Sometime in February, a craving for the sight of green and growing things sets in. This year is unusual in that I can look out my window and see grass and spring flowers pushing up through the dirt. To supplement the greenery I see today or in years past, have longed for, a visit to the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens in February is always a treat. When my children were young, it was one of our favorite outings during the second half of winter or early spring. There we could soak in the green in a warm, light-filled environment. The children were free to move around and delight in what they saw while I occasionally sat on a bench and enjoyed it all! It’s especially fun to go with preschoolers on a week day when there is plenty of space for the children to express their natural exuberance.
My children are adults and the Botanical Gardens have changed since they were young, but it’s still the closest place to go for a lush green environment in the winter. In order to keep up the maintenance of the building and grounds, there is an admission charge. Compared to the cost of a trip to the tropics, it’s a small price to pay. Children two and under enter for free, adults pay $9.00 and children from three to twelve pay $5.00 for entrance. The Gardens are open from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. every day.
There is no limit on how long you can stay, so it’s a good idea to time the visit so it is not close to nap or mealtimes, in order to allow plenty of time to walk through the twelve houses, enjoying the plant displays at a leisurely pace. While strolling through the Botanical Gardens, you can linger to look at a prickly pear cactus, bonsai tree or the world’s largest collection of ivy. The Third House is currently under renovation, but when it reopens, plan a visit to take in the cascading waterfall, koi fish pond, and dinosaur topiary. The temperature controlled greenhouses maximize plant growth and are comfortably warm; you will likely shed outer layers, so dress accordingly.
The Botanical Gardens opened in 1900 and were the third largest public greenhouse in the United States. Like most of our cultural institutions, the Gardens have had their ups and downs. The blizzard of ’77 caused damage as did smog from the steel plants. Today there is unprecedented support. There are approximately 250 volunteers and over 100,000 visitors annually at the Botanical Gardens. Not far from downtown Buffalo, the Gardens are nestled in Olmsted designed South Park. There is plenty of parking so it’s not difficult to negotiate with or without children. Strollers are welcome and either before or after visiting the Gardens, you might want to spend time in the park, taking in nature and the greenhouses from the outside.
If you look on the website, you will find that there are many upcoming events at the Botanical Gardens. For children twelve and under, there is free admission on Tuesday, February 16th from 10:00 until 4:00 p.m. for Kids Day. There will be activities in the Wegman’s Family Garden as well as stations throughout the gardens. Parents of children under five can participate along with their child in the hands-on activities that readily draw in children.
Aside from the sensory rich aspect of the Botanical Gardens, there is the learning opportunity. Walking through the warm lush environment tends to slow us down to a leisurely pace that nourishes both body and soul while educating our minds. It’s a multi-disciplinary experience combining history, architecture and botany with a commitment to preserving diverse plant life for future generations. What more could we ask for on a cold February day in Buffalo?