I would like the Na Aina Kai Botanical Gardens to be in my backyard. But since I don’t live on 240 acres of oceanfront land in the tropical isle of Kauai, I’m going to settle for a visit from time to time.
Na Aina Kai was a private garden until it was opened to the public, this includes the Under the Rainbow Children’s Garden which was created for the owner’s grandchildren. This children’s garden is kiddie heaven: with water features, a maze, and super-cool play structures. I picked this as the one garden I was going to visit with my son (you have to tour a garden while in the Garden Isle, after all), and booked the Children’s Garden Family Tour. You can only visit the garden with a tour, and the family tour is the only one you can book with children who are under the age of 13.
During the first hour of the tour, we were guided through the formal gardens and the children were handed a paper bag to put any garden treasures they found along the way. They filled their bags as we walked through a hedge maze, under the rainbow shower trees, and around the beautiful green orchid hanging from a tree. The children were also given the opportunity to feed the poi fish. Oh, and we saw teeny, weeny frogs too.
The second half of the tour was spent in the Under the Rainbow Children’s Garden. Here the kids got to roam free. They played in the water around the 16-foot bronze Jack and the Beanstalk water fountain (bring the swimsuits). Then they wandered through the Gecko-shaped hedge maze, climbed and slid from the treehouse play structures, and played in the covered wagon and railroad train. The adults, well, they sat back and wished they were five years old again.
Book these popular tours ahead of time, since days and times are limited. The family tours are on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at 9:30 and 1:30; Fridays at 9:30. Admission prices are currently $30 for adults and $20 for children. Yes, it’s pricey but it was well worth it. The tour groups are small and your kids will have access to their own private kiddie heaven. Check the website for current information.
Warmer days are here, so we’re all heading outdoors. I can’t stay all cooped up with the birds chirping and the flowers blooming. And since I’m always looking for a good excuse to get out of the house-avoiding all housework in the process-here are our three favorite day trip ideas. Get out and enjoy all of spring’s bounties, they’ll be gone before you know it.
1. We visit a garden (duh!). This may seem like a no-brainer, but it does take a bit of planning, when you want to see a garden in full bloom. Do you like tulips? Go in April. Are you looking for cherry blossoms? Better go before March. Visit different gardens, throughout the season, to see the wide spectrum of blooming colors. I’m constantly amazed by how much my son enjoys a trip to the garden, but I have a feeling that he may feel a bit differently about daffodils when he’s sixteen. So I’m going to get as many cute garden photos of him, while the gettin’ is good. Our favorite garden is Filoli Gardens, you can read more about it here.
2. We visit a farm. It’s all about the baby animals in the spring. I like to squeal and coo when I see the cute lambs, chicks, and-if I’m lucky-piglets. Now we love to visit Hidden Villa Farm, but there are plenty of other farms within day trip distance of our house. Chances are, you also have dozens of farms near your home as well. Find one and call them to see which baby animals they expect to be born soon. Don’t forget about petting zoos, we were surprised by the adorable eight-day-old lambs at Happy Hollow Park and Zoo on a recent visit.
3. We take a wildflower hike. I’m excited by the upcoming wildflower season in California (a bit nerdy, I know). The rainy winter has made the hillsides extra green in Northern California and the colors are beginning to pop out all over the place. The best part about the wildflower hike is the exercise. Or at least it is, if you’re doing a bit of spring training like I am. The California State Park website has some notes about some of the best parks to see wildflowers in the state. But you don’t have limit yourself to these places, just head to some open space and you’ll find the wildflowers. Heck, I can even see them on the side of the freeway nowadays. But that kind of of drive-by viewing doesn’t count, you can’t smell the flowers zooming past them at the legal speed of 65 mph. So I’m getting out this spring and climbing some hills in search of wildflowers.
Other wildflower resources:
What’s blooming when: California Bureau of Land Management.
Desert Wildflower Report at Desert U.S.A.