Garden Hopping with the Family

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Spring is here, and family-friendly garden tours are underway throughout the Bay. Now’s your chance to get ideas from a few flowering gems. Maybe you’ll even head home and do some planting of your own. You bring the soil and shovel, and the kids can bring an extra batch of creativity. Catch one or more of these tours in the upcoming month, with accompanying events like festivals and treasure sales to keep the outdoor adventures interesting for budding gardeners of all ages.

May 15 & 22:  Garden Conservancy’s Open Days

Yearly garden tours sponsored by the Garden Conservancy have been going strong for 10 years, giving plant lovers the chance to view private gardens that are usually inaccessible to the public. Tell the kids the names of the gardens you’ll be seeing, like Angle of Repose, Urban Labyrinth Garden, Sea Cliff, and Boyds Passage to India, and just watch their imaginations light up. The beautiful garden names are hints of the wonders you’re invited to see in Atherton, Los Altos, Woodside, and throughout the greater Bay Area. Open Days will take place 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in San Francisco on May 15 and May 22. Children are free and adults pay $5 per garden. No reservations required. Go to for more info.

May 16: Niles Wildflower, Art, Garden & Quilt Show

Come to the Historic Niles District in Fremont for the annual garden tour sponsored by the Niles Main Street Association. Nine gardens with low-maintenance plants will be open for the whole family to visit from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and before or afterwards, the free festival in Niles Town Square will feed green thumbs large and small with garden talks, plants for sale, and a new addition to the event: a quilt show. Let the kids get involved with selecting a few seedlings of their own! Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 on the day of the show. Go to for more info.

May 16: 7th Annual Beyond the Garden Gate Tour

The Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum invite your family to see nine unique gardens, with everything from grapevines, edible plants, and vintage features to cabanas, shady overlooks, and views of Mount Diablo. Music will play as you hop along your tour, and Marin Street in front of the museum will be closed off with garden treasures, books, art, and planting goodies for sale. For $30, you get a ticket to the event and a buffet lunch. Event takes place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Go to for more info.

May 22: Urban Gardens for Families

The gardens on this tour were designed for families. All of them include play areas for children, vegetable gardens, pathways through the flowers, and bird or butterfly habitats. This 10 a.m to 2 p.m. tour, sponsored by the San Francisco Botanical Garden Society, will enable you to explore San Francisco in a whole new way as you carpool from one urban landscape to another, picking up ideas on how to keep your own outdoor spaces low-maintenance and family friendly. The tour takes place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Forest Hill District of San Francisco. Tickets are $60. Call 415-661-1316, ext. 400 or email Go to for more info.

June 13: San Leandro North Area Home and Garden Tour

Take a peek into six private San Leandro homes, viewing their unique garden landscapes and decorative styles. Tour takes place from 12 to 4 p.m. Proceeds to this event go to the George Mark Children’s House, which helps seriously ill children and their families. Tickets are $20 and available in advance or on the day of the event. Go to for more info.

—Renee Rutledge