What I tried: The Holden Arboretum, a large outdoor arboretum with miles upon miles of trails in nearby Kirtland, Ohio.
Why I tried it: A friend recently told me about it and after surfing the arboretum’s website and seeing the Emergent Tower and Canopy Walk, I was sold.
Location: 9550 Sperry Rd, Kirtland, OH 44094. It’s about a 90-minute drive from the Erie area.
About the arboretum: “The Holden Arboretum is an outdoor living museum on 3,500 acres that promotes the beauty and importance of trees and other woody plants. The grounds feature more than 20 miles of trails that lead you through cultivated gardens and native forests. The Arboretum also features the Murch Canopy Walk, an elevated walkway 65 feet above the forest floor, and the Kalberer Family Emergent Tower, a wooden tower that rises 120 feet above the forest floor for breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.
Hours: Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day
Cost: Admission to the arboretum is $10 for adults and $4 for children ages 6-18 (under 6 are free). Tickets for the Canopy Walk and Emergent Tower are an additional $4 for adults and $2 for children (6-18, again under 6 is free). So I paid $26 at the entrance booth for the girls and I for the arboretum, the canopy walk and the emergent tower. It was well worth it.
What you’ll see: At least a dozen different gardens (wildflowers, butterfly, rhododendrons, etc.) with a variety of things blooming throughout the year. (You can see a list of what’s in bloom here.). The gardens are nothing short of impressive with colorful displays and educational plaques that offer information without over-explaining. There are more than a half dozen ponds that offer a look at aquatic life – lilies, dragonflies, damselflies, turtles, fish, frogs, polliwogs, and snakes (yep, we saw a water snake!, too. Here’s the trail map.
How long to plan to be there: The website said to plan on two hours, but…if you look at the trail map (link above), you’ll see that’s probably way off. We were there from noon until 4:30 and I still don’t think we saw everything. Admittedly, we did a lot of zigzagging as it’s easy to get “off course” as the gardens are, as you would expect, meandering and one sort of blends into another.
What to bring: Hat, sunscreen (it’s all outside, of course, and much of it is in full sun), camera, water bottle (I’d suggest an insulated one that will keep ice water all day), picnic lunch (there are picnic tables, but we spread out a blanket in the grass under a shady tree in the parking area), comfortable walking shoes (I’d suggest sneakers).
A word about kids: While I think young children might tire of the flowers/walking, the arboretum clearly has made great efforts to appeal to them. We stumbled upon some sort of scavenger hunt for kids and my daughters delighted in finding the boxes and signing their name in the trail maps. And there are several kid-specific areas for them to play and explore including “Buckeye Bud’s Adventure Woods” and “The Habitat Hut.”
Words to the wise: This is not a good trip for those who don’t have the stamina to walk for a few miles over terrain that is often uneven. The tower requires walking up (and down) 200 steps. Also the tower sways and the canopy walk creaks, so if you don’t like heights, don’t buy the tickets for the walk or the tower. Also…if you’re allergic to bees, be aware that you’re going to be around a lot of them as they are buzzing around all of the flowers, pollinating like the busy little bees that they are.
Pups are welcome: Well-behaved small/medium dogs on a leash are welcome at the arboretum. That said, you need to clean up after your pet (of course) and they are not permitted on the tower or canopy walk.
Verdict: My kids, 16 and 14, had a great time, as did I. It was well worth the 90-minute drive and the $26 for admission. I’d like to return in a cooler season and think it would make a great fall trip.
P.S. I set my GPS watch shortly after we got there and we walked 4.62 miles:
More photos from our afternoon at Holden: