Behind the McDonalds on 747 lies a hidden gem. Glenwood Gardens, a Hamilton County Park, has lovely gardens and a walking paths that makes you feel like you are somewhere in Europe. In addition to the gardens and trails the park also hosts the Highfield Discovery Center, which is a non-traditional playground that has hands on learning experiences for kids of all ages. From the moment you walk through the lobby of the gift store Nature’s Niche to pay your entry fee you feel like you are being swept away to a fantasy world. Nature’s Niche is housed in an old cottage and is the gateway to the Highfield Discovery Garden. There are unique and lovely gifts that can be purchased inside of Nature’s Niche as well an area with a train table and puppet theater for kids. Once you head outside there is a cute seating area that is perfect for eating lunch. The patio has a fountain with water coming out of a statue of a frog’s mouth. At the moment beautiful irises are blooming around the fountain. The seating area makes you feel like you should have tea and cucumber sandwiches. It is a fun place to eat lunch and the kids will enjoy the small tables they put out in the summer.
The pathway down to the Discovery Garden has lots of beautiful flowers and plants as well two scare crows dressed appropriately for the season to greet all of the guests. Straight ahead is the huge tree fort that has tunnels and ladders to climb. There are different levels and entry points on this huge structure. There is also a scavenger hunt that helps you located different animals (not real) and other things that are found in and around the tree fort. Another feature of the Discovery Garden is an area with swings and a little house that has a play tea set and books inside. This is sure to entertain the kids for awhile as their imagination takes off. Kids can also fill buckets and water the flowers. You might want to wear your rain boots! The butterfly garden and caterpillar tunnel are additional features of the park. In the summer the caterpillar tunnel has mist to cool you off on those hot days.
Highfield has so much to offer! Some other favorites include the garden train with buttons kids can push inside the station and the swinging bridge that walks by a dragon with beady blue eyes. The walking path has paved and unpaved trails and passes a wetland where you might just see some turtles or frogs. The fun and discovery here are endless and it is easy to lose track of time there but one of the most noteworthy aspects of the gardens are the workshops for kids. Each day there are themed based, hands-on learning classes geared for kids. Whether you bring your toddler or want to incorporate this into a homeschool program there is something for everyone.
For example, one of the early classes in May was all about bees. The naturalist talked about all of the different jobs that bees have and the kids even got to wear bee hats. There was a sample of honey to taste and puzzles to complete. When the class was over there were manipulatives and visuals that kids and use to explore and learn about nature. Some of the upcoming classes include Pond Life, Varied Veggies Reptiles, Buggarific, and Dandelions. Classes are offered daily Tuesday through Saturday at 10:45 am 1 pm, and 4 pm. Sundays they are offered at 1 pm and 4 pm.
When you make your visit to Highfield Discovery Garden plan on staying for a while and pack at lunch. Admission is $5 a person and children two and under are free. Annual memberships are available. Additionally, a Hamilton County Park pass is needed to enter the park and can be purchased at the gate. http://www.greatparks.org/parks/glenwood-gardens/the-highfield-discovery-garden