This is the place for multi-generational families to meet and play together. We are always seeking spots on road trips that allow for the kiddos to maximize their gross motor play before strapping them back into their seatbelts! This park FAR exceeded our expectations. It was a (paved and ADA compatible) stroll through the beautiful garden to get to all of the different playspaces…both themed and natural. Where sand, water, dirt, playground equipment, indoor (air-conditioned!) exhibits, kayaks and paddle boats all exist together. Sounds too good to be true, right? It kind of was. Check it out!
The play exhibits were architectural masterpieces with surprising play traps hidden throughout.
You could easily lose track of time discovering all cool contraptions there were to make the mechanisms go. So very thoughtfully made for hands-on, interactive play. If you didn’t know the person next to you before you came, you will before you leave. The park is designed so that working together is as natural to the play as going down the slides.
It’s just sensible. It just works!
Stuck in the mud?
It doesn’t matter what part of the US you live in, it’s worth the drive. This park is an event all on its own with entertainment that could last for days. There’s everything for everyone (I don’t say that lightly) and it’s FREE!
I would recommend bringing a lot of very cold water if you’re visiting in the heat of the summer like we were. We were never close enough to water when we needed it and it wasn’t very cold. The little things like abundant snacks and water go a very long way. That being said, the staff was extremely accommodating and obliging. You could find someone at every turn ready to give you a point in the right direction or happy to fill your cup with ice so you don’t have a heat stroke…Thanks!!!
Did you grub?
You can grub in many ways at this place. Pack a picnic. Grab something along the way at their “grab and go” concessions. Or, enjoy the breathtaking views from the rooftop cafe where you can don a rocking chair and await a cold one in a shaded place. Gathering from the website there was one more place we didn’t even see. Point is, you won’t go hungry and there is something for any/all budgets.
What did we dig the most?
Charlie’s Water Mountain was our hands-down favorite stop! This STEM packed area was packed with kid-propelled giant gears, screws, cranks, buttons and anything else you can think of that made the work feel awesome, important and borderline dangerous to them. We loved it! There were a million ways to block the water, flood and area, make it go, splash a friend, make a friend or just dip your toes in and lounge. I personally appreciated that if the Hairy One and I needed a break from playing. There was always a great place to sit or kick up our feet and relax!
35 images of animals, plants and wild life are available at The National Geographic Photo Ark near their enormo cabinet of curiosities. It’s a welcome, up close and personal look at the nitty-gritties of so many miraculous wonders of nature. In addition, the whole park is STEAM oriented. There are a plethora of native plants and trees throughout the park, there are just as many simple machines and scientific concepts that can be shared by just watching the kids do what they do and…perhaps…chiming in. They are going to learn more from doing the things than they are from hearing about them from us…but our kids are the ages where having the corresponding terminology is helpful in forming their understanding. Don’t worry! If the enormity of what there is to learn is overwhelming, I have 2 take-aways. 1. No pressure, just enjoy yourself – that’s learning enough. 2. The Gathering Place does all the work! There are resources developed for learners of ages right here. We typically stick with a trusty scavenger hunt…mostly as a guide for the grown-ups. And, because treasure hunts never get old!
Here are the up to date details. Have fun!