November 20, 2023
The Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden at Dallas Arboretum opened 10 years ago, but somehow I’d never visited until last month. Why? I guess because my kids had outgrown children’s gardens by the time it opened, and so it wasn’t on my radar despite many visits over the years to the Arboretum. Also, the entrance to the Adventure Garden is waaaaay off to the side of the Arboretum, and unless you park over there, it’s easy to miss. That’s a mistake, because it’s a fun place for parents and kids to explore (you can also visit sans kids, as I did). Admission requires a separately purchased ticket, which you can buy at the main entrance to the Arboretum or at the gate into the Adventure Garden.
The Adventure Garden is huge, spread across 8 acres that slope down to White Rock Lake. Toward the center of the garden you find a gigantic, manmade tree trunk, with stairs leading up to a netted area for playing in the canopy.
For universal access, a skywalk bridge also leads to the canopy.
Kids were having a blast playing on the net around the tree trunk.
Bird’s nest classroom
Nearby, a giant bird’s nest contains benches and two large eggs for an outdoor classroom.
A bird’s-eye view
Bronze animal sculptures are placed naturalistically throughout the garden, making for fun discoveries.
Real animals live here too.
The Texas Skywalk
A canopy-level bridge, the Texas Skywalk, runs through the middle section of the garden…
…accessing not only the tree-net play space but a rooftop terrace…
…and a tower with an elevator down to the energy exhibits.
The elevator/stair tower
Near the lake, several exhibits demonstrate ways of creating or harnessing energy.
I learned that a solar farm in San Antonio is one of the largest solar-energy producers in the U.S.
Where would you build a hydropower plant?, another sign asks.
The interactive exhibits show kids science in action.
Water blasters offer a little target-shooting fun too.
Solar energy exhibit
In another section of the garden, kids learn about living cycles, like the seasons and plant and animal life cycles.
What plants offer food for wildlife? Berrying ones like juniper and beautyberry, for a start.
Compost bins and an old rotting log (faux) demonstrate how nature recycles.
Earth cycles — including erosion, the water cycle, weather, and planetary movements — are brought to life in another section of the garden. Kids can explore a cave…
…and learn how rainwater moves through waterways.
An analemmatic sundial uses a human shadow to show the time of day.
In the upper part of the garden, an edible garden teaches children where their food comes from…
…and what else crops may be used for.
A secret garden with a hedge maze was a popular spot, with excited kids darting through it.
Lots of places to hide in here
And discoveries to make, like this spinning sphere floating on a vessel of water.
This is a garden too, of course, with flowering plants throughout, like morning glory…
…and salvia and yucca.
Not to mention gigantic flowerpot sculptures
The Adventure Garden must be a popular place for school groups and kids from tots to middle school-aged. Dallas parents are lucky to have this resource for outdoor play and learning.
For a look back at Dallas Arboretum during pumpkin season, click here.
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Hey, Austin-area gardeners! Want to learn about growing a biodiverse hedge for screening your yard, adding wildlife habitat, and making a more ecological choice than a fence? Register for my next Garden Spark talk with Shaney Clemmons on December 7th at 7 pm. Come get ideas for what to plant that’ll withstand our Central Texas weather extremes. Plus it’s fun to hang out with fellow gardeners under the big live oak and string lights at beautiful Barton Springs Nursery! Hope to see you there!
Come learn about garden design from the experts at Garden Spark! I organize in-person talks by inspiring designers, landscape architects, and authors a few times a year in Austin. These are limited-attendance events that sell out quickly, so join the Garden Spark email list to be notified in advance; simply click this link and ask to be added. The Season 7 lineup can be found here.
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