Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Local Destination: Camden Children's Garden


In our tour of the Camden Waterfront, Daily Vacationer was finally given a reason to visit the Camden Children's Garden.  And now that we've been there, we can tell you that no one should be waiting for a "reason" to visit this place! Dwarfed by its waterfront neighbors, the Garden is often forgotten by visitors.  If you're like us, you've caught glimpses of what's inside and thought: "That looks cool - we should go in there sometime.....", and then never do.  Well, it's time to make some definite plans, because it IS cool and you SHOULD go!
 
The Camden Children's Garden was opened in 1999 by the Camden City Garden Club - a non-profit that assists Camden residents in community gardening.  Since its formation in 1985, the CCGC has expanded to include the in-school Grow Lab Program and the Youth-at-Risk Job Training and Employment Program, as well as community greening and beautification projects and urban farming.  The Children's Garden was designed to be both a "horticultural playground" and a hub for the CCGC.  So if you're still looking for that "reason" to visit, hopefully knowing you're supporting a fantastic organization gives you that final push you need.
 
The Children's Garden is whimsical and fun, but still functional and fascinating.  Broken up into numerous themed gardens with various activity stops and points of interest along the way, this place is chocked full of discovery.  Some of the gardens are even comprised of smaller gardens inside.  The Storybook Gardens cover the classics including Alice in Wonderland, Jack and the Beanstalk, The Three Little Pigs, and The Secret Garden.  Other favorites of ours were the Picnic Garden, where food grows right out of giant plates and cups, and the Dinosaur Garden, which we included last year as a "must see" for our Dino Week Jr series.
 
Slides, treehouses, mazes, tunnels, digging areas, and giant sculpture turn the Children's Garden into a fully interactive experience.  Visitors can "build" the houses of the Three Little Pigs and head over to the Potting Shed to see through play how gardens, grocery stores and farm stands, and what they eat all connected.  Walk carefully in the Philadelphia Eagles Four Seasons Butterfly House and Education Centre as butterflies circle the air around you, taking rests on the plants, the floor, and sometimes you!  Another fun indoor experience is the Plaza de Aibonito.  Made to look like the tropical "City of Flowers" in Puerto Rico, this gorgeous spot can be easily missed.  And don't forget to pay Mr. Walt Whitman a visit back by the Butterfly Stop.
A trip to the Children's Garden would not be complete without experiencing the fun rides!  The Butterfly Spring Ride gives you a "butterfly's view" of the gardens taking riders to 30ft in the air as it springs up and down.  The best way to see the interwoven model trains in the Railroad Garden is to hop on board the Arrow River Express  - quite the crowd pleaser.  And we were delighted to discover another carousel on the Camden Waterfront (there's also one at Campbell's Field).  Majestic horses are mixed in with a rabbit, a rooster, a pig, a cat, a shark, a hummingbird, and even a sea dragon.  (Ride tokens are $2 each or 6 tokens for $10, with the proceeds going toward maintaining the Children's Garden, the Garden Club’s Programs, and employing Camden youth.)
 
Still looking for a "reason' to visit?  The Children's Garden hosts wonderful events two weekends each month - each dedicated to its own theme.  From holidays and special harvests to trains and fairies, the event schedule is varied, exciting, and included in the price of admission!  The events at the Garden aren't always strictly kids events either (such as the Fall Harvest & Wine Festival coming up in October).  The space is fantastic to use for private functions from children's birthday parties to corporate events.
 
Admission for the Children's Garden is only $6 per person (2 and under are FREE) or $4 through the Adventure Aquarium entrance by the penguins.  Memberships begin at $25 for an individual, and a Family of 6 membership is still only $70!  We highly (HIGHLY) recommend getting a membership.  Not only does it get you back inside the Children's Garden to do more exploring and see how the gardens change for different seasons, but you're also enrolled in the American Horticultural Society's reciprocal program, giving you FREE or discounted admission to other member gardens (including locally the Morris Arboretum, the Tyler Arboretum, and others!).  If you're really looking to get a good bang for your buck, consider purchasing the Garden Combo Membership which gets you membership to the Camden Children's Garden AND the Garden State Discovery Museum (which we also love!).
 
So finally make those plans and come.  And then come back.  And then come back again.  We love everything we discovered in the enchanting and beautiful gardens.  We're just a little embarrassed that we waited for a "reason" to go see it.  The Camden Children's Garden is its own reason to visit.
 
 
 
 
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(Hours are Seasonal)
 
 
 
 
 
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