Arboretum News

Improvements to Arboretum Timed Ticket Reservation System

The Arboretum will continue using timed ticket reservations to create a safer, better experience for members and visitors.

Content updated: March 18, 2022

Photo by Liz Potasek.

As COVID-19 restrictions have lifted, we’ve explored whether or not to continue requiring timed ticket reservations at the Arboretum. After reviewing feedback from members, visitors and Arboretum staff, we’ve made the decision to continue requiring reservations, but we’re making a few changes to the system to improve the process of making reservations. Improved guest experience and safety were two of the biggest factors in making this decision to keep timed ticket reservations.

While many Arboretum members and visitors appreciate the new system because it allows for more efficient access to the Arboretum at the Gatehouse and makes it easier to find parking, we’ve also heard concerns about the difficulty of making reservations online. We take your feedback seriously, and we’re working to make the reservation process more accessible.

Phone Reservations

We know that the online reservation process is a barrier for some members and guests. To address members and guests who have had a difficult time navigating our online reservation system, we’re hiring new staff to help make reservations over the phone. We’ve also created a new, dedicated phone line for this purpose. Call 612-301-6775 to make reservations over the phone. 

More Reservation Availability

In the past few months, we’ve been able to offer more reservations than before, and same-day reservations are often available. We’ve only completely “sold-out” on a few peak days (like Mother’s Day), and we’ve received a lot of positive feedback from members and guests who appreciate that the Arb is never “too” busy — even on peak days. 

Since implementing timed tickets as a COVID-19 safety protocol, we’ve learned that timed tickets solve many of the parking and traffic issues that we’ve struggled with for years. We want to keep the benefits we’ve gained from timed ticketing so we can continue to offer an exceptional experience each time you visit the Arboretum.

34 comments on “Improvements to Arboretum Timed Ticket Reservation System

  1. Michael & Susan Halligan

    I don’t like the reservation requirement. Being confined to a wheelchair I have enjoyed a drive on the 3 mile drive very much. Making an advance reservation just takes some of the extemporaneous enjoyment out of it. My wife and I have enjoyed being another couple of our friends with us to the arboretum before going to dinner in Chanhassen. We pay for a 4 person membership that we haven’t used in nearly 2 years! We probably won’t renew our membership while the reservation restriction remains in place.

    • Geraldine (Gerry) Moore

      I feel exactly the same as you. We’ve been members for many years, couple + 2 as well. i like the enjoyment of being spontaneous as that’s the usual way we have visited the Arb. For members I think they should have lifted the reservation requirement. i too am seriously considering NOT renewing my membership in September. My husband and I are members of the Iris Society of Minnesota which has the annual sale at the arb in 10 days. i feel this reservation requirement will definitely hurt our sales this year.

  2. Gail Langer

    What is the purpose time reservations when this primarily an out door experience? Is it the parking? I find this “off-putting” and I love the arb.. Can’t something be done, so you can open up? My trips out there are usually last minute decisions. Will gladly renew my membership when accessibility is more free.

    • We’re sorry to hear that you don’t like the reservation system. We made the decision to continue reservations to allow for easier parking and less traffic congestion. The system allows us to more comfortably accommodate a large number of visitors by spreading visits throughout the day. In May, we broke our all-time monthly attendance record with more than 82,000 visitors. Timed tickets allowed us to serve those visitors more efficiently and effectively without traffic jams or parking problems.

  3. Richard Heinecke

    I also feel the freedom of entering and enjoying on my schedule is important. Lets return to normality, not big brotherism.
    For those afraid of that they can wear their mask.

  4. Mary Myss

    I have chosen not to renew my membership due to the reservation requirement. There are so many things in my life that I need to make an appointment for. Walking in nature shouldn’t be one of them.

    • I also chose not to renew my couple +2 membership for the exact same reasons. I was a daily morning walker on the 3 mile loop and frequented the gift shop and coffee shop. Please eliminate the reservation system.

