by Julie S
Leila Arboretum’s grounds are sprawling, but two of our favorite areas to visit within it is the unassuming Children’s Garden, now known as the Kaleidoscope Garden, and the Fantasy Forest nearby. Look for the colorful fence, you can’t miss it as you drive around. Admission is free on normal days, or by a small donation during events that range from dinosaurs to tea parties.
The goal of the Kaleidoscope Garden is to explore, touch, and often to taste! The paths meander about, there are lots of green grassy areas to run and get lost in, and almost everything is labeled so kids can learn at the same time. There are beautifully carved benches, sculptures, and little artistic touches everywhere you look. There are also often volunteers around, ready and waiting to answer your questions.
FIVE REASONS YOUR KIDS WILL LOVE IT IF YOU MAKE THE DRIVE:
1. All of the hidden spaces for kids to explore
There are so many nooks and crannies in this garden, you will wonder why you didn’t see it the first time. But one favorite is the hidden tree house. You’ll never find this one unless you are doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing in the Kaleidoscope Garden, which is exploring! Look for the towering evergreens and circle around them until you find the entrance. Take a walk anywhere, and see what you find.
The name says it all, it’s a box filled with worms. Why is it one of our favorites? Because in this area of the garden, kids learn about composting, worms, and why worms are so important. They can also dig gently through the box to find these red worms and hold them, which is a little kid’s dream. Near it is a cute fairy garden with a fairy mansion and a little sand pit.
3. Mazes, music, and open space
Kids love running through the maze, following the rainbow stump steps and testing their balance, clanging on the rainbow bars, and then doing it all over again. Right beside it is a nice sized field that they can run off any spent up energy too. During special events, this area is where they run the car tractor, which gives rides to very excited kids. It’s also the area that during the water special event has a water slide!
4. They get to use all of their senses
Kids are encouraged to look, listen, touch, smell, and even taste in this garden. From cherry trees to strawberries to fennel, there are fruits, veggies, and herbs grown within the garden and kids are encouraged to appreciate where food comes from with all of their senses and the volunteers encourage kids to sniff, pick, and taste!
5. The magic of Fantasy Forest
When you are done exploring the Kaleidoscope Garden, take a short walk back towards the entrance, or drive, and explore Fantasy Forest. It’s an art museum carved into trees, and filled with dragons, castles, trolls, centaurs, aliens and more. Photography is welcome, but just like at an art museum, the sculptures are off limits to little hands. Nearby are a few picnic tables which are a perfect spot for lunch.
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Where to Find It:
928 W Michigan Ave, Battle Creek, MI
Monday-Friday from 9:00am – 5:00pm
Monday-Friday from 9:00am – 5:00pm
Saturday from 11:00am – 3:00pm
- Special events are held a few times a month, both during the week and on the weekends and include a splash day, tea party, garden critters and more. A $2.00 per person donation is requested. Click here for a complete list of events and dates.
- There are portable toilets only, and therefore no changing tables. There is a portable toilet by The Enchanted Forest also, but it is often out of hand sanitizer.
- There isn’t a lot of shade at the Kaleidoscope Garden or at Fantasy Forest, so make sure to bring adequate sun protection, and water!
- There are picnic tables under the pavilion in the Kaleidoscope Garden, and also picnic tables and spots on the grass around the gardens to have a nice lunch, but no food or water is available on site other than at the Farmer’s Stand which is occasionally open in the afternoon.
- The Kingman Museum is part of Leila Arboretum but not open during the week.