Holden Arboretum Forests & Gardens

Butterflies delicately dancing along a sea of vibrant blossoms, water whispering, anticipation escalating with each bend along the path, & the forest gifting a preverbal warm hug!  Holden Arboretum is a retreat from the worry, uncertainty of our times, the urgency of screen life, and the concern over an unknown future. Holden Arboretum is a safe haven, a reminder that there is endless and abundant beauty in this world, it’s a place where your soul can relax and your inner child can play. And for us it was the perfect place to spend a milestone birthday, the big 10! It was the Imaginative Outdoor Fairy Land and Doors exhibit that initially piqued the interest of our birthday girl but the Canopy Walk was the frosting, and Emergent Tower the sprinkles on the cake!




Holden Arboretum Forest & Garden

Address: 9550 Sperry Rd, Kirtland, OH 44094

Phone: (440) 946-4400

Website: https://holdenarb.org/

Hours: Tuesday- Sunday 9AM-5PM, Closed Mondays

Admission: $15 for adults, $10 for children three to 12 years old & free for children 2 and under

Amenities: Picnic Area (outdoor food welcomed-no alcohol), Restrooms are located in the Visitor Center (must wear a mask), Vending Machine with cold water and pop (was sold out when we got there at 1P, just FYI)


When we arrived our birthday girl practically flew out of the car in anticipation of locating all thirty handcrafted fairy doors created by seven local artists. We began our Fairy Door hunt in the Butterfly Garden.


Butterfly Garden

The Butterfly Garden is the place to be in August!! Everything is in bloom and there are literally gorgeous colorful butterflies fluttering all around!  As you enter you’re greeted by layer upon layer of vibrant hues….including, tall ‘Autumn Sun’ coneflowers (Rudbeckia ‘Autumn Sun’) that preside over a butterfly bushes (Buddleia), garden phlox (Phlox paniculata), orange coneflower (Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’), blazing stars (Liatris), and the sweetly fragrant summersweet (Clethra alnifolia ‘Ruby Spice’).



Nine foot tall cup plants (Silphium perfoliatum) have showy yellow flowers by Reflecting Pond and are also on the east side of the Display Garden. At sixteen feet in height is Hibiscus ‘Tosca’ with large lavender flowers in the Butterfly and east side of the Display Garden. There are a number of monarch butterflies flitting around this year and some of their favorite flowers are the native Joe-pye weed (Eutrochium sp.) and ironweed (Vernonia gigantea) whose purple flowers may be seen in the Butterfly, Wildflower, Display, and at Lantern Court. The light yellow flowers of the perennial sunflower, Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ grace the Butterfly Garden, west of the lily pool and the south side of the Display Garden, Sally Gries Entry Beds, and Lantern Court.








After the Butterfly Garden we made our way to the Emergent Tower and had a fun littler surprise along the way…we located a Fairy Door inside a tree!! As we entered the tree our b-day girl expressed that the entrance reminded her of the book she’s reading, Secret Garden. And she was pot on with her description!





Kalberer Emergent Tower

When we arrived at the Emergent Tower we were fortunate that there wasn’t a wait, we masked up, and began our climb 120 feet or approximately 12 stories.  We stopped at the various landings and did read the educational signs that helped the children understand how exactly a tree can sway with the wind without breaking or falling over.





And we could definitely feel the swaying of the tower as we took our final steps toward the breathtaking view at the top. It was such a clear day we could even see Lake Erie.


Next stop, canopy walk! And check out all the cool hidden Fairy Doors we spotted along the way……





The Murch Canopy Walk

WOW! I almost don’t have the words…almost 😉






The Canopy Walk is a 500-foot-long elevated walkway built 65 feet above the forest floor so you are literally in the forest, emerged in the habitats of forest creatures, and legit “in a live classroom” so to speak, learning how snakes climb trees, bats live beneath bark high in the trees, how frogs camouflage with the trees….and so much more! It was so much fun I don’t even think the kids realized they were learning.



Our last stop before hitting the road, Buckeye Bud’s Adventure Woods!


Buckeye Bud’s Adventure Woods


Our first stop, the observation tower, there we played a quick game of, “I spy” frogs and turtles in the Bottonbush Bog.


Then we checked out the obstacle course, hug chimes, log shelter, and then we stumbled upon the mother of all Fairy Kingdoms!!! It was the perfect finale to our epic day of Fairy Door hunting.






As we made our way back to our car we did get a glimpse at one of the Stickwork installations by Patrick Dougherty’s and they look AWESOME!!!


Stickwork– twisting mazes, towering castles and hedges full of faces – have been featured in more than 300 locations around the world from Scotland to Japan to Brussels, and all over the United States. This is the first time he is coming to Northeast Ohio–straight to the Holden Arboretum, with this unique outdoor experience opening August 29. https://holdenarb.org/stickwork-by-patrick-dougherty/



We will definitely be coming back! And since it is an outdoor living museum and you can’t take anything physically with you, (unless you hit up the gift shop), you can take the calm, peaceful, serine memories with you and channel them on some of your more stressful days.

Thank you Holden Arboretum for making a 10 year old little girls birthday, during a global pandemic, a legendary experience & a memory to be treasured for a lifetime!


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