"Wow! Amazing Children's Garden"
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.