Are you and your children ready for a summer of voyage and discovery? Then I highly recommend the Voyage of Discovery exhibit at the Norfolk Botanical Gardens that recently opened and will be in the gardens all summer.
The exhibit is a playful on complete with a treasure hunt, clues and teaching how to decode nautical flags. The flags are the actual ones used by mariners so kids are learning a life lesson, especially one for living in Hampton Roads.
The part that is extremely creative with kids in mind is Pirates Cove. It is a huge structure complete with a ship’s crow’s nest, plenty of areas and sand piled up to climb around and explore. This was my eight-year-old daughter, Julia’s, favorite part. She has quite the imagination and this really spurred it. In fact, I had a hard time getting her down to cool off with a drink. For parents there are plenty of chairs and hammocks to relax while kids have fun, all in the shade. I asked Kelly Welsh, public relations manager, how this exhibit came about. She said the staff has brain-storming meetings on how to make fun areas. Anyone who works at the garden is invited to the meeting. I was amazed.
Charlotte, my 10-year-old daughter, enjoyed the U.S.S. Constitution. It is an open replica of an old sailing ship. The best part is it is interactive. Unlike other replicas of this era, kids and parents can sit at the tables and even swing in hammock like the ones sailors years ago did. There is a chance to search for treasure in the various treasure chests throughout the garden.
After we got good and sweaty, we headed to the Children’s WOW Garden cool down in the sprinklers. My daughters headed to the back one which is a bit more powerful than the tame ones in the front. They understand that is for the younger set. They also played around the garden. Even I cooled off a bit in the fountains.
One activity we did not do, but will when we return with my husband is the remote-control power boats for rent. They are at the boat basin and look fun. Another great aspect of Norfolk Botanical Gardens is the multi-generation appeal. Kids can enjoy as well as parents and grandparents.
The gardens are open daily with Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays evenings being bike nights. You can ride your bike throughout the gardens from 4 p.m.- 7 p.m.
I also want to explore the gardens with my daughters and husband more on a cooler day when the WOW garden and the sprinklers don’t keep us in that spot for a while. I grew up near Botanical Gardens, (previously known as Gardens by the Sea) before the WOW garden was built. My mother frequently took us for an afternoon after church. I have vivid memories of climbing the NATO tower and have my imagination run wild in Coronation Court. Of course, I was always the one being crowned.