  5. I continue to strongly OPPOSE the reservation system. I want the genuine flexibility of spontaneous visits for myself and any others I want to meet there (some may drive 90 miles away, and this makes timed reservations nearly IMPOSSIBLE). I have NEVER had any difficulty parking. If this continues, I will visit the arboretum far less frequently . Too bad I bought a membership for my daughter and her family this year…wouldn’t do it again. No more eating there, shopping at the gift shop or using the library. Please DROP the reservation system completely. I ask that you do this now. I’ve been a member for over 40 years and am a member of the Leon Snyder Society.

  6. Dave Zuelke

    My wife and I usually went to the Arb daily for a walk and to enjoy the nature trails. The reservation system pretty much put an end to that. Daily access was the main reason for our membership.

    • The Arboretum is open 363 days a year, and Arboretum members still have daily access with reservations. Same day reservations are often available on all but the busiest days.

  7. Connie Momenthy

    I also STRONGLY oppose the reservation system. I will not be renewing my membership that I’ve had for over a decade. It is nearly impossible to invite, spontaneously, a couple lady friends to a casual day at the Arb: I need to provide an exact number of friends, names, prepayment for those not on my membership, and the cafe has such limited hours! It’s worse than scheduling a medical appointment!!! Drop the reservation system!!!

  8. Holly Link

    The reservation system may be appropriate for the occasional visitor, but we’ve been members for over 20 years and I oppose the reservation system. We members do not consider the Arb as an attraction for which we need a ticket. We consider the Arb as a haven that we access when our souls are weary and our spirits need renewal, or we want to add joy to our day communing with nature. We’ve celebrated our special occasions there: our engagement, our daughter’s first communion, birthdays. And we renew our membership each year because we think it is an important investment for us and for our future grandchildren. But the reservation system has layered on frustration, discord, anxiety and anger to an already distressing year. For the love and support of your members and our mental health, please dispense with the reservation system for members.

    • Carol A Michael

      I agree. I only visit when it’s not busy.I have a duo+2, but this doesn’t work now. I’m feeling very sad about this.

  9. Janet Richels

    Please Please Please let us just come to the Arb and enjoy it. Too much of life is planned we need to keep some spontaneity, especially with the great outdoors. Sorry, but if the reservation system has to stay in place, I won’t be renewing my membership of about 15 years

  10. Beth Ricke

    I didn’t renew my membership due to reservation system. My visits were spontaneous and frequent pre COVID.

    Is it possible to have reservations during weekends, special events etc but return weekdays to no reservation needed?

    • Thanks for the note, Beth. We thought about your suggestion when we were reviewing our options for going forward with reservations, but we didn’t want to create confusion or leave our members and visitors guessing about when we were or weren’t using reservations.

  11. P Wright

    I feel really blessed to have such an experience of great gardens, trees and bees! We make reservations to eat at our favorite restaurants, so good to see the choice of making a phone call to do that.

  12. David Robinson

    We didn’t renew our membership due to your reservation system. We were hoping that you would drop it. There are too many other parks that we can visit that do not require reservations.

    • We’re sorry to hear that. The Arboretum is a bit different from a park, so we have to operate differently. We are a non-profit organization dedicated to caring for 44 plant collections, 28 gardens, 21 displays and model landscapes and more than 200 works of art, in addition to advancing horticultural research and providing horticultural education to people of all ages.

  13. We only became members since the ticket reservation has been in place. We have visited 7 or 8 times this summer. Our visits are typically spontaneous, but it’s so simple to hop on the website and reserve our tickets minutes before heading out of the house. Our entire family loves the arboretum (littles included!) and we’ve enjoyed bringing extended family as well when they are in town.

  14. Bob Willer

    We won’t renew either. With acres and acres of open space, to have to reserve a place and time is ridiculous. I guess allowing people in open outdoor space is a real threat… goodness, let supply and demand determine availability. If it’s that busy with parking I wouldn’t come at that time, but I’d retain membership. The reservation system is a terrible overreach to monitor a problem that doesn’t exist.

