“Look! Look! What do you see?” A little boy peered through a periscope, adjusted his view, looked again, and then crawled into a tunnel.
A moment later, he spun a wheel, and watched the rotating disks zigzag down sprockets. He said hello to cute sculptures of a possum, lizard, and woodpecker, and took off again through the 25-foot-high tree house.
The smiling tree is just one of the fun features of the Highfield Discovery Garden, a park specially designed for 3 to 8-year-olds, but a joy for all ages. Tucked inside the rolling 335 acres of Glenwood Gardens, at 10397 Springfield Pike, the park sports seven gardens where kids can play, explore, and learn about nature.
Take the winding drive into Glenwood Gardens and perhaps enjoy one of its two trails (the paved mile loop is especially appealing for parents pushing a stroller.) From the Cotswood Visitor Center, follow the path to the Gardens. Buy tickets either at the entrance or inside the Nature’s Niche gift shop, and then, let the little ones lead.
“Let’s follow that path.” A chubby finger pointed, and blonde pigtails bobbed, as a little girl trotted ahead. The bridge bounced and swayed with every step, but steadied during a long look at the fairyland below, with its castle, miniature gardens, and even a ziplining fairy.
The boardwalk leads to a stone path and the Wizard’s garden, where kids can crawl inside a sorcerer’s hat. Nearby, Grandma’s Garden offers plants to smell and touch, or a place to sit in child-sized chairs at a tiny table.
Parents will feel more comfortable in one of the many regular-sized benches scattered throughout the park. From my seat, I heard a boy calling, “I found the egg plant.” He proudly waved his laminated card as he stood among the vegetables in the raised garden. His scavenger hunt over, he joined a growing crowd in the Garden Workshop.
“The educational programs are really just the warm-up act for the rest of the park,” said Head Naturalist Carol Mundy. The programs provide entertaining background information to enhance children’s learning experiences. “Our teachers come up with the wackiest, most fun ideas. We have programs about the weather, bees, potatoes, even Pirate Plants.” The programs last about 15 minutes, perfect for keeping kids’ attention. The topics are listed in program guides available at the gift shop counter, or at www.greatparks.org/discoverygarden.
Outside the workshop, a trio of kids played with an old-fashioned water pump. The older boy worked the lever while a girl and a toddler took turns catching the water in pails, and running to water the plants.
While they worked, a train whistle sounded. ”Here it comes! Here it comes Daddy!” A train crossed over the trestle and a streetcar chugged past. “There it goes Daddy!” The father and son walked through the Trolley Garden, following the trains and sometimes taking a moment to push buttons in the station to make the whistle sound and the trains move.
Just beyond the train, another path takes visitors through a caterpillar-shaped tunnel to a garden shaped liked a butterfly. The plants here attract butterflies and the beautiful insects flutter everywhere.
Finally, the water garden invites kids to play “I Spy” in a search for frogs and toads among the lily pads and flowers. A wide stone path leads across the pond to friendly life-size statues of storybook characters Frog and Toad, who welcome hugs, offer a great place to pose for pictures, and wave hello and goodbye to all the garden’s visitors.
Highfield Discovery Garden
Inside Glenwood Gardens
10397 Springfield Pike
513-771-8733 or greatparks.org/discoverygarden
Family pass for a family of four is $40
2012 Daily Admission is $5 ages 12 and older, $4 ages 2 – 12, free ages younger than 2
January – March, November and December
• Wednesday – Saturday: 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.
• Sunday: 12 – 5 p.m.
• Closed Monday, Tuesday
April – October
• Tuesday – Saturday: 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.
• Sunday: 12 – 5 p.m.
• Closed Monday