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Go Ask Mom

Take the Kids: 5 reasons to head over to the N.C. Botanical Garden right now

Posted October 29, 2020 9:00 p.m. EDT

N.C. Botanical Garden

— The N.C. Botanical Garden always is a great place to visit, what with its outdoor space and trails. But now, especially, is a great time to head over to the Chapel Hill destination, part of UNC-Chapel Hill. The weather is cooler, and it's an easy place to keep your distance from others as the pandemic continues.

My kids and I meandered over there late last week for a quick picnic (let me suggest Brandwein's Bagels) and a look at the art featured in its Sculpture in the Garden. If you go with kids, here are five things to check out.

Sculpture in the Garden

The 32nd annual event runs through Dec. 6 and features 61 installations by 41 North Carolina artists. The art comes in all shapes, sizes and forms. My 11-year-old, in particular, loved this piece called Her Dragon, a fairy tale sculpture where the frog princess takes things into her own hands.

Sculpture in the Garden at the NC Botanical Garden

To extend your visit, be sure to check out the Sculpture Scavenger Hunt, which you can pick up at the garden or print out at home. The hunt is intended for kids and families, but I'm told it's been popular with all ages. You'll be searching for art featured in close-up photos to decode a secret message.

Nature Boxes

Nature Boxes at the NC Botanical Garden

New this fall are Nature Boxes designed for kids in kindergarten to fourth grade. The boxes guide hands-on, outdoor explorations with a variety of themed activities, crafts, tools and experiments. This fall, they include learning more about why the leaves change color and flower pounding, among other activities.

You can order the boxes online and pick them up at the garden. They are $37.63 (with a discount for garden members). An extra set of materials for a sibling is $15.

Children's Wonder Garden

The Children's Wonder Garden, a favorite for my kids when they were much younger, is open. It includes a path where young children can run between tall grasses, tree stumps to jump from, a sand box, a bird blind and other spaces that are perfect for exploration and imaginations.

If you go, be sure to stay socially distanced while using some of the smaller spaces. If a group is already in the bird blind or sand box, the garden asks that you wait until the group leaves before you enter, for example.

Masks are not required outside in the garden, but if you can't maintain social distance from others, it's best to mask up. (And masks are required to go inside the restrooms.)

Children's Wonder Garden at the NC Botanical Garden

Bring a picnic

You'll find a collection of about 10 picnic tables in the area right near the botanical garden's parking lot. And they are pretty spaced out, so they offer a good spot to eat lunch or a snack, even with others nearby.

Continue exploring

Beyond the main gardens, you'll find the Piedmont Nature Trails. And even farther afield are the garden's other outdoor spaces, including Coker Arboretum and Battle Park on or near the UNC campus and Mason Farm Biological Reserve and Parker Preserve.

Check out the garden's website for more information.