We’ve been overdue for a visit to Lauritzen Gardens – Omaha’s Botanical Gardens. Mr. Wonderful and I hadn’t strolled the grounds since our wedding there seven years ago. We’ve gone in the winter with the kids, the poinsettia display a nice escape from the gray world Omaha becomes in December. But, they haven’t really explored the great gardens.
“I consider (Laurizen) as a big backyard,” said Mia Jenkins, director of marketing. “A place to discover and learn together.”
I recently chatted with Jenkins about visiting the gardens as a family. What I gathered from our talk, to summarize: Encourage children to be curious. Let them explore whatever it is that catches their eye, let them connect with nature on their terms. Pretty simple, right?
Here’s what else I learned:
Jenkins said some kids need no encouragement in finding things that interest them there. For others, they may need some guidance. She suggested a few activities to encourage exploration:
Activities to do with children
– Indoors, you’ll have to check out the koi fish. Point out colors and patterns together.
– Stop and smell the roses. No really. Head to the Rose Garden and make this cool discovery: Roses don’t all smell the same. Some are citrusy, others are floral.
– Visit the Garden in the Glen and have your kids rotate the kinetic sculpture “Turning Leaves” (though be careful not to be hit by it!).
– Encourage your kids to take pictures. It will be fun to see the gardens from their perspective.
– Visit the Herb Garden in the summer and fall. Kids can touch and smell the plants and experience how their textures and scents vary.
– Scavenger hunt idea #1: Find different shapes in nature (and man-made)
– Scavenger hunt idea #2: Find different colors in nature
– Look for wildlife (a good spot is the arboretum, where you might find frogs and turtles)
– When visiting in the spring, look for nests.
Garden highlights kids will love
– Model Railroad Garden. This is open every year from May to October and features seven train lines and replicas of Omaha landmarks made out of natural materials like twigs.
Kids love this place. So do I. A fun little exercise: Have your kids try to identify the buildings in the display OR have them try to identify the materials used to make them.
– Children’s Garden. This place really shines in the summer, according to Jenkins.
What all can kids find there? Sunflowers, a corn maze, a vegetable garden, a rainbow garden, as well as a water feature.
There’s also an alphabet garden, too, where kids can find plants starting with each letter of the alphabet, and a senses garden where kids are encouraged to smell, touch, etc.
– Show your kids the dangos by Jun Kaneko and the jellybean sculptures. Jenkins said kids are often captivated by how bright they are (and she said it was a great place to go on a hunt for shapes).
– Kenefic Park. This is actually outside of the gardens, but you park in the lot to get there. After a climb up some stairs, you’ll reach the park, which is home to two gigantic Union Pacific locomotives. It’s FREE to visit, whether or not you’ve paid garden admission.
– Geocache. There are a couple just outside of the property for your family to hunt for.
Before you go
– Go over the do’s and don’ts of the garden with your kids: It’s OK to look at and smell the flowers but they need to leave them for others to enjoy. Go ahead and marvel at the trees and water features but do not climb in them. Stay on the paths.
– For parents, heads up, you can bring water in with you, but other outside drinks and all outside food is not allowed (with the exception of the Tempo of Twilight concerts). Also, moms and dads, leave the kids’ scooters, frisbees, kites and such at home.
– Top tip: Bringing young kids? Consider taking the tram. We took it to the furthest garden – the founders’ garden – and walked back. Well worth the $3 per person since the kids were tired by the end (and so were we). Plus, if you’re really tired, you can hop on another tram headed back to the visitors center.
– Kids 6 and younger are admitted FREE. Always.
– Great photo opportunities to seek out: Kenefic Park, the Mount Fuji gate in the Japanese Garden
– You can’t have a picnic at Lauritzen Gardens, but you CAN have one at Kenefic Park. It’s open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily (and until 8 p.m. on Mondays in the summer)
– From Memorial Day to Labor Day, you can check out a Discovery Bag for FREE on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays (if they’re available). They’ll have kid-friendly things to enhance your visit, like a magnifying glass, scavenger hunt and tips on identifying flowers and trees.
Annual Events kids will love
All events listed are FREE with museum admission and FREE to members:
Leashes at Lauritzen – Select summer and fall days
Railroad Days – July
Sweet Corn Festival – August
Autumn & Japanese Ambiance Festival – October
Ghoulish Garden Adventure – October
Holiday Poinsettia Show – November through January
Holiday Happenings – December
Temporary Exhibits: “Metamorphosis: From Reclaimed Plastics to Works of Art” Jan. 20 through May 13, 2018
Address: Lauritzen Gardens, First and Bancroft streets, Omaha
Hours: Open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day; open until 8 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays from mid-May through mid-September.
Admission: Adults, $7; children ages 6 to 12, $3; children younger than 6, FREE; members, FREE
Congrats! It’s Oh My! Omaha’s fifth anniversary and to celebrate, we’re giving YOU, the reader, the presents hidden in posts. Lauitzen Gardens is helping the blog celebrate by giving a family pass for FOUR (4) to visit the gardens. To enter the giveaway, please use the Rafflecopter form. Giveaway ends on March 26, 2018 at 11:59 p.m. I’ll contact the winner via email the following day. Must be 18 or older to enter. Family pass has no cash value. Good luck!
Wait! There’s more! I’m giving away a second pass for FOUR to Lauritzen Gardens. The giveaway starts on March 19 on the Facebook page Things To Do In Omaha & Beyond. Ask to join today so you don’t miss it! Giveaway will end the morning of March 26.
Stay In The Know
Never miss a giveaway! Subscribe to the FREE twice a month(ish)* e-newsletter sharing what’s new in Omaha, giveaways, family travel ideas, and more! Subscribe here. *There are weekly giveaways to celebrate the blog turning 5, so, in March through mid-April, you’ll be getting weekly emails to keep up-to-date.