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Growing up in St. Louis, I loved visiting the Botanical Garden with my mom; I can remember being so excited to walk down mysterious looking trails that were filled with beautiful blossoms and colors. Last week we went on an outing near Hot Springs, Arkansas to Garvan Woodland Gardens. With its quiet, peaceful, paradise-like atmosphere, you’ll find 210 acres of woodland gardens that make you wonder if woodland fairies really do exist.
We arrived to meet our guide, Susan Harper, who graciously ushered us out onto a large golf cart. Susan not only gave us a grand tour of the gardens, but she was so knowledgeable and gave so many interesting facts as we went along. She also outfitted the kids with their own borrowed backpacks full of goodies, like binoculars, a journal so they could draw pictures or write about something they saw, a Nature Bingo game (which they could redeem for prizes at the end of the tour, etc.
Just to give you a little history of the gardens…. Garvan Woodland Gardens were originally started by Verna C. Garvan in 1956. She laid out each path, chose each new plant, and selected locations for each plant. She planted many different specimens of plants, and you’ll find the Garvan Pavilion right in the center of her original plantings. She eventually donated the property to the University of Arkansas Fay Jones School of Architecture in 1985.
Strolling or riding through the botanical garden, you’ll find several different types of gardens to pique your interest. Our boys really enjoyed the entire experience, from watching the trains in the Sugg Model Train Garden to watching for birds and different kinds of plants. Susan included the kids at every turn, allowing them to get out to feed the Koi…. and also to explore fossils in the cave, which was located in the Children’s Adventure Garden. The kids enjoyed visiting the peacocks too, as we left the Children’s Garden.
There are so many trails and walkways through the gardens, as well as bridges, waterfalls, and more. One of my favorite, most picturesque bridges was the Bridge of the Full Moon. Located in The Garden of the Pine Wind, this entire section of the Gardens is filled with about 300 varieties of Asian plants and trees. I could tell that Jacob was just itching to jump off the golf cart and explore to his heart’s content in this part of the garden.
As we drove along, we noticed that holiday lights were beginning to make an appearance. We’re actually looking forward to visiting again during the Holiday Lights event. We noticed the Ice Palace, tucked into a small tuft of forest.
We also found several places to just sit and “smell the roses.” From benches surrounded by banana trees and beautiful flowers to small, tucked away places, this really is a place of quiet solitude for those who desperately need time away from the rush of every day life. Speaking of mums, we learned that over 8,000 mums were planted along the paths…. can you imagine? It really was a beautiful sea of colorful blooms along the stone pathways.
Another feature that really caught my attention was the beautiful glass artwork throughout the gardens, created by James Hayes.
We also caught spectacular views of Lake Hamilton and the Ouachita Mountains from Perry Wildflower Overlook, as well as glimpses through the woods as we drove along.
Garvan Woodland Gardens has many locations that would make for a stunning, beautiful wedding. One location you may already be familiar with is Anthony Chapel. Throughout our visit, we could hear the comforting sound of bells ringing from the Anthony Family Carillon. Of course, many beautiful outdoor wedding venues exist. Susan pointed out quarters for the bridal party, as well as walkways where the bride might come walking “down the aisle.” Gorgeous location if you know someone getting married in the near future…. And when you visit, you’ll be able to acquire a complete price list for your wedding.
Garvan Woodland Gardens was, hands down, my favorite part of our entire trip to Hot Springs. We really want to go back and take even more time, walking all the different trails and exploring even further. Admission is very affordable at $10 for adults, $5 for ages 6-12, and free for ages 0-5. They also offer an Annual Membership and Group Rates. They’re open daily from 9 am to 6 pm. “Holiday Lights” begin in mid-November and run through December 31, from 12 noon to 9 pm. Also, just an added note…. restrooms are conveniently located throughout the botanical garden, and you’ll also find snacks at the Chipmunk Cafe, as well as a gift shop, located at the entrance.
Be sure to stay up to date by following Garvan Woodland Gardens on Facebook. Safe and happy travels!