As a nature enthusiast, I am always on the lookout for new places to explore. During the December holidays, I visited the Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens in the Kansas City metro, and I couldn’t wait to come back in the spring and summer to see it in full bloom. Let me tell you, it did not disappoint!
This Kansas City Arboretum and Botanical Garden is a 300-acre oasis that offers visitors a chance to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and immerse themselves in nature. From the moment I stepped inside, I was struck by the beauty of the gardens. The Arboretum is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, including over 1,700 species of plants, birds, and other wildlife.
One of the things that sets the Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens apart from other green spaces in the area is its commitment to education. The Arboretum offers a range of educational programs and events throughout the year, including guided tours, workshops, and children’s activities.
And even if you’re not into participating in group activities, learning all the plant names thanks to their handy signs and seeing how master gardeners group and arrange plants is an education. Whether you’re a seasoned botanist or just looking for a fun day out with the family, there is something for everyone at this beautiful park.
Walking through the Overland Park Arboretum is a great way to experience the natural beauty of the area. There are a variety of hiking trails and paths that wind through the different ecosystems of the arboretum, each offering a unique experience.
Tucked further away from the gardens are the Woodland Trails, which take you through the wooded areas of the arboretum. It’s arranged in a series of loops that link back to the main trail which follows alongside Wolf Creek, a major tributary of the Blue Rive, with two 75-foot bridge.
This mulched trail set is perfect for those who want a more challenging hike, as it includes some steep inclines and rocky terrain. However, the effort is worth it, as the views from the top are breathtaking. There’s nothing quite like walking a trail blazed through a wooded area to give you a sense of tranquility and reverence.
They just recently added new woodland trails and trail signs throughout!
For those who want a more relaxed experience, the Lake Trail is a great option. This trail takes you around the lake, offering stunning views of the water and the surrounding landscape. It’s a great place to walk, jog, or simply sit and enjoy the peaceful surroundings. You’ll find more of a crowd here at the heart of the park, but it’s hard to resist the beautiful gardens on display here. This area is the most accessible, as well, with wide paved paths and plenty of benches to sit and enjoy the view.
If you have kids, be sure to visit the resident coy by the low lake bridge! Large and lazy, they glide through the water happy to show off their beauty for young and old alike. And if you keep an eye on the wooden platforms out in the lake, you may spot some turtle friends as well.
And don’t forget the Prairie Wildflower Trail, which takes you through the heart of the prairie ecosystem. The trail is well-maintained and offers stunning views of the wildflowers that bloom throughout the year. It’s a great place to take a leisurely stroll and enjoy the natural beauty of the area. This loop is magnificent in the summertime when everything’s in bloom!
Overall, the walking paths at the Overland Park Arboretum are a must-see for anyone who loves hiking, natural beauty, and exploring different ecosystems. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely stroll or a challenging hike, there’s a trail for everyone to enjoy.
My Favorite Areas & Hidden Gems
As I explored the Overland Park Arboretum, I discovered some hidden gems and special areas that are worth visiting. Here are some of my favorites:
This time of year, Irises and Peonies are the stars of the show. Though they’re commonly found in gardens across the state, and maybe in your own front yard, I love exploring the many varieties they have on display. It’s such a happy low-stakes game to try to pick your favorites from the collection. Here are a few of mine. Don’t worry if your answer changes every time you see a new stunner specimen.
Maybe the most dramatically beautiful spot in the whole place is the Monet Garden with its small lily pond and arching footbridge. Named after the painter Claude Monet, this garden features the subtle blend of colors and shapes found in Monet gardens and his work.
If you’re in the mood for some man-made beauty, don’t miss the International Sculpture Garden. This loop trail through the woods provides a stunning natural gallery for some beautiful artwork made somehow more meaningful by their surroundings. Posting too many photos of this garden seems like a spoiler since the collection slowly unfolds as you follow the curving path through the experience, so I’ve only included one above to show you how art and nature interplay.
This may seem a little silly after you see the big splashes of color throughout the garden, but I love the use of edible plants this year. Their use of lettuce as both an edible plant and a stunning foliage moment struck of chord with me. Who doesn’t love a kitchen garden where food and blooms live side-by-side? Make a game of noticing the greens throughout the park, from lettuce to kale to cabbage and even horseradish, the varieties are a delight!
The Train Garden
If you’ve got a train enthusiast in your household, be sure to find the full-sized train car and truly impressive model train, complete with extensive miniature village and track system in one corner of the park. The Train Garden will be a big hit, and it’s pretty magical all decked out with twinkly lights during their winter holiday events.
