I like botanic gardens. With assorted plant species, winding paths, infinite colors, and interesting creatures, botanic gardens can easily meet the expectations of everyone in your family. Gardens can be mysterious places to explore, quiet spaces to reflect and relax, a photographer’s playground, a laboratory for learning and much more.
Here are a few botanic gardens I have visited:
- San Diego Botanic Garden
In addition to 2 children’s gardens, there are 37 acres and 4 miles of trails to explore at this Encinitas attraction. For my ideas on visiting the Hamilton Children’s Garden, check out my playgrounds post.
- Balboa Park Botanical Building
This building is one of the largest lath structures in the world. Together with the Lily Pond that lies directly in front of it, this area is the most photographed in the park.
- The Huntington
San Marino, California
In addition to a library, art galleries and tea room, there are more than a dozen themed gardens spanning 120 acres at The Huntington.
For more ideas on visiting The Huntington, check out my repetition and playgrounds posts.
- Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
This garden is a great place to explore on a hot day, and dogs are permitted too. Ask for a mystery scavenger hunt especially for kids.
- Lotusland, Santa Barbara
Exploration of this garden is by tour only, but groups are kept small and families are grouped together to provide the most enjoyable experience.
- Conservatory of Flowers
Located in Golden Gate Park, this iconic piece of architecture is the oldest wood and glass conservatory in North America.
1. Grab a camera for macro photography practice. This is a great activity for children and adults alike. Each season offers different subjects, so visit often and compare photos throughout the year.
2. Enhance observation skills with a scavenger hunt or I Spy. How many shades of green can you find? What shapes do you see in the cacti? What is the most unusual plant name you read?
3. Pick up a garden map and have the kids plan the visit. Will you start at the desert or topiary garden? How will you get there? Introduce or reinforce the concept of cardinal directions.
4. Draw a visual representation of your visit. Use a ruler to measure from the entrance of the botanic garden to your first stop of the visit. Hint, if the path isn’t straight, try a string or piece of yarn to measure the distance against a ruler. Record, then measure the distance to the next stop of the visit. Create a scale for the map or write about your visit using these measurements.
5. Explore patterns by designing a dream garden. Create a blueprint for your garden. Instead of a tissue paper Christmas wreath, use those same materials (colored tissue paper, glue, pencil with eraser and paper plate) to create a pattern of tissue paper flowers for your garden. First, cut the tissue paper into various sized squares. Next, wrap and twist one piece of tissue paper around the eraser end of a pencil. Then, dip the flat side into the glue and tap the paper plate where you want to place the tissue paper. Finally, release the paper and remove the pencil. Repeat until the entire plate is covered.
Check out this great blog for 10 children’s books about gardening.