TRAVEL HERE: RORY MEYERS CHILDREN’S ADVENTURE GARDEN AT THE DALLAS ARBORETUM & BOTANICAL GARDEN
A recent Thursday was Blogger Day at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Society. I’d been to the Media Day just a couple of weeks ago so I’d seen the pumpkins, but this invitation offered me something else – entry to the Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden. I decided to go check it out.
The Dallas Arboretum (DABS) is actually two different places under one umbrella. There’s the Arboretum we all know and love. The one with the DeGolyer House, Cool Thursday Concerts, Autumn at the Arboretum, Blooms and Holiday at the Arboretum. Then there’s a whole ‘nother garden that you may or may not even realize is there. Or if your age is still in single digits, you may think the garden with the DeGolyer House is the OTHER garden, because you’re all about the Children’s Adventure Garden.
See back in 2013 DABS introduced the Rory Meyer’s Children’s Adventure Garden to the world. I just happened to be at the garden that weekend and wandered in. It was late in the day and I gave it a cursory once over. Since I don’t have kids I didn’t return, especially since there’s an additional entry charge for it, but I had a sneaky suspicion that I might be missing something.
Was I ever! On Blogger Day I had the opportunity to tour the garden with Caelie Dunn, MEd, Children’s Garden Public Program Manager. If you have kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews or just small people you enjoy, then you need to get to this garden. It’s a Disney-esque adventure into gardening for kids of all ages.
As Caelie took me through the garden all I could think of was my Dad. I lost him before the garden opened, but his favorite part of Epcot was Living With the Land. He would have loved the Children’s Adventure Garden, because it’s a lot bigger and more hands-on. You will, too, so come along with me.
Welcome to Blogger Day
After five years of blogging, I’m finally on the map. There are all kinds of stories out there about people who start a blog one day and suddenly find themselves thrust upon on the world stage. That wasn’t me and it’s not most bloggers. Most of us have a circle of friends in the double digits who enjoy reading our posts. Here’s a secret, most of us write because we can’t help ourselves – the readers are a bonus. Here’s another secret, most of the readers of blogs are other bloggers. I still remember when my followers reached the three digit mark. (Throws confetti!) Nowadays about twenty people a day drop by my blog and that’s enough to keep me going. It’s also enough to get on the map. I’m what they call an influencer.
With the rise of social media it’s not enough for an organization to have great advertising. They also need a substantial social media network. They build that network by connecting with other people in social media – people like me who connect with people like you. (For an even better connection, you should checkout my contest for a pair of free tickets to the Arboretum. Click here!)
So, the Arboretum invited me to come take a look at the gardens and as a bonus they threw in free admission. Since I’m a member, that wasn’t a draw for me, but the offer of getting some first hand information on a part of the garden I’m unfamiliar with? Well, I blocked out the morning and made my reservation.
Old Home Week at DABS
I’ve only been blogging for a few years, but I’ve been loving Dallas for decades. I once belonged to several young professionals groups supporting the arts, like The PM League at the Dallas Museum of Art and Voce Forte of The Dallas Opera. Nowadays I’m closer to senior citizens discounts than meeting the age qualifications for young professional groups, but I still love the DMA and the Opera.
I was welcomed to Blogger Day by Terry Lendecker, Vice President of Advertising and Promotions. I seemed familiar to her, so we played the where-do-I-know-you-from game. We made the Voce Forte connection pretty quickly. The sparkling eyes and bright smile reminded me of all the fun I used to have behind-the-scenes at TDO. Terry led Voce Forte for awhile before I left for my sojourn in California and it’s good to know the Arboretum is in such competent hands.
Terry introduced me to Caelie. My love affair with the Rory Meyer’s Children’s Adventure Garden was about to begin.
I’m already predisposed to loving everything at DABS. My wonderful mother was devoted to it with all her heart, clocking hundreds of volunteer hours every year for at least two decades. I caught my affection for the gardens from her. With a pre-existing heart condition related to the Arboretum, it didn’t take long for Caelie’s love of the Children’s Adventure Garden to rub off on me.
As we strolled from the entry area to the children’s garden it was easy to tell we shard a bond. We chatted about the pumpkins and commented on the Christmas gazebos going up. We were soon discussing how important volunteers are to the gardens. Our first stop was the koi pond in the Lay Family Garden, where I discovered Fridays are feeding days and quite popular with the kiddos.
The Rory Meyer’s Children’s Adventure Garden
After the obligatory picture of the entryway sporting pumpkins on its spirals we headed over to The First Adventure. It’s not only the first area you come to, it’s designed as an educational entry point for the youngest of visitors. Educator-led activities scaled down to toddlers and pre-schoolers allow them to get their fingers dirty with crafts and other hands-on activities. There’s a petting garden – yes I said petting garden – for exploring the garden by touch. A fountain offers a refreshing splash on warm days. All around are things to climb on, in, over and around. There’s even a kiosk of computer screens to keep big brothers and sisters busy while the youngest ones explore their own glade.
As we continued through the garden one thing made a huge impression on me. This garden is designed for engagement. Touch here, feel this, smell that, climb up, slide down, dive in! Every sense is encouraged to participate. The garden is also sneaky. While the kiddos (of whatever age) think they are just having fun, volumes of knowledge about our world trickles down to that place where you never forget the first time you touched the seeds in a pod of okra or watched something blow up in a lab or stood in a wind tunnel.
I kept thinking, this is not only Disney-up-close-and-personal; this is better than Disney!
Traveling to Walt Disney World is an amazing adventure, but its way over in Florida, costs a fortune and chances are kids walk away with their memory of Mickey Mouse overshadowing what they may have learned along the way. I love me some Walt Disney World, but I’m amazed that right here in my own city we have an attraction that runs off and leaves Mickey in the dust.
One day of Mickey for one child costs $97 and that’s after you’ve paid to get there and for someplace to stay. Let’s not even get into food and souvenirs. A year of DABS and the Children’s Adventure Garden for up to six people (including parking!) is only $175. New math, old math or counting on your fingers and toes, this is a bargain. What’s more your kids will love it over and over again, because each day is full of new and exciting adventures. Here’s the schedule the day I was there. Please excuse the wrinkles.
Time for Me to Go
I’ve overstayed my welcome today, but with blogger day, running into an old friend and making a new one, I had a lot to tell you. Keep coming by, there’s always a lot to see and do. Before you go, here’s a few more photos I took around the Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden.