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Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

March 6, 2018

  • 1000 E. Beltline Avenue
  • Grand Rapids, MI 49525
  • (616) 957-1580
  • Website

Cabin fever is setting in.  It may not be with the kids but it always does with me this time of year.  I would love to just sit around and watch Netflix all day but the kids need stimulation and if we’re cooped up in the house, that stimulation is usually using daddy as a jungle gym.

I decided it was time to start venturing out on weekends again.  We need to do some exploring and just get away from the house for a while.

This past weekend I noticed an event in Grand Rapids I thought the kids would like so after swimming lessons, we headed north to Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park.

The Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park sits on 132 acres in Grand Rapids township just off the I-96 and East Beltline interchange.  The park opened in 1995 after the Meijer family donated the land to the West Michigan Horticultural Society.  The Meijer’s also donated their entire sculpture collection and contributed financially to get the park up and running.

We pulled in to the parking lot just before noon on a Saturday afternoon.  The lots were packed.  We ended up having to park quite a ways away and walk back to the main building, but the whole point was getting out of the house and walking anyway, right?  The lot we found with empty spaces was actually right in front of the Amphitheater which hosts a pretty good line up of musical acts throughout the summer.  

The sculptures start along the path leading back to the main entrance.  The first thing we saw was this band, dressed in U of M colors.  This sculpture, called simply Marching Band, was a gift of Stuart Padnos.

The main entrance to Meijer Gardens if off the main road which brings you in to a parking lot.  There’s a large overhang in the drop-off area for the days when the weather is bad.

A little further up the walk brings you to the entrance.  This building holds the gift shop, inside sculpture park, a cafe, and several conference rooms.

Just inside these doors is the ticket counter.  There were six people selling tickets and one person kind of directing traffic at the head of the line.  J and I were each $14.50 while L was $7.  B was still free since he’s still two years old.  So, the total cost was $36 for the four of us.  If we lived in Grand Rapids, there would definitely be a case for us to buy a membership just because this is the kind of place where you can just come walk or hang out for an afternoon.

It’s just past this area where the entrance where they take the tickets.  You can come in to the building and go to the gift shop or the cafe without actually buying a ticket.  Just inside the ticketed area is the entrance to the Sculpture Galleries.  I’ve been in this area during ArtPrize but never during normal hours.  The kids weren’t really interested so we kept walking to what we were there for.

We continued down the hallway to the large greenhouses.  There are several distinct areas inside the greenhouse and therefore, several ways to enter.

The greenhouses were hosting the exhibit we came for…Butterflies are Blooming.  They had most of the entrances roped off and had you enter through the first door.  The brought us in to a cactus room.  Sure enough, L tripped trying to push through and came really, really close to going head first in to a cactus.  Somehow, I knew she was going to do that….but she caught herself and only scraped her hands on the stone surrounding the plants.

L’s favorite area of the whole exhibit was the caterpillar room.

This area had what the docent called “home grown caterpillars.”  They’re the ones native to Michigan and they roam freely on the plants spread around the room.

There are signs around plant groupings where you should be able to find the caterpillars.  In some places, you have to look really hard because they’re really tiny.  Someone pointed out eight tiny caterpillars hanging out on one leaf that we never would have seen just casually walking by.

After leaving this room, you go back into the main hallway where there is a booth set up to enter the main butterfly area.  Another docent watched us go in one by one and handed me a pamphlet that identified the different butterflies that we would see flying around.

This greenhouse is quite large with a wide walking path that weaves around and through the space.

There’s a cave and some small water features that include bridges surrounded by plants and butterflies flying about freely.

The back of the area has a large cabinet with all the chrysalis hanging from rods as the caterpillars continue their transformation into butterflies.

The butterflies roam free but there are feeders set up closer to the walkways with the hopes the butterflies will land and give people a much closer look.

L got “hot” pretty quickly in the room that they keep at 85 degrees and B just wanted to run.  Luckily, we had J’s Lillebaby for B, but I ended up having to take L out because she was starting to whine about the heat.  We spent about ten minutes in there but I would have liked to have walked around a little more.

Since the girl complained about it being so hot, I drug her outside to the Lena Meijer Children’s Garden.

This is a cool space that the kids really enjoyed.  The first thing we really came to was the Treehouse Village.  There are a number of platforms connected by bridges and walkways for the kids to run around on.  B really liked the suspension bridge and just kept running back and forth.

While it may be fun, it’s also educational.  There are signs posted throughout about things you’ll find in the area surrounding the tree house as well as in nature.

We kind of had to drag the kids away kicking and screaming but it wasn’t long before they found something else.  Just up the walk is the Log Cabin.  It’s built in the style of a frontier cabin and there were activities inside related to the butterflies.  The kids could be checkers, do puzzles, or put on a puppet show.

After convincing them to leave this area, we headed to the Rock Quarry.  There was a lot of sand and toys to play with and of course, they did.  It’s a pretty large area where the kids can dig in the sand or go on a fossil hunt to find fossilized foot prints buried in the sand.

This is only the tip of the iceberg at Meijer Gardens but it was as far as we could make it on this day.  The kids had gotten up early for swimming lessons then sat in the car for an hour with only a smoothie from McDonalds and a couple of pancakes to eat.  We were past lunch time so it was time to start heading back.

On our way out, B got really excited about a statue near concession building.  The new hot movie in our house is Coco and B really thought that the Family of Wolves statues looked like Dante from the movie.

I really need a lot more time at the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park.  It’s such a cool, unique attraction that will take multiple visits to truly take everything in.  We took our trip on this day for the Butterflies are Blooming exhibit but that’s just a small part of what this wonderful botanical garden has to offer.


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