If you are traveling with children and looking for things to do in Kansas, be sure to put Botanica, The Wichita Gardens on your list of things to do.
Nestled in the heart of Wichita is one of the best kept secrets in Kansas.
This stunning attraction is a botanical garden that is beautiful in its own right, but the children’s garden at Wichita is one of the best in the country, in my opinion.
My husband and I spend a few months every summer touring botanical gardens and National Parks around the USA. This year, we toured the West and Mid-West and discovered this treasure of a garden in Wichita, Kansas.
The facility has the ultimate children’s garden.
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What makes Botanica so special?
Botanica the Wichita Gardens opened in 1987 with just four gardens and a horticultural library.
Since then, more than 30 additional themed gardens and exhibits have been added to the 18 acre plus facility which houses over 4000 species of plants.
The gardens include a butterfly garden and 2880 square foot butterfly house where you can interact with the winged wonders from June through September.
There is also a Chinese garden – their latest exhibit, complete with koi pond and an enormous snake made of pottery that covers and entire wall.
Other areas include a sensory garden, Shakespeare garden, rose garden and so much more.
The most stunning new exhibit is the Downing Children’s Garden which opened in 2011.
The ultimate children’s garden at Botanica the Wichita Gardens
Even the entry to this children’s garden is special. A domed archway in the shape of a rainbow, made of multi colored glass panes, announces the colorful exhibits that await your child.
Of special interest to any budding entomologist is the unique collection of motion activated bugs of all types – labeled The Big Bugs.
Other fun areas for your child to explore are the monster woods, granddaddy’s musical maze, troll hill, butterfly house, a plaza with playhouses and a sunflower fountain.
There is even a fully operating carousel that has been lovingly restored.
Exploring the Downing Children’s Garden
This children’s garden is a safe environment with so many a hands on activities that your child will love. It is a wonderful way to allow them to discover the joys of being in a garden while you admire all that nature has to offer.
Each turn of the colorful paths introduces your child to a new, delightful and whimsical adventure.
The kids will enter the children’s garden by walking over a yellow paved road under kids-sized archways because – after all – they are in Kansas!
At the end of the yellow road they will discover Cargill’s Children Farm complete with a child sized farm building, with tables and chairs that will have them playing house for hours.
The sunflower fountain is colorful and fun for both adults and children.
Alexander Bee House is another exhibit that teaches kids about bee-keeping. Kids will learn about the honey bee and discover the importance of bees to humans.
Your child will be able to watch a professional beekeeper extract honey from a bee hive as well as many other educational opportunities.
The Big Bugs at Botanica the Wichita Gardens
Does your child love bugs and insects? A treat is in store for them at Botanica!
As your child wanders around the children’s garden, they will be greeted with enormous bugs that start moving when voices or movements are detected.
Giant spiders, grasshoppers, ants, ladybugs and all types of other insects will have your child shrieking with glee as they encounter them.
From Penny the centipede, who stretches out 10 feet long to a 7 foot tall praying mantis named Perry, the bugs are colorful and delightful to both young and old.
There are over 12 animatronic insects installed throughout the children’s garden and beyond. Other insects to enjoy include Turbo the Snail, Buzz the Bee, and Paul the Dung Beetle.
The Monster Woods are part of this amazing children’s garden
Further into the children’s garden is the monster woods. This spooky area is full of monster trees with eerie faces, where your child can explore under the roots and dig for fossils.
The trees have just the right amount of scariness but their happy faces ensure that your child will realize it is all a game as they climb right into the center of the tree!
There is so much fun to be experienced in the Monster Woods at Botanica – The Wichita Gardens.
Climbing through the trunks of the trees raises your child to new levels which provide endless enjoyment in a game of tag.
Numerous levels eventually lead your child over a rope bridge to the huge Grannie Jean’s tree and tree house that is a splendid climbing spot for kids with an abundance of energy.
Granddaddy’s Musical Maze is colorful and fun
Is your child a future musician? They will have ample opportunities to practice their musical abilities in granddaddy’s musical maze.
Large organ pipe structures with paddles give your child a chance to try their hand at making tunes.
There are other hands-0n learning exhibits throughout the children’s garden, too.
After their music making attempts, the children can use the nearby magnifiers to examine insect species.
Enjoy the fun at Troll Hill and the Joyland Carousel
The carousel at the Downing Children’s Garden was once part of the Joyland Amusement Park which opened in 1949 and closed in 2004.
In 2014, Botanica was the recipient of the historic Joyland carousel. All 36 of the horses were restored to their former beauty and countless volunteers joined together for the restoration.
The carousel building is 9000 square feet in size and is located just west of the children’s garden, above Troll Hill.
We spoke at length to one of the attendants about the restoration.
One thing that surprised us was that that as many children love to climb on the hill above the scary troll as do enjoy riding on the carousel horses.
However, when we saw the troll, we could easily see why the kids love him. Who wouldn’t get excited to be able to roll around on the grassy hill above this sweet face?
The Butterfly House – Educational Exhibit
Surrounded by annuals and perennials that butterflies cannot resist is the large butterfly house.
This exhibit teaches kids about the types of butterflies and the plants that they feed on.
A monarch butterfly was just one of the winged creatures enjoying the nectar of pink pentas flowers.
This exhibit is open from June to September and is a net-covered habitat dedicated to education about butterflies.
Depending on the timing of your visit, you child can watch butterflies emerge from chrysalises and prepare to take their first flights.
We were delighted with lots of butterflies flying about during our visit.
Visiting Botanica the Wichita Gardens
If you are looking for botanical gardens in Wichita, KS, be sure to stop by for a visit. The gardens are enjoyed by people of all ages, but are a very special treat for those gardeners traveling with kids.
It is not just children who will love these gardens. The grounds are well maintained and plants are all nicely labeled. Many themed gardens will appeal to those with different gardening tastes and interests.
Botanica is located just a short distance from downtown Wichita, Kansas.
The venue is open every day of the week. Admission rates are reasonable and they often have specials on their entry fees. When we visited, they had a special rate of $3 for Thursday evening visits.
The venue is also a member of the American Horticultural Society’s Reciprocal Admissions Program will gives members free admission to hundreds of gardens around the country.
These gardens are a must-see attraction for anyone who loves gardening and is travelling with children.
You can visit Botanica at 701 Amidon, Wichita, Kansas 67203. Find out more details on the gardens here.
Other children’s gardens
Those traveling with kids will also be interested in these gardens which have dedicated areas for children.
- Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens – Boothbay Harbor, Me
- The Memphis Botanic Garden – Children’s Garden – Herb Garden & more!
- Cheyenne Botanic Gardens – Conservatory, Children’s Village and More!
- Beech Creek Botanical Garden & Nature Preserve
- Wellfield Botanic Gardens – A Fun Filled Day in a Living Museum
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