Tips And Ideas For Enjoying The Butchart Gardens With Children ~ Here is how to make it an engaging, fun and memorable experience for the entire family!
Are you planning a family trip to Vancouver Island located on the west coast of British Columbia, Canada? I would like to recommend a must-see-do activity. It is The Butchart Gardens and it truly is stunning! It has something to offer for all ages so it is a perfect place for families to include in their travel plans.
What Is The Butchart Gardens?
If you are not familiar with The Butchart Gardens, this top rated tourist attraction began as a limestone quarry and factory back in the early 1900s by the Butchart family who immigrated to Canada from Great Britain. When the limestone deposits were depleted it was Mrs. Jennie Butchart who had the innovative idea to turn it into a breathtaking garden for others to enjoy. After many years of work her vision did come true and it is considered today to be a top world attraction.
The Butchart Gardens And Childhood Memories
I remember when my parents took me to visit The Butchart Gardens as a child on one of our family vacations to Vancouver Island. I remember being overcome and fascinated by how beautiful the gardens were and I still carry that memory today as an adult. I have been able to return to the gardens several times since. I was even able to fit in a tour on my honeymoon! Each time has been in a different season and I have equally enjoyed each visit.
The Butchart Gardens is an interesting place to visit with children. It is so unique and there are very few attractions in North America that can compare. It is not an amusement park with a lot of rides, playground equipment for children to play on or open spaces for children to run around. But The Butchart Gardens has done a great job of making sure it is a family friendly place to visit!
I recently was able to visit The Butchart Gardens in early May with my husband. We were enjoying browsing through The Sunken Garden which is one of its many highlights. This is the view from above and then a winding pathway takes you down into the Sunken Garden.
We observed two different families who were also in The Sunken Garden. A father and son were running racing up and down the pathways that you see in the photo. Yup, we had to move out of the way. The other family was thoroughly engaged with everything they saw together taking time to read the information signs and discuss what they were viewing. Both children were actively taking photographs as they walked along. I could not help wonder which children were going to have the longer lasting memory of this breathtaking garden like I have from my first visit when I was a child? It was that question that got me thinking about how to make a visit to The Butchart Gardens a fabulous and memorable visit for children of all ages.
If you have been following me for a while and have had a chance to read my About page you will know that my former career was an elementary school teacher. Even though I am now retired after being in the classroom for 35 years I still cannot visit a venue or attraction like The Butchart Gardens without thinking how to make this an engaging and totally fun place to visit with children. As I was touring the gardens my brain was racing with ideas and it is those ideas that I am sharing with you today!
Family And Kid Friendly Features At The Butchart Gardens
Travelling with a family takes a bit of planning and organizing when visiting any attraction and The Butchart Gardens is no exception. Their website The Butchart Gardens covers a lot of important and useful information that you will want to check out before you go. Here are few other things that are nice to know to help make your visit more enjoyable for you and your children:
The Butchart Gardens is a dog friendly place so even the family pet can come along and be included in the photographs along with the flowers, plants and family members.
Wheelchair And Stroller Accessible
Almost every area in The Butchart Gardens is wheelchair accessible. That means children in strollers or wagons will be able to enjoy most of the grounds.
There are many places to stop and have a rest including benches and picnic tables. I love that several of the rest spots are located away from the main paths. Some are hidden and are a great place to have a snack, beverage break or work on some of the activities that I have designed and provide later in the post.
There are different places to have a bite to eat at The Butchart Gardens. There is a snack bar near the front entrance. It is quite spacious with lots of seating indoors and outdoors. The menu includes a lot of kid-friendly choices including a pretty big ice cream bar.
Another place to eat is The Blue Poppy Restaurant. It is a sit-down restaurant that also offers a kid-friendly menu.
Yes, The Butchart Gardens does have a display of the gorgeous Himalayan Blue Poppies. I will not tell you where they are located. You can have fun looking for them during your visit!
Are you looking for a truly memorable and fun eating experience at The Butchart Gardens for your children? They also offer a Children’s Afternoon Tea Menu in The Dining Room. This restaurant is in the original Butchart home with gorgeous views of what used to be the Butchart’s private garden and the Italian garden. There are also menu choices for adult palates! Reservations are recommended for this popular dining experience. Also check the website for when the restaurant is open during the year.
