Increasingly, cities around the world are turning their attention toward greener initiatives and more family-friendly attractions.
Gardens provide the best of both worlds, giving kids a chance to cultivate their green thumbs while learning valuable lessons about the environment.
Here are five great gardens to visit with kids:
Minneapolis Sculpture Garden (Minneapolis, Minnesota): Children adore the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, a grassy park filled with unusual, modern sculptures. What kid wouldn’t be enthralled by a giant spoon holding a shiny, red cherry?
The glass-enclosed Cowles Conservatory is the year-round home to a lily pond, Mexican fan palms, orange trees and a 22-foot Standing Glass Fish sculpture. The 11-acre park contains 40 permanent sculptures plus temporary works that keep things fresh for repeat park-goers. A visit here is fun all year, whether to admire the vine-covered arbor and flower gardens in warmer months or to marvel at the giant sculptures bursting from a frosting of snow in the Minnesota winters. Admission is free. Get there with cheap flights to Minneapolis.
Ethel M’s Botanical Cactus Garden (Las Vegas, Nevada): This cactus garden, on the grounds of the Ethel M Chocolate Factory, provides a sweet respite from the flamboyance of the Las Vegas Strip. After watching workers dip apples in tubs of caramel and pack up little brown dots of chocolates into boxes during a walk-through factory tour, roam the four-acre cactus garden. Neatly manicured paths are cordoned off by rope for safety’s sake. The garden features 300 species of cacti, succulents and other drought-tolerant plants. Be sure to purchase a candy or two for the kids before you leave (like their best-selling peanut butter and jelly filled milk chocolate). Self-guided tours of the factory and garden are free. Get there with cheap flights to Las Vegas.
San Diego Botanic Garden (San Diego, California): Meander along walking paths lined with beautiful plants and flowers from around the world at the San Diego Botanic Garden. In total, there are 27 themed gardens here. A visit to the Subtropical Fruit Garden allows children to see how some of their favorite fruits, like bananas and oranges, grow on trees. A walk through the giant stalks of bamboo in the Bamboo Garden feels otherworldly. Read the signs aloud to the kids so they can learn that bamboo is actually a grass that can grow up to 30 feet in one season!
The San Diego Botanic Garden contains not one but TWO children’s gardens full of hands-on activities like a sand pit filled with small plastic dinosaurs for little hands to dig up, and a giant tree house complete with rope bridges, tunnels, and a spiral staircase for exploring. Adult admission is $12; seniors, students, active military $8; children 3-12 $6. Admission is free the first Tuesday of every month. Get there with cheap flights to San Diego.
Gothenburg’s Botanical Garden (Gothenburg, Sweden): Located on 150 acres, this garden is almost overwhelming in its size and beauty. The largest botanic garden in Northern Europe, Gothenburg’s Botanical Garden is home to nearly 20,000 species of flora and fauna. It’s Rock Garden received three stars in the famed Michelin Guide for its 6,000 different marsh and shade plants. In warmer months, bring a picnic lunch to enjoy as a family amid the fragrant displays of colorful flowers. Open year-round, in winter months you can wander through greenhouses featuring thousands of plants from around the world, including a collection of 1,500 species of orchids. Voluntary admission fee is 2 Euros.
The Gardens at Cornerstone (Sonoma, California): The Gardens at Cornerstone showcases designs from nearly two dozen of the world’s best landscape architects. Each designer was given a 1,800-square-foot parcel of land on which to create their masterpieces. From traditional plant-filled spaces to fields of plastic sunflower pinwheels, every member of the family will find a favorite garden here. Cornerstone is also home to unique retail shops, art galleries, wine-tasting, and a café. Garden admission is free.
Photo credit: Colleen Lanin (Travel Mamas)