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Franklin Park Conservatory’s Children’s Garden is Unlike Anything Else in Columbus

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The Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation Children’s Garden at Franklin Park Conservatory will be one of the top family-friendly attractions in Columbus!

Today Mayson and I got a sneak peek of the new Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation Children’s Garden at Franklin Park Conservatory! There is nothing else like this in the city! I walked away from the tour in awe!

The Children’s Garden is going to be a full-fledged attraction in itself, but it comes at no additional cost to visitors of the Franklin Park Conservatory! Access to the Children’s Garden is included with admission or membership and can only be entered through the Conservatory. On Community Days, the first Sunday of each month, residents of Franklin County and the City of Columbus can enter the Conservatory for free with your valid ID from 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM!

A special thanks to Franklin Park Conservatory and CEO, Bruce Harkey for giving us this special tour!

Here are some of the many highlights:

A kids only entrance made of willows!

The Sunshine Celebration Arch, featuring stained glass rainbows!

The Rainbow Welcome Terrace is where you  can orient yourself and peruse the map to decide where to go first!

Larger than life topiaries throughout the park!

Misting Boulders – kids can run around in the mist, which will also create rainbows in the air!

The Flower Kaleidoscope!

Take the road less travelled!

Explore the Sensory Garden full of instruments to play!

Give or watch a puppet show!

This playhouse is made of bamboo and straw bales  wrapped in mud and clay and is the largest natural children’s playhouse in the world!

The Sunrise Lawn for rolling and running and the Boulder Scramble for rock climbing!

The Fairy Garden.

The Whispering Wall – whisper at one end and your partner can hear on the other end of this curved bench!

The Reading Garden – grab a book and enjoy this peaceful area!

The Word Garden – make your own inspirational sentences!

In an area called, My Ohio Woods, This Sandstone Bluff is modeled after Hocking Hills! Water will cascade down the bluff and will fill this creek area for children to explore! (yes, they will get wet!)

The Wetland Explore includes a boardwalk and Floating Path. In this rain garden area, water will rise and fall with the rain. The area also includes a Pollywog Pool where kids can watch for tadpoles!

The Green Man!

This Floating Frame will be a spot for floating art! Drop in floating objects to create a moving piece of artwork within a stone frame!

A gardening and cooking area!

A Nature Play Zone that includes a Stump Jump, Sand Box and Web Climb!

An amazing Canopy Walk that gives you a bird’s eye view of the entire garden!

The Hammock Lounge, which is 12 feet off the ground, may look scary, but it can literally hold 7 elephants!

A Cork Tree Rope Walk – swaying bridges that allow you to walk through the heights.

Cardinal Corner – a life sized bird’s nest!

The Children’s Garden also has a Learning Pavilion where events will be held. In this building there are also family restrooms and hand washing stations.

The Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation Children’s Garden opens to the public on Saturday, May 19, 2018. There will be a brief ceremony at 9:30 AM. However, members can RSVP for a preview on May 18, by clicking here!

Know Before You Go:

Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
1777 E. Broad Street Columbus, OH 43203
Phone: 614-715-8000
Open Daily: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM

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4 Nature-Themed Story Times Around Columbus

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These four nature-themed story times around Columbus combine stories with great educational, hands on experiences!

I’ve mentioned probably more than a few times that my kids are really into bugs right now. So, when I saw that Ohio Wildlife Center had a story time about insects, we were there! It prompted the idea to put together a list of story times with a nature theme.

The bonus is that these story times also come with so much more than just a story! Maybe there’s a craft, animals to meet or a woods to explore – whatever the case may be, these story times make a for a great way learn AND have an up-close, hands-on experience with nature!

1. Ohio Wildlife Center

Times: Second Wednesday of the month
Location: 6131 Cook Rd. Powell, OH 43065
Phone: 614-734-9453
Cost: $5 for anyone over 5, including adults.

Ohio Wildlife Center hosts a Wild Story Time on the first Wednesday of each month. Check the calendar here. We went in July and the theme was Insects. As I said, my boys are REALLY into bugs right now so they were completely enthralled! There were a couple of stories with an insect theme and then a visit from a resident opossum!

After the story time, we all got to take a tour of the grounds, check out the animals that live there, and then do an insect-themed craft!

When the program part was over, we were allowed to explore the grounds on our own so we borrowed some binoculars and went on a hike through the woods and looped back around to visit the animals again! Ohio Wildlife Center cares for wild animals that have been hurt or abandoned and then releases them as they are able. Some of the animals housed on the grounds included raccoons, coyotes, owls, turkeys and more.

The Ohio Wildlife Center is not open to the public on a daily basis so in order to visit, you need to attend a story time or one of their “Open to the Public” events which takes place on the second Sunday of each month.

2. Grange Insurance Audubon Center

Times: Thursdays and Saturdays at 10:00 AM
Location: 505 W. Whittier St. Columbus, OH 43215
Phone: 614-545-5475
Cost: Free

Twice a week the Pre-K Storytime is held at the Grange Insurance Audubon Center in partnership with Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks. See the calendar of events here (search for Scioto Audubon program). The story time takes place in the beautiful library at the Audubon Center with a stunning view of downtown Columbus.

Afterwards you can visit the aquatic animals and play in the indoor play area. Outside the Audubon Center is a sandbox, playground and rock climbing wall. See 9 Things to do with Your Kids at Scioto Audubon.

