COVID-19 Update: The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum is open by reservation only. Find updates and information here.
By Susie Eaton Hopper
Now that visitors can picnic at the Arb, we’ve put together 10 great spots to land. With 1,200 acres, you may have your own favorites you can share (comment below if you are willing to give up your secret space).
While our restaurant isn’t open, there are a few places to pick up a snack at the Arb. The Peace Coffee truck will be parked in the Sensory Garden from 9 a.m. to noonish Thursdays through Sundays in August, and our Arboretum concession cart might be out. Water and snacks are also available for purchase in our Gift & Garden Store (masks required indoors). Feel free to bring your own food to the Arb, as well.
A few more things to consider: Outdoor spaces cannot be sanitized, and bug spray might be needed in some spaces. Please take all of your trash with you.
The Arb is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day except Thursday when we are open until 8 p.m. The Oswald Visitor Center (and gift store) is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.
Let’s scout some sites:
I WANT SOME CULTURE WITH MY COLD CUTS
With 27 world-class sculptures, the Harrison Sculpture Garden is made for you. Highpoint, the rock circle at the top of the hill, is indeed the highest point on the Arb grounds and offers stunning vistas. It’s also a classy place to park your picnic, with built-in seating. There’s always a lovely breeze, even on the warmest of days. Other amenities: Parking lot (off Three-Mile Drive), biffs, accessible paths, fine for a bigger group and lots of room for kids to run and roam.
I WANT A SECRET GARDEN SURROUNDED BY BLOOMS AND BUTTERFLIES
The Spiegel Garden in front of the Snyder Building has expanded behind the walkway! There’s a bench in the shade, with Summer Phlox, catmint, coneflowers and Swallow Tail Butterflies galore. Best suited for one or two adults, no one will know you’re there! It’s truly a hidden treasure. Park in the main visitor lot.
I NEED SHADE AND SOCIAL DISTANCING.
The Wilson Rose Garden gazebo is the spot. With four benches, a few friends can gather and yet stay safely apart. There are 600-plus rose bushes to see and two water features, plus it’s close to the main gardens for those who don’t want to walk or hike far. Park in the main visitor parking and follow the path arrows.
I WANT TO LISTEN TO WATER AND BE SOMEWHERE COOL.
The Woodland Azalea Garden is calling your name. There are several benches in deep shade and the koi pond waterfall is perfect background music. The Hosta Glade is nearby and it’s another shaded wonder where it’s cool, calm and collected. Best for a couple of adults.
I AM BRINGING THE KIDS AND THEY WON’T STAY PUT!
The Shade Tree Collection is just right. With tiny houses that little ones can go in, a tree house and lots of grass, adults can put down a blanket and set a picnic while kids are entertained. There’s also lots of interpretive signage for kids who can read. Other pluses: This garden has its own parking lot and trash cans. It’s the first parking lot on the left on Three-Mile Drive.
I WANT TO CHANNEL LAURA INGALLS WILDER AND GO BACK IN TIME.
Take yourself to the Prairie immediately! With its mowed paths and native plants, it’s the way meadows looked before man took over. You probably won’t see other humans. It’s a very sunny jaunt, so bring your sunscreen, lots of cool drinks and maybe an umbrella and some bug spray, too. The skies and clouds are on full display. You might see some deer and lots of butterflies. Best for adults who don’t mind a sunny hike. Park in the Prairie Garden parking lot off Three-Mile Drive; there is a bathroom there.
I WANT A REAL PICNIC SHELTER AND TO SEE AN EXHIBIT.
The Farm at the Arb pavilion is perfect for your picnic. There are many tables there, and it’s full shade. Once you’ve had your food, explore the restored 100-year-old Red Barn. There’s interpretive signage inside and don’t miss the basement where cows used to be milked. (Now it contains bathrooms.) Outside, tour the native gardens and crops (on paved paths.) It’s a great way to get familiar with Minnesota ag then and now. The Tashjian Bee and Pollinator Discovery Center is not yet open to the public. There’s lots of parking, turn right at the Hedges Collection on Three-Mile Drive to get there.
SURROUND ME IN SERENITY!
The favorite garden at the Arboretum is the Japanese Garden with its stunning waterfall and tea house, perfect for a little picnic. One of the last gardens designed by master Koichi Kawana, it is a perfect place to get your Zen on and praise the beauty of nature. Best for a couple of adults. Park in the main visitor lots.
I WANT TO COME AND GO AS I PLEASE AND BE FREE AS THE WIND.
Our new Lake Tamarack property is perfect. Plus, you can bring your kayak or fishing boat (no motors) and get in a gorgeous, clear lake. No Arboretum ticket necessary. Travelling west on Hwy. 5, the property gate is less than a mile from the Arboretum entrance on the right (it’s the first right after Minnewashta Parkway). It’s an unpaved lane back to the lake and parking area. There’s a dock, picnic table and lots of mowed paths to explore. Bikes are allowed there too. It’s a very quiet, beautiful spot off the beaten path. No bathroom on site.
I WANT TO SEE WETLANDS AND WINGS!
The restored Spring Peeper Meadow on 82nd Street off of Hwy. 41 is a no-reservation spot that is absolutely magical. There’s a grass path back to boardwalks that lead you through the site. Plenty of benches to stop. Bring your camera. You’ll see dragonflies, butterflies, birds, cattails, reeds and more. Bug spray recommended. There’s a small parking lot at the front of the property. Learn more about this decades-long reclamation project.