This post has lots of pictures. LOTS of them.
That’s because my family and I went to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chaska recently for the first time. We went late on a Saturday afternoon when there were 4 weddings going on (!) and few regular visitors were left, so much of the time it kind of felt like we had the place to ourselves. It was pretty hot and muggy, but we enjoyed ourselves and took LOTS of pictures. You could spend all day here taking pictures and somehow you wouldn’t have enough. There’s just that much to see. It’s HUGE, and it’s beautiful.
When you pull in there’s a little shack where an employee directs you if you’re an event guest, or takes your payment if you’re just coming to visit. We had a Living Social deal for 2 for 1 admission and we just had to give that to them. (Admission is $12 for ages 13 and up, and FREE for children 12 & under.)
Then we pulled in and parked by the visitor center. We went in hoping to eat in the restaurant, but it closed early due to all the weddings and catering setup, so we went to the gift shop and got some candies to hold us over (the kids got cute lollipops).
Then we went to the information desk and asked the lady there where we should begin. We had maps and she saw we had kids, so she showed us the best route to take with the kids in mind. She was very helpful and suggested that we start at the doors marked “Gardens” and walk through the various displays there, then visit the Learning Center which has play areas for kids, and then drive the 3-mile drive, where we’ll find the Maze Garden that kids love to go through.
So that’s what we did. We toured the various gardens outside, starting with the Annual Garden, the Rose Garden and the Herb Gardens.
At the Rose Garden:
Most of the walk-through gardens were stroller-friendly. There were steps and hills so I couldn’t take the stroller everywhere, and I wouldn’t recommend a wheelchair in many spots due to the inclines.
Heidi and me at the Rose Garden.
They do offer tram tours several times a day. We missed these and I think this one was for a wedding party:
We saw a wedding as we were walking through.
Fun places to pose around the Arboretum.
The Japanese Garden was probably our favorite garden. My husband especially loves Japanese Gardens.
The kids loved looking at the koi fish, which stick their heads up out of the water at you.
Heidi in the tea house.
Next we went to the Learning Center. On Saturday afternoons from noon to 4:00 p.m. they offer family fun activities that are free with gate admission. For example, this month the theme is “Fall Into Whimsy” and families can “tease magic out of seeds, twigs and leaves to turn them into fairies, gnomes and elves.” Sadly, we missed this, but would like to come back for the activities another time. Here’s the Green Play Yard where kids can play and learn in a nature-themed play area, with different areas for different ages of kids – babies, toddlers and older kids.
Playing in the big kids’ area.
The Play Yard, late in the day when it’s no longer bustling with kids.
There’s also a Children’s Garden with vegetables and flowers to take care of.
Finally we drove along the 3-mile road to tour the many collections of plants, wildflowers and trees. Some wild turkeys decided to cross the road in front of us.
The best part was probably the Maze Garden. Heidi and Thor said this was their favorite part – getting to go through the maze and try to find your way out.
We all went in as a family and ran through – we hit every possible wrong turn!
Thor loved to run through the maze – even though he was all sweaty!
There’s SO much more to share but you can’t really grasp the size and beauty of the place without visiting and seeing for yourself! I suggest going on a not-too-hot Saturday afternoon in the fall when the flowers are still in full bloom but it’s cooler, and when there are many activities for families.
NOTE: The Arboretum is FREE on Thursdays all day from November to March, and every third Thursday of the month after 4:30 p.m. April through October. Though you really need a whole day to see everything, you can get a good feel for the place in just a couple hours, and that’s a good length of time to visit when you have young kids so it’s not overwhelming. It’s definitely a great place to take your family and expose your kids to nature!