Today we have a guest post by writer Janice Richardson!
With Michigan’s unpredictable weather, sometimes we need a little artificial warmth and green, so a morning at the indoor greenhouse at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens is the perfect remedy for the winter (and spring) blahs.
Until Easter, the visit is especially delightful because fairies are vacationing in the Conservatory! We completed the fairy scavenger hunt, looked for fairy houses, fairy doors, troll houses, and even the fairies themselves.
The Botanical garden also has a great BINGO game for kids to complete as they look for different plants in the Conservatory. My kids were thrilled when they got a sticker for completing their activities.
You can also borrow an Explorer Backpack (parents just need to leave an ID at the front desk to remind you to return the packs.) Each of my children wanted to check one out, which wasn’t a problem because there are plenty! The packs are filled with things like binoculars, magnifying glasses, trail maps, animal track guides, leaf identification guides, and a small book about pond wildlife. The only challenge with the Explorer Packs was for my two year old who chose a large backpack that was a big as she is!
The Conservatory isn’t huge, so you can see it all in about 60-90 minutes. Our family favorites include a Venus fly trap and two fish ponds (always a highlight with my toddler!). I love the wide variety of plants from around the world and enjoy the careful labeling and information accompanying the vegetation.
The living kaleidoscope has a stool for kids to reach the eye piece. Look though the viewer and spin the rotating planter. You’ll see an amazing changing view of green plants. It’s a neat contraption!
There is a large Bonsai exhibit outside, and several trees are also on display inside the Conservatory. If you are interested in Bonsai, the Bonsai Society meets regularly and offers classes for all levels. An annual Bonsai Show is usually held in the summer.
At the back of the Conservatory is the Arid House, or desert section, which is were you will find lots of cacti! The paths here are surrounded by walls, which keep little fingers away from sharp cacti spines.
The Conservatory at the Matthaeai Botanical Gardens is a great adventure. You can feel like you are visiting a new land without even leaving Ann Arbor! We are hoping for warmer weather soon so that we can visit the outdoor children’s garden, which is also wonderful!
A few tips.
The fairies are only vacationing in the Conservatory until Easter, so visit soon!
Leave your coats in the coatroom. The Conservatory is warm and tropical inside, so leave your coats in the coatroom located off of the front entrance so you don’t have to lug them around with you.
Soak in the warmth and the beautiful colors of flowers in bloom year round!
If you go.
Hours: 10am-4:30am until mid-May, trails are open 7am-dusk. Summer hours differ.
Address: 1800 N Dixboro Rd, Ann Arbor
Admission: Free! Donations welcome.
Parking: $1.40/hour, or $5 max per day. There is lots of parking and you pay at one of two onsite kiosks which accept coins, bills, or credit cards.
Food: Food is not permitted in the conservatory, but there are a few indoor tables in the lobby and a small snack bar to purchase from or bring your own snacks. There are picnic tables outside as well.
Classes and Birthdays: the Botanical Gardens offer a variety of classes for all age groups and their prices are very reasonable. You can also host your child’s birthday party at the Gardens. See website for more details.