Credit: Lillian Gardiner via FranklyPenn
Adult: $17 Children (ages 3-17): $9 Children (ages 3 and under): Free
Morris Arboretum is rooted in history, and began as the summer home of siblings John and Lydia Morris in 1887. With the vision of creating a school and laboratory designed for the study of horticulture and botany, their home formerly known as Compton, officially became the Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania in 1932.
Families can watch with wonder as model trains chug along a quarter mile of track on a display constructed of natural materials in the Garden Railway. If your family has ever dreamed of being like the Swiss Family Robinson, then you are in luck, and will definitely want to check out the Tree Adventure exhibit. This interactive arboreal wonderland features a catwalk through the trees, open-air tree-house, giant birds nest (complete with eggs) and a net suspended 50 feet in the air designed to give you a squirrel’s point of view, all while educating and building an appreciation for the natural world.
Photo by Alexander Denmarsh via DeltaSkyMagazine
Adult: $17.95 Children (ages 2-18): $11.95 Children (ages 2 and under): Free
Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is a thriving oasis in the heart of the bustling, urban neighborhood of Oakland, and has been enchanting people of all ages since 1893. Phipps is open year round and features changing specialized exhibits, along with programming for all ages. Families will enjoy the highly detailed model train exhibit and specialized programming for children during the week, which merges education with fun and exciting activities. For active and imaginative families, there is an outdoor play area and an indoor children’s farmers market.
State College, PA
Over the past decade, Penn State University has prioritized celebrating science, exploration and natural beauty through the creation and expansion of the H.O. Smith Botanic Gardens and Arboretum. This natural haven features over a dozen gardens, walking paths, fountains and fields created to educate and inspire a sense of wonder. One of the most recent additions, was the creation of Childhood’s Gate Children’s Garden. This garden features 6 different areas designed as a “…microcosm of our regional landscape.” Families will love the interactive discovery areas, demonstrations and activities.
Photo Credit: CrabtreeGardens
Adults: $5 Children (ages 5-18): $2 Children (ages 5 and under): Free
Goodell Gardens and Homestead is a botanical garden and arboretum in northwestern PA. Visitors of all ages will enjoy the beauty of its gardens, including the rare and extirpated garden with features two plants rich in history that you will likely never see anywhere else, the Ben Franklin Tree and the Dawn Redwood.
However, what makes Goodell so unique are the special events and programming that they offer. During the summer, stop by for a concert in the garden, farmers market or weekly sing-a-long for the kids. Events you definitely do not want to miss include their Homegrown Dinner: A True Farm-to-Table Gourmet Dining Experience, Homegrown Harvest Festival, and Edinboro Art & Music Festival.