Is this chilly Cleveland spring making you want to head back into hibernation? Then head to Big Spring at the Cleveland Botanical Garden to awaken your senses in their indoor and outdoor larger-than-life spring fantasy. Walking into Big Spring guests of all ages are invigorated by the vibrant colors, fresh floral scents, and large whimsical displays.
Big Spring’s larger-than-life decorations are definitely one of the highlights of the exhibit! Everywhere you look there is a splash of vibrant color or an unexpected surprise. One of my favorites is the hanging umbrellas as you walk into Big Spring which appropriately ends with an ongoing spring shower! Another of my family’s favorite decorations are the big flowers. My kids love trying to find the statues of woodland creatures among the live lilies at the bottom of these giant flowers.
Big Spring isn’t just about over-the-top gorgeous decorations. There are a ton of hands-on activities for children as well. The Garden of Fun….I think the name pretty much sums this place up. The Garden of Fun is where my kids always end up spending the most of their time at Big Spring.
My youngest’s favorite Garden of Fun activity is definitely the Toadstool Theater. There are lots of animal costumes for dress up and a small stage for performances. My daughters put on a fabulous show which included bats, parrots, eagles, and ladybugs. The Children’s Museum of Cleveland also hosts a Move and Groove in the Toadstool Theater on Sundays at 1pm.
You can also make boats at Puddle Bug Boats. Boat kits cost an additional $8-10. However, there are boats to play with in the pond if you do not wish to make your own. We have never made our own boats (much to my kids’ dismay), but my kids always enjoy playing with the pre-made boats in the pond.
The Ladybug Labyrinth is another one of my kids favorites. The labyrinth is a hedge maze with brilliant red ladybugs scattered among the hedges. There are many ladybug facts along the maze. How do ladybugs protect themselves from predators? Explore the ladybug labyrinth for the interesting answer. My kids love being timed in the maze and try to trick one another into making a wrong turn to get the best time.
You can also have a magical tea party at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party tucked in this adorable arbor. Children feel as if they’ve stepped right into a fairytale with whimsical toadstool tables and chairs. It really doesn’t get any cuter than this.
Polly’s Pollination Parade also starts in the Garden of Fun at 1:30 daily and also at 5:30 on Wednesdays.
Just down the hall from the Garden of Fun you can cheer on you favorite mealworm as he or she races to finish…or not. My 5-year-old was laughing hysterically as some mealworms went backwards or stopped in the middle of the race. Mealworm races take place at 11:30 am, 2 pm and 4 pm daily and at 6:30 pm on Wednesdays.
Kids also love exploring Critter Corner where they crawl inside this gigantic log and view several live animals. There is also an Exploration Station where you find out what happens to a bulb when you plant it and a spout window where you can see how plants grow both above and below the soil. On Wednesdays, The Children’s Museum of Cleveland hosts Nature Nuggets in Critter Corner at 1pm.
Additional activities at Big Spring include Meet and Greet the Animals at 11 am and 2:30 pm daily and Butterfly Releases at 2 pm daily in the Glasshouse. In Hershey Children’s Garden there is Nature Tales Story Time at 11 am Thursdays and a Children’s Garden Activity at 1 pm on Sundays. There are also daily outdoor bulb tours at 1 pm.
Big Spring has been a spring favorite in my home. Most activities are appropriate for toddlers and young grade-school children. My 9-year-old enjoyed the activities, but mostly because she was sharing them with her beloved 5-year-old sister. I would expect to spend about 2 hours at Big Spring if the weather is chilly, and longer if warmer weather permits you to explore the outdoor gardens.
Big Spring activities are included with admission to the Cleveland Botanical Garden and runs through Sunday, April 24th. Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for children ages 3-12 years. Children under 3 years of age are free. Admission is free for Garden and Arboretum members. There is limited metered street parking available. There is also a parking garage under the gardens for $6.