The Holden Arboretum is located in Kirtland, OH, about a half-hour east of Cleveland. While “arboretum” may not be the first word that comes to mind when thinking of fun outings for your kids, this one definitely needs to be on your radar screen. Not even sure what an arboretum is? Here’s a definition from their Visitor’s Guide: “A living museum, an arboretum is a collection of woody plants, with plants labeled, catalogued and mapped.” Holden Arboretum is one of the largest in the country. It has 3,500 acres with gardens and collections comprising 600 of those acres.
When you arrive, stop in the Visitor Center and do three things: pick up a Visitor Guide, talk to a staff member and get some recommendations for hikes and places you want to see, and borrow a Discovery Pack, which is a backpack filled with tools to make the experience more fun for kids. The Visitor Guide contains maps and other useful information like trail descriptions, a table of peak viewing seasons for different areas, and recommendations for what to see in 1 hour, 2 hours, or 3-4 hours.
A must-see for my family was the Butterfly Garden. My daughters and I are something like butterfly fanatics. We have a butterfly garden at home where we grow host and nectar plants to attract butterflies to our yard. We love to spot eggs and wait for them to hatch into tiny caterpillars, then enjoy watching them munch on our plants and grow into bigger caterpillars. So we were definitely interested in seeing what plants were growing at Holden.
Check out the gorgeous Bee Balm color. I’m pretty sure I took the picture for my own mental note to plant some of these in my yard, but they are too lovely not to share. The color is Raspberry Wine. I should buy some, right?
My kids also loved this tree.
Why, you ask? Look underneath. What kid wouldn’t love a hideaway like this in their yard?
One great tip we got from the Visitor Center was to be very quiet when approaching this pond so that we wouldn’t startle the turtles.
Can you see them? Here’s one of the logs closer up.
And even closer.
There were plenty of places to just relax and take in the natural beauty.
The trails through the woods were a welcome respite from the sun.
If you’ve got kids, do not miss Buckeye Bud’s Adventure Woods. This is a natural play area and activity center in the woods. My one grip with Holden Arboretum is that they did not adequately label this area on the map. Hopefully they’ve fixed that for this year. Check before you leave the Visitor Center that you know where to find it.
We started at Buckeye Bud’s Adventure Tower which had several different activities for kids. So many, in fact, that I decided to put the pictures in a collage.
My kids’ absolute favorite part of Buckeye Bud’s was the Kiddie Zip Line.
It was low enough to the ground that no harness is necessary. Handle bars were located at different heights to accommodate children of different sizes.
They had a blast doing this! You might have noticed the funny looking tree in the background of the above picture. Your kids can play dress up with a tree.
Nature’s Gym provides more fun for kids who need to burn off some energy.
We also discovered a cute wooden table made of a cross-section of a tree with a checkerboard on it. The checker pieces were made of cross-sections of branches. My son challenged me to a game. I took him up on it even though I knew there was no way I could win. He’s a strategic thinker with shelf filled with chess trophies.
Lastly, I’ll show you the cute little Woodland Theater where kids can dress up and put on a performance.
Nature inspires such creative play in kids. If your travels take you to Cleveland, you should definitely plan a stop at Holden Arboretum.
Ready to Visit?
9500 Sperry Rd.
Kirtland, OH 44094
Open daily, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Seniors 60+: $5, free on Tuesday
Children 6-12: $3
Children 5 and under: Free
Active Duty Military & Family: Free with an active duty ID
$1 off discount for AAA members and college students with a valid membership card or student ID
You might also be interested in the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.