Explore Lush Gardens and Nature with Kids at Reeves-Reed Arboretum
The perfect antidote to the stress of crazy family schedules might well be Mother Nature herself—and Reeves-Reed Arboretum in Summit is just the place to stop and smell the roses.
The Arboretum is not your average park outing; this serene Union County oasis offers some unique and interesing ways to learn about and experience the outdoors while giving the whole family some much needed R&R.
Take a stroll around the Reeves Rose Garden.
Trails and Grounds
Nestled in a quiet Summit neighborhood, the Reeves-Reed Arboretum spans about 13.5 acres. You'll find beautiful flower gardens located near the parking lot, which is perfect for little legs. We loved spending time in the greenhouse and some of the historic gardens like the Reeves Rose Garden, the Keller Azalea Garden, and the Rock Garden. It's a small area to cover, but perfect for taking your time and enjoying the foliage.
The naturally carved-out "glacial bowl" lawns behind the Wisner House is also a sight to see. Depending on when you visit, the entire field is filled with flowers. Attend Daffodil Day in April, for instance, and you'll see literally thousands of daffodils in bloom!
Near the historic gardens are some grassy lawns and benches, where my kids enjoyed a quick bite to eat. Note that the Arboretum does not sell food, so you'll want to carry in your own (and carry out the trash). Also, leave the frisbees, balls, and bikes at home. This carefully maintained "museum of plants" is filled with delicate vegetation that you won't want to harm.
The short hiking trails are great for little ones.
After a snack, we hit the nearby Woodland Trails, which spreads over six acres. We hiking novices appreciated the clearly marked paths; my kids made a game out of following the various colored diamonds that were mounted on trees. We started on the red path before merging onto green, and then orange. The walk was more of a workout than I expected on the unpaved paths. We hiked up and down some moderately steep slopes and steps, ducking under low-hanging branches, and carefully stepping over loose rocks and tree roots. If you follow the orange trail to the end, you'll even find a vernal pool, home to various insects and amphibians.
My 5- and 7-year-olds did great on the trek, though my 2-year-old needed to be carried for most of the walk (the trails are not appropropriate for strollers). We kept a running list of small animals we saw, read the well-marked name plates of various trees and plants, and happily marched our way back to the beginning of our loop after about 30 minutes.
If you're not up for a woodsy hike, another good, very short walk for kids is the blue Wildflower Trail, which connects the Stackhouse Education Center area to the parking lot.
Let's Get Growing is just one of the educational activities offered for kids. Photo courtesy of the arboretum
Education and Events
Aside from exploring the grounds, you'll definitely want to check out the great educational programming that Reeves-Reed offers. Look for themed classes for kids ages 5 to 10 held monthly on Wednesdays and Fridays, as well as Discovery Saturdays. On Saturdays between 9am and 1pm, come to the Stackhouse Education Center to borrow a backpack filled with binoculars, field guides, a magnifying glass, and more, all of which helps kids discover a new plant, animal, or topic through experiments, stories, games, and crafts. The topic changes weekly.
For local kids, there are several summer camps for various ages, including the BOLD Arts! Fields of Wonder: A Celebration of Nature and the Arts program and the Food Explosion cooking camp.
I also love that the arboretum hosts numerous special events throughout the year, including dance performances, maple sugaring in the winters, and goats for clearing wildflower growth in October. The day my family visited, we took in The Wild Horses of Sable Island photography exhibit.
Kids will be fascinated by all the plant and animal life at the arboretum.
- While the gardens are free admission, a donation of $5 per person is advised. Memberships are available, too.
- No picking the flowers!
- Visitors should not touch any of the plants or sculptures on the grounds.
- Leave pets at home.
Unless noted, photos by the author.