I remember being allowed to wander through botanic gardens on my own. I guess my mom was probably watching, but my eyes were facing forward and I was an explorer in a new world! What was around the next bend? What exotic plants made up this new landscape? There are places in Orange County that I bring my kids for those same experiences of wonder.
Fullerton Arboretum has community gardens to see, along with fruit-bearing trees and hidden paths.
Sherman Library and Gardens in Corona Del Mar is very small, but their Discovery Garden is a highlight for kids to smell and touch plants. This one is better for school age kids rather than toddlers. If you have older kids who love taking photos — it’s paradise!
Orange County Great Park Farm + Food Lab offers free classes from Master Gardeners. Check the OCGP.org event schedule for times. It’s open daily from 10am to 3pm – and still has free admission. (The Great Park carousel and balloon now charge admission fees.) Go on a Sunday between 10am and 2pm and you can catch the Farmer’s Market and food trucks, too.
Centennial Farms in Costa Mesa has lots of animals, but how about the farm? It’s set up in a whimsical way where kids can learn their vegetables and see what they look like on the plant.
Tanaka Farm in Irvine is known for its U-Pick Tours for spring strawberries, summer watermelon, and veggie cookout — plus their annual Pumpkin Patch. Each visit is a farm experience with a small fee for entrance and then whatever you end up paying for any produce you buy. The organized tours can cost up around $20, but the limited produce picked on the tour is included.
What to Do:
- Lay out any rules before you even go in. We use “eyes only” to prevent any picking from the gardens.
- Let your child take the lead. Where do they want to go? What do they want to see? Let them go at their own pace and show you around.
- Don’t forget to look up into the trees. Look at things from close-up and from far away.
- Make sure you have plenty of time to explore so you don’t feel rushed.
- Make your garden trip a color walk and have your child point out all the colors they see. We even did this at the Getty Center gardens up in LA. You can photograph them and make a special book of your day.