Check website for a wide variety of family programs such as the Green Hour (an environmental exploration of the Garden) to Paws to Read (a program to help improve kids reading skills.)
Tram tours available free with admission. Check website for schedule.
The Garden Cafe is open April to October, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day.
My kids and I visited the Norfolk Botanical Gardens on an August morning mid-week. My five and six year olds loved both the gardens and World of Wonders Children's Garden.
The tram was not running the day of our visit. The gardens are large - it would have been nice to be able to take a ride around the gardens to see everything.
Even if you're visiting with young children do not skip over the perennial garden, rose garden or the Renaissance Court. In my experience, these gardens are some of the most impressive in the country. My kids enjoyed smelling the roses (even though they were looking a bit wilted in August) and looking at the fountains in the more formal gardens. On a hot, humid, weekday morning we had these gardens almost completely to ourselves.
We enjoyed just walking through the gardens even though we didn't get the opportunity to see everything in our 3-4 hour visit. A highlight for us was a jasmine tree that smelled absolutely wonderful and had attracted dozens of swallowtail butterflies. (It was near the Sculpture Gallery.)
The Children's Garden
The kids did love the World of Wonders Children's Garden most of all. On a hot day, it is the place to be, and there were dozens of kids playing in the water. With at least three separate water play areas, a garden with all sorts of fruits and vegetables, and areas representing the various ecosystems across the world, it was not as crowded as I expected. We could have easily spent all day playing just in the children's garden. (In fact, we scrapped our original plan of heading to the zoo after the gardens because we just wanted to stay at the gardens as long as we possible.)
There were several staff and volunteers in the children's garden. Each one was very enthusiastic; my kids enjoyed the craft projects and guided demonstrations by the staff almost as much as the amazing water features. One of the staff encouraged my kids to find the carrots in the vegetable garden - it turned out to be quite the adventure.
Don't forget to bring a bathing suit, sunscreen, water shoes and towel so the kids can enjoy the water during the summer months.
And So Much More
There's a butterfly house (no extra fee), café and boat tours available too. But, we ran out of time. (And, the boat tours did not appear to be operating on the day of our visit.) There is also a huge pile of sand and tot play area just across the bridge from the rose garden.
If I made a list of the top gardens in the country for families, Norfolk Botanic Garden would no doubt be on my list. If you're in Williamsburg or Virginia Beach and have just a bit of extra time, I recommend making a stop at the Norfolk Botanic Garden.
Disclosure: My family received a complimentary pass to facilitate this review. All opinions are my own.
Our family has visited the Norfolk Botanical Gardens in the spring and the flowers are just amazing, they are so beautiful. We have also visited for the lights during Christmas, very worth the time/money and in our opinion better than the one at the beach. They have activities for the children and some water activities they can participate in. If you have a person who cannot walk they have a tram available for sightseeing the Gardens.
I live here in Norfolk, and I love, love, love taking my kids to the Botanical Garden! Beautiful flowers, great assortment, wonderful tours. And in the winter the Christmas light display is absolutely beautiful, much better in my opinion, than the one on the beach.
We visited here this summer and loved it! At the time they were having a storybook event. They had part of the "forest" there built up like different story books. Each book had a little house with activities for the kids. I know it was a seasonal thing but I am sure they do neat things like this more. The flowers were really nice and there was a tram that takes you around if you don't want to walk all the way around. There is also a really nice water area for the kids.
Botanical Gardens is FUN for all! They have several trails you can take to explore the gardens or if you are not one to walk, you can take the tram ride. There is even a children's section called World of Wonders and the children can play in the water fountains, explore the plants, pretend play in the tree house, garden house or even climb the rope ladder and go down the slide. BG also offers classes for children and adults and has a cafe/gift shop as well.
This don’t-miss spot outside downtown Norfolk has, in season, 155 acres of garden blooms, including the East Coast’s largest collections of azaleas, camellias, roses, and rhododendrons. Stroll along 12 miles of garden pathways through more than thirty theme gardens. Kids, especially preschool ones, enjoy the canal boat, the tram tours, and the Kritter Crawlers painted to resemble ladybugs.
The Family Fun Backpack, available upon request, provides kids with information and materials to use in the butterfly garden. Special events include History Alive! weekends, garden illuminations (Garden of Light), and Family Sleepovers. Bike Nights in the spring and summer let families pedal through the petals. (Bikes not provided.)
World of Wonders—A Children’s Adventure Garden opened in 2006. This imaginative facility includes a walk-through world map with oceans kids can splash in, an international sundial, and a Plantitheater for productions of child-oriented music and shows.