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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens - a visit to a Maine treasure!

We have been trying to visit various Maine attractions for some fun adventures close to home this summer. This one was our best yet! We had the most beautiful day at Boothbay's Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. It was AMAZING.

I had not heard of it until last summer. My friend and I meet half-way from each other and this was a perfect spot to take our four kiddos. I wasn't sure what we'd do with the four kids at a garden... but I was pleasantly surprised to find there was TONS for kids to do here! It's a perfect place to spend an entire day.

We ended up there from 10:20-3:30! I could not believe we spent so long there... and we didn't even get to see half of it!

It was about an hour north of Portland area, a very easy and quick ride. It was so beautiful! I can't even do it justice with these pictures... you have to be there to see how amazing it is. A perfect spot for a wedding in my opinion! 

The children's area is the first thing you'll want to see with kids, of course. When you go out into the gardens, it's toward the right side. There is TONS to do over there! We started off with this amazing grass race. The kids loved this maze.

So many cool sculptures were all throughout the gardens. It was amazing.

The learning kids' area was the best. It was spread out, so not packed with kids, and yet so beautiful the adults enjoyed the area also.

Our children stayed in this one area for an hour! We moms actually got to sit on benches and talk while they played happily. There was this water filling area with tons of water pots to fill. The kids could water the real flowers in the area, as well as play in the sandbox area to make mud. They had a blast working on this.

This sand pit was their favorite!

The sand pit is in front of the story hour and craft building. Tons of books in there, cool, shady, fun spot to relax. They had a puppet show and a story time that we could have attended, but we were too busy out in the mud!

After the sand and water area, we walked toward the playhouse and out back there was a clothesline to hang wet clothes. The kids LOVED this! I loved how simple it was yet fun and filled with sensory-friendly ideas for happy learning.

Of course I found my favorite flowers... daisies!

I loved how there were little things to play with like this bear above to sit on, but also tons of just natural outdoor fun with TONS of tadpoles and frogs in the water. The kids loved seeing them. There was a chance for kids to work with a volunteer at the garden with tadpole nets to catch them.

Even the bathrooms were cute! I know, crazy I took a picture of this, but really the whole place was clean and perfect.

The staff were so friendly, too! You can tell they work with and appreciate children, we felt so welcomed to play, run, and enjoy our time in the gardens! I prepped my kids ahead of time that we can't pick these flowers (as they are used to picking me dandelions a lot lately! They did a great job and did not pick a single one while we were there!).

The tree house was the next place we stayed at least 45 minutes at! We ended up having a picnic lunch inside the tree house because it was shady and everyone was starving! Such a fun experience.

Next to the tree house is this net bridge. The kids practiced walking over it multiple times. A great chance to show some bravery!

Then onto the row boat to be real lobstermen and women!

The kids loved hauling real traps, tossing them overboard into the water and then hauling them back again.

Another child found a baby turtle and was nice enough to let our kids hold it! So fun!

Gorgeous spot for pictures! Of course, my kids were WAY too busy to sit for really nice pictures... but if I went again I'd do that first then let them run around and enjoy the nature. We got some sweet candids though.

These stepping stones were so much fun. They must have walked over these about 10 times!

Looking for tadpoles!

There were tons of areas to sit down, get out of the sun, relax, and even take a break feeding a baby or just enjoying the scenery.

We sat on those bench swings while the kids ran around in the water sprinkler rock area. How cool!

We went down toward the water walkway last and found the coolest fairy building area. Tons of little forts already made, with baskets of supplies to make your own creations - seashells, feathers, bark, etc. What a great spot! Our kids LOVED this.

There was even a table and chairs set made out of rock that would have been the best spot for a picnic! Next time!

Last but not least, we stopped at the cafe to get some ice cold lemonade (perfect summer treat after a hot day!) and there were freeze pops (two for $1!) for the kids. I ate the most delicious gluten free almond macaroon cookie!

Here is what else they had in case you wanted to eat there:

All in all, this was a PERFECT day! It was one of the MOST beautiful Maine areas I've ever seen in my life. Seriously gorgeous. I can't believe I've just found it! We hope to return in the fall. 

I highly recommend you visit the Gardens. It was such a fun day. Plan to stay all day long and enjoy a quiet ride home - my kids fell asleep within minutes of being in the car and slept almost the entire ride home! 

My most favorite part about the Gardens was how MAINE it was! Of course it's Maine... but I really loved seeing the lobster traps and the blueberries bucket tossed over by the bear. There were book references, and all things Maine there. So awesome and a lot of pride for our state. We are very lucky to live here. 

What to pack:
  • Comfy shoes but ones that can get wet. Flip flops would not be good for the kids, Crocs or sandals are best. 
  • Lunch and snacks. My kids worked up a huge appetite here so we ran out of snacks. I'd definitely pack more than you think they'll eat, as it's a lot of walking and sunshine. There are TONS of fun places for picnics, so packing something is ideal here to not only save money but to get the most out of the large garden area to eat outside in nature. 
  • Sunscreen. Even though a lot of it is in the woods, we got plenty of sun and sunscreen is key.
  • Lots of water. There were not drinking fountains out in the gardens, only a bathroom, so packing extra water bottles would be helpful. 
  • Extra change of clothes. The kids got soaked, and I had no idea they would, luckily I had spare clothes in the bag from another day. You will want extra underwear, too, as they were that soaked! 
  • A really good camera. If you usually take your phone and leave the camera home, this is a place you'll want to change your mind on that. It's a great opportunity for good pictures of the kids. Make sure YOU get in them, too! 
  • Money - there is a gift shop (though I did not go in because it looks like some things the kids could break!) and a nice snack bar where we got delicious lemonade and popsicles. 
  • Stroller or baby carrier. It's a lot of walking. My 3 year old did OK without a stroller, but she was complaining near the end and it was heavy and hot carrying our backpack. I'd wished I had the stroller to put things in like water bottles and the camera. 

Tips for a fun day:
  • Go early! They opened at 10 and we got there about 10:15 or so. I'd say get yourself up and out early and get there right when they open before it gets hot. 
  • They are open year round! I think early spring and fall would be perfect times to go, too. 
  • Wear comfortable shoes but ones that can get wet also. 
  • Re-apply sunscreen! We didn't and should have! 
  • If you want to take nice pictures, do them FIRST before entering the kids area where the kids will get wet and dirty. 
  • When you first get to the road, you will find a fork to go left or right. I had no idea, but we went left and the parking seemed a bit closer than toward the right. Also: remember which lot you are in (they are labeled), I forgot and we ended up walking around more trying to find our car when the kids were exhausted and hot and cranky, no good! Take a picture with your phone of the lot sign. 
  • Use restrooms right when you get inside, as there is one near the kids area but it'll save you a trip if you end up walking toward another area. 
  • Make sure you check out the woods and water area where the fairy house building area is - it was definitely worth the walk down there. A great picnic place, too.
  • Check your local library and/or the Coastal gardens web site. Libraries offer discount or free passes, and the gardens Web site had a note on there that if you purchase a week in advance you get to save a percentage online. Kids under 3 are free. 
  • Head into Boothbay Harbor for dinner or an ice cream afterward, it's about 7 minutes from the gardens, an easy and fun spot to get to. 

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