Summertime is a great time to get outdoors, especially for kids, to explore and experience mother nature and all of her wonders.

That's one of the reasons the Kentucky Children's Garden is a great place to visit to escape from the concrete jungle and into an urban forest full of delights. The KCG is located in the Arboretum, the 100-acre State Botanical Garden on the University of Kentucky campus. While the KCG only accounts for two acres, the garden was designed to share the joy and wonder of nature and plants, according to Education Manager and Kentucky Children's Garden Manager Jackie Gallimore.

"The garden's features include child-sized representations of Kentucky's landscapes (natural and man-made, past and present) as well as themed gardens including butterfly, vegetable and transportation gardens," Gallimore said.

The garden is the perfect spot for kids ages two to six, but the fun that can be had there is for all ages.

Visitors can purchase wristbands for $3 per person or $10 per family (up to five people). Children under the age of two get in free. For those that have a great time at the Kentucky Children's Garden, a season pass can be purchased as well. Wristbands allow visitors to come and go as they please from the time the garden opens at 10 a.m. until it closes at 5 p.m. (Sunday hours are 1 to 5 p.m.)

During the week, Gallimore said they focus on a particular topic related to the garden such as flower arrangements, pond bugs or trains. On some days, kids can make a craft and other days kids will have a chance to plant flowers, explore the gardens or create works of art. Young children are naturally very curious and engaged in nature, according to Gallimore, which makes the programming a perfect fit for them.

If visitors can't make it to the garden on the weekend, the garden also offers different activities depending on the day. All of the activities revolve around a monthly theme and are organized by day.

Weekend gardening programs typically begin with a hands-on planting project, followed by harvesting and tasting produce, and end with planting a seed to take home, according the KCG's website.

Activities are for kids ages three and up to 10, but anyone is welcome to participate. The activity starts at 10:30 a.m. with another at 1 p.m. and the last at 3 p.m. Guests will know an activity is about to start because the Arboretum will ring a bell to alert kids and parents.

"We also have a seasonal event, Celebrating the Seasons. We invite local organizations to come out and bring seasonal crafts and activities," Gallimore said. "We also always give away plants and have a natural and recycled material building challenge."

This Saturday, the KCG will be hosting Sizzling Summer as part of the Celebrating the Seasons event. The day will feature mini boat races, plant giveaways, season crafts and activities, starting at 10 a.m.

The Kentucky Children's Garden offers so much for kids to do, which means they could get wet and dirty, a sure sign of a good time at the KCG.

"Kids enjoy being in nature and interacting with the plants and animals of the garden. They love seeing the model trains, helping plant during programs, and building dams in the wading stream," Gallimore said.

Gallimore recommends that parents bring an extra change of clothes, water shoes, water to drink, towels, sunscreen, baby wipes and snacks.

In addition to the daily activities, the gardens have a model train. The model trains run from 11 a.m. to noon, 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 to 4:30 p.m., but won't be running if there is high wind or rain.

One of the reasons why the Kentucky Children's Garden is so important to Lexington and surrounding areas is because it provides kids a place to run around and to play outside.

"The Kentucky Children's Garden is a magical place that provides a space for kids and their families to connect to the wonder and joy of nature and plants in the heart of Lexington," Gallimore said.

In 1991, the Lexington-Fayette County Urban County Government and the University of Kentucky decided that Lexington needed to be a little greener and created the Arboretum. In 2000, it was named the "Official State Botanical Garden for the Commonwealth of Kentucky"

For more information, visit arboretum.ca.uky.edu/gardens/childrens.

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