Botanic Garden offers kids a mix of nature, art and summer fun

4.	Among the topiary highlights at SDBG are these mariachi players in the Mexican garden just beyond Seeds of Wonder.
4. Among the topiary highlights at SDBG are these mariachi players in the Mexican garden just beyond Seeds of Wonder.

By Lonnie Burstein Hewitt

Quail Gardens’ new name, San Diego Botanic Garden, may not be as appealing, but under its more official-sounding title, the 40-year-old destination for nature-lovers is looking better than ever. Its mission is to connect plants and people, and for families on the lookout for summer activities, this 37-acre oasis is the place to go. It’s a sure cure for Nature Deficit Disorder, which according to local author Richard Louv, affects many of our children, not to mention ourselves.

Besides the pleasant walking trails that meander through bamboo groves, desert gardens, a tropical rainforest (complete with waterfall), native coastal sage, and attractively laid-out plantings of herbs, succulents, and fruits from all over the world, there are two areas especially designed for kids: Seeds of Wonder, and the Hamilton Children's Garden.

Seeds of Wonder is meant primarily for toddlers, but has attractions for older kids, too, including animal topiary, a miniature train, and places to just plain play in the dirt.

The Hamilton Garden, opened two years ago, was mostly funded by longtime board member Frances Hamilton White, and designed by Deneen Powell Atelier, who also helped design the San Diego Zoo’s award-winning Elephant Odyssey.

It’s a great spot for kids of all ages, whose many delights include a climbable Tree House (in a huge, faux banyan tree with live plant accoutrements), a caterpillar/butterfly Bed & Breakfast, a make-your-own-music garden with a variety of imaginative percussion instruments, a Spell & Smell garden, a foxtail maze, a stream for sailing paper boats, and some whimsical sculptures by the King of ZjHunkMetalArt, Paul Wilton — one of 26 regional artists whose works are now on display throughout SDBG. (Ask for a sculpture map at the entrance.)

Summer Thursdays are Family Fun Nights, with arts and crafts activities from 4:30-6 p.m., followed by a broad range of interactive entertainments in the Lawn Garden, including sing-alongs, storytelling, puppets, live bird shows, and more. Bring a blanket and a picnic supper, and don’t miss the popular “kid-folk” duo, Hullabaloo (July 14 and Aug. 25); Dance Around the World, with Nikola Clay (July 28); and Fabulous Funny Fairy Tales (Aug. 4).

Whatever your plans for this summer, think green — and be sure to put the Garden on your list.

If you go


San Diego Botanic Garden


230 Quail Gardens Drive, Encinitas


9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily

Summer Thursdays:

open to 8 p.m.




$2 (4 in a car, park free!)


Seeds of Wonder:

Weekday morning programs for ages 1-6.

Hamilton Happenings:

Arts and crafts, Thursdays, 4:30-6 p.m.

Fun on Fridays

(may include helping in the garden): 10 a.m. to noon.

Family Fun Nights:

Lawn Garden, Thursdays, 6-7 p.m. to Labor Day.

Day Camp: Abrakadoodle,

July 25-29. (760) 731-0555.

Garden Expressions

: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 20-21, Regional artists, including honoree James Hubbell, will create, display and sell their nature-inspired work; you can join in making a community sculpture.



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