The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is a popular place to visit in the spring with all of the flowers in bloom and the extra programming for kids and adults. But what about in January when there isn’t much in the way of dramatic plant life? What can you expect your kids to see or do there then?
My kids and I visited the Wildflower Center one drizzly morning this week, and we decided it was definitely worth the trip.
In fact, we spent 3 hours there (despite the rain)! These are some of the things we enjoyed:
1. The giant wind chimes on the way to the entrance. They sound like church bells, and they are placed low enough for children to reach.
2. Spotting fish and turtles in the wildlife pond. There was a cute baby turtle who kept slipping below the surface of the water; so the
kids stayed busy looking for him.
3. The Texas Arboretum. I had never done any of the walking trails before, but discovered that the Arboretum Trail (behind the Little House) is really well done. The path is wide and flat enough for strollers or wheelchairs, and at the back of the loop (about 1/3 mile walk) there is the nicest collection of wooden swings I’ve ever seen. The kids had to try out all the different kinds, from the traditional tree swings to the circle swings and bench swings. Also scattered about are shaded picnic tables, and lots of fallen trees for kids to climb and bounce
4. The Little House. The children’s building is fun to visit no matter the season, with its cute little separate entrance for kids and the bright interior filled with nature crafts, puppets, books and puzzles.
5. The Tower. We walked the winding staircase to the top of the tower to see the view out over southwest Austin. There is a fun grate at the top where kids can look down and see people a level below. My kids took turns going to the different levels to wave up and down to each other.
6. The Visitor’s Gallery. The gallery has a nice collection of labeled plant specimens from what is currently in growing at the Wildflower Center. They also have a few interactive museum exhibits for older children. The osage oranges are cool!
7. The River. The man made stream that flows through the gardens was like a magnet to my children all morning. There are a couple of small bridges across the stream where we stopped to play “Poohsticks,” a game we picked up from the Winnie the Pooh books. To play “Poohsticks” each person picks up something small that floats from the ground (an acorn, small leaf, twig, etc.) and drops it into the river at the same time on one side of the bridge. Everyone hurries to the other side of the bridge to see whose item arrives first.
The bottom line is that the Wildflower Center in January is a good place for exploring and free play. There isn’t a whole lot there to actively entertain kids right now, but it’s a pretty place with room to run and interesting things to explore. My kids got great exercise, and we all felt
refreshed from spending so much time outside.
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
4801 La Crosse Avenue
Austin, Texas 78739
Note: The Wildflower Center is closed on Mondays. The grounds are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and from Noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
Katey writes about more of her family’s adventures at havingfunathome.com.