Botanical Garden Hopping Around the Bay

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They say it’s all about the little things. Like the moment your son or daughter presents you with a bouquet made from wildflowers. Our kids always remind us to appreciate these delicate gifts, and even though they can’t pick the flowers in the botanical gardens, they can still enjoy all the colors and shapes found at these living museums, from the daffodils to the butterflies. Botanical gardens are low-cost and open year-round – every season there’s something new in bloom. Check out one of these pretty gardens with the fam next time you’re in the mood to appreciate the little things.

East Bay Buds
Did you know that the Berkeley Hills boast more than one amazing garden? There’s the Botanic Garden on Wildcat Canyon Road and the U.C. Botanical Garden on Centennial Drive. The smaller Botanic Garden, with cozy grass patches you can spread a blanket on for the toddlers, only houses native California plants, while the U.C. garden’s vast collection comes from all over the world. Over on the Oakland side, there are the Gardens at Lake Merritt, just across the way from Fairyland. Let the kids choose between the Bonsai Garden, Mediterranean Garden, Succulent Garden, and more – there are several themed gardens at this lakeside oasis.

San Francisco Flowers
According to the San Francisco Botanical Garden’s “hortiphile,” autumn means shorter days, more rain, and stronger, bigger plants. So what grows at the S.F. Botanical Gardens? Try 55-acres filled with 8,000 varieties of plants. That gives you and the young ones a lot to talk about! A bit further south, the Filoli Garden grows around a giant country estate-turned-museum, so you can explore big rooms as well as big lawns, and in the thick of Golden Gate Park’s playgrounds and museums, the Conservatory of Flowers gives you a nice break amid tropical plants and flowers.

South Bay Blooms
What kind of flowers do the butterflies love? Find out at the Coyote Hills Regional Park Nectar Garden, a sweet little alternative to the big landscaped mazes. You won’t get lost in here! In Palo Alto, the Elizabeth F. Gamble Garden celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and will host a haunted historic house at the end of the month, with children’s garden tours available all year.

Marin Marigolds
There are more than marigolds at the Belvedere-Tiburon Landmarks Society, where artifacts and local landmarks like the Railroad and Ferry Depot Museum are open to young explorers learning the lay of the land. On Sundays, enjoy a panoramic view of Richardson Bay from the Landmarks Society’s Art & Garden Center or wander over to Bolinas to discover a new succulent at the Marin-Bolinas Botanical Gardens. Also, did you know that the Green Gulch Farm at the  San Francisco Zen Center has a garden, too? Flowers are conducive to meditating, or even a game of peek-a-boo behind the petals.

Gardens are everywhere, and whether or not you have your own little sanctuary in the backyard, there are many beautiful gardens in the Bay to explore and learn from. Tell us about your favorite!