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Garvan Woodland Gardens is one of those hidden treasures in the Natural State that should be on every Arkansan’s destination bucket list.
I’ve planned a few kid-trips to see and experience new things that wound up being a total bust, but the Garvan Woodland Gardens, a botanical garden in Hot Springs, was definitely not that. It was an engaging and breath-taking trip for both my kids and me.
Along with the beautiful and fascinating environment and atmosphere, I found myself in awe of the creative landscape architects behind the complex layout of the gardens. The perfectly placed plants and intriguing features required forethought and careful planning along with ongoing care to keep the grounds as impressive as the creative minds that designed them.
I planned our trip to Garvan Woodland Gardens because I’d heard about the new Tree House Adventure. Figuring it would be a nice outing for the kids and me, I was blown away when we arrived.
Located in the center of the 1.5-acre Evans Children’s Adventure Garden, the tree house consists of four suspended levels just begging to be explored.
Surrounded by pines, oaks, and Arkansas quarried boulders, the area is a bounty of kid-captivating fun.
Each level of The Tree House was built to represent the structure of a tree such as the roots, trunk, branches, and leaves, and each level’s significance corresponds with a part of the life cycle of a tree. It has been thoughtfully and purposefully designed to teach children about nature through interactive exhibits and structures.
Architecturally interesting and a perfect addition to the Children’s Garden area, the Tree House was privately funded by individuals (just under 350) with the passion and generosity to bestow this magnificent gift to the state of Arkansas. The project is, at once, a work of building architecture, landscape architecture, and interior design for all to enjoy. But the primary vision of the creators was to create something that was not only educational but also visually and sensually stunning resulting in an outdoor classroom that all ages can enjoy.
The Evans Children’s Adventure Garden has plenty of room for kids to explore the beauty of nature while also burning off energy as they make round after round through the tree house, learning as they go.
Along with the giant tree house, the gardens host an ADA-accessible, man-made cave that encourages children to explore. With an entrance adorned by a 12-foot waterfall, the cave is surrounded by boulders meant to be climbed and played on. From the cave entrance, visitors will also see the unique iron tree bridge that adds even more whimsy and fun to the children’s area.
On our trip, my kids were excited to spot the iron tree bridge as it was one of the many features they were searching for on their Garvan Woodland Gardens scavenger hunt. Be sure to ask one of the Garden staff for yours when you go. The brilliantly designed game engaged and educated me as well as my kids.
Our family thoroughly enjoyed the amazing landscaping as we made our way through the gardens on our self-guided tour, and the kids were on a mission to find all 24 stickers on their hunt lists so they could earn their prize at the end. Not only educational, but the game also helped my children focus, observe, and work together to achieve their goal.
Though we made the trip to Garvan Woodland Gardens to check out the Children’s Adventure Garden area and new Tree House, we wound up enjoying so much more.
As we toured all the Garden’s areas and features, we spotted a real peacock and tried to spot the hidden animals at the Sugg Model Train Garden. The train conductor shared his “secret” with the kids about how many animal figurines hide in the train garden area.
The Garvan Woodland Gardens hosts 210 beautiful acres of breathtaking environment to explore and enjoy. Began by Mrs. Verna Cook Garvan, she designed the first layout of the garden and, for forty years, planted thousands of specimens that are still on display today. Upon her death, she bequeathed the property to the University of Arkansas’s Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design through the University of Arkansas Foundation. Her desire for the Gardens to educate and serve the people of Arkansas in a joyful, tranquil atmosphere has certainly been honored.
A great place to visit with several awesome photo ops that change seasonally, the Garvan Woodland Gardens was a huge outing success that educated, entertained, and delighted my kids. And me, too.
To find out more information about the gardens, Click Here.
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