Overall, the Overland Park Botanical Garden is a great place to explore and discover hidden gems and special areas. Whether you’re interested in gardens, sculptures, or botanical exhibits, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
Educational & Volunteer Programs
As I followed the Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens on social media, I was impressed by the variety of educational programs available. From school field trips to adult workshops, the Arboretum offers something for everyone.
This morning I saw parents and young kids gathered for “Nature Storytime” for children ages 1-6. According to the arboretum website, this storytime happens on Thursday and Saturday mornings this summer and includes “music, movement, and adventures outdoors.” There is a registration fee for these events, but what a great way to get kids excited about the outdoors and teach them about the environment.
For older kids and adults, the Arboretum offers a variety of workshops and classes. I’ve got my eye on a bird watching class (pun intended!) and a stained-glass workshop, oh, and the mushroom walk!
In addition to classes and workshops, the Arboretum also hosts a variety of events and exhibits throughout the year. I checked out their annual plant sale this spring, and they’ve got a few special events coming up including a Enchanted Faire, a Summer Solstice Day of Wellness, and Stems: A Garden Soiree.
New LongHouse Visitors Center
While walking the Lake Trial, you can’t help but notice the new The LongHouse Visitor Center—a modern stone building with metal and wood accents and a zinc-colored metal roof in the final stages of construction. The new building just opened this September and provides more than 21,000 additional square feet of interior space for exhibits, hands-on learning, accessible and gender-neutral bathrooms, a cafe, gift shop, office and administration space, and beautiful rental spaces with panoramic views of the garden. It serves as a grand new entrance to the park with convenient modern amenities for every visitor.
Are you an aspiring master gardener, love the outdoors but don’t have your own garden space to beautify, or just want to learn more to turn your black thumb green? You’re in luck! They’ve got a volunteer program. You can lend your hands to gardening, greeting visitors, acting as a tour guide, be a train conductor (no lie!), and more. You need to fill out an application, commit to 40 hours a year, and take necessary training in your assigned tasks, but what a beautiful way to spend your time!
Overall, the educational programs at the Overland Park Arboretum are top-notch. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast or just looking for a fun and educational day out, the Arboretum has something for everyone.
Become a Paid Member
I just recently became a paid member of the Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, and I’m already loving my decision. The paid membership provides me with numerous benefits, including free admission to the gardens throughout the year, access to exclusive events, and discounts on purchases at the gift shop.
One of the biggest benefits of being a member is the opportunity to explore the gardens at my own pace and on my own schedule. I can visit as often as I like, and I never have to worry about paying for admission. Plus, the gardens change with the seasons, so there’s always something new to see and experience.
Another great aspect of being a member is the chance to participate in exclusive events and programs. From guided tours to educational workshops, there are always opportunities to learn and connect with other members who share my love of nature. Plus, the discounts at the gift shop are a nice bonus, allowing me to purchase unique gifts and souvenirs at a reduced price.
Overall, I highly recommend becoming a member of the Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. I love supporting such a beautiful place, and the experience of exploring the gardens is truly priceless.
Planning Your Trip
Before heading out to the Kansas City Botanical Gardens, I like to plan my trip to ensure that I make the most of my visit. Here are a few tips to help you plan your trip:
8909 W. 179th Street Overland Park, KS 66013
Overland Park Arboretum Hours of Operation
The Arboretum’s hours shift depending on the season. It’s always a good idea to check the website for any special hours or closures before you go. It’s typically open 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, November through March. Right now they’re currently in summer hours which are as follows:
Sun-Tue: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wed: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thu: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fri-Sat: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Last entry is 30 minutes before closing each day.
Admission to the Arboretum is $5 for adults and $2 for children (6-17). Children ages 5 and under get in for free.
Memberships are also available, which can save you money if you plan on visiting multiple times.(see above)
If you’re interested in a guided tour, the Arboretum offers both walking and golf cart tours for an additional $10 per person, plus the cost of admission. Walking tours are available daily, but golf cart tours are only offered on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday and are limited to 12 guests.
All tours start and end at the admissions kiosk, and you’ll need to book them at least 3 weeks in advance.
What to Bring
Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and dress appropriately for the weather. The Arboretum has over 300 acres of gardens, trails, and natural areas to explore, so you’ll want to be prepared for a lot of walking. Don’t forget to bring sunscreen, a hat, and plenty of water.
Food and Beverages
The Kansas City Arboretum has a café in the new LongHouse visitor’s center, which offers a variety of drinks, sandwiches, salads, and snacks. It’s a perfect place to grab a coffee for your stroll through the gardens. There are also picnic areas available if you prefer to bring your own food.
Overall, I found the Arboretum to be a wonderful destination for nature lovers and anyone looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. I highly recommend a visit to this beautiful and peaceful oasis.