This week’s topic is about day trips to local attractions such as zoos, fairs, and carnivals. I haven’t been to any of those in quite a while, but my daughter and family invited me to join them on a recent visit to the botanical gardens in Grand Rapids. The Meijer Gardens are a beautiful oasis on the east end of the city, where 158 acres of rolling landscape are divided into several areas: a children’s garden, a sculpture park, a historic settlement, an amphitheater, a Japanese Garden (I wrote about this area in my post last June), and the glass-enclosed conservatory, where tropical plants abound.
Our first stop was a room called the Education Center. This is a changing interactive exhibit for children. For the last year or so, the theme has been Japan, in honor of the Japanese Garden. A large off-white carpet represents a Zen garden, and child-size rakes are available for children to imitate the monks who rake the sand into perfect patterns. Across the room a miniature teahouse allows children the opportunity to interact with others as they sit at a tiny table. Some of the kids don the kimonos and pretend to enjoy their tea, while others play with little cricket cages, walk across the Japanese-style bridge, or jump from lily pad to lily pad. It’s truly an awesome exhibit.
When the kids had tired of the playroom, we went to the conservatory for the Butterfly Exhibit. Each year during the months of March and April, thousands of cocoons are shipped from all over the world and allowed to hatch inside the conservatory. When I taught second grade, this was an annual field trip so I was familiar with the exhibit. But seeing it with my grandchildren is an altogether different experience. Guests have to go through double doors so that the butterflies don’t escape. Once inside, we walk on the path between tropical plants. There are several butterfly feeding stations, and a small structure houses the cocoons that have yet to hatch. I had a difficult time getting a good picture of the butterflies – so I settled for taking pictures of the kids instead.
If the weather had been nice we might have gone outside to visit some of the amazing sculptures, or gone to the outdoor Children’s Park. But the toddlers were tired and hungry, so we ate in the Garden’s restaurant and went home. I’m sure the family will take some of those in during another visit!
Have you gone on a fun family outing lately?