  15. Maureen Jones

    I love the reservation system! As a mom of young kids who still aren’t able to be vaccinated I appreciate the limited number of people coming in. I love the Arb and appreciate all the changes you’ve had to make during this constantly changing time. We’ll continue our membership!

  16. Stop crying

    It is so disappointing to see all of the comments from so-called longtime supporters who seem unwilling to help organizations transition during challenging times. The arboretum is simply asking you to reserve a ticket by going to their website- they are not taking anything away from you. By taking a few moments to reserve online you help them plan ahead for staffing, parking, servicing, and learn more about the needs of their guests because they finally are able to know that you intend to visit that day.

    • Karen Thielman

      You can only do that if you have internet access on your phone to receive emails. I do not have that I live in an area without service so why pay for email service that I can’t use 99% of the time. And I can’t take a photo off my home computer e-mail before I leave home????????? I come from a distance.

  17. Melinda Flugge

    I think the most reasonable solution would be to require reservations for weekends, holidays, and special events. Shouldn’t be problematic to post the “Reservations Required” notice for such event advertisements. Members are savvy enough not to be confused. Give it a try!

  18. I regard the reservations as a benefit not a burden. For a very small effort I have some assurance that it won’t be crazy crowded when I’m there. As for spontaneity, I just checked the reservations as though I wanted to go right now, 9:30 AM on Thursday. Reservations are available for every half hour all day. Maybe that would be different on a sunny weekend day, but try getting near one of the Minneapolis lakes on a sunny weekend day. I’m happy to avoid the crowds in advance.

    The larger issue here is Support. I have a membership because I believe in what the Arboretum is trying to accomplish, not because I want a place to go for walks. I don’t understand why someone would withdraw their funding of a greater good just because they are personally inconvenienced or the organization is not adjusting its operations to their liking. Some of these comments seem so transactional: I’ll give you my money and I expect a certain level of customer service. If you give to St Jude’s or United Way, do you tie that into what you’ll get back? Even if I were never able to get to the Arboretum in person, I like knowing that an astonishing variety of tulips are in bloom and the bees are busy on the back 40.

  19. I don’t know who “voted” to continue these timed tickets, but I join the voices vehemently OPPOSED to reservations! I hate that I can’t spontaneously drop in when I find the free time in my schedule. I understand COVID made for a lot of changes last year, but if this policy continues I will NOT be renewing my membership. Simple as that.

  20. Pingback: Arb Links, vol. 50 | News from the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

  21. Patty Biedny

    I also do not appreciate the need to make a reservation. We have been members for years with guests included on our membership. Now we can’t spontaneously decide on a quick walk or a visit for food or the gift shop. Strongly considering not renewing membership!

  22. D. Franco

    I used the reservation system successfully. My one critique of the system is that if I reserve several days in advance and the weather takes a bad turn, it appears I cannot cancel my reservation for a refund. So in a sense, when I bought five tickets for this weekend and it started raining it really felt like I took a gamble and lost. Fortunately the rain cleared up just before our time.

  23. Pat and Lee Walquist

    We live within 3 miles of the arb and have been members for 4 decades…..the reservation system and the three part email communication process is a huge discouragement for us to particiapate in our 3 times a week stroll through the arb gardens. Outside experiences have a small risk to the public; especially just walking on a path with very limited encounters with others. My suggestion is to just have reservations to enter buildings which is most problematic in terms of COVID exposure if health concerns are your primary motivator for this reservation process. Our use of the arb this past year has been very limited and will continue to be so with this reservation process stays in place. We live very close to Carver Park and have substituted most of our walking experiences there where there is no cost and no restrictions.

  24. I am so happy about the reservation system! The reservation system played a large role in my household becoming members for the first time this year. It has ensured that our visits are not full of crowds and that we can enjoy the gardens and three mile walk with significantly less stress. I’ve never had a problem making spontaneous reservations from my phone, even as I’m walking out the door to head to the Arb! Thank you for listening to visitor and member feedback on this; the reservation system has enhanced our experiences at the Arb.

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