At the San Antonio Botanical Garden—an advertising partner of Alamo City Moms Blog—the Family Adventure Garden is now open, and it will probably be your kids’ new favorite place to go this summer. The Family Adventure Garden has many fun features for kids to play on, to encourage them to use their imaginations, and to help them learn about nature. With a little preparation, your visit to the Garden could include a splashing good time or last all day. You will want to mark your calendar for special events and exhibits coming to the Garden this summer and later this year.
Family Adventure Garden
The San Antonio Botanical Garden’s Family Adventure Garden is an amazing new space. There is one main entrance (and exit), an arched iron gate, and inside there are various inviting areas and structures.
As you turn to your right, Tumble Hill is a long, gentle slope of grass.
Nearby, the Watering Hole and the Acequia Tank are restful water features that also teach about water conservation.
Dry Rock Creek has plants, rocks, sticks, etc. to play with while teaching about the landscape of South Texas.
The sandbox, under a reclaimed-materials shade structure called the Big Onion, is a popular place to play. Thoughtfully, the designers provided a stone ledge for parents and caregivers to perch on while watching children play.
Cypress Spring has a water feature that’s not for playing in, but for observing local aquatic life.
Backyard Explore is landscaped more like the areas around our homes. A grassy field surrounds a hill with a tunnel for children to crawl through.
The Secret Garden has another sandbox, this one covered by the Little Onion and a semicircle of cast-concrete chaise lounges.
The Prickly Pear Pavilion functions as an outdoor classroom and party place. It also has family and unisex bathrooms, a trough sink, a water fountain, and a water bottle filler. The pavilion is the site of pop-up activities that teach children about bugs, pollinators, and other nature concepts.
Next to the pavilion, the Muhly Maze is built with native grasses and shrubs in a pattern that invites wandering.
The can’t-miss attraction of the Family Adventure Garden, unlike anything the San Antonio Botanical Garden has had before, is the water feature known as No Name Creek. The flow starts at Thunder Ridge, a man-made canyon with limestone blocks, water spouts, and occasional sounds of simulated thunder.
From there, the stream flows gently downhill, never more than a few inches deep. Waterfalls add to the flow. There are big rocks to step on and little rocks to move around in the current.
The stream ends at Retama Recharge, a rubble pile where the water appears to soak into the ground. The system illustrates how the Edwards Aquifer is replenished.
Huisache Way is a path lined with its namesake trees that follows the perimeter of the garden. Along the way, giant looms invite little fingers to weave in stems and flowers.
In a corner of the Garden, the Thistle Theatre offers a stage and dress-up toys for impromptu performances.
There are more surprises, including a trio of fairy houses by treehouse expert Attie Jonker.
The Pecan Grove has a small amphitheater made of grass and reclaimed concrete curbs.
A winding uphill path crests Bluestem Bluff. From the pavilion atop Prickly Pear Peak, there are views of the Family Adventure Garden.
When the Family Adventure Garden opened in March 2018, it joined a set of Garden spaces that opened in October 2017, including a new entrance, a gift shop, a display garden, a discovery gallery, culinary gardens, and an outdoor kitchen. Read more about the October 2017 expansion in this post at San Antonio Charter Moms.
Tips to Enjoy Your Visit to the San Antonio Botanical Garden
Up until now, the San Antonio Botanical Garden was primarily a place for families to go for a nice walk, to see the changing of the seasons, and learn about regional ecosystems. The Family Adventure Garden opens up new possibilities. Depending on how much time you want to spend at the Garden, it makes sense to prepare.
Even for a short visit, it’s still a good idea to wear a hat and sunscreen and bring refillable water bottles. For a longer visit, consider whether your kids will want to play in the sandboxes or water features.
The Family Adventure Garden is a place for kids to be kids. There is plenty of sand, dirt, sticks, rocks, and water, so dress kids in clothes that they can get messy. Bring a change of clothes and a dry towel for the ride home. If you’re dressing up your family for portraits, bring a set of play clothes to change into.
The big rocks and tree stumps are appealing for little climbers, but do keep an eye on them.
Snacks and picnics are still welcome, but the Garden also has a new dining option, Rosella at the Garden in the Sullivan Carriage House. Also, the gift shop has grab-and-go foods for sale, including cool paletas.
Getting a membership is a great value because members get free admission all year. The ACMB contributors are grateful that the San Antonio Botanical Garden provided us with free family memberships this year.
San Antonio Botanical Garden Events
Little Sprout Mondays are educational programs for children ages 3–5. They usually happen on the second Monday of the month from 10:00 A.M. to 11:30 A.M. Register in advance through the website.
CHEF family drop-in programs are cooking classes and demonstrations in the outdoor kitchen in the culinary garden. They usually happen on Saturdays from 10:30 A.M. to 12:30 P.M.
Viva Botanica is the Garden’s annual Fiesta event.
A members-only event, Flowers and Fireworks, is an opportunity to view nearby fireworks from a hillside in the Garden.
The Children’s Vegetable Garden Program, for ages 8–13 and their adult helpers, has a spring session and a fall session every year.
As mentioned in the new-in-2018 post, the San Antonio Botanical Garden will host LEGO® artist Sean Kenney’s Nature Connects exhibit from August 31 to December 31, 2018. Kenney uses thousands of LEGO bricks to craft larger-than-life sculptures of plants, animals, and other things you might find in a garden. Nature Connects visited the Garden in 2014; read about that iteration in this post at San Antonio Charter Moms.
The Family Adventure Garden makes the San Antonio Botanical Garden an even better destination for San Antonio families and visitors. We hope the tips in this blog post encourage you to get out there and enjoy it.