I love exploring our state (which happens to be Michigan) and discovering beautiful new places! One of my most recent discoveries is Dow Gardens in Midland, MI. I always felt like I had a good idea of what existed nearby, but I keep finding out about more and more spots! Apparently I know nothing 🤣.
Dow Gardens was started in 1899 by Herbert Dow, founder of the Dow Chemical Company, and his wife Grace. Their home, referred to as the Pines, is also located on the property and is a National Historic Landmark. The property consists of two portions: the gardens, and the Whiting Forest.
I vaguely remember visiting Dow Gardens when I was a bit younger, and it’s been really awesome to rediscover it with my own kids! And some new features have been added since then, which is always exciting!
We’ve been twice in the past year, and Dow Gardens is already a spot I feel like I could visit over and over again and still not have seen everything it has to offer. You could easily spend a full day here. But, if you do visit and have a limited amount of time, here are the three things you and your family absolutely can’t miss!
1. Canopy Walk
The canopy walk is the main reason I wanted to revisit Dow Gardens in the first place! I was looking for a nice place to go for some fall foliage viewing in our area, and in mid October, this place didn’t disappoint! It’s located within the Whiting Forest portion of Dow Gardens, and it turns out this would be an amazing place to visit at any time of the year!
It’s actually the longest canopy walk in America at 1,400 feet long and is 40 feet above ground at its highest point. The canopy walk and trails below are designed to be accessible for those of all ages and abilities.
The canopy walk at Dow Gardens is more than just elevated bridges winding through the forest (although it has that too). There are lots of amazing features that you and your kids will love, like nets suspended high off the ground for you to climb on!
At one portion of the canopy walk, you can step out onto clear glass and look straight down. Our little guy seemed a little uncertain about climbing on the nets, but strangely had no problem stepping on the clear glass 😬.
The “pods” (pictured above) are another unique feature you’ll find at the canopy walk in Dow Gardens. There are two, and one is only accessible if you climb across a hanging rope bridge. Once you reach the pod, you can even climb underneath and explore.
At the time of our visit (October 2020), the pod that is only accessible by rope bridge was closed off due to Covid-19 restrictions. Although this and a few other features of Dow Gardens are currently closed off, it was still well worth the trip.
In addition to the canopy walk, there’s a network of trails that winds through the forest below and around a gorgeous pond. We haven’t even had time to try these yet, but it’s definitely on my list of things to do when we go back next time! Pictured above is a view of the pond and surrounding forest from up in the canopy. With all these beautiful views and unique features, you won’t want to miss the canopy walk on your visit to Dow Gardens!
2. Playground at Whiting Forest
The playground at Dow Gardens might very well be the coolest playground I’ve ever visited! It’s located right next to the canopy walk in the Whiting Forest. There’s also a cafe right next to it with coffee, snacks, and a beautiful deck.
It incorporates a lot of natural elements like tree stumps and boulders. In the summertime, there is running water trickling throughout. The ground is soft turf, but trees have been left growing in the midst of all the play structures. There are so many things to explore that allow your kids to use their whole bodies and practice gross motor activities like climbing and balancing.
My little dude (and husband!) had a great time playing here for over an hour. I myself would have embraced my inner kid and played on this playground with them if I hadn’t been nursing a three week old baby. We probably could have stayed here all day if there hadn’t been other things that we wanted to see as well!
Some other cool features of the playground include a slide built into a hill, small rock climbing wall, kid sized bird’s nest, tunnels, nets, and swings (among other things). I’m generally not the type to make promises, but I’m pretty sure your kids (and you) will love this playground! If you do visit Dow Gardens, be sure to leave plenty of time for a good play session!
3. Children’s Garden
This is one part of Dow Gardens that I still have yet to visit, although my little guy has been with his grandparents. BUT-I’ve heard that the children’s garden is so good that it’s won national awards. There are amazing flower and vegetable gardens, a playground, and interactive water activities, among other features.
But I’m just going to have to revisit and update you more thoroughly at a later has date. Even so, I still feel the need to recommend this portion of the Dow Gardens to you and your kiddos!
Overall, I can’t recommend Dow Gardens enough, whether you have kids or not! There’s certainly something for everyone here. There are so many other features I didn’t mention that we still haven’t had time to explore!
And make sure to check for fun seasonal activities or other events that might be going on! You can even see what flowers are currently in bloom. What are you waiting for? Find details about planning your visit here!
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