On the first Tuesday of the month, the gardens offer free admission to the public.
Be sure to check out the Seeds of Wonder children's garden. The Seeds of Wonder garden includes such delights as living topiaries, a grassy "rolling hill," an exotic Baby Dinosaur Forest, and the "Secret Garden," as well as sculpture and interactive nature-play features. There are many on-going programs specially designed for children 18 months to 6 years old as well. Be sure to check the website for more information. These programs are included with the price of admission.
The San Diego Botanical Gardens (formerly the Quail Botanical Gardens) are located in Encinitas, a bit north of San Diego proper. From certain pathways and the overlook tower, you can view the blue Pacific in the distance. The new Hamilton Children's Garden was a great time for my school-aged kids: lots of climbing and hiding around the big (man-made) jungle treehouse, chasing butterflies and dragonflies, and checking out how the garden sundial works. For smaller kids, the Seeds of Wonder garden is small and charming, with a dinosaur-bone dig, more climbing, and a small model railroad. Note that the Seeds of Wonder garden is actually more active during the week than the weekend, when there are lots of art and hands-on activities.
Other parts of the park were also fun for both kids and adults--- the waterfalls, the bamboo pond stocked with frogs and tiny fish, and checking out some of the new sculptures placed around the gardens. The bamboo grown here actually supplies food for the pandas down south at the San Diego Zoo!
There are restrooms, and a small snack and gift shop, but there are no "meals" here, just chips/cookies/ice cream.
San Diego Botanic Garden consists of four miles of garden trails on 35 acres. There are plenty of grown-up spaces to be found here – including the requisite gorgeous flowers and trees, a pond (complete with dragonflies and frogs aplenty), the nation’s largest bamboo collection, a tropical rain forest lined with streams and pools, and even a waterfall.
But let’s be real – any visit with kids to this spot should be all about the children’s gardens.
The first, the Seeds of Wonder Children’s Garden, is designed with preschoolers in mind (though my 6-year-old enjoyed it, too). It features a dinosaur garden, playhouse, water pump, vegetable garden and a miniature garden railroad.
After watching trains go by more times than I can count, pumping water at the pump station and plenty of lizard chasing, we were able to lure the kids away with promises of an even bigger children’s area at the other end of the Garden. Said garden, the Hamilton Children’s Garden, is one of the most fantastic natural play areas I have yet seen.
Here kids can climb Toni’s Tree House in a jungle canopy, hop through an elephant foot tree forest, see live quail (though we didn’t during our visit), play in a mountain stream, make music, draw on a giant chalk wall and more.
The 3 ½ hours we spent at San Diego Botanic Garden wasn’t nearly enough. We’re so going back.
Two helpful tips:
1) Bring a change of clothes. The mountain stream in the Hamilton Children’s Garden may be intended as a place to float boats, but trust me, you kids will want to get wet. There’s plenty else there to get little explorers good and dirty.
2) Be prepared for some serious walking. There are some pretty serious hills for little legs, so consider bringing a stroller for little explorers (just be prepared for pushing it uphill!).
Flush toilets can be found throughout the garden; Refreshments are available near the Visitor Center.
This is another garden that we enjoyed free admission to as part of the reciprocal benefits of our SCBG membership. Formerly Quail Botanic Garden, the San Diego Botanic Garden has numerous specialty gardens within their grounds. Be prepared with good walking shoes and sunscreen. The garden is stroller friendly. We didn't even get to visit all of the gardens because we spent most of our time at the Seeds of Wonder and Hamilton Children's Gardens.
Seeds of Wonder is conveniently located near the parking lot. There are some neat sculptures that my little guy enjoyed and a dirt playing area with shovels and toy dinos. No special programs were going on at the time we were there, but picked up a flyer and there are various potting and crafts activities throughout the week. There is also a nice little toy train track and toy house.
Hamilton is a newer garden and should not be missed for families with kids! It's a bit of a trek to get there but the scenery is beautiful! Once at Hamilton, there is so much to see and do, including an awesome treehouse, art area, building area, rhythm/music area.
We will definitely be back to explore more of the San Diego Botanic Garden. In addition to admission, there is a $2 parking fee.
The gardens contain one of the world’s most diverse plant collections, including California natives, exotic tropicals, palms, and bamboo. This site was formerly owned by
avid plant collector and naturalist Ruth Baird Larabee, who donated her thirty-acre estate to the public in 1957. The gardens are open for self-guided tours as well as a
super chance to see the namesake resident quails in a natural bird refuge.
This is a wonderful place for a garden adventure. They have an interesting children's garden area and often host special events for kids.
Grownups will enjoy the rare Australian plants and the water wise gardens. Bring your walking shoes and a stroller. There are lots of hills. There is a beautiful pergola to have a picnic in the main gardens. Check the website, they offer free admission one day a month.