Exploring our local gems is one of our favorite things, especially when it involves beautiful scenery and whimsical pockets of nature to discover.
Hot Springs, Arkansas is one of our favorite day trips. For a multitude of reasons – a national park, a fantastic coffee shop (several!), plenty of hiking and nature to explore, plus oddities like a Zoltar fortune teller machine sitting outside of a gift shop. Part tourist trap (ahem, attraction) and part hidden wonder, it’s worth a visit if you’re passing through. Recently we added another reason to visit – Garvan Woodland Gardens. Over 200 acres of beautifully sculpted and manicured gardens to roam, and only six miles from the Hot Springs National Park Visitor center.
The gardens themselves are reason enough to visit, however, this past fall the Children’s garden was expanded to include an award winning treehouse. Designed by Modus Studio out of Fayetteville, Arkansas, the treehouse blends almost seamlessly into the whimsy of the Children’s garden. It is a marvel of design, each arch and curve a well planned detail. It was undoubtedly the highlight of our trip.
Can you spot the luna moth fairy flitting through the treehouse? My daughter insisted on wearing her wings for the trip and it just added to the magic.
We spent the majority of our trip exploring around the Children’s Garden. Repeat trips up and down the treehouse. Sitting in the very top chamber, we were treated to delightful treetop views for our picnic lunch. My children also loved hiking and climbing around the massive, moss covered boulders strategically placed around the space. There is even a cave with a hidden entrance. Wander behind the waterfall and should your imagination allow you, you are transported to an entirely different place. My children and some friend’s children banded together to become a tribe of ewoks, that had made the delightful cave their home base. It made my heart so happy to watch them play with such abandon.
We ate our lunch amongst the treetops in the top level of the stunning treehouse in the Children's Garden. It's a bit of a climb to get up there, but absolutely worth it.
The Gardens are also well known for their holiday lights display. They were working furiously to set up the attraction while we were there. Unfortunately, we have not made a trip yet to view the gardens at night during the holidays. But from what we saw during the day, it is sure to be incredible. There is enough to keep your entire family happy for the whole day. Up near the cafe is the model train set up – which is an absolute delight. The gentlemen working the train were kind enough to invite the children to spot all of the small animal figurines hidden among the display. Several hundred questions from the children later, and the nice men’s patience still hadn’t worn out. The cafe has a whole menu of lunch items, though we packed our own food. Nearby, a forest of bonsai trees is curated. Trees and plants from all over the world are meticulously cared for and a whole host of employees and volunteers are happy to share about the gardens.
The change in seasons brings about a new feel to the gardens, and they are worth visiting at all times of the year. The grounds are also host to the stunning Anthony Chapel; of a similar design to Thorncorn Chapel near Eureka Springs, Arkansas. The chapel itself is just outside of the admission required parts of the grounds and is free to the public to visit when there are no scheduled events. Do be sure to stop there, it’s best viewed later in the day when the sun streams reach the inside of the chapel. Garvan Woodland Gardens is one of our new favorite places to visit and we cannot wait to return in the spring to see the wonders anew with the changing of the seasons.
The holiday lights are sure to make a magic filled evening. From glowing mushrooms to a huge abominable snowman, there is something for everyone.
Incredible architecture is a hallmark of Garven Gardens and worthy of a visit just to see this stunning chapel. The late day sun streams through the glass will take your breath away.
If you have any questions about the area, please don’t hesitate to contact me! I’d be happy to help in any way that I can. Thanks for following along on our adventures! I have some exciting things in the works, including a Luckey Wander visitor guide series. Up first: Hot Springs! If you’d like to be the first to know about it, sign up for our email list below. Thanks friends and happy wandering!