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The temperature is crisp and the air is clear – the perfect combination for going outdoors to explore some local wide-open spaces. While all of these outdoor gardens and museums operate throughout the year, some spaces are gearing up to showcase holiday-themed events.

Pick your favorite – or choose several – and plan ahead for another exciting family adventure. You don’t have to go far but you do have to take the entire family for more merry memory- making!

Grounds for Sculpture, Trenton, NJ

This unique outdoor museum keeps popping up in my social media feed; evidently everyone has been to Grounds for Sculpure except me! If you too have not yet discovered this combination of gardens and artwork spread over 42 acres containing nearly 300 contemporary sculptures, join the over three million guests who have visited since its opening in 1992. Children will have room to roam while parents can enjoy the cultural experience. In less than an hour’s drive, your family can enjoy this outdoor site located on the former New Jersey State Fairgrounds. 

While your family is busy enjoying the horticultural highlights and garden features, do not be surprised when you stumble upon some very cool sculptures, perfect for photo-ops. Timed entry tickets must be purchased in advance.

Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, PA

No list of outdoor garden spaces would be complete without including beloved and beautiful Longwood Gardens. Its spectacular seasonal offerings keep visitors coming back all year to experience the 1,077 acres that make up this intriguing land consisting of gardens, woods, and meadows. Now is the perfect time to visit as a Longwood Christmas is ready to welcome visitors from November 20-January 10, complete with complimentary Outdoor Christmas Musicians. Kids will not want to miss the Garden Railway or the Open Air Theater Fountain Show, both included with admission.

If you have not visited Longwood’s spectacular space during this calendar year, do not disappoint the family. Book timed tickets early because Longwood is the place to be this holiday season. Check the website ahead of your visit for ticket information and operating times.

Morris Arboretum, Chestnut Hill, PA

This is a garden that never sleeps! Twelve months a year the Morris Arboretum has something magical blooming on its 92 acres sitting right next to the city limits of Philadelphia. Designated as the official arboretum of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, this Victorian designed garden is gearing up for its annual Holiday Garden Railway (November 27-December 31), a delight for both children and their parents. It truly is a magical moment when your little ones are mesmerized by the trains zipping through tunnels and over bridges, all constructed using natural materials.

If you want to make this seasonal treasure more memorable for your family, purchase tickets for the Holiday Garden Railway Nights when the magic of the landscape becomes illuminated. Check the website to purchase tickets and for hours of operation.

Rose Tree Park, Media, PA

This delightful park nestled in Delaware County is the perfect spot for the entire family to blow off some steam! Plenty of space to run, jump and hop, or simply stroll through the walkways, especially when the park is shimmering with the annual Festival of Lights. Rose Tree Park draws visitors back each year from early December to the first weekend in January to view the spectacular light display which includes classic figures such as Charlie Brown and the Peanuts Gang, and, of course, Santa and his Reindeer. Make time to visit with little advance planning; parking and admission is free.

John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove, Audubon, PA

The John James Audubon Center is not just for bird watching; there are opportunities for hiking, learning, and interacting with the Resident Birds, including several owls who serve as ambassadors to the facility. With over 200 acres to explore at the Mill Grove estate, John Audubon’s home when he first arrived from France, your children will thank you for taking them on the five miles of marked trails that traverse along the Perkiomen Creek in Montgomery County. Don’t forget your binoculars as there are more than 175 species of birds to spy.

The trails which open from dawn to dusk are complimentary to visitors, but you can also tour the Historic House and the Museum for a nominal admission. Online learning about John Audubon’s beloved birds is also available.

Jenkins Arboretum and Gardens, Devon, PA

Another wonderful outdoor garden practically in our backyards is the peaceful Jenkins Arboretum and Gardens, open year-round and offering foliage for each season. While visitors will have to wait until spring to witness the world-class collection of rhododendrons and azaleas, beautiful Winterberry Holly and American Holly are ready for their moment to shine during December. The 48 acres comprised of gardens and woodlands provides 1.2 miles of trails. It won’t take your family long to fall in love with this botanical garden. Admission is free but gifts are accepted to ensure the lasting beauty of the Arboretum. 

Tyler Arboretum, Media, PA

The history is rich and the landscape massive on the 650 protected acres of Tyler Arboretum, the agricultural gem of Delaware County. The mystique of the gardens is subject to the changing seasons, offering something new each time your family visits. One of the oldest public gardens in the United States, this Arboretum boasts several state-champion trees which majestically tower over 17 miles of hiking trails. It is a delightful outing for the entire family!

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, Philadelphia, PA

This magical garden must be seen to be fully appreciated and understood. The inspiration of one man and his wife, Isaiah and Julia Zagar, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens (PMG) is a hidden treasure in South Philly just waiting for you and your family to discover. The space consists of two indoor galleries and a bi-level outdoor sculpture garden showcasing unique mosaics made of handmade tiles, bottles, bicycle wheels, and mirrors. Twice a week a Morning Magic Tour is offered while on several Friday evenings during the month a special Gardens After Dark event takes place.

Just in time for the holidays, the PECO Family Jam event on December 13 will feature creating Reflective Ornaments to bring some sparkle into your own home. Check the PMG website for more details and information on this fun event as well as purchasing advanced tickets and operating hours. Access and visitation may change due to the pandemic.

With this added colorful inspiration, delve into your latest adventure. Wear a knit hat and gloves if necessary, but more importantly, just get outdoors and enjoy. Now more than ever we are in need of fresh air and exciting, new places to explore. Whether it is your first time or your fifth time visiting places like Longwood Gardens, bundle up and pack the kids in the back seat – it is going to be the best time you have had all year!

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