3. Franklin Park Conservatory

Times: Thursdays at 10:30 AM
Location: 1777 E. Broad St., Columbus, OH 43203
Phone: 614-715-8000
Cost: Included with admission or membership

Franklin Park Conservatory is currently hosting a Nature Storytime on Mondays and Thursdays at 10:30 AM in the Scotts Miracle Grow Foundation Children’s Garden. This is appropriate for kids ages 3-8 and features stories that celebrate gardens, plants and nature. Of course afterwards you can enjoy the amazing Children’s Garden which is full of hands on activities!

Franklin Park Conservatory hosts several new events and programs in the garden. See the upcoming schedule of events here.

We attended the Little Adventurers Program last summer, which took place indoors. The book was The Very Lonely Firefly by Eric Carle and the craft was making a firefly with a glittery (“glowing”) body. Ok, let’s be honest, due to a rain storm and circumstances beyond my control, we were about 10 minutes late and missed the story, but you get the point! 😉 The boys had just spent the previous weekend catching fireflies at their grandparents’ house so this craft was extra appealing to them! The Little Adventurers program is free with admission or membership!

 

Afterwards, check out the Enchanted Forest, a children’s play area on the lower level and take a walk through Blooms and Butterflies (open March – September) to see butterflies up close and personal. Newly emerged butterflies are released every day at 1:00 PM and 3:00 PM.

4. Stratford Ecological Center

Times: Second Tuesday of the month from 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM
Location: 3083 Liberty Rd., Delaware, OH 43015
Phone: 740-363-2548
Cost: $5 per family

Stratford Ecological Center hosts Story Time on the Farm on the second Tuesday of each month at 10:00 AM starting in March and running through November. See the Calendar of Events. We haven’t actually been to the story time here yet, but we have been to the farm and I have heard that the story time is very popular! The story time lasts an hour and is based on what is going on at the farm during the current season! After the story time, you can explore the farm, dig in the dirt and visit the animals! See A Day on the Farm: 5 Things to do at Stratford Ecological Center.

 

Where is your favorite local story time?

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ICYMI: Summer Nights in Columbus: Something to do Every Night of the Week

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Exploring Blendon Woods Metro Park

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This summer I am on a quest to explore as many Metro Parks as we can. One crazy morning we did two! We started out at the playground at Rocky Fork and then headed to Blendon Woods. One thing about the Metro Parks here in Columbus is that they open up a totally different world. So many times we end up somewhere and find myself saying, “wow, I didn’t know this was here!” And even though you’re less than 20 miles from downtown Columbus, you can walk through the woods and all of a sudden stumble upon something that makes you feel like you’re somewhere far away. That’s how I felt at Blendon Woods!

We started out at the Nature Center . . .

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Right away, we headed straight for the back where there is a wildlife viewing room. Luckily for us, there was a wild turkey right outside the window and a squirrel doing acrobatics from the feeder! There are binoculars available for long distance viewing.

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There are a lot of mounted animals on display inside the center.

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There is a separate room where there were some activities for kids, nature books (for adults and children), more mounted animals and also live animals like fish, turtles and a snake!

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Here you could make crayon rubbings of different kinds of leaves. There were other nature activities for children and cards with animal paw prints on them to match up with the various mounted animals in the room.

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Probably the biggest hit with my kids were the “please touch” containers. Even in the Metro Parks, I’ve found the there can be a lot of “don’t touch” and “don’t walk here” situations, so the fact that my kids could freely explore interesting objects like feathers and antlers and turtle shells was a lot of fun for them!

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I pretty much had to tear them away from the “please touch” buckets and out the door, down the path toward the waterfowl refuge.

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When you get to the fork in the road, choose one of these paths . . . we ended up doing both!

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This is a must do! Here is a great example of walking down a wooded path, not knowing what to expect, and then all of a sudden being amazed at what you find. I guess I’m about to ruin that experience for you by showing you pictures 😉 but in case you’re like me and you get to this:

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. . . and you think maybe this is just some storage area or ranger station closed off to the general public, and are tempted to turn around, like I was, I’m telling you to keep going inside! And see this:

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Inside each of the two shelters, there are viewing windows, a telescope and some open-air slots for viewing wildlife and birds. It was peaceful and I could have stood there staring for quite some time. But my kids weren’t quite as patient.

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Maybe someone can tell me what kind of bird that is in the picture above? 🙂

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After we walked back down the path and to our car, we drove to one of the playgrounds. There are a couple of them and this one is on the west side by the Natural Play Area. My kids loved the wire tunnels to crawl through.

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Within walking distance of the playground is the Natural Play Area where kids can freely roam in the creek and woods, and be free to play. We didn’t make it there because this was our second Metro Park of the day, after all, and it was starting to rain. I took that as a sign that it was time to call it a day and head home for nap time!

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Blendon Woods Metro Park has a lot of free programs available to the community. Throughout the week there are preschool programs, yoga classes for adults and activities for grade schoolers. This weekend there is a treasure hunt in the Natural Play Area and a program about Monarchs. I have had varying experiences with the programs for kids at the Metro Parks, some are welcoming of younger siblings tagging along and others are not, so I would recommend giving them a call if you have any questions about attending.

Check out this map of all of the Metro Parks! I encourage you to take advantage of all our great Metro Park system has to offer!

Know Before You Go:

Blendon Woods Metro Park
Address: 4265 E. Dublin-Granville Road Westerville, OH 43081
Hours: 6:30 AM to 10:00 PM, April through September, 6:30 AM to 8:00 PM, October through March
Phone: 614-620-1861
Nature Center Phone: 614-895-6221

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ICYMI: 12 Columbus Parks to Try This Summer


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