One of the best places to take kids is somewhere they can run and play. If they are able to get wet, that’s an extra bonus (well, for the kids)…
Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is a world-class treasure. If you’re anywhere near Michigan, it’s definitely planning a visit! There are so many things to see and do – a tropical conservatory (where butterflies bloom each March and April), indoor and outdoor sculptures, paths through woodlands, fields, and by a lake, a farm garden (with really cool farm animal sculptures), a concert series in the summer, and more. But the most fun for families is the Lena Meijer Children’s Garden – it’s a play wonderland, open for discovery, exploration, music, water, spiders, learning, and child-sized sculptures and play areas.
You enter the Children’s Garden through a regular gate, OR through a tiny, magical, child-sized gate (called the mouse hole). There are various gardens where you can learn about plants – in the Kid Sense garden, you can find a flower that looks like an eyeball, feel different plants that look like something else, or hear and listen through special speaking tubes.
Our favorite part is the Great Lakes Garden – large cement pools that are shaped like the 5 Great Lakes. There are boats you can play with, lots of water to splash, levels of water like waterfalls, showing the altitude of the water, and benches out of splashing range for the parents. There’s an empty sailboat you can sit in, a wall of water, and even a pump where you can fountain water at unsuspecting passersby.
Head down the path and find the storytelling garden. If your child is a theatre buff, they’ll enjoy putting on an impromptu play in the performance hut. Be a beaver, and crawl into the beaver lodge in the wooded wetlands. Dig for buried treasure in the Rock Quarry. Learn about spiders and sit in a giant bird’s nest in the Treehouse Village.
Make music in the Butterfly Maze, identify statues all throughout the Children’s Garden, walk through a labyrinth, and sit on a dragon’s tail.
Plan to stay all day – there are excellent restrooms right there (child height friendly!), a little café if you don’t want to pack a picnic, plenty of shade and seating, and more than enough to spark imaginations.
Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, called one of the world’s 30 “Must-See Museums” by Patricia Schultz, author of 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, contains the largest tropical conservatory in Michigan; one of the U.S.’s biggest children’s gardens; arid and Victorian gardens featuring bronze sculptures by Degas and Rodin; a house of carnivorous plants; and an outdoor amphitheater. The internationally acclaimed Sculpture Park includes a permanent collection with works by Rodin, Oldenburg, Moore, Bourgeois, and Plensa. Indoor galleries host changing sculpture exhibitions with recent exhibitions by Picasso, Degas, Butterfield, di Suvero, and Calder.
Dr. Jessie Voigts is the Publisher of WanderingEducators.com, and the author of Bringing the World Home: A Resource Guide to Raising Intercultural Kids. She loves exploring the world with her family.