Daytime Or Nighttime Visit
The Butchart Gardens is stunning during the day but when the sun goes down it takes on a whole new magical appearance during the summer season. Thousands of lights of different intensities and designs turn on and the grounds can be enjoyed during the dark evening till the park closes at 10 pm.
During the summer season The Butchart Gardens offers daily concerts and events on their Concert Lawn Stage. Guests are welcome to bring blankets and lawn chairs and sit on the lawn to enjoy the evening entertainment.
Every Saturday night there are fireworks beginning at 10:00 pm. These fireworks have been going on since 1977 and are a stunning light display in a breathtaking attraction.
Entry And Re-Admission Offer
During my last visit I overheard a couple complaining that they wished the tour company they were with allowed for more time for the tour group members to visit the gardens because there was so much to see. Apparently, they were only allotted a couple of hours and they realized this was not enough time. They knew they would not be coming back for a quite a while, if ever.
Touring The Butchart Gardens can be quite tiring for children. It is a lot to expect them to be able to spend all day walking and enjoying the gardens. The Butchart Gardens does have a re-admission offer that is perfect for families with young children. With the purchase of your ticket you can visit the gardens for a few hours, leave again to have a rest, nap or do something else for a change of pace and come back later to enjoy the rest of what The Butchart Gardens has to offer. All you have to do is make sure you get your hand stamped before you leave.
They also have an offer where for a small extra fee you can come back the next day to continue enjoying the gardens. If you plan on coming back you will be asked to return your tickets for the day, pay a minimal extra charge and will be provided with new tickets for the following day. The only times this does not apply is on a same day re-admission on a Saturday when the fireworks display is on. The second time is using a Friday admission the following Saturday when a fireworks display will be on. Pricing and more details are found here.
I previously mentioned The Butchart Gardens was not an amusement park but it does have one very special amusement park like attraction. The Rose Carousel is located in the Children’s Pavilion. There is nominal fee for you or your children to have a ride but part of the proceeds go to children’s charities.
Located near the front entrance beside the snack bar is the information centre. Here is where you can pick up a map of the gardens, their ‘Flower And Plant Guide’ and ask questions. The Butchart Gardens also has a free printable specifically designed for children. The Family Discovery walk is a self-directed tour providing loads of information about what you are seeing along the way.
As you can see The Butchart Gardens clearly wants their young and old guests to really enjoy their visit. I also have come up with a variety of ideas that you may want to incorporate into your visit. When I designed them I kept in mind that they keep children of all ages entertained in a meaningful, engaging and most of all fun way. I also kept in mind that they would be equally as fun for the adults but more importantly low maintenance so they can enjoy also enjoy their visit. Here are some more…
Tips And Ideas For Enjoying The Butchart Gardens With Children
Map Out Your Visit
The Butchart Gardens provides free maps at their information centre or you can print off a PDF version from their website before you arrive. Mapping skills can be tricky for children to learn. So bring along a highlighter and have them highlight their route throughout the gardens. It makes great practice in a realistic and meaningful way.
Flower And Plant Guide Hunt
When you tour The Butchart Gardens you will notice that none of the plants are identified with plant markers. Instead The Butchart Gardens provides a Flower And Plant Guide identifying everything that is growing on the grounds. Collect a guide from the information centre at the beginning of your visit. Have your child check off each flower and plant in the guide as they find them in the gardens. Inexpensive stickers can also be used to make the guide look more decorative. Then it becomes a souvenir piece documenting the visit. Keep in mind that you will not be checking off every flower and plant because different types bloom at different times during the year.
Favourite Colour Hunt
Have your child choose their favourite colour. As they tour the gardens encourage them to find as many flowers and plants that have that colour. Do you have a smart phone, tablet or inexpensive camera? Have them photograph all of the examples they find and talk about all of the shades and tones of the favourite colour. How many different examples can they find of their favourite colour?
A – Z Discovery Hunt
There are so many things to see in The Butchart Gardens. Some of them are non-living, living or a combination of both. Not every child may be interested in seeing just the living flowers and plants. They may also enjoy discovering other interesting things. Challenge your child to see if they can find one thing that begins with each letter of the alphabet and record it on the A – Z Discovery Hunt printable.
The ‘reflections’ in the water are quite stunning. The word ‘reflection’ is perfect for the letter R!
The Sunken Garden was built from a limestone quarry. There is a work to use for the letter Q!
Fascinating Leaves Hunt
It seems the flowers get all of the attention for their colour and beauty. But when you look closely, there are many plants that do not have a single bloom and yet are equally as beautiful. Challenge your child to see how many different types of interesting leaves they can find and photograph them with the camera. Try to find the biggest leaves, ones with the most fascinating shapes and ones with interesting patterns.
Look at the size of this leaf compared to other leaves in the photograph! It gets a biggest and interesting shape leaf award.
These leaves get an award for having such an interesting pattern!
Animal Discovery Hunt
The Butchart Gardens does not have a lot of living animals. During my visits I have heard a lot of birds but they are not really visible. I have also witnessed a few bees buzzing around flowers. But this is where The Butchart Gardens offers some whimsical fun. There are actually loads of animals throughout the gardens. None of them are alive but they are made from different living and non-living materials. Some are very obvious as you walk by and some are slightly hidden away or are part of a floral and plant exhibit. I have to admit I love looking for the animals just as much as the flowers and plants. The Animal Discovery Hunt printable is a fun way to track and count each one your child finds. Here are just a few of the animal examples you will find!
Oldest, Tallest, Biggest Tree Search
There is one tree that is identified with a label but it is worthy of an honourable mention. Be sure to include in your visit with your child to find the Coast Redwood Sequoia Sempervirens tree planted in 1934. It is massive and well worth checking out. Have fun taking photographs of this tree from different perspectives and angles.
Colour Discovery Hunt
Here is a fun and easy activity since there are so many different colours in The Butchart Gardens! Have your child look for examples for each of the colours listed on the Colour Discovery Hunt printable! It would also be fun to take a photograph of the flowers and plants representing each colour!
Here is one of the many pinks you will see…
…and there are many different purples too!
Water Discovery Hunt
The Butchart Gardens also has many different examples of water forms. There are not too many attractions where you can see the ocean, lakes, ponds, brooks, waterfalls and an enormous fountain that demonstrates a perpetual water dance. Use the Water Discovery Hunt printable to help your child see if they can find as many examples as they can.
Here are few to help you get started…
The morning dew drops on this pink geranium almost look magical!
Mr. Frog can count for the Animal Discovery Hunt and the Water Discovery Hunt!
Purchase Seeds At The Gift Shop
Before you leave The Butchart Gardens you will want to stop by the gift shop. It is quite a large shop offering all kinds of flower and plant related items for sale. My favourite is the seed section where they have seeds for the flowers and plants that you just enjoyed in their gorgeous glory. My favourite is a special Children’s Collection of seeds available for purchase. The staff can even package it in such a way so it can be brought over the border into the United States and passed through customs. What a special memory keeper to be able to return home and plant some of the same flowers and plants that your child enjoyed at The Butchart Garden in your own garden at home!
Flags From Around The World
Your child might be pretty tired at the end of the visit but there is one more feature that The Butchart Gardens offers. As you enter and leave the gardens there are numerous flags from around the world representing the people from the countries that also have enjoyed this spectacular garden. It really does verify The Butchart Gardens as a worldwide recognized attraction and your children are very fortunate to have been able to experience it at a young age.
Final Words: I hope these tips and ideas for enjoying The Butchart Gardens with children help to make it a fun, engaging and memorable visit. Feel free to pick and choose which ones are of interest to you and your children. But be sure to sign the one of the several Visitors’ Books throughout the gardens before you leave!
I have also written a couple of other articles about previous visits to The Butchart Gardens that you will want to check out.
Butchart Gardens Early Spring Visit provides tips and ideas for how adults can make the most of their visit to the gardens.
The Butchart Gardens also is a buffet of gardening ideas for the avid gardener. Indoor Outdoor Planting Ideas gives loads of ideas inspiration for what you can do with your flowers and plants. All of the ideas and inspiration came from The Butchart Gardens.
Your Turn: Have you had a chance to visit The Butchart Gardens with or without children? Do you have any suggestions for enjoying the gardens? What is your favourite thing about The Butchart Gardens? I would love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.
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Disclosure: I received some form of compensation for this post from The Butchart Gardens. I love the gardens and I loved creating activities so other children can enjoy them as much as I did as a child and do now as an adult. The opinions expressed are my own.
Thank you to The Butchart Gardens for sharing this article with their readers on their website The Butchart Chronicle. Great place to get more fabulous information about these fabulous gardens!