Franklin Park Conservatory Children’s Garden

Imagine my excitement my husband called me and said, “I booked flights to the USA. We leave in one week.” I was so excited that I almost cried. We weren’t sure if we’d be visiting Ohio this summer or not and we kept putting off planning the trip. Not only did I want to have a lot of family time, I also wanted to do all of the things, including visit the new Franklin Park Conservatory Children’s Garden, located in Columbus, Ohio.

Of course, I couldn’t fit in all of the things I wanted to do (or see all of the people I wanted to see), but I did get meet my friend Julie and her children at the Franklin Park Conservatory. It was a beautiful and sunny day, just perfect for visiting a children’s garden. Was it everything I hoped it would be?

Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation Children’s Garden

Officially called Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation Children’s Garden, it is the newest addition to the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. It opened in May, 2018, to the delight of Columbus and area families. The garden was designed with accessibility in mind, so the majority can still be explored by visitors of all physical mobility. The garden is spread among two acres and includes many areas for messy play and exploring.

a green praying mantis on the neck of a boy in a blue shirt, with pine trees behind him.

My friend’s son spot this praying mantis, picked it up, and it walked all over him! This was our welcome to the children’s garden and to Columbus, Ohio. Picture courtesy of Julie at Waiting For Fireflies blog.

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Running like kids around the canopy walk.

The Canopy Walk & Art Pool

We started our adventure by heading immediately to the canopy walk. Underneath, there was a building area, but we decided to go up. After we walked around the canopy, we walked along a path. We passed a reading area (not wheelchair accessible at this time) and a pond with a board walk. If you continue on, there’s a shaded area where they have tables set up for activities. There is also a shallow pool where kids (and adults) can make floating artwork. The pieces are changed regularly, too.

Watering Garden

Tucked back in that corner is a garden that kids can water as much as they want. Child-sized watering cans hang on pegs in the far corner and there are sinks with step stools for the kids. The plants in the watering garden somehow looked pretty good, even with being given a lot of water. I love places where parents can say yes to children. Yes!

The bathrooms are also back in this corner.

A faux creekbed, mostly gray, shale, but the bottom of the pool is lighter, almost white. A creek bed heads off in the distance. All man made.

The Waterfall and  Creek Bed Pools

On a hot summer day, you can tell this area was a kid favorite. I didn’t think my kids would get wet. Guess what?

They got wet. Soaked, in fact.

It’s worthwhile, at least in the summer, to wear swimsuits and have a change of clothes handy. Luckily, we had ours bags with us, so it wasn’t a problem to change clothes after our trip. My plans for next time will include wearing swimsuits to the space, having a towel handy, with a change of clothes when we are ready to leave.

The pools start with a water fall and there’s a creek path to walk between the pools. They aren’t very deep and all the kids I observed enjoyed rolling around in the water. It did mimic an Ohio shale creek bed and that was by design.

This picture is from the following day at Shale Hollow Park in Delaware, Ohio. This is a shale creek bed and you can see some similarities. Pro tip: make your kids wear shoes. Shale is sharp.

The Kids’ Reactions?

“My kids favorite part surprised me,” said my friend Julie, blogger at Waiting for Fireflies and my host for the visit. ” They loved the ‘making art on water’ pool. It had different loose parts both time we went. Flowers, palm fronds, and floating trays once and foam shapes the second time. They also enjoyed the whispering bench and seeing the frogs in the natural water area.

I loved the stained glass arch and the bamboo tunnels and all the small touches.”

I asked my kids their favorite part and both responded, almost in unison, “the creek bed pools!”

A small pond in the foreground and a wooden boardwalk in the background at Franklin Park Conservatory Children's Garden

How Much Time Should You Allow?

Sadly, our time was short due to pressing plans. I would’ve liked at least another hour or two for our visit. If you’re planning a one time adventure, plan for 3-4 hours. During the summer, it might be wise to visit the inside of the conservatory first. You may not want to wrestle your wet, wriggling kiddos through the building after they get to experience the pool.

One Of the Best Things to Do in Columbus, Ohio With Kids

The garden is well designed and because it was designed for kids, it promotes creativity, imagination, and my favorite, messy play. It’s a “yes space” for kids. There is room for kids to explore the outdoors, within a somewhat controlled environment (fenced).

What to Bring

If you plan to spend time in the children’s garden during the warmer months, plan to bring sunscreen, hats, swimsuits, change of clothes, towels, bottled water, and maybe a light snack (food is otherwise not permitted). Food is available for purchase inside and at an outdoor food cart.

What to Know

Children who need them must be in swim diapers before getting wet. Pool toys and glass are not allowed. Check out their full list of prohibited items.

Franklin Park Conservatory Children’s Garden Hours

The hours are the same as the main building, which are 10 am to 5 pm daily, except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Check their website for additional information.

Conclusion

The Children’s Garden at Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens exceeded my expectations. I knew it would be a cool space and it delivered. Give yourself plenty of time to explore it while you’re visiting Columbus!

Do you have a children’s garden where you live? Have you visited the one in Columbus, Ohio?

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