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Seniors Out and About in the Twin Cities: Visiting the Big Gardens

The Twin Cities have a number of world class gardens that are senior-friendly.

The Como Park Conservatory, Lyndale Park Gardens and The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum are three fantastic places to take in Mother Nature's handiwork. All of these locations have excellent accessibility and a variety of interesting exhibits that are available year around.

Como Park Zoo and Conservatory

The Como Park Zoo and Conservatory have been open for over 100 years. Both are open year-round with indoor viewing areas for the Zoo. The conservatory is a wonderful spot during the winter to forget about the confines of your home and enjoy the warm, humid air inside the buildings. The same heat we may want to avoid in the summer feels great when it’s cold outside! With it’s wide variety of gardens that include a Minnesota theme garden, ferns, water garden and sunken garden, there is truly something for everyone. The facility has received a number of sizable donations over the years and has greatly improved the facility for both visitors and the animals.

Conservatory access--If you arrive on the weekend the main conservatory doors are open and you can access the flower areas directly through the front entrance. If you come on a weekday, the access is through the main zoo building and you make a short jaunt traveling down a hall to get to the conservatory. Como Park rents wheelchairs, strollers and scooters to help with mobility. With wide aisles for viewing there are no worries as the trails are wide and it’s easy for people to circulate around when you want to stop to take in some flowers you find particularly beautiful.

The Sunken Garden is a beautiful area of the conservatory that can be accessed either by a short flight of steps or by two elevators on both sides of the steps. Enjoy amazing azaleas and festive poinsettias in winter, multicolored tulips in spring, prized roses and geraniums in summer and cheery chrysanthemums in autumn.

 

senior friendly gardens

 

 

seniors out and about gardens

 

The Charlotte Partridge Ordway Japanese Garden is a living symbol of the peace and friendship that exists between Saint Paul and its sister city Nagasaki, Japan. This area of the park is more demanding to access for people with walking difficulties or by wheelchair. There is a packed aggregate trail that allows you to readily view the gardens and it’s elements and vistas. The separate gardens are focus areas for the garden and often have individual stepping stones leading to the exhibit--making access harder. The Japanese gardens were designed by Nagasaki Master Gardener Matsami Madsuda.

“It is my hope that this Japanese garden will be a bridge between our two cities and countries, and a place of cultural exchange, understanding and peace. I truly feel that each tree, every blade of grass, and each and every stone, is a spiritual link to my heart.”

They are nothing short of spectacular.

The Zoo

If you want to enjoy the animals, it’s just a short walk to the other end of the main building to go see the animal habitat areas. The animals are housed in facilities that allow you to see them from both inside and outside the buildings. This is especially nice when our weather gets frightening! The Como Park Zoo has a nice variety of creatures including polar bears, tigers, gorillas, monkeys, snakes and many more. The buildings are all easily entered with ADA accessible entrances and exits with flat to modest inclines in various places in the park. You can’t beat the cost of Como Park--it’s free with a suggested donation of $3 for adults.

The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, is a top visitor attraction in Minnesota, it has more than 1,200 acres of gardens and tree collections, prairie and woods and miles of trails. As a premier northern garden, the Arboretum was born out of the University of Minnesota Horticultural Research Center and established in 1958.

The Arboretum offers numerous options for visitors to experiencing the beauty of the gardens and collections. Public tours can be done on foot or by riding the Trumpet Creeper Tram. Groups of 15 or more can request special tour packages. Or you can enroll in a "class on the move" to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the seasonal changes in this unique setting. The tram is operated late April to Mid October and is a good option for anyone that has problems walking--cost is $5. Walking the trails in the facility is fairly easy with good wheelchair accessibility in most areas of the arboretum. At some times there may be an area that isn’t passable, however you can find a wheelchair or stroller friendly option nearby to continue your journey.

The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum has nearly 1200 acres of natural areas with gardens and plants that are labeled to inspire ideas for visitors in their own backyards. Specialty gardens, demonstration areas and more than 5000 plant species and varieties has helped the Arboretum become the premier horticultural field laboratory in the upper Midwest with public display areas. Tree and shrub collections make up a significant portion of the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. The planting of collections for preservation purposes began as soon as the Arboretum was founded in 1958 and present a great way to view each species in their mature state.

The wonders of nature, along with the myths and stories about our place in this world, have inspired the sculptures you'll find at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. Created by world-renowned American and international artists, sculptures can be found throughout the grounds. The art resonates with the environment around it year around, as well as the sky and natural water features. The new Sculpture Garden, located at High Point, is dedicated to the 23-piece collection given to the Arboretum by Alfred and Ingrid Lenz Harrison in 2013. Your pooch can find refuge here as well with 65 acres of tethered dog walking areas for master and dog to enjoy together. For directions, and admission information click here.

Lyndale Park Garden

The Lyndale gardens and bird sanctuary were started 1906 when Theodore Wirth, the first Minneapolis Parks Superintendent, made written suggestions to the city about ways to improve the parks near Lake Hiawatha. The actual park has 4 main gardens to inspire visitors. The Minneapolis Park System showcases a variety of gardens for visitors to enjoy, from the formal gardens of Lyndale Park to the naturalistic Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden. Park Board gardeners maintain the gardens with the help of volunteers, while residents can grow their own food and flowers at the community gardens. Click here for a history of the gardens.

Within the 4 main garden areas there are actually 12 areas to explore in the park. Including a bird sanctuary, a pergola garden and children's garden. Can you spend the day here? If you bring a picnic lunch and scope out some tables early you can definitely make a day of this. Weekends can be very busy around the parks so if you plan to picnic, get there early. Remember seniors often will want a break during the day, or may be perfectly satisfied with a half day adventure. Be sure to seek shade and have some food and water available on those hot Minnesota days. The areas around the lakes are full of great eateries and small shops to round out the day.

The paved trails around both the gardens and park make this a favorite destination for walkers and people using scooters, wheelchairs, skateboards and other multi wheeled devices. People pushing wheelchairs should stick to the walking paths and not the high speed lanes the bikes and rollerbladers are using. You can incorporate any of your garden walks into a longer trek by joining trails in and around the lakes--Harriet and is it Calhoun or is it Bde Maka Ska? The art and flowers in the gardens are wonderful and fully accessible. Parking for the gardens can be found at 4124 Rosewood Road in Minneapolis.

Get Out and Enjoy the Great Outdoors

It’s time to drink in that vitamin D! According to Business Insider there are 11 scientific reasons to go outside. Maybe increasing your vitamin D might have something to do with this list:

  • Improved short-term memory
  • Restored mental energy
  • Stress relief
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Better vision
  • Improved concentration
  • Sharper thinking and creativity
  • Possible anti-cancer effects

So besides the beauty, camaraderie and exercise just getting out is tremendously beneficial and gardens are a great way to take it all in.