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Atlanta Botanical Garden updates children’s garden

If you’ve ever been to the Atlanta Botanical Garden, you might remember its children’s garden, which was incredibly popular but obviously in need of renovations.

Now renamed the Lou Glenn Children’s Garden, the attraction reopened Memorial Day weekend after closing a year ago for a much-needed overhaul, according to Mary Pat Matheson, president and CEO of the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

“It’s a $7 million project, so almost everything about it is brand new,” she said. “We’ll have a splash fountain, so kids can go in and interact with water. We have a beautiful stainless steel tree that goes over the splash area and the leaves drip down on children. We have a treehouse area where kids can go down slides and up a climbing wall, and the treehouse interacts with them, too. We have an edible adventure zone, and a beehive where kids can learn how bees go out and make honey. It’s a very interactive attraction, and we’re very excited for it to reopen.”

Atlanta Botanical Garden was home to one of the first children’s gardens built in the United States, and its refresh is sure to please families who visit, Matheson said. The splash pad area has doubled with plenty of resting room for parents to sit and watch. The treehouse also features climbing nets and fun bridges for kids to explore. A water-painting wall, building area and musical instruments are also new additions, along with a new restroom and large courtyard.

Old favorites, such as a flower growth chart, pond and waterfall, will remain virtually unchanged.

Chihuly in the Garden

The children’s garden renovation is only one part of the Atlanta Botanical Garden campaign to improve and expand its facilities. A new restaurant called Linton’s, in cooperation with chef Linton Hopkins, is also now open, offering full-service dining and a grab-and-go café.

A one-of-a-kind exhibit also opened at Atlanta Botanical Garden in April, featuring glass sculptures from acclaimed artist Dale Chihuly.

“Dale Chihuly is the world’s best-known glass artist, and he has showcased his magnificent glass sculptures in some of the biggest cities and places all over the world,” Matheson said. “It’s unusual to have an artist that well-known come to the Southeast. Our region is very diverse in terms of people, culture, beauty and flowers. It’s becoming more diverse in terms of art as well.”

She said even children will enjoy seeing the art up close and personal. Unlike in a museum, they can freely explore each piece in a setting that’s not as intimidating as an enclosed exhibit.

While Greenville is home to one of Chihuly’s pieces — “Rose Crystal Tower,” on exhibit at Fall’s Park — few locations have ever exhibited his work on such a large scale as Atlanta, Matheson said. The exhibit closes later this year.

“It’s the work of Dale Chihuly, and people might not get another chance to see an exhibition of this scale in their lifetime,” she said. “There is something truly magical about his work. I love it in a museum, but I love it more when it’s available for free and out in a beautiful garden setting where the glass is interacting with the flowers and the greenery and the beautiful plants we have in our garden.”

She recommends that Upstate visitors enjoy the exhibit in a special viewing.

“If I were to come from Greenville, I’d probably buy a Twilight ticket and come in the afternoon and enjoy it, then have dinner in our new restaurant and see it as it gets dark,” she said. “The glass changes when it’s lit, and everything around it goes dark and shadowy. The illuminated glass, which is sparkling, almost glows. You’ll be able to see that and the skyline of Atlanta, which is spectacular from our garden at night.”

Canopy Walk

Visitors from the Upstate will also appreciate the garden’s Canopy Walk, which was inspired by Greenville’s very own Liberty Bridge in Falls Park.

Extending 600 feet from a hillside into branches of oaks, poplars and hickory trees, the garden’s Canopy Walk is the only tree canopy-level walkway in the United States. Visitors can stroll along a 12-foot-wide concrete pathway and enjoy aerial views of the woodland garden below.

“We went to visit the Liberty Bridge (in Greenville) when we were designing our Canopy Walk and we were so smitten with it,” Matheson said. “The Canopy Walk is done structurally differently, but it’s still the same beautiful, curving walkway through the sky. I love your Liberty Bridge.”

Guests can see native azaleas, flowering trees, red-tailed hawks, tree frogs and more during their walk over the garden.

“It’s absolutely breathtaking,” Matheson said.

Want to go?

The Atlanta Botanical Garden is open 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. Tuesdays, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Wednesdays – Sundays April through October with special Chihuly Night hours are 6 – 10 p.m. Wednesdays – Sundays.

Admission is $21.95 for adults, $15.95 for children ages 3 – 12, and free for children younger than